From Pencils To Pixels – A Quick Guide Choosing A 2D Animation Program

Even though it may seem like there are more and more CG animation movies every year, there seems to be a dwindling number of 2d animated movies, adverts or short films out there. Even the Disney Studio, where it all started, has said they won’t be producing drawn animation for the foreseeable future.

Thankfully it is still going strong in Japan among the Anime community, and a growing number of independent filmmakers and artists are rediscovering traditional animation techniques as a wonderfully expressive and fantastically accessible medium.

Add to this the fact that the digital revolution has meant that you no longer need expensive, heavy equipment, and anyone can now produce animation from their bedroom using just a tablet or laptop, and upload it to the web in seconds.

However, before you rush out and grab the first piece of animation software available, there are a few things you need to think about if you want to find the right one for you. Here’s my top 5 suggestions.

Free or paid?

First of all, the important question to ask yourself is your budget. Are you willing to spend some money, and if so, how much? An animation program can cost anywhere from nothing up to a couple of thousand dollars. While there are a couple of decent free programs out there, I believe a reasonably priced paid package delivers the most features and support.

Professional or beginner?

Have you ever animated before or are you a complete beginner? Are you looking to animate professionally or just dabble a bit in your spare time? Answering this question will help determine not only your budget but also the learning curve you’ll be able or willing to tolerate when using a software, as some are more complicated than others depending on your skill level.

Age level?

Related to experience level is your age. Are you an adult looking for a piece of animation software for yourself or a parent looking to get your child involved in some cartooning? Some animation programs are specifically designed for children and teenagers so the interface is a lot “friendlier” and has an easier learning curve.

Frame-by-frame or Flash-style?

What kind of animation are you thinking of doing? Do you prefer traditional frame-by-frame drawn animation like the old Disney movies, or are you more interested in the stylized Flash-style animation found on the web and cartoons like South Park and Peppa Pig? No 2d software is the same and many are designed with a specific style in mind, or in some cases will give you the option of doing either.

External equipment?

Partly related to the style of animation you’re looking to do is the question of whether you have or will be buying any external equipment or purely looking to do it all digitally. Some animators like to work initially on paper with a lightbox in the traditional style and then scan and colour their drawings in the software program. Others prefer to draw directly in the software itself and will often do so using a tablet and pen.