12 Best 2D Animation Software in 2023: Free and Premium
June 28, 2023
In today’s world, animation is extremely popular. It is a form of art that has captured the imagination of humans for quite a long time.
While 3D animation is the most prominent type of animation in modern cinema, 2D animation remains a popular and essential medium for creating engaging and compelling content.
2D animation is the most understood, traditional, and popular form of animation that creates motion in images in a two-dimensional space.
This illusion of movement has grown to become a top art form that is not only used in the entertainment industry. Various other industries, such as Advertisement, Marketing, Gaming, Retail, Architecture, and Engineering, use animation in multiple ways.
Having animation skills can be quite lucrative whether you’re working in an advertising agency, production house, or have a YouTube channel of your own.
2D Animation software is an important tool used by modern animators to create stunning visuals and effects. It brings in life to the graphics creating an illusion of movement by arranging the graphics in a sequence.
Using 2D animation software, even an amateur artist will be able to create interesting animations, stop-motion, motion graphics, etc.
Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, a Windows user or a Mac user, there are plenty of different animation software to choose from. However, the selection process can be tricky due to the multitude of options available.
Are you familiar with animation software? Looking for an animation software app but are not sure whether it will help you achieve your goals and fit right into your lifestyle?
In this article, we will take a look at the top 15 best 2D animation software in 2023, based on their features, tools and prices.
We will also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each software so that you can make an informed decision when choosing the right animation software for your needs.
What is 2D animation?
2D animation is the art of creating movement in a two-dimensional space. This includes characters, creatures, FX, and backgrounds. The illusion of movement is created when individual drawings are sequenced together over time.
While this process is sometimes referred to as traditional animation, mainstream 2D production has evolved from hand drawn processes using pencil and paper to the implementation of digital techniques using computer software like Toon Boom Harmony or Adobe Animate CC.
Despite the advances in technology, the core principles of 2D animation remain the same. Each frame is carefully crafted to create movement, and the frames are played back at a speed of 24 frames per second (24fps) to create the illusion of motion.
What is the difference between 2D and 3D animation?
2D animation involves creating objects in a two-dimensional space, showing width and height. As an example, classic Disney movies are in 2D.
3D animation involves a two-dimensional object depicted in three dimensions. 3D objects can be rotated, flipped, and moved like real objects.
For animators, is that 2D animation is more artistic and 3D is more mechanical/technical.
2D requires a large amount of illustration, as every frame needs to be drawn, either on a digital tablet or hand drawn.
For 3D animations, all frames must be rendered after modeling is complete. It is tasked with creating movement via ‘rigs’, where a 3D model is essentially given a skeleton that can be manipulated in a virtual 3D space.
The type of animation you pursue will mostly come down to your artistic preference and budget (2D animation is more cheaper).
12 Best 2D Animation Software in 2023
With the right software, it is fun creating 2D animation. You only have to get your script and storyboard ready.
Here’s our compiled a list of the best paid and free 2D animation software out there to help you make the right decision for your animation needs!
While some of these may be suited for professionals, most are generally user friendly to beginners as well.
1. Toon Boom Harmony
If you are serious about working in 2D animation, Toon Boom Harmony is pretty much a gold-standard. It has even managed to clinch an Emma award because of its class features.
It is widely used for creating traditional hand-drawn, cut-out, and digital 2D animations for film, television, video games, and the web.
Harmony features a powerful timeline-based animation system, as well as a wide range of tools for vector and bitmap drawing, coloring, and rigging characters and objects.
Standard features include a brush engine, traditional paperless animation, deformers, cut-out animation, 2D/3D integration, export to game engines, and pipeline integration.
New features that came with the latest update include a stabilizer for lines, stylus pressure responsiveness, and tilt and angle responsiveness.
It also includes advanced tools for compositing and special effects, as well as support for motion capture and motion graphics.
Multiple import and export features make it simple to upload your own paper drawings or digital images as more than 13 different file types.
In addition to its powerful capabilities, Toon Boom Harmony is also highly extensible, with a large and active community of third-party developers who have created a wide range of plugins and add-ons to extend the software’s functionality.
However, The software is so complicated, expect to spend a lot of time fiddling with it. You will want a powerful computer because the features are rather demanding.
Compatibility: The software is compatible with OSX, Windows, and Linux.
Pricing: Pricing options come in different packages: An Essentials plan is $25/month, an Advanced plan is $63/month and a Premium plan is $115/month.
You can use the software for free for 21 days, a duration that is good enough to understand and explore this software.
Adobe Animate CC, previously known as Adobe Flash Professional, is a 2D animation software that primarily used for creating interactive animations and vector graphics for the web, games, and mobile devices.
Adobe Animate features a powerful timeline-based animation system that allows users to create frame-by-frame animations, as well as more complex animations using motion tweening and inverse kinematics.
It also automates the tweening process and offers support for raster graphics, audio, and video embedding, rich text, and more.
It includes a wide range of tools for vector illustration, including brushes, shape layers, and the ability to import artwork from Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.
This makes it a popular choice for game developers and web designers. You can use it to create animations for HTML5 Canvas, SVG animation, WebGL, etc.
It supports a variety of file formats and export options, making it easy to integrate animations into different platforms and devices.
Adobe Animate is very intuitive, clean and easy-to-use. you don’t need as much guidance to pick up the basics and create your fun 2D animation. It is definitely build for beginners.
The asset panel provides premade characters, backgrounds, audio rigs, and motion assets to help you work faster.
Compatibility: It is available on Android, iOS, Windows Desktop, and macOS.
Pricing: Adobe Animate is $20.99 a month. You can also purchase Creative Cloud, which will give you access to all Adobe apps for $52.99 a month.
Moho Pro is a complete 2D animation software for those willing to use advanced digital animation tools but without money to spend on expensive software.
Moho Pro is stable, feature-rich, and suitable for both small and large-scale projects. It is widely used for creating traditional hand-drawn, bitmap, and vector animations for film, television, video games, and other digital media.
Moho has an intuitive interface and accessibility, The quad meshes employed within the program will leave little to be desired in terms of customization and flexibility.
Moho Pro offers a bone rigging system, dynamic bones, and smart bones to control complex movements, simplifying the animation process and enables users to create complex character animations.
The software allows for bitmap and vector artwork creation by hand drawing, and the ability to import and export files in various formats like PSD, SVG, AI, and EPS.
Moho Pro provides tools for lip-syncing, motion tracking, and 3D integration, making it an all-in-one animation software.
Moho Pro allows frame-by-frame animations, and with its built-in physics engine, Moho Pro allows users to create realistic movement and interactions between objects.
It also includes advanced features for camera control, special effects, and compositing, as well as support for multi-layer and multi-camera productions.
Its combination of powerful features, accessibility, and affordability has helped to make Moho a popular choice for 2D animators of all levels of expertise.
Moho Pro is not beginner-friendly, and it can take some time to get the hang of. But there is also a cheaper and simplified version of the software called Moho Debut, which is designed for beginners.
Compatibility: you can use it on both Windows and Mac OS.
Synfig studio is a free yet advanced and powerful 2D animation software. It can able to produce quality animations like you see in feature films.
The software uses a vector-based workflow and supports a variety of animation techniques, including traditional frame-by-frame animation and cutout animation.
It is a front-end back-end application that allows designing in the front end, and later rendering is possible by backend Synfig tool on another computer.
Features such as automated tweening and simulated shading helps creating a smoother transition. It eliminates the need to create animation frame-by frame, allowing you to produce 2D animation of a higher quality with fewer people and resources.
It supports large number and various types of layers like geometric, filters, gradients, transformations, distortions, fractal and more to create animations of any complexity.
Layers are parametrically generated and most of the elements are vector based. Also, it features a bone system that allows producing cut-out animation by using bitmap images.
Due to its open-source nature, Synfig allows users to freely use and modify the software to suit their needs. you can get a lot of support from the user community.
Synfig studio could be quite complex for beginners to use. The range of features is also quite limited. Plus, it doesn’t come with the same depth of documentation, support, or consistency as paid platforms.
Compatibility: It is available on Windows, Linux, and Mac.
Pricing: Synfig is free, open source and there are two options to choose from: Stabile version and development version.
OpenToonz is a free, open-source 2D animation software, which is widely accepted as a free substitute for apps like Adobe Animate.
OpenToonz has been used to create various professional animations, including feature films, TV shows, and video games. But it can’t be used for producing studio like animation videos.
It may have more of a learning curve than other beginner apps, but it has many professional features: frame-by-frame animation, on-screen ruler, onion-skinning, bone-rigging, node-based editing options, etc.
OpenToonz can handle both vector and raster images and allows the usage of anti-aliased lines. If you know how to hand-draw animation then the brushes will be a plus.
The source code is easy to modify in order to add some special features to the software. Moreover, It comes with pre-loaded plugins that allow creating amazing animation effects automatically without needing more editing.
It supports various file formats, including popular image and video formats, making it easy to import and export files.
OpenToonz also offers a multi-plane camera feature that enables animators to create complex scenes with multiple layers and camera angles.
However, the downside of Opentoonz is that the design of its user interface is outdated compared to other 2D animation software in the market.
Compatibility: OpenToonz is available on Linux, macOS, and Windows.
Pricing: It can be used free of charge for both commercial and non-commercial animations.
Pencil2D is a free, lightweight, user-friendly 2D animation software, widely considered a perfect starter program for beginners.
The user interface has simple drag and drop functionality, a customizable workflow, and allows for image tracing. it’s pretty basic, intuitive and easy to use.
Using this software you can easily create keyframes to animate your drawings. It also has several built-in effects such as shadows, reflections, textures, filters, and more.
The clean, uncluttered timeline makes it easy to manage and edit your animation frames, and you can preview your work in real-time to see how it will look when it’s complete.
You can easily switch between raster and vector workflows to enhance your creating experience. It also excels at making cartoons and other colorful 2D designs using techniques like onion skinning and bitmap drawings.
Pencil2D allows you to draw directly onto the canvas using various brushes and pencil tools. It has pressure sensitivity support, works fine with drawing tablets and stylus pens. Additionally, Pencil2D supports importing images and assets from other drawing programs.
Pencil2D is great for frame-by-frame animations, but lacks advanced animation and character building tools. It’s not ideal for complex or modern-style animations.
Compatibility: It runs on Mac OS, Windows, and Linux.
Pricing: As an open-source project, Pencil2D is free to use and modify.
TVPaint Animation is a raster-based 2D animation software, developed by TVPaint Développement in France.
It has been used to create many animated and otherwise movies. This tool is best suited for feature films and short films in traditional 2D styles.
It offers a variety of tools and features for creating hand-drawn frame-by-frame animations, including brushes, layers, onion skinning, and a timeline.
The drawing tools of this program is similar to Photoshop or Procreate. This kind of functionality is what makes TVPaint so popular with lovers of hand-drawn animation.
To animators that prefer an old-school approach, it is probably the closest to drawing with pencil and paper. It also has an automatic preview function that cannot be achieved in traditional animation techniques.
TVPaint Animation supports various file formats, including image sequences and any pixel-based files, and allows for the integration of audio and video.
In addition to its powerful capabilities, TVPaint Animation is also highly customizable, with a wide range of options for adjusting the user interface, keyboard shortcuts, and other features to suit the needs of individual users.
Many users find the TVPaint interface is difficult to navigate intuitively. It is also worth noting that there are no vector drawing tools in the program. That means the clean-up process can be time-consuming.
Compatibility: TVPaint is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android.
Pricing: US$579 (€500) for Standard Edition, US$1448 (€1250) for Professional Edition.
Licenses are a one-time purchase, and the company offers special discounts for students and teachers.
Blender is a well-known free open-source software used for 3D modelling and animation, but it can also be used for 2D animation.
Those familiar with the program will likely think first of the beloved Grease Pencil tool, which allows the artist to draw in a 3D environment and create hand-drawn motion graphics, cut-out animation, and traditional 2D animation.
Blender’s layer system can be used for 2D animation and 3D. It allows you to organize your 2D elements and animate them separately.
Blender’s timeline can be used to create animations in both 2D and 3D, allowing you to set keyframes, adjust timing, and create complex animations.
Blender has a powerful motion graphics toolset that can be used for 2D animation. It includes text animations, shape animations, and particle effects.
Blender’s camera control allows for smooth camera movements and zooms, which is important for creating dynamic 2D animations.
Despite its powerful, Blender may not be the most suitable software for 2D animation. other programs specifically designed for 2D animation may be a better option as they may have more specialized tools and features.
The Blender’s user interface is not intuitive enough for beginners, and it has a rather steep learning curve. However, there is a lot of community support and plenty of resources out there that can help you learn Blender.
You also are going to need to be running a full 3D engine even if you’re only going to be animating 2D. So make sure you have a powerful computer.
Compatibility: Blender is available on macOS, Linux, and Windows.
Krita is probably one of the most highly-regarded free painting and 2D animation applications.
It offers a variety of tools and features that make it ideal for creating 2D animations. ideal for those who are just starting out or working with limited resources.
If you choose this program you will get more than 100 brushes and other painting tools. You will be able to work with layers, modify vectors, use the full-color palette, and a lot of filters to retouch photos.
If you require assistance as a new animator, Krita provides drawing assistants that help with drawing straight lines, vanishing points, drawing ellipses, and other outlines as well.
Krita also has built-in brush stabilizers that can smooth out the effects of shaky hands, making it handy for pen tablet use.
Krita’s animation tools are designed for frame to frame raster animation with realtime animation playback controls to edit and review animations.
With the timeline, docker helps maintain the time in the animation project so you can insert the audio or tweaking and editing tasks efficiently.
The animation curves docker is used to add minor frames between the main content, known as tweening. You can add extensive edits to this panel.
Krita also provides customizable onion skinning that reduces the effort and time put in using traditional animation techniques.
Krita can import and export files in various formats, making it integrates well with other programs in the animation production pipeline.
Compatibility: Krita is available for Android, Linux, Mac and Windows.