Learning digital animation requires both animation and software skills. When we choose our animation software, specially when we are beginners, we do have some factors to consider before deciding on where to start. Almost anything in our life is possible until we start to talk about money & cents, and time.
I’m sure some of you who are now reading this articles are as poor as me when I started learning animation, so money and time is definitely one of the many factors. I would wish to invest my hard earned money and precious time on things that are worthwhile. So here’s my two cents worth of recommendation on how to start your 2D animation at low cost AND create quality animation using relevant industry software, just in case you decide to switch your career.
Adobe Flash is my recommended 2D animation software because it has a good range of drawing and animation tools. You are able to draw simple images similar to South Park characters even if you haven’t hold a pencil for decades. When I started learning Adobe Flash, I am able to draw with a mouse! Adobe Flash also gives you some preset motions to create animation. These presets can be very useful as an add on to improve your animation very easily.
Unfortunately, Adobe Flash is not free. You can choose to download Adobe Flash for a trial period of 30 days to test out the software before paying about USD$800+ for it. If you have friends who have this software, do test drive the software from them to get the feel of it.
Toon Boom Studio
I would also highly recommend Toon Boom Studio for learning 2D animation because you can create quality animation similar to anime style. The animation qualities are more incline toward broadcast video standard as seen on television. If you like watching anime such as Naruto, Bleach, etc, and want to create something close, Toon Boon Studio is what I would recommend.
Similar to Adobe Flash, Toon Boom is not for free and it cost about USD$300+ onwards. Nevertheless, they do allow you to download for a trial period of 30 days. As a hobbyist, you may want to consider their kid’s version of the software, Animation-ish, which cost USD$60 and it still gives you a good amount of tools to get started on learning animation. Start your animation now!
Lastly, you might want to consider DigiCel Flipbook. This software is very much similar to Animation-ish but it relies more on your drawing skill. The software is very straight forward in terms of the user interface (UI) and it pieces up your drawings into an animation. DigiCel Flipbook also allows voice synchronization when you are doing lip syncing animation. This software cost USD$78 for the cheapest version and the tools in it is definitely sufficient for you to start your animation learning journey.
These are some of the commonly used 2D software in the industry that I would recommend. Of course there are many other animation softwares out there but they are not as popular.
Creating 2D animation such as buttons or banners is not that tough with these softwares. However, if you are keen in creating anime and cartoon animation, drawing skill is essential. Also, digital drawing skill can be another area you will get in touch with when you are advancing in learning 2D animation.
Drawing a character with a mouse is an option that I would choose if I’m eating bread and butter for 3 meals a day. If you are living better than that, I suggest you to try to save up some cash and buy a decent drawing tablet, mainly from Wacom. The cheapest Wacom tablet you can get is the Bamboo Tablets. Bamboo is the lowest grade because its drawing sensitivity is average.
Most of my students who started learning animation buy Bamboo tablet for the obvious reason, affordable price. My students started the course without any drawing skills and they can’t really tell the difference from Bamboo Tablets with other better grade tablets, except for their sizes. If you have some spare cash to burn, you can consider going for Wacom Intuos5 series which is very popular among the media industry. Wacom Intuos5 is slightly more expensive but they are definitely worth the price for providing animators with smooth drawing experience.
Bamboo Tablet cost about USD$100+ and Wacom Intuos5 cost about USD$400+, and price varies a little at different countries. If you buy a Bamboo Tablet and decided to give up animation, you can still use it to sign your signature digitally! How cool is that!
Now that we know what are the appropriate tools to create 2D animation, why not start creating your own 2D animation?
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If you are a student, or if you are able to justify that you are still a student, you might be able to bargain for an educational price for the software and hardware. Just ask your friendly neighborhood dealers and you might be given a better discounted price for starting to learn animation!
Of course, educational price comes with educational software package which most of the time restricts you from having any commercial profit. In case you have gotten to professional level, you can always request for an upgrade of software to commercial licenses to start your animation career or business. Until then, you might want to keep your investment cost at the lowest possible.