Edited by Michael Miller

April 8, 2021

Top 12: Best 2D Animation Software (Download Some for Free!)

If you are looking for the best 2D animation software, you came to the right place. We've compiled a list of the best 2D animation software currently available, for both beginners and professionals, to lead you through the process of choosing the right one. Whether you want to get started in the animation world or just want to try a different software program, you will find the one that best fits your needs on our list.

Top Picks

Program NamePriceOSLevel
Stop Motion Studio$4.99 (Android, iOS), $9.99 (MacOS, Windows)Android, iOS, macOS, WindowsBeginners
Moho Pro (Anime Studio Pro)$399.99 (30-day free trial)macOS, WindowsBeginners
Adobe® Animate®$20.99/mo. (free trial)macOS, WindowsProfessionals
Toon Boom Harmony$17/mo. (Essentials), $41/mo. (Advanced), $78/mo. (Premium)Linux, macOS, WindowsProfessionals
CelAction2D$71/mo. (Studio Edition), $709 (Professional Edition)WindowsProfessionals

Best 2D Animation Software for Beginners

Stop Motion Studio

Price: $4.99 (Android, iOS), $9.99 (MacOS, Windows)

OS: Android, iOS, macOS, Windows

Level: Beginners

You've seen stop motion animation; it's the frame-by-frame Claymation-type animation seen in LEGO videos and Aardman Animations shorts and movies. Stop Motion Studio is an easy-to-use program that allows you to quickly and easily create beautiful stop-motion animations, without any previous knowledge. You can plug in your DSLR and take pictures directly into the program, letting the software take full control of all the settings in the camera as you shoot frame-by-frame. You can also add text, themes, colors, drawings, and green screen backgrounds to your stop motion animation.

Stop motion animation development is easy with Stop Motion Studio. Just gather your LEGO or clay figures and start shooting! The program is available for Mac and Windows computers and Android and iOS phones and tablets. It's also one of the more affordable options out there.

Key Features:

  • Works with most digital cameras or your phone/tablet camera
  • Green screen backgrounds
  • Add facial expressions to LEGO animated figures

Pros:

  • Perfect for making LEGO and Claymation videos
  • Easy sharing to YouTube
  • Great for kids

Cons:

  • Stop motion animation only, not full animation
  • Some features require in-app purchases

Moho (Anime Studio) Pro

Price: $399.99 (30-day free trial)

OS: macOS, Windows

Level: Beginners

Moho Pro, formerly known as Anime Studio Pro, is a good program for getting started with 2D animation. It's one of the easiest programs for beginners to use but includes a wealth of advanced features for professional use. One of these features is called Smart Bones, which helps to reduce or completely remove any distortion around elbows, knees, or any moving joints on a character. This tool simplifies some processes that can take much longer to perform in other programs. Moho Pro is a good choice if you want to learn animation, and you can give it a try for free with its free trial.

Key Features:

  • Powerful 2D rigging system
  • Integrated lip-synching
  • Realistic motion blur

Pros:

  • Intuitive interface
  • Smart Bones for realistic character movement
  • Supports drawing tablets

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Some features are hard to master

TupiTube

Price: Free

OS: Android, Linux, macOS, Windows

Level: Beginners

TupiTube is one of the best free 2D animation software for beginners. It was created by two animators to encourage the animation industry in Latin America. It’s free and open-source, so you can download it to see if you like it. It's designed for kids and amateurs and has a simple interface that's easy to learn.

TupiTube allows you to create an animation frame by frame and cut-out Flash-style with tweening. The TubiTube community is growing every day, so you can find a lot of video tutorials to learn the basics of the software. The TupiTube app is available to download for Windows, Mac, and Linux computers, as well as Android mobile devices.

Key Features:

  • Character animation
  • Image library
  • Sound synchronization

Pros:

  • Easy-to- use interface
  • Perfect for kids and teens
  • Free

Cons:

  • Not as polished as other animation software
  • No iOS version

FlipBook

Price: $98 (Lite), $298 (Studio), $798 (ProHD)

OS: macOS, Windows

Level: Beginners

FlipBook is an animation software for artists. If you enjoy drawing and you’ve always wanted to create your own Disney-like cartoon, this software will suit you well. FlipBook allows you to import pictures from your scanner or other sources. You can also import illustrations directly from a drawing tablet. Animation is manual, so there's no fancy bones or similar functionality. It's definitely an old-school approach, but if that's the way you roll, FlipBook is the software for you.

Key Features:

  • Scan or draw directly to the program
  • Import soundtracks or lip-sync voice tracks
  • Pan, zoom, rotate, blur, and dissolve

Pros:

  • Perfect for traditional hand-drawn animation
  • Can work with scans or drawings
  • Compatible with most drawing tablets

Cons:

  • Traditional animation only
  • Few automated features

Best 2D Animation Programs for Professionals

Adobe® Animate®

Price: $20.99/mo. (free trial)

OS: macOS, Windows

Level: Professional

Adobe® Animate®, previously known as Adobe® Flash®, offers pro-level drawing and animation tools, including animation paths and bones. The built-in virtual camera lets you imitate realistic camera movement, along with pans, zooms, and rotating. While it includes no audio editing tools, it does let you sync imported audios on the animation timeline.

Adobe® Animate® is powerful 2D animation software, although you need to use it with Adobe® Illustrator® and Photoshop® to get the most functionality. At just $20.99/month subscription, it's also affordable.

Key Features:

  • Bone-based animation
  • Virtual camera functionality
  • Key frames

Pros:

  • Tutorials for both beginners and experienced users
  • Integrates with other Adobe software, including Illustrator and Photoshop
  • Save clips in AVI and MP4 formats, including 4K

Cons:

  • No audio editing tools
  • No direct uploading to YouTube or Facebook

Toon Boom Harmony

Price: $17/mo. (Essentials), $41/mo. (Advanced), $78/mo. (Premium)

OS: Linux, macOS, Windows

Level: Professional

Toon Boom Harmony is Emmy-winning 2D animation software that's used by both beginners and professionals. It's the industry-leading 2D animation program, used by the pro animators at Disney, Pixar, and Warner Bros. for projects like Family Guy, Teen Titans Go!, and Disney's The Lion Guard.

The number of tools and options available in Toon Boom makes it one of the best 2D animation programs available today. It offers a full range of properties for pencils and brushes, so you can draw directly into the program with your mouse or your Wacom tablet. The program enables you to use traditional frame-by-frame animation or the cut-out. Other available features include camera angles, post-production special effects, and vector drawing. It also has an incredible lip-syncing feature to match the voice with the animations. It's available in three different versions: Essentials (for students and hobbyists), Advanced (for professionals), and Premium (for most advanced users).

Key Features:

  • Wide variety of pro-level tools
  • Lighting and shading options for realistic depth and volume
  • 4K camera resolution

Pros:

  • Used by professional animators at Disney and Pixar
  • Loads of great features for beginners and professionals
  • Characters’ movement looks natural

Cons:

  • Uses significant system resources
  • May be too expensive for hobbyists

CelAction2D

Price: $71/mo. (Studio Edition), $709 (Professional Edition)

OS: Windows

Level: Professional

CelAction2D is another program used by a large number of animation studios and professionals for Disney-like animation. Powerful but easy to learn, this animation program offers a wide range of options that can make the learning process a little bit easier. You can use vector and bitmaps simultaneously, customize your workspace, and create both simple and massively complex projects. It's ideal if you want to import hand-drawn illustrations. You can rig character models to skeleton frames, which can then be stored and easily reused. CelAction2D is designed to run on just about any Windows PC but can run on Intel-based Macs using Boot Camp and similar tools.

Key Features:

  • Advanced synching technology
  • Real-time animation preview
  • 60+ special effects

Pros:

  • Produces hand-drawn animation quality
  • Bitmap and vector drawing
  • Doesn’t need many computer resources

Cons:

  • No native Mac version
  • The price for a lifetime license is the highest compared to other programs from this list

Cartoon Animator (CrazyTalk Animator)

Price: $149 (free trial)

OS: macOS, Windows

Level: Professionals

Cartoon Animator, formerly known as CrazyTalk Animator is a pro-level 2D animation program used by artists and illustrators, movie and video creators, web and game designers, and students and educators. It offers a library of professional-looking premade characters, as well as a variety of animated movements and special effects. Cartoon Animator offers sophisticated motion capture for facial expressions and body movements and automatically applies lip-synching to an imported or recorded voice track. The program also offers templates for bones and other character effects. You can export in 4K to AVI, MP4, or WMA formats, but can't directly upload to Facebook or YouTube.

Key Features:

  • Motion capture
  • 360-degree head creation
  • Bone-based animation

Pros:

  • Apply 3D motions to 2D characters
  • Create 2D characters from images or photos
  • Professional production environment

Cons:

  • No automatic uploading to Facebook or YouTube
  • Some features only available at extra cost

Synfig

Price: Free

OS: Linux, macOS, Windows

Level: Professionals

Synfig is an open-source, free 2D animation software with the power of a professional one. Available for Windows, Linux, and Mac, this program lets you quickly and easily make beautiful animations. The community behind this animation program is one of the best, with hundreds of tutorials and videos to learn from.

Synfig was designed to look like and work similar to Adobe Flash (now called Adobe Animate), so if you've used Flash in the past, you will quickly learn the Synfig workspace. It includes a number of advanced animation tools, including vector tweening, layers and filters, and bones. Synfig gives you a lot of power – and it's all free.

Key Features:

  • Vector tweening
  • Bone-based animation
  • 50+ layers

Pros:

  • Pro-level animation tools
  • Free
  • Big and helpful community

Cons:

  • It takes a long time to master
  • You’ll need a powerful computer

Opentoonz

Price: Free

OS: macOS, Windows

Level: Professionals

Opentoonz is another popular free, open-source 2D animation software. This one was used by Studio Ghibli to make the world-famous Princess Mononoke film, and it’s quite powerful. The software's toolset has a lot of features that you can find in the more professional – and more expensive – software on the market.

Opentoonz combines traditional drawing with 2D animation. Use the program's GTS tool to scan in your black and white or color drawings, then start using the built-in animation tools.

Key Features:

  • Proprietary GTS scanning tool
  • Real frame-by-frame animation
  • Customizable templates

Pros:

  • Free
  • Good for hand-drawn animation

Cons:

  • Interface looks dated
  • Steep learning curve

Pencil2D

Price: Free

OS: Linux, macOS, Windows

Level: Professionals

Pencil2D, another open-source and free-to-use animation software, is one of the most powerful 2D animation software today. This program features a minimalist-style workspace, created to avoid distractions from the main animating window. It's focused on traditional frame-by-frame animation so every frame is made from scratch. It comes with a manual to learn how to use the program adequately. If you still think it’s a bit difficult, there are a few tutorials on its official website.

The Pencil2D software is a good alternative for those who like the traditional frame-by-frame animation. It has a large and supportive community of users, so if you find any bug or problem with the program, they will help you out. Pencil2D is completely multi-platform, so you can download it for Windows (including XP and Vista), Linux, and Mac. The program is lightweight and doesn’t use large amounts of RAM, so almost any computer can handle it.

Key Features:

  • Raster and vector graphics
  • Image editor
  • Built-in templates

Pros:

  • Great for hand-drawn animation
  • Minimalist, easy-to-use workspace
  • Free

Cons:

  • Not frequently updated
  • Not as full-featured as similar programs

Spriter Pro by BrashMonkey

Price: $59.99 (free version available)

OS: Linux, macOS, Windows

Level: Professionals

Spriter Pro is a 2D animation program designed for professionals. It uses bones for more realistic animations. Upload the pieces of the character’s image, place them in the right positions, and animate it piece by piece. This is useful if you want to change a single aspect of your character design or animation; you don't have to update the whole character, just the part you want to change. You can also create new characters based on data from existing characters.

BrachMonkey does offer a free version of Spriter but lacks many of the program's advanced features. For full-featured animation, you'll want to invest in the Pro version.

Key Features:

  • Bone-based animation
  • Create animations within animations
  • 256 free Spriter animations

Pros:

  • Ideal for game designers
  • Automatically import images as animated sprites
  • Familiar operation to old Adobe Flash

Cons:

  • Need to create sprites in other apps and then import
  • Some users complain about bugs and crashing

How to Choose 2D Animation Software

Animators use 2D animation to create cartoons, animated movies, video games, marketing materials, and more. If you've ever watched a classic Disney movie or episode of The Simpsons or Family Guy, you've seen 2D animation.

There are dozens of 2D animation software programs available today. Some of this software is targeted at beginners, others at professional animators. These programs automate much of the historically hand-drawn animation process, making it both easier and less expensive to create animated shorts and movies.

On the surface, choosing the best 2D animation software for your needs seems like a difficult task. But it is quite easy when you know which factors to consider:

  • What type of animation do you want to do? Will you be doing traditional cel animation, digital animation, path animation, stop motion animation, cut-out animation, hand-drawn animation, or Flash-based animation? Make sure you choose a program designed for the type of animation you want to do.
  • What level of user is it designed for? You don't want the program to be too advanced for a beginner, or too simple for a professional.
  • How easy is it to use? Look at the interface and workflow, as well as any included templates and designs.
  • What features and tools does it include? If you're a more advanced user, look for advanced features and tools that let you create more sophisticated animations. You'll want 2D animation software that includes things like bone-based animation, animation curves, natural deformations, onion skinning, tweening, motion capture, lip-synching, and such. It's also important to support a variety of import and export formats, including 4K video.
  • What is the cost of the software? You may not have a big budget; fortunately, many of these programs are free. Even some of the more expensive 2D animation software is available with a free trial period that lets you try it before you buy or subscribe to it.
  • When you're looking for 2D animation software, the programs listed in this article are a good place to start. These are the top 12 best 2D animation software for users of every level.

    Need an animated video, but don’t want to deal with video making yourself? Luckily, there are companies that can make animated videos for you. Check out Kasra Design if you need an animated video for your business:

    Kasra Design

Frequently Asked Questions

One of the programs that Disney animators use is Toon Boom Harmony. You can find more information on the app in our article.

  • Traditional or cel animation
  • 2D animation
  • 3D animation
  • Motion graphics
  • Stop motion

A career in animation can be challenging, but it’s definitely an exciting job. There are plenty of career choices in this field: you can work as a cartoon animator, graphic artist, 3D artist, video game designer, or something similar.

 

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