Best hand drawn animation software [2020 Guide]

Madalina Dinita
by Madalina Dinita
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best software for hand drawn animation

Hand drawn animation gives you more freedom to express your artistic talent as you can basically do anything on a character. It thus goes without saying that the final animation looks crisper and usually has a more detailed than in 3D , despite the latter being more “real”. The results are especially wonderful if you deploy the best software for hand drawn animation- of which you are not short of choices.

Now, the purpose of this write-up is to answer the question of what is the best software for hand drawn animation because as I have explained, it’s the tool to help you accomplish whatever your creative instincts want.

Before venturing into our discussion, allow me to clarify something:

Hand drawn animation is also known as cel or 2D animation. As a result, some of these software titles feature the terms 2D/animation prominently.

That said, some developers have adopted imaginative names for their programs and don’t even mention the said terms.

Which is the best software for hand drawn animation?

As we often do, we have been researching about these software and finally settled on the best 4 programs to help you produce hand drawn animation that turn heads. Have a look.

Hand drawn animation tools for PCs



Which is the best software for animation?

Krita is arguably the best free hand drawn animation software. Designed primarily to give artists the flexibility to create and deliver riveting animations, the software is a favorite of thousands (if not more) animators worldwide.

And it’s not just because it comes free: It’s principally due to it being infinitely better than many of even the commercial hand drawn animation software out there.

It has a simple interface (akin to the legendary Adobe Flash ) to help you access and use its impressive assembly of innovative features.

I am referring to tools like the detailed timeline controls which come in handy when setting the speed of action.  This helps you present your ideas in a way that rhymes with your audience needs.

On the same note, Krita’s real-time animation playback controls allow you to easily review your animation as you fine-tune cartoons and overall play for the best impression.

Artists have also mentioned that this software’s onion-skin display is one of the best in the industry. You will thus effortlessly see several frames simultaneously so that you can make the right decisions as far as further creations or changes to drawings are concerned.

The program is in general filled to the brim with such features making it a top choice for both amateurs and professionals.

— Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in other animation software, check out our wide collection of guides.


Toon Boom Harmony

drawing animation software

A top-notch professional animation software for hand artists, Toon Boom has all the features you need to draw characters that rival the epic Disney Mickey Mouse cartoons.

It’s such powerful that several mega advertising firms, film producers, and game developers won’t touch any other tool for their animations and storyboard processes.

Its most praised property is its rigging ability. The program comes with specialized tools to help users easily build simple or advanced rigs. Its master controllers further save your time when animating complex rigs.

The program’s advanced color palettes are similarly excellent and provide superb control over the texture and colors frames.

More excellence comes from the shift and trace feature. This tool (available in camera view) helps streamline your work reducing the time it takes to create frame-by-frame paperless animation.

Moreover, the accomplished onion skin view consolidates all your essential onion skinning tools neatly to help you focus better on the animation task at hand

Other greats are the easily modifiable deformers, the amazing interactivity, file export tools…the list is endless.

You can try it for 21 days before subscribing to your favored version.

— RELATED: 6 best stop motion animation software to use on Windows PCs


Moho Debut 12(Anime Studio)

pencil animation software

According to the developer, Moho Debut has been used in several Oscar-nominated films and considering its quality, this should not come as a surprise.

The key in this program is its efficiency and speed: Moho Debut should be your first go-to option if you’re looking for a tool that enables you to bring ideas to life within minutes.

Formerly Anime Studio debut, the secret to this program’s rock star performance is the design which reduces the number of steps required to run a process.

The latest release is bound to work even faster thanks to the revamped layers panels and the added back end panel that allows quicker customization of color and brightness.

Also helping you produce results swiftly is the hundreds of thrilling ready-to-animate characters, backgrounds, props, and scenery from which you can speedily design using the built-in wizard.

That you can pin bones to alter, shift, or reshape assets flawlessly is exciting as well as convenient.

It’s an affordable software and offers

Overall, for its fans, this is absolutely the best software for hand drawn animation especially for cutout animations and skeletal movements.

— ALSO READ: 5 animation software for beginners: Really, no experience is required


Synfig Studio

drawing animation software

Any debate about the crème de la crème software for hand drawn animation cannot be complete without mentioning Synfig, the mighty and free vector-based hand drawn animation software package.

The thing with Synfig is its versatility which makes it the champion for producing animating any type of character under the sun.

To illustrate, through its vector tweening system which links various parameters seamlessly, Synfig creates super dynamic structures including advanced character puppets.

Again, its full-featured bone system simplifies the process of producing cutout animations using bitmap images.

And with the added skeleton distortion layer permitting complex deformations to artworks, the program can make ‘animatable’ frames for practically any art.

The other driving force for Synfig is its 50+ different types of layers inclusive of geometric, filters, gradients, fractals, transformations, and more.

With such, creating, and rendering animations of any complexity becomes a pleasure.

Can you now see why we are saying it’s an immensely robust tool?

Now, for starters, there are detailed video tutorials to get you started while the large Synfig community is ready to hold your hand as you learn the software.

Final Word

The best software for hand drawn animation should come with all the tools you need to draw, animate, and render whatever piece of art dabble in. And it should so smoothly.

We have discussed the top 4 so it’s now your time to pick the program you have loved.

Do it and let the world savor your extraordinary artistic oomph!


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2018 and has been since updated for freshness, and accuracy.