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5 best professional softwares for 2D animation

Animation software can allow you to embrace your artistry and help bring your 2D animation ideas to the screen. According to CGSpectrum and Filmora’s experts, these are 5 of the best 2D software - both free and paid.

Top 1: ToonBoom Harmony - The industry’s leading 2D animation software

Introduction to ToonBoom Harmony

ToonBoom Harmony’s monthly subscription fees start from US$27 and extend up to US$121. Fortunately, there is a free trial option so you may download the software and try it out before committing to a relatively expensive piece of software.

In terms of compatibility, ToonBoom Harmony pairs well with Windows, Linux, and OSX. Users of any operating system can access the following features:

  • Brush Engine - the cutting-edge vector and bitmap drawing system.

  • Paint options and advanced color palettes

  • New lighting and shading, color management improvements, color effects nodes, and snapping alignment guides

  • Tools for cut-out animation

  • Traditional paperless animation

  • 2D and 3D integration to make professional animation

Toon Boom's animation programs have been used in many 2D animation productions. It has been utilized in some of the most well-known television series and films. Netflix's Klaus, Hilda, and Centaurworld; Disney's Mickey Mouse Shorts, Tangled The Series, and The Lion Guard, The Simpsons, etc are a few telling examples.

2d animation movie - Introduction to ToonBoom Harmony
The Simpsons Movie is animated with ToonBoom Harmony (Source: Toon Boom Animation)

Why is ToonBoom Harmony most suitable for professional 2D animators?

Thanks to a wide range of features, ToonBoom Harmony offers animators immense flexibility. You can easily create 2D animation in a 3D environment. The program's wide range of tools allows you to create 2D animation with any workflow of your choice, either it's traditional animation or digital cut-out.

2d animation movie - Why is ToonBoom Harmony most suitable for professional 2D animators?
2D animation with ToonBoom Harmony (Source: Pinterest)

However, this program might be too complex and not really intuitive for new users. In other words, beginners may need to take more time to familiarize themselves with the software.

At DeeDee Animation Studio, we use Toon Boom Harmony for all of our 2D animation projects. Among many choices on the market, DeeDee Animation Studio appreciates Toon Boom Harmony because of the powerful tools it provides that helps animators bring the best out of their abilities, supports from Toonboom customer service, and the fact that it's the most common 2D program out there.

In fact, Toon Boom Harmony has helped DeeDee Animation Studio produce critically acclaimed 2D animated films. You can check out our works at Animation.

Top 2: Moho Pro - An All-In-One Professional Software for 2D Animation

Introduction to Moho Pro

Moho Pro is a fantastic option for anyone who is looking to get into professional 2D animation creation. It is affordable and designed for Flash-style animations. You can buy the full software package at just US$399.99.

The software is compatible with Windows and OSX. It offers several useful features such as:

  • Improved tools for freehand drawing

  • Beizer handles are designed to make it easy for you to create the films however you like

  • Animation for multiple layers at the same time

  • Realistic motion blur

2d animation movie - Introduction to Moho Pro
The Breadwinner used Moho Pro for 2D animation (Source: The New York Times)

How does Moho Pro become an ideal tool for both beginner and advanced animators?

Moho Pro impresses both starters and professional users with its powerful tools for digital cut-out style animation. It's one of the most versatile programs out there when it comes to the cut-out rig system. Also, there is both a beginner and a standard version of this software so you can learn at your pace.

Top 3: Adobe Animation - The All-rounder 2D animation software

Introduction to Adobe Animation:

With Adobe Animation, you need to pay a monthly subscription of US$29.99/month. Alternatively, you can purchase an annual subscription with the price of US$19.99/month.

Adobe Animation is compatible with 2 operating systems: Windows & macOS. As a developed version of Flash, this software has everything Flash used to offer with a lot of enhancements.

The Evolution of Flash

Adobe Flash used to be the most common choice when it comes to limited animation made for websites. It already has all the most basic tools for animation available. But when it became Adobe Animate, it's since evolved into a more professional program for animators.

2d animation movie - The Evolution of Flash
2D animation with Adobe Animation (Source: Pinterest)

Although since it's one of the newest on the market, it's still not as well made as other contenders like Toonboom. The programs can be clunky and not very friendly for production.

Top 4: TVPaint - The best digital software for the traditional 2D animation process

Introduction to TVPaint

In terms of price, there are two versions of TV Paint: a Standard Edition that costs US$579 (€500) & a more expensive Professional Edition that costs US$1448 (€1250).

Being compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux, TVPaint offers a wide range of features. Among them are the bitmap drawing tools, which are preferable to animators when it comes to traditional hand-drawn animation because of its large library of brush options, as well as the ability to import brushes.

TVPaint is widely used in Europe where traditional hand-drawn animation is still more common. Studios like Cartoon Saloon used it in their award-winning films like Song of the Sea or Wolfwalkers, while the reputable animation school in France - Gobelins has their students use TVPaint prominently in their works.

2d animation movie - Introduction to TVPaint
The Oscar-nominated 2D animation movie that uses TVPaint (Source: The Japan Times)

TVPaint - the perfect 2D animation software for the traditional animation style

Among the software in this list, TVPaint is probably the greatest program for hand-drawn animation. To animators that prefer an old-school approach, it is probably the closest to drawing with pencil and paper. Once you've spent some time using TVPaint, you will find it to be rather user-friendly.

2d animation movie - TVPaint - the perfect 2D animation software for the traditional animation style
Making 2D animation movie with TVPaint (Source: TVPaint)

Beyond that, a growing number of 2D animation studios are adopting TVPaint. This means a growing community and potentially more support for the software users.

On the other hand, TV paint is the most affordable of the listed 5 programs. Beginner animators may face some difficulties using the software as well due to the initial learning curve.

Top 5: Spine - The ideal 2D animation software for games

Introduction to Spine Animation Software:

In this list, Spine Animation Software stands out thanks to its powerful process of designing a skeleton for 2D animation. Spine is in use all over the world, from multibillion-dollar to smaller game studios and indie developers.

It can offer a wide range of tools to shape and refine 2D animation. With Spine, animators can bend and deform images with mesh skinning/weights, adjust animation timing with the dopesheet, pose characters with inverse kinematics, visualize motion with ghosting, create 3D effects, and much more.

In Unruly Heroes - New gameplay trailer 2018 produced by Magic Design Studios, The Spine Mesh system allowed animators to give a realistic 3D look to designs and smear key poses into compelling animation.

Spine offers limitless animation possibilities for animators

Spine works by having animators create a “skeletal”, which is composed of “bones”, and then pose it to create animation. This is so-called cutout animation that has numerous benefits over traditional, frame-by-frame animation:

  • Smaller size: Traditional animation requires an image for each frame of animation. In contrast, Spine stores only the bone data, which is very small, allowing animators to pack the game full of unique designs.

  • Art requirements: Spine requires much fewer art assets, thus cutting off time and money spent on the game production.

  • Smoothness: The final animation in Spine is always as smooth as the frame rate and can be played in slow motion with no loss in quality.

  • Attachments: Images attached to bones can be swapped to outfit a character with different items and effects, saving countless production hours.

  • Mixing: Animation can be blended together in Spine. Thus, animators can change from one animation to another easily and smoothly.

2d animation movie - Spine offers limitless animation possibilities for animators
Animating with Spine Software (Source: Internet)

Conclusion

Above are the 5 best software on the current market for making 2D animation. Whatever your experience and goals are, there are many options for you to choose from. However, a program is just a tool, how you use it is entirely your responsibility. They cannot replace all the fundamentals like the 12 principles of animation or the ability to create appealing and dynamic drawings. Programs are not doing the animation for you, you are using them to do it.

DeeDee Animation Studio is an award-winning animation production studio, based in Hanoi, Vietnam. We create engaging stories with the beautiful visual language of cartoons & 2D animation. Regardless of the software that we choose to be our primary one, our artists are dedicated to developing our craft so that we can create the most beautiful 2D animated films we could imagine of.


Reference:

Cgspectrum.com, What is the best 2D animation software? Experts choice

Filmora.wondershare.com, 10 best 2D animation software in 2021 (free/paid)




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