💡 Key Insights
  • Linearity Move is a vector animation platform tailored for modern creators of all levels. Its unique selling points include its beginner-friendly interface, seamless integration with Linearity Curve, and the ability to turn static designs into animations with a single click using Auto Animate.
  • While free software like Pencil2D and Synfig Studio offer budget-friendly options for beginners, paid software such as Linearity Move and Toon Boom Harmony provide a broader range of advanced features, professional-grade capabilities, ongoing support, and greater stability. The decision between paid and free software ultimately depends on skill level, budget, and project requirements.
  • The article presents various 2D animation software options for different user needs and preferences. From beginner-friendly tools like TupiTube to professional-grade platforms like Adobe Animate, there's something available for everyone.

2D animation is booming. This art form goes beyond entertaining cartoons. It brings complex ideas to life in explainer videos, immerses gamers in fantasy worlds, and helps grab audience attention in marketing materials.

Choosing the right software is key. Consider your skill level: beginner-friendly options prioritize ease of use, while advanced software offers more control. Budget and desired features like keyframing, timeline layers, and animated masking must also be taken into consideration.

This listicle discusses 12 of the best 2D animation tools available (free and paid). Keep reading to learn about key features, pricing, and more.

Quick comparison table

Software Keyframing Timeline layers Animation automation Animated masking Vector/raster Figma/Illustrator import Starting pricing
Linearity Move Yes Yes Yes Yes Vector and raster Yes $7.99/month (billed annually)
Toon Boom Harmony Yes Yes Yes Yes Vector and raster Yes $28.50/month
Moho Pro (Anime Studio Pro) Yes Yes No Yes Vector and raster Yes $399.99 (once-off)
Adobe Animate Yes Yes Yes Yes Vector Yes $22.99/month
Cartoon Animator 5 Yes Yes Yes (Limited) Yes Vector and Raster Yes (Limited) $149 (once-off)
Animaker Yes Yes Yes (Limited) No Vector and Raster Yes (Limited) $12.50/month
Clip Studio Paint Yes (Limited) Yes Yes (Limited) Yes Raster (with some vector tools) Yes (Limited) $54.00 (once-off)
Pencil2D Yes Yes No Yes (Limited) Vector and raster No Free
OpenToonz Yes Yes Yes Yes Vector and raster Yes (Limited) Free
Synfig Studio Yes Yes Yes Yes Vector No Free
Krita Yes (Limited) Yes No Yes (Limited) Raster (with some vector tools) Yes (Limited) Free
TupiTube No Yes No No Vector and raster Yes (Limited) Free

7 paid 2D animation tools

While free software can be a good starting point, paid 2D animation software often provides a better user experience, including:

  • Broader range of advanced features
  • Professional-grade capabilities
  • Ongoing development and support
  • Greater stability (a worthy investment for serious creators)

Let’s look at seven premium animation platforms and their key features.

1. Linearity Move


Unleash your creativity with Linearity Move, the vector animation platform built for modern creators of all levels. Launched in 2024, it's bridging the gap for animators, designers, and marketing teams.

If you need to animate eye-catching social media content, ads, or announcements, then Linearity Move is the right tool.

Linearity Move helps you create 2D animations in seconds, cutting production costs without losing quality. Its intuitive interface and template designs make it easy for beginners while offering enough depth for advanced users, too.

The affordable Pro plan starts at just $7.99/month (billed annually) and includes Linearity Curve—a powerful graphic design companion. This makes Linearity Move a significantly more cost-effective option than the 2D animation industry giants.

Here's what sets Linearity Move apart:

  • Tailored for vector animation: Precise, scalable, and perfect for clean visuals.
  • Beginner-friendly interface: New animators can easily use the tool.
  • Seamless integration: Works hand-in-hand with Linearity Curve, creating one design ecosystem for your team.
  • Auto Animate: With a single click, you can turn static designs into animations in seconds.
  • Import ease: Integrate with your existing design software. Supports popular tools like Adobe Illustrator, Figma, Sketch, and more.
  • Huge asset library: 3,000+ customizable templates help you accelerate your design process.
  • Extra support: The Pro plan offers priority support, and the Org plan includes a dedicated account manager.
  • Always up to date: Automatic software updates ensure access to the latest features.
  • Extensive learning resources: Video and blog tutorials guide you to achieving your animation vision.

Linearity Move may not offer all the same visual effects as film-making tools that have been on the market for a long time. But it offers all the advanced tools you need to create compelling marketing design assets for all platforms.

“​​Linearity Move is easy to learn and use. As a graphic designer it brings a whole new level to the graphic design world, using animation to promote, get a message to audiences, and so much more. I love that Linearity has easy-to-follow tutorial videos and is always available to answer questions. Linearity is always making amazing changes and progress to make the creative process a breeze! I am a forever supporter and user.”—Dominique D., Linearity user on G2

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2. Toon Boom Harmony

Toon Boom Harmony landing page
Image source: Toon Boom Harmony

Toon Boom Harmony 22 sets a high standard in 2D animation. Aspiring and professional animators use it for their projects. It offers a comprehensive suite of tools and features, from traditional frame-by-frame techniques to cut-out animation.

Toon Boom Harmony has three pricing (and feature) tiers. The Essentials plan, ideal for students, starts at $28.50/month. The most expensive plan is the Premium one, which costs $129.50/month and caters to advanced users and animation studios.

Key benefits and features of the tool:

  • Industry-leading tools: Create professional-grade animations with advanced rigging, special effects, and lip-syncing features.
  • Flexibility: Choose your preferred workflow, from traditional frame-by-frame to cut-out animation or even 2D and 3D integration.
  • Realistic visuals: Add depth and dimension to your animations with advanced lighting, shading, and camera control options.
  • Streamlined workflow: Improve productivity with features like vector drawing tools, automatic inbetweening (tweening), and seamless software integration.
  • Big community of support: Toon Boom connects artists, studios, and schools through events and an active community. Their team is always available for help, offering live chat and forum support.

While all this may sound amazing, mastering the extensive feature set might require more learning time, especially for animation beginners. Plus, the software has some hefty system requirements. 

Toon Boom Harmony 22 can be expensive compared to simpler animation software, especially for less serious users who want to play around.

3. Moho Pro

Moho Pro landing page
Image source: Moho Pro

Moho Pro lets users bring their 2D animation visions to life. Its easy interface and variety of features make it an excellent choice for anyone (beginner or expert) exploring the world of animation.

Unlike many subscription-based software options, Moho Pro boasts a one-time purchase price of $399.99. This makes it a cost-effective option for long-term use, especially for individuals or smaller studios. A generous 30-day free trial allows you to test drive the software before committing to it.

Key benefits:

  • User-friendly: Moho Pro's instinctive interface makes it easy for newcomers to grasp animation fundamentals.
  • Extensive learning resources: A huge library of information is available, including tutorials and documentation for the tool.
  • Advanced features: Moho Pro has powerful tools like a 2D rigging system and integrated lip-syncing, catering to professional needs.
  • Vector animations: Moho Pro is optimized for animation and rigging. Vectors ensure your shapes stay clean and consistent even during complex movements. 
  • Streamlined workflow: Features like "Smart Bones" help eliminate tedious tasks and ensure smooth character animation, saving time and effort.

While the one-time price may be attractive upfront, it can be a larger initial investment than some users may be able to afford. We noticed that compared to industry giants, Moho Pro's online community is smaller. A smaller community means fewer external resources and less support.

“Moho is fairly easy to learn, yet extremely robust and versatile. It has really grown over the years. We think this product isn't given its "dues" at all. The design seems to have been well-thought-out by the developers.” - Renee Doehrel R., Moho Pro user on G2

4. Adobe Animate

Adobe animate landing page
Image source: Adobe Animate

Adobe Animate, previously known as Flash Professional, is animation software creators have used for decades. It remains a benchmark in 2D animation, used by professional studios and passionate hobbyists.

Adobe Animate is available through a subscription-based model as part of the Creative Cloud package, starting at $22.99/month. This gives you access to a wide range of creative tools, making it a cost-effective option for those who already use (or want to use) Adobe products - like Adobe After Effects.

Fun fact: Some well-loved TV cartoon series that were made using Adobe Flash Professional include Peppa Pig (2004– ), Little Bill (1999–2004), Johnny Test (2005–2014), The Looney Tunes Show (2011–2015), and The Amazing World of Gumball (2011–2019).

Adobe Animate offers advanced features like:

  • Powerful rigging tools: Create expressive characters with smooth and realistic movement.
  • Seamless Adobe integration: Combine your animation with other Adobe software like Photoshop and Premiere Pro for a streamlined workflow.
  • Interactive animations: Incorporate elements like buttons and forms to give life to your animations, making them ideal for web, mobile, and game development.
  • Versatile toolset: Create various animation styles, from traditional frame-by-frame to cut-out and stop-motion animation.

The extensive feature set may require dedicated learning time, especially for beginners. But, Adobe Animate offers a wealth of resources to support your animation journey: tutorials, documentation, and active online communities where you can connect with fellow animators and seek help.

“I found it very easy to use, as I do not have too much knowledge about animation and its effects, but with Adobe Animate I don't need much experience in animation. It suggests animations and ideas as per your requirements. Also, its UI is very smooth; it's not laggy and meets the animation's demand. Moreover, it has many easy features to create 2D and 3D animations, which is very helpful.” - Ravi C., Adobe Animate user on G2

5. Cartoon Animator 5

Cartoon Animator 5 landing page
Image source: Cartoon Animator 5

Cartoon Animator 5 is powerful and accessible. The intuitive interface and extensive learning resources suit everybody. Anyone can get into the world of 2D animation, all for $149 (with a free trial available).

It provides a library of ready-to-use, professional-looking characters, a diverse range of pre-animated movements, and special effects to jumpstart your creative process. It also has enhanced motion capture technology for facial expressions and body language, giving your characters ultra-realistic movements.

Did you know you can use a tool like this to create 2D commercials? Animated commercials are effective and a fun way to show off your brand personality!

Important benefits and features:

  • Easy character creation: Convert images or photos of your characters into 2D animations.
  • Professional animation tools: An impressive toolset that includes motion capture technology, free-form deformation, spring dynamics, pro animation, and lip-syncing capabilities.
  • Elevated creativity: Cartoon Animator 5 has a huge library of pre-made characters, diverse animation styles, and special effects to improve your projects.
  • 360-degree freedom: Craft characters that can create 360-degree heads, perfect for dynamic scenes.

While Cartoon Animator 5 allows you to export your animations, it doesn't offer direct uploads to platforms like Facebook or YouTube. Plus, not all features and functionalities (like Perception Neuron Profile) are included in the base price and require additional purchases.

“What I like best about Cartoon Animator is its unparalleled character creation and animation versatility. The extensive library of pre-made characters and assets and powerful customization options allow for quick and efficient character design and rigging. This feature significantly expedites the initial stages of animation, giving me more time to focus on refining the storytelling and fine-tuning the intricate details of facial expressions and movements.”—Yaqeen E., Cartoon Animator user on G2

6. Animaker

Animaker landing page
Image source: Animaker

Animaker stands out as a top contender in paid 2D animation software. Its focus on simplicity and efficiency makes it a compelling choice for creators of all levels—particularly marketers with little to no creative skills. 

The Starter plan, at $12.50/month, allows you to create 5-minute animated videos with basic features like five characters and HD quality. It offers 10 premium asset credits per month. Pro is the most popular option at $39/month, offering a 30-minute video length, FHD quality, 30 character creation slots, and other premium assets. The Enterprise plan provides unlimited features but requires you to contact Animaker for custom pricing. 

You can try it for free to see if it meets your needs.

Reasons to consider Animaker animation software:

  • Character builder: Animaker can create a billion character combinations with unique facial features and accessories.
  • Automated lip-syncing: Animaker eliminates the tedious task of manually matching animation to audio. You can easily synchronize natural lip movements with your voiceover.
  • Large asset library: Animaker offers many backgrounds, properties, text options, and music tracks.
  • Smart Move and Action Plus: Animaker automates repetitive tasks with features like Smart Move and Action Plus. These tools animate characters with a single click, saving you valuable time and effort.
  • 4K exports: Animaker allows you to export your animations in up to 4K resolution, ensuring your content looks professional.

While Animaker may not offer the same professional-grade features as other software, it’s user-friendly and has extensive resources. Your decision will depend on your 2D animation priorities.

“Animaker has been an incredible tool for me to create stunning animations effortlessly. I've been using the Starter plan, and it's already exceeded my expectations with its user-friendly interface and extensive library of assets. The fact that they're offering a free upgrade for a week shows their commitment to customer satisfaction. I'm happy to give them a five-star rating on G2 and highly recommend their platform to anyone looking to bring their ideas to life with animation. Keep up the great work, Animaker!”—Valeria P., Animaker user on G2

7. Clip Studio Paint

Clip Studio Paint landing page
Image source: Clip Studio Paint

Clip Studio Paint isn't just another drawing or animation program. It's a comprehensive tool designed to support artists of all levels across various creative niches and all devices, including computers, iPads or tablets, and smartphones. 

Whether you're a seasoned illustrator, an aspiring comic book creator, or an animation enthusiast, Clip Studio Paint provides the tools and features needed for your artistic vision.

For a one-time cost of $54.00, this tool offers features like realistic color mixing and the ability to draw with transparent colors for easy erasing. For comic and manga artists, Clip Studio Paint shines with its dedicated tools for creating panels, speech bubbles, and adding screen tones.

Fun fact: Clip Studio Paint is considered by some as the standard for creating anime, and it’s also used by more than 50 educational institutions worldwide.
  • A large variety of brushes: Achieve your artistic style with a wide range of high-quality brushes that replicate the textures of traditional tools.
  • Intuitive interface: Clip Studio Paint prioritizes user-friendliness with a clean and well-organized workspace, making it an easy user experience.
  • Extensive material library: Plenty of free and community-created materials, including brushes, textures, and 3D models.
  • Smart coloring tools: Fill your artwork with color using features like automatic gap filling and layer locking for precise painting.
  • Non-destructive editing: Clip Studio Paint's editing tools allow you to adjust line thickness, colors, and effects without compromising image quality. As an animation newbie this is very valuable.

While Clip Studio Paint offers a free trial, its full potential is unlocked through paid subscriptions or a one-time purchase. Some advanced features might take you longer to learn. 

“I love how easy it is to access all of the tools, brushes, poses, and many other items within the main panel. Everything is just a click away, and the best part is that it still doesn't feel crowded. I think that the pre-sized pencil brushes are also a great idea because it means less fiddling around so that more time can be focused on actually creating the art.”—Verified User in Education Management, G2

5 free 2D animation tools

Free software is an excellent way for beginners to get started in animation. These programs cost nothing to download and use, making them budget-friendly. Some free software is open-source, so there are also often large online communities where you can find free tutorials and get help from other users.

1. Pencil2D

Pencil2D landing page
Image source: Pencil2D

Pencil2D is a free and open-source 2D animation software that allows you to create animations focusing on traditional frame-by-frame techniques.

This software prioritizes a clean and uncluttered workspace designed to eliminate distractions and keep your focus on the creative process. 

We noticed that there aren’t any unnecessary features available to slow Pencil2D down. Instead, it provides only the core tools necessary for creating professional-looking animations.

Key features to fuel your animation journey:

  • Traditional animation: Pencil2D excels in frame-by-frame animation, allowing you to create each individual frame for ultimate creative control.
  • Raster and vector power: This offers flexibility to create hand-drawn textures and crisp, clean lines within your animations.
  • Built-in templates: Get a head start on your animation projects with pre-made templates that can be a starting point for your ideas.
  • Cross-platform compatibility: Pencil2D runs smoothly on various operating systems, including Windows, macOS, and Linux, making it a versatile option.

As an open-source project, Pencil2D may not receive updates as frequently as premium software. Compared to feature-rich premium software, Pencil2D offers a smaller set of tools, so those trying to create complex animations may find it too limiting.

“When I first looked at this software tool, I thought, “What is the difference from the old Paint?”. In my work, I have to analyze and test, and as I went along, I saw that it was much more. What I like best is that it is intuitive, easy to use, and has more stability in drawing objects.”—Theodore P., Pencil2D user on G2

2. OpenToonz

OpenToonz landing page
Image source: OpenToonz

OpenToonz was developed by Studio Ghibli, the legendary animation house behind Anime films like Spirited Away (2001) and My Neighbor Totoro (1988). 

One thing to note is that OpenToonz uses a slightly different workflow than some other software. It relies on a "digital exposure sheet" called an Xsheet for managing your animation, which can take longer to learn.

Here are its most exciting features:

  • GTS scanning tool: This feature lets you seamlessly integrate hand-drawn frames—scanned in black and white or color—directly into the software for digital manipulation and animation.
  • Real frame-by-frame animation: This offers control over your animation's flow and timing. 
  • Vectorization capabilities: Improve the quality of your scanned drawings, ensuring clean lines throughout your work.
  • Open-source advantage: Ongoing community development translates to regular updates, bug fixes, and even the potential for customization to suit your specific needs.

If the features of OpenToonz aren’t quite enough for you, but you like the tool's interface, consider using its commercial cousin, Toonz Premium.

While functional, OpenToonz's interface might appear somewhat dated compared to more recent software. If you struggle to work with older-looking software, this may not be the tool for you. 

“I love Opentoonz. When I first downloaded it (for free), I didn't understand it much, but once I spent a little time in it, I got a hang of the animations. If you're struggling to understand the program, there are a lot of helpful tutorials out there. It’s a great program to learn basic animations on. I really recommend this for 2d animations. I was able to import art from Procreate into OpenToonz and continue the animation.”—Verified User in Computer Games on G2

3. Synfig Studio

Synfig Studio landing page
Image source: Synfig Studio

Like the other tools in this section, Synfig is free. However, unlike some other tools, it has a robust feature set that rivals the paid tools. This combination means you can create animations without breaking the bank.

Synfig is designed with both beginners and experienced animators in mind. 

Its interface resembles Adobe Animate’s, making learning easy for those familiar with Adobe programs. But, beneath its user-friendliness is a powerful platform capable of producing high-quality animations.

Key features of Synfig Studio:

  • Vector animation: Unlike traditional raster animation that relies on pixels, Synfig utilizes vectors to create artwork. This vector-based approach allows for clean, scalable animations that won't lose quality when zoomed in or resized.
  • Bone-based animation: Synfig's bone rigging system and skeletal structure creation allows you to animate your characters' movements and poses.
  • Advanced tools: Synfig offers many animation tools, including layer management, filters, and vector tweening.

While Synfig has huge creative potential, you must also be aware of a few drawbacks. Mastering the software's intricacies can take time and dedication. Synfig Studio may also require a computer with robust processing power to run smoothly.

“Synfig Studio gave me the tools I needed to create an animated sequence for a logo. I had all the individual parts of the logo and assigned different movements to each. Best of all, the application was free. Learning how to use keyframing takes some time, but once you get the hang of it, it's not so bad. It would be good to have additional export formats. And perhaps a tutorial included.” - Verified User in Civic & Social Organization, Source: G2

4. Krita

Krita landing page
Image source: Krita

Krita is useful for all digital artists in the world of animation, particularly comic book artists. This free and open-source software has an exciting feature set and an easy interface to streamline your workflow.

While Krita is known for detailed digital paintings, sketches, and illustrations, its capabilities extend far beyond static artwork. 

The software is also a powerful 2D character design tool that allows you to create characters that jump off the page, tell your story, and populate your comic book panels.

Key features:

  • Vast brush library: Krita boasts over 100 professional-quality brushes that mimic the feel (and look) of traditional painting tools. Whether you're aiming for the smooth textures of airbrushing or the expressive strokes of a charcoal pencil, Krita has the perfect brush.
  • Helping hand for aspiring artists: Krita incorporates a variety of drawing assistants designed to provide subtle guidance and support as you improve your skills. These intelligent features can help you achieve smoother lines, cleaner shapes, and greater control over your creations.

Krita currently has limited support for third-party plugins. While the core feature set is impressive, some users might miss the ability to further Krita's functionality with custom plugins.

“The best thing about Krita is its intuitive layout and a vast array of brushes. Its animation capabilities are also some of the best I've seen, especially in a completely free and open-source product.”—Moiz F., Krita user on G2

5. TupiTube

TupiTube landing page
Image source: TupiTube

TupiTube was developed by passionate animators wanting to establish Latin America's animation industry. This software was built with kids and first-time animators in mind. The aim was to help them take their first steps into the exciting world of animation.

TupiTube has a refreshingly simple interface, making it easy for beginners to understand the fundamentals of animation. 

It offers two primary animation methods: 

  1. Frame-by-frame, where you create each frame for a smooth, hand-drawn look.
  2. Cut-out animation, similar to the classic Flash style, where you manipulate pre-made images. 

Note-worthy TupiTube features for young animators:

  • Intuitive interface: It prioritizes user-friendliness and offers a clean, uncluttered workspace.
  • Animation techniques: TupiTube caters to both animation styles, allowing you or your children to experiment and find their creative niche.
  • Built-in image library: TupiTube provides a library of pre-made images to jumpstart the animation process.
  • Free: This software costs nothing, making it accessible to anyone with a computer and an internet connection.

While TupiTube is an excellent tool for beginners, it doesn’t offer the same level of sophistication and features as professional animation software. Additionally, TupiTube is currently unavailable for Apple devices. 

The verdict: which 2D animation software will work for you?

Several 2D animation software options are available, from free and open-source to paid and professional-grade. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned animator, there's an animation tool out there that can help you in your creative pursuits.

Based on our experience and the available features of each tool, these are our favorite options:

  • Free tools: Synfig Studio and Pencil2D are excellent choices for those starting out or looking for a cost-effective solution.
  • Professional software: Linearity Move and Toon Boom Harmony offer robust features to create high-quality animations for different applications.

The best software for you will depend on your skill level, budget, and project requirements. Take some time to research these options more, and don't be afraid to experiment to find the perfect fit.

Are you ready to try new and innovative animation design software? Linearity Move offers all the advanced tools you need to create professional animations in a few clicks. Plus, our platform is user-friendly and cost-effective. You’ll also enjoy premium access to Linearity Curve design software.

Sign up below to try the Linearity suite for free.

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2D animation software FAQs

Do you need to be a good artist to use 2D animation software?

While artistic skill is definitely helpful, many programs offer tools and features that can assist you, even if you're not a professional artist.

What kind of computer do you need for these tools?

The hardware requirements will vary depending on the software you choose. Generally, a computer with a good processor, enough RAM, and a pressure-sensitive tablet (for drawing) will be beneficial.

What features are important for 2D animation software?

Look for features like timeline editing, frame-by-frame animation, character rigging (for complex movements), lip-syncing tools, the ability to import/export various file formats, Keyframing, timeline layers, and animated masking

What is raster vs. vector graphics?

Some software like Linearity Move uses vector graphics, which are scalable and maintain quality when resized. Others use raster graphics, like Krita, which are made of pixels and can lose quality when enlarged.

What factors should you consider when choosing software?

Consider your budget, skill level, desired features, and the type of animations you want to create. There's no "one size fits all" solution, so research and try demos of different programs to see which one suits you best.

12 best 2D animation software: bringing your vision to life | Linearity
12 best 2D animation software: bringing your vision to life | Linearity