The following is a list of recommended hardware and software for students entering the Animation Program. A capable laptop and the First-year Requirements will get you started.  Advanced tools can be added strategically as students grow into the program.


Our labs are accessable and fully loaded for animators to work in. However, as skills and interests grow, the work in animation becomes increasingly time-intesive. Investing in technolgy to support that growth is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Access to a capable laptop, digital drawing dispay and personal software licenses will add signifcant value to your time spent in the CMU Animation Program.


The good news is that we're way ahead of you. Central Michigan University has partnered with the industry's largest software providers to make sure our students have access to the tools they need to grow into their chosen proffession. Take a look at the Software Recomendation section to find out more.



1. Laptop Recommendations

2. First-year Required and Recommended Technology

3. Digital Drawing - Requirements & Recommendations

4. Software Recommendations



1. Laptop Recommendations


Owning a graphics-capable laptop as you enter the Animation Program is highly recommended. While the Animation and Graphic Design labs are exclusively Mac OS, PC laptops can be considered a viable option if the technical specifications are comparable with the links below. 


A couple of things to keep in mind. . .

If you’re planning on a path in 3D animation you’ll want to lean towards the beefier version of the options listed.

If you’re thinking 2D animation, and you have the funds, you may want to consider a digital drawing display fairly soon. 


MAC OS: 15 inch Macbook Pro 2.6GHz


PC: Obviously there are many choices as to style and brand.  You will want a laptop that gamers use.  The following are minimum specs for a PC that will support animation graphics and last a while. 


This article offers a range of options:




2. First-year Required and Recommended Technology

Portable Hard Drive

Portable hard drives are required for all Animation Majors.


1TB SSD: More expensive but worth the investement.


1TB Standard Drive: Budget freindly and will get you by.


LightTracer LED Lightbox

Light boxes are provided in our traditional media class but if you would like to invest in your own for working at home, the following are recommended.


LightTracer - 10 x 12 inch Drawing Board

LightTracer 2 - 12 x 18 inch Drawing Board


Mini Phone Tripod with Wireless Remote

Recommended for ART207 and ART327

Mini Phone Tripod, Adjustable Camera Holder with Wireless Remote

Download the Stop Motion Studio App for free:


Android: Google Play/Stop Motion Studio

iPhone: Apple Store/Stop Motion Studio






3. Digital Drawing - Requirements & Recommendations

Digital Drawing - Requirements

*Bluetooth Digital Drawing Tablet: Required for most animation classes outside of labs WI 224 and WI 221.


Wacom Intuos Bluetooth Digital Drawing Tablet - (Small) - Affordable option if you're watching your budget.

XenceLabs Professional Pen Tablets - Small - Pro option that's built to last if you can swing it.


*Cintiq Pens: Required for use in Animation Lab WI 224

Wacom Intuos4/cintiq21 Grip Pen for use in the animation lab

Digital Drawing Displays - Recommendations

Typically we recommend that students wait a year and use the lab Cintiqs before jumping into what should be a medium-to-long-term investment in a Drawing Display. The big price break is the leap from HD to 4K . . . and for long-term durability. 4K is not essential but it's definitely the future of digital media. Size is another consideration. Personally, I find the 16" is about as small as I want to go. 13" is pretty small but portability and afford-ability make them worth considering. If you're looking at the higher end, XenceLabs 24 4K is about the sweetest thing to hit the market in years.

Entry-level Drawing Display - Very Functional and Good on a Budget

Wacom One 13 HD Digital Drawing Tablet with Screen - review

HUION KAMVAS Pro 13 HD Graphics Drawing Monitor

XP Pen Artist Pro 16 HD Drawing Display

HUION Kamvas Pro 24 4K UHD Graphics Drawing Tablet - review

Pro-level 4K Drawing Displays - Built to Last

Xencelabs Pen Display 16 Essentials or 16 Bundle

XenceLabs 24 4K Pro Pen Display - review

Cintiq Pro 16 4K Creative Pen and Touch Display

Cintiq Pro 24 4K UHD IPS Creative Pen Display






4. Software Recommendations


CMU has partnered with Adobe Creative Campus and Toon Boom Center of Excellence to provide our students with free licenses to put to use on their personal technology. Others softwares utilized in the Animation Program have been made available for free, or at a considerable discount to through educational licensing. See links below.


While are students are encouraged to explore a variety of graphics, media and animation software packeges, the CMU Animation Program focuses exclusively on tools-sets and practices used professionally in the media and graphics industries. These softwares include, but are not limited too; Toon Boom Harmony, Storyboard Pro, Maya, Z-Brush, Dragonframe and the full Adobe Creative Suite.


Adobe Graphics and Media Software - CMU is an Adobe Creative Campus so students have access to the entire Adobe suite for free.


Toon Boom Harmony 2D Animation Software - We are also part of the Toon Boom Center of Excellence, which means that animation students studying drawn animation and storyboarding will have access to Toon Boom Harmony and Storyboard Pro to install their personal technology for free.


Maya, our premiere 3D Animation software is free for students through Autodesk Educational Access.


ZBrush Core Mini our 3D Digital Sculpting software is available for students to download free of charge.

Dragonframe, our stop motion/traditional software is available for students to download at a considerable discount.


Stop Motion Studio is a free App for creating stop motion animation on your smartphone.

Android: Google Play/Stop Motion Studio

iPhone: Apple Store/Stop Motion Studio


























Stephan Leeper/Central Michigan University 2023