May 6, 2022

11 Best 2D Animation Software: Free and Paid

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Top picks for best 2D animation software

What is the best 2D animation software available today? To assist you in your search, we've compiled a list of the best 2D animation software currently available, for both beginners and professionals. Use this comparison table to quickly examine features and functionality.

Program

Price

Level

Download

Toon Boom Harmony$25/mo. to $117.50/mo.Professionals
Pencil2DFreeProfessionals
SynfigFreeProfessionals
Cartoon Animator 4$248Professionals
OpenToonzFreeProfessionals
Stop Motion Studio$4.99 (mobile app)/$9.99 (computers)Beginners
Moho Pro$399.99Beginners
Adobe® Animate®$20.99/mo. (part of Creative Cloud®)Professionals
TupiTubeFreeBeginners
KritaFreeProfessionals
Adobe® Character Animator®$54.99/mo. (part of Creative Cloud®)Beginners

Best 2D animation software

Toon Boom Harmony

Price: $25/mo. (Essentials), $64.50/mo. (Advanced), $117.50/mo. (Premium)

OS: Linux, macOS, Windows

Level: Professionals

Toon Boom Harmony is an Emmy-winning, industry-leading 2D animation software designed for both beginners and professionals. The program lets you use traditional frame-by-frame animation or cut-out animation. It includes a variety of camera angles and post-production special effects, as well as vector drawing and a lip-syncing feature to match the voice with the animations. It's also great for creating animatics for movies and TV shows. The program is 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 for Disney-like animation
  • Lighting and shading options for realistic depth and volume

Pros:

  • Used by professional animators
  • Loads of great features for beginners and professionals

Cons:

  • Has hefty system requirements
  • May be too expensive for hobbyists

Download Toon Boom Harmony

Pencil2D

Price: Free

OS: Linux, macOS, Windows

Level: Professionals

Pencil2D is one of the most powerful 2D animation programs today. This software 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 keyframe is made from scratch. The program is completely free and is available for Windows 7 and Windows 10 PCs in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions, as well as Mac and Linux computers.

Key features:

  • Raster and vector graphics
  • Built-in templates

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

Download Pencil2D

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. The program 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 adapt your development to the Synfig workspace. It includes a number of advanced animation tools, including vector tweening, layers and filters, and bones.

Key features:

  • Vector animation software
  • Bone-based animation

Pros:

  • Pro-level animation tools
  • Free

Cons:

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

Download Synfig

Cartoon Animator 4

Price: $248 (free trial)

OS: macOS, Windows

Level: Professionals

Cartoon Animator 4 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 lip synchs to an imported or recorded voice track.

Key features:

  • Motion capture for 3D animation
  • 360-degree head creation

Pros:

  • 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

Download Cartoon Animator 4

OpenToonz

Price: Free

OS: macOS, Windows

Level: Professionals

OpenToonz is another popular free, open-source 2D animation software that 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. The software's toolset has a lot of features that you can find in the more professional – and more expensive -- software on the market.

Key features:

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

Pros:

  • Free
  • Good for hand-drawn animation

Cons:

  • Interface looks dated
  • Steep learning curve

Download OpenToonz

Stop Motion Studio

Price: $4.99 (Android, iOS, ChromeOS), $9.99 (macOS, Windows)

OS: Android, iOS, ChromeOS, macOS, Windows

Level: Beginners

Stop Motion Studio is a cheap and easy-to-use program for Windows 10 and Mac computers, as well as Android and iOS mobile devices. The program allows you to quickly and easily create beautiful stop-motion animations. 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.

Key features:

  • Works with most digital cameras or your phone/tablet camera
  • Green screen backgrounds

Pros:

  • Perfect for making LEGO and Claymation videos
  • Great for kids

Cons:

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

Download Stop Motion Studio

Moho Pro

Price: $399.99 (30-day free trial)

OS: macOS, Windows

Level: Beginners

Moho 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.

Key features:

  • Powerful 2D rigging system
  • Integrated lip-synching

Pros:

  • Intuitive interface
  • Smart Bones for realistic character movement

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Some features are difficult to master

Download Moho Pro

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. It's part of the Adobe® Creative Cloud® suite and perfect for creating anime.

Key features:

  • Bone-based animation
  • Virtual camera functionality

Pros:

  • Integrates with other Adobe software, including Illustrator® and Photoshop®
  • Save clips in AVI and MP4 formats, including 4K

Cons:

  • No audio editing tools
  • Relies heavily on other Creative Cloud® apps

Download Adobe® Animate®

TupiTube

Price: Free

OS: Android, Linux, macOS, Windows

Level: Beginners

TupiTube was created by two professional animators to encourage the animation industry in Latin America. It’s a free download and open-source, designed primarily for kids and amateurs. Its simple interface lets you create both frame by frame and cut-out Flash-style animations.

Key features:

  • Character animation
  • Image library

Pros:

  • Easy to learn
  • Perfect for kids and teens

Cons:

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

Download TupiTube

Krita

Price: Free

OS: Linux, macOS, Windows

Level: Professionals

Krita is free painting software, popular with comic book artists. The program includes a number of customizable brush presets and features an intuitive yet unobtrusive interface with dockers and panels. While primarily used for detailed illustration, it also functions as 2D character design software to bring comic book panels to life.

Key features:

  • 100+ professional brushes
  • Drawing assistants to help you get started

Pros:

  • Great for illustrators
  • Integrates across platforms

Cons:

  • Lack of plugin support
  • Documentation may be lacking

Download Krita

Adobe® Character Animator®

Price: $54.99/mo. (part of Adobe® Creative Cloud®)

OS: macOS, Windows

Level: Beginners

Adobe® Character Animator® that uses motion capture technology to easily create life-like animation. Use a pre-built 2D puppet or create your own character, video record yourself in motion, then use that video to animate your character. The program also tracks facial expressions.

Key features:

  • Realistic motion capture animation
  • Create animations with just a few clicks

Pros:

  • Easy to create animations based on recorded movements
  • Preloaded with a variety of customizable puppet characters

Cons:

  • Relies heavily on other Creative Cloud® apps
  • Not truly affordable for hobbyists

Download Adobe® Character Animator®

Summary: How to choose 2D animation software

There dozens of 2D animation software programs available today. Some of this software is targeted at beginners, others at professional animators. When you're choosing the best 2D animation software for your needs, you should consider several factors:

  • 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. Make sure it's easy to draw with your mouse on Microsoft Surface or drawing tablet.
  • 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 a 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, there is a lot of free animation software for 2D animation. 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. Most let you download the software online.

Michael Miller

Michael Miller has written for a multitude of websites and blogs on a variety of technical topics. He is a talented and prolific writer with more than 200 non-fiction books published over the past three decades. His best-selling technology books include My iPad for Seniors, My TV for Seniors, Computer Basics: Absolute Beginner’s Guide, and Idiot’s Guide to Mixing Music. Collectively, his books have sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide.

Frequently asked questions

What 2D animation software does Disney use?

Many Disney animators use the Toon Boom Harmony software. You can find more information on the app in our article.

What are the five types of animation?

When you're learning how to make a 2D animation, there are several different types of animation to consider:

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

What is the best 2D animation software that's free?

When you're looking for the best free 2D animation software, check out the following:

  • Pencil2D
  • Synfig
  • OpenToonz
  • TupiTube
  • Krita

What is the easiest 2D animation software?

Some 2D animation software is easier to use than others. The most easy-to-use 2D animation software includes:

  • TubiTube
  • Moho Pro
  • Adobe® Character Animator
  • Stop Motion Studio
  • Pencil2D