Top 10 Free 2D Animation Software You Should Know in 2021
By Peter Parker
2021-12-23

Animation, as an industry, has evolved significantly over the past 10-15 years. Irrespective of whether you are a newbie or a seasoned animator, you will always need animation software that is reliable, user-friendly and helps you make a statement. Specific among them is the 2D animation software that is widely used for creating informative videos. But for professionals just starting, paying to acquire the software was always an issue. The good news is, gone are the times when the best 2D animation software used to cost not less than a hundred dollars. Today, because of the internet's growing reach, popularity, usage, and the efforts of open-source communities, animation professionals have access to a host of feature-rich and free 2D animation software to create breathtaking animated videos.

Through this post, we will understand the top 3 factors that make a good 2D animation software. We will also explore the 10 best free 2D animation software, their features, and the pros and cons included. So, what are we waiting for? Fasten your seat belts, folks, as we get ready to embark on a lively 2D animation software roller-coaster ride.

What is 2D Animation Software?

2D animation is about drawing 2-dimensional characters and objects. The dimensions include width and height and not depth because if they did, the characters and objects would become 3-dimensional.

A 2D animation software helps animators sequence individual images in frames per second and get their creations to move. 2D animation software is popularly used to create advertisements, marketing campaigns, informative videos, video games, and animated entertainment series like The Little Mermaid and The Simpsons.

What Makes a Good 2D Animation Software?

When brought together on a single platform, several qualities make a good 2D animation software the best 2D animation software. But essentially, for a 2D animation software to be good, it should possess the three essential qualities listed below:

  • A 2D animation software must have an easy-to-reach frame section and offer a quick way to test animation.

  • It should be lightning-fast, as even a delay of 1s in changing frames could prove to be disastrous.

  • Lastly, it should be easy to play around and navigate and also budget-friendly.

10 Best Free 2D Animation Software

Alright. As promised, it is time now for us to bring you a comprehensive insight into the 10 best free 2D animation software, including features, pros and cons, compatible platforms, reasons why we picked them, and their official website link. Let's get going.

1. Pencil 2D

Compatible Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac or OS X

If you are into hand-drawn animation, the open-source Pencil 2D animation software is just the tool for you. It is easy to use, lets you switch smoothly between raster and vector graphics, and create colored compositions using a pen, pencil, and brush tools. Pencil 2D is equipped with a clean and uncluttered timeline that lets you add keyframes to create animations quickly and various other tools and panels to suit your animation needs. What's more, it even comes with a user manual. Because of its many benefits, especially for newbies, Pencil 2D is often known as the best free 2D animation software for beginners.

Key Features:

  • Lets you switch smoothly between raster and vector graphics.

  • Allows you to review work with flipping or rolling techniques.

  • Supports import/export of GIF files.

Pros:
  • Intuitive and easy to use.

  • Free but can be used for commercial purposes

  • Best 2D animation software for beginners.

Cons:
  • Lightweight and lacking in advanced functionalities.

  • Impossible to draw shapes as it does not support shapes tools.

Our reason for choosing Pencil 2D is that it is intuitive, free, open-source, cross-platform compatible, perfect for beginners, does not require much RAM and comes with a user manual in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

To download or for more information, please visit https://www.pencil2d.org/.

2. Animation Paper

Compatible Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac (Android & iPad Pro with Pencil)

It is not for nothing that Animation Paper is known as arguably the best free 2D animation software. It is the remodeled version of the hugely popular Plastic Animation Paper 4.0 or PAP 4.0. 

Animation Paper took PAP 4.0 back to the drawing board and emerged with an intuitive and minimalistic design. The modified version is now equipped with distortion and light effects, onion skinning, and colored pens for drafting and planning animations. The software is easy to use, and once you get to know your way around, it is a gem of 2D animation software. This free 2D animation software has many features, including pressure sensitivity, touch screen support, and intuitive shortcuts that make your life as an animator easy.

Key Features:

  • Intuitive and minimalistic design.

  • Equipped with distortion and light effects.

  • Pressure sensitivity and touchscreen support.

Pros:
  • Intuitive shortcuts for toggling between draw and erase modes.

  • Perfect for hand-drawn animation.

  • Easy to use.

Cons:
  • Slow-moving release schedules.

We chose to include Animation Paper in our list of best free 2D animation software because it is intuitive, free, cross-platform compatible and contains numerous features without which designing animations could be frustrating.

To download the free version or for additional information, please visit https://animationpaper.com/

3. Synfig Studio

Compatible Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac

Besides the usual functionalities found in other 2D animation software, the open-source Synfig Studio allows users to create character puppets using vector animation and provides complete control over editing and characters. It automatically appends keyframes, ensuring the workflow is smooth. The software is compatible with touchscreen and pressure-sensitive tabs. It also supports gradient routes that enable animators to manipulate vector lines, choose shades for their drawings, use a grid and onion skinning, and choose various blend methods. Synfig Studio is available in two versions. The development version allows animators to explore and experiment with new features before adding them to the stable version. Synfig is the best 2D animation software for those looking for 2D animation software similar to Flash instead of frame-by-frame animation.

Key Features:

  • More than 50 layers of content to choose from.

  • Feature-loaded bone system allows control over characters.

  • Fully-controlled vector editing for automatic calculation of frames.

Pros:
  • Powerful and robust software.

  • Plugin capability that helps enhance the quality of animated videos.

  • Great tool for vector animation.

Cons:
  • Prone to crashing.

  • Complex to use.

Synfig Studio finds a mention in our list of the 10 best free 2D animation software because it is open-source, comes with a host of advanced features, can animate almost everything, and is perfect for those without much experience in handling animation software.

To download Synfig Studio or for more information, please visit https://www.synfig.org/

4. Blender

Compatible Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac

Although it is more famous for creating 3D animations, Blender also provides a version for creating 2D animations. This feature-rich and open-source animation software is perfect for beginners and professionals alike. With Blender, users can create 2D animations, video games, and various 2D models. The Blender 2D animation software comes equipped with tools for lighting, modeling, and other animation tools. It also permits users to import and export videos in Quicktime, AVI, and MPEG file formats. Moreover, if you have OpenGL support, you can enjoy a smoother workflow performance. Just one word of caution, though. The Blender 2D animation software could be a little tough to comprehend. But once you acclimatize yourself with it, working with Blender is fun and effortless.

Key Features:

  • Built-in path-tracer engine, including CPU & GPU rendering, real-time viewport preview, HDR lighting support, VR rendering support, and PBR shaders.

  • Advanced sculpting, modeling, rigging, animation, and UV tools.

  • Powerful visual effects, including manual & auto-tracking, real-time preview of tracked footage, and camera reconstruction.

Pros:
  • Full animation support, including layers and colors for stroke & fill, brush strokes, and onion skinning

  • Large user community

  • Plenty of tutorials available online.

Cons:
  • Slow. It cannot handle millions of polygons well.

  • Steep learning curve as it is complex to use.

Despite its shortcomings, the Blender 2D animation software makes it to our list because it is perfect for beginners and professionals, is equipped with a host of features to create excellent animations, and offers a lot of tutorials for users to get a hands-on experience.

For more information or to download, please visit https://www.blender.org/

5. Krita

Compatible Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac

Next on our list of the 10 best free 2D animation software is Krita. It has an interactive UI that makes it perfect for both beginners and professional digital artists. Krita was introduced as digital painting software, similar to PaintShop. Today, it is the best 2D animation software for onion skinning, supports frame-by-frame raster animation, and is compatible with touchscreen tablets. Its greatest strength is its open-source community that gives users access to many resources, including video tutorials, Japanese animation templates, documentation on vector graphics, and other tools. Krita also comes equipped with a scripting feature that uses Python, a popular programming language. All this and more make Krita one of the best free 2D animation software available.

Key Features:

  • Supports frame-by-frame raster animation.

  • Scripting feature that uses the popular programming language Python.

  • Japanese animation templates.

Pros:
  • Robust open-source community.

  • Perfect for painting.

  • Plenty of video tutorials.

Cons:
  • Prone to random crashing.

Krita finds a mention on our list of the 10 best free 2D animation software because of its open-source community, which provides users across all platforms access to several useful features. 

To download or for more information, please visit https://krita.org/en/

6. OpenToonz

Compatible Platforms: Windows, Mac

No other free 2D animation software comes close to OpenToonz in terms of credibility and features. It is highly customized, making it the best 2D animation software for giant production houses like Studio Ghibli and others. The open-source software is a goldmine for amateurs and professionals. It incorporates several pre-loaded plugins, enabling animators to create exhilarating animation effects without much editing. OpenToonz is easy to use as animators only need to scan their drawings to animate them. It is compatible with colored, black & white, binarized, and non-binarized scanning. What's more, the software also allows animators to save their scan settings. OpenToonz comes with a host of keyboard shortcuts for animators to access and render their projects quickly and easily. It is equipped with several useful features, including picture styles, lighting effects, frame-by-frame animation, and onion skinning.

Key Features:

  • Compatible with TWAIN standards.

  • In-built GTS scanning.

  • Supports colored and black & white scanning.

Pros:
  • Highly-customized.

  • Feature-loaded.

  • Perfect for commercial and non-commercial purposes.

Cons:
  • Difficult to learn.

  • Needs plenty of RAM size to avoid random crashes.

OpenToonz is a worthy candidate in the list of the 10 best free 2D animation software because it is highly customizable, feature-rich, and is perfect for novices and experts alike. 

For more information or to download OpenToonz, please visit https://opentoonz.github.io/e/

7. Stykz

Compatible Platforms: Windows, Mac

Stykz is the perfect free 2D animation software to manipulate vector or stick figures into 2D animation. It is more of an animation planning tool and borrows heavily from PivotStickFigure, a freeware app. It supports STK files so that you can directly import files downloaded in STK format. Among the many features that Stykz offers is the ability to work with frames and onion skinning, allowing you to transition images naturally without drawing them repeatedly. So, if animating stick figures is what you love doing, Stykz is the best 2D animation software for you.

Key Features:

  • Great animation planning tool.

  • Supports STK files.

  • Supports frame-by-frame animation.

Pros:
  • Easy to use. Even kids can use it.

  • Users can import projects from Pivot and make advanced videos.

  • Robust performance.

Cons:
  • Limited to animating stick figures only.

There are not many free 2D animation software available. So, naturally, Stykz had to make it to our list of the best free 2D animation software. But that is not the only reason. It is robust in what it does and very user-friendly, making it popular among kids. 

To download Stykz or for more information, please visit https://www.stykz.net/

8. PicsArt Animator

Compatible Platforms: Android, iPhone, iPad

PicsArt Animator is the perfect free 2D animation software for amateurs and semi-professionals using Android and iPhone. It allows animators to create cartoon videos or GIF files using a blank canvas or a picture stored in the phone's gallery. It comes with advanced drawing tools and features such as layers and duplicate frames. It is extremely easy to use; all animators need to do is set the frame rate and output format for the completed animations, and they are good to go.

Key Features:

  • Contains animated stickers to make animations more lively.

  • Comes with advanced drawing tools.

  • Play mode allows animators to view animation timelines.

Pros:
  • User-friendly.

  • Multi-layering makes creating complex animations easier.

  • Option to add music to cartoons or GIF files.

Cons:
  • Not suitable for advanced professionals.

There are several free 2D animation software available for PCs and laptops, but not many for smartphones. With more and more people today using their phones because of the flexibility they offer to work while on the move, we needed to include a free 2D animation software for smartphones that is highly user-friendly and feature-rich.

Users can download the PicsArt Animator free from the Apple Store for iPhone and iPad and the Google Play Store for Android phones.

9. Maefloresta

Compatible Platforms: Android, iPhone, iPad

Maefloresta is a great free 2D animation software for beginners who use Android, iPhone, and iOS tablets to learn the art of animation. It is perfect for those who want to learn animation before transitioning to more expensive tools. The intuitive 2D animation software is easy to use and comes with plenty of tutorials. It is particularly useful in schools where teachers want to impart the basics of animation to students.

Key Features:

  • Free app for Android and iOS devices.

  • Easy to use with plenty of tutorials.

  • Intuitive interface.

Pros:
  • Compatible with Android and iOS devices.

  • Suitable for students and beginners looking to learn animation.

  • Perfect for creating small videos and animations for fun.

Cons:
  • Inconvenient as you need to email the company to get the installer online.

No list of the best free 2D animation software could be complete without Maefloresta. It is a perfect tool for beginners who want to learn animation without spending too much money at the start. That makes Maefloresta a worthy entrant in the list of the best free 2D animation software. 

For more information or to download, please visit https://www.maefloresta.com/

10. FlipaClip 2D Animation Software

Compatible Platforms: Android, iOS

The FlipaClip 2D animation software allows users to create and share mesmerizing animations using iPhone and Android devices. It supports frame-by-frame animation and comes equipped with advanced drawing tools and multiple animation layers. The FlipaClip 2D animation software allows you to create Rotoscope animations using GIF files or videos and even allows you to add voice to make animations more lively.

Key Features:

  • Option to import/export GIF files.

  • Overlay grids to guide the drawing process.

  • Equipped with onion skinning and multiple animation layers.

Pros:
  • Option to add voice to animations.

  • Users can share animations on various social media platforms.

  • Supports frame-by-frame animation.

Cons:
  • Not available for Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms.

The FlipaClip 2D animation software deserves a special mention in the list of the 10 best free 2D animation software because it is perhaps the best of all the free 2D animation software available for iPhone and Android devices. The fact that it is not available for PCs and laptops does not, by any means, make the FlipaClip 2D animation software inferior to others. For more information or to download FlipaClip, please visit https://flipaclip.us/

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right 2D animation software can make even an average script and storyboard come alive. On the other hand, outdated and below-par animation software can make even a great storyboard look ridiculous. Acquiring the best 2D animation software could be an expensive proposition, especially for those just starting. The good news is, there are plenty of free 2D animation software now available to suit every need. So, regardless of whether you are an amateur animator or an old gun, choose from among our list of the 10 best free 2D animation software and make creating animations fun.