Beginner seeking advice on animation software

I know this will be a hard question to answer, but I need to start somewhere.

I come from a background in 3D art. I own both Lightwave and Modo, plus programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, etc.

This last year I’ve bought many anime box sets (over a thousand dollars worth at least), and I’ve become interested in trying my hand at making a three minute anime film.

I’m at the point where I am trying to figure out what software I would need to make a three minute anime. I’ve been looking a some of the Toon Boom programs.

I read one post where someone said that they preferred Coral Painter over the paint program in Toon Boom. I have also read that characters are best done in a vector drawing program and the background is better done in a bitmap program.

As you can see I’m a total beginner at animation.(I think I have enough drawing experience to get by on this first anime.) And since I am new to all this, I’m not sure if I should shell out $1000 and get a all-in-one Toom Boom software package, or if I should perhaps purchase one program for drawing, one program for painting backgrounds, one program for story board, etc.

I’m sure a professional could make the whole animation with Photoshop, but I’m not a professional. I’m going to need a lot of instruction material, and some beginner’s software to get me started on this first animation. (And hopefully not my last.)

I need suggestions from people who have made animations on how to best approach my first animation, where I will learn the animation process. Let’s assume I will use vector drawing for the characters, and let’s also assume that money is not a problem up to $1000-1500 range.



I looked closely at both Toon Boom software and Anime Digital. I decided to start with Toon Boom Studio because it’s affordable and I can upgrade. The pros here will tell you in more detail, but you can absolutely do everything you’re saying within Toon Boom – it’s a vector program capable of doing just about anything you need it to do. The drawing tools are similar enough to other programs that you won’t have to spend much time learning before you simply jump into drawing. I’ve seen some beautiful backgrounds drawn in Toon Boom Studio which is significantly less money than what you’re talking about.

Having artistic background and skills is very important. Being knowledgeable in using graphical software is also useful. But I continue to encounter people wanting to enter into animation work assuming that PhotoShop or other graphic programs or even watching hours and hours of movies is sufficient experience to jump right into a significant animation production. It is a case of the less you know the less you realize what you don’t know.

So considering that you asked for advice, I suggest that you make a minimal investment and give yourself a fighting chance to be successful.

You probably only need a maximum of four pieces of software to learn 2D animation and to make your desired Anime project. Toon Boom Studio is all the animation software you need to learn 2D animation production and it is bargain priced for what it provides. I also suggest you get a copy of PhotoShop Elements if you don’t have actual PhotoShop already. You will use Elements for basic raster image editing and it costs a fraction of the full featured version and you won’t use most of those features anyway. I also recommend you buy SketchBook Pro 2010 which is amazingly easy to use and is perfect for creating backgrounds as well as character design and concept work etc. It is also bargain priced for what it provides. It’s the best pure drawing program on the planet. Lastly you will need a soundtrack creation program of which there are many choices GarageBand on the Mac is great, Audacity is another choice.

Keep your investment low along with your initial expectations and plan to spend significant time learning the fundamentals of animation. My Cartooning in Toon Boom blog will be a big help in that area and there are plenty of books that provide non-software specific animation production knowledge too.

Anime is not as much about drawing as learning to use the animation camera stand and Toon Boom Studio provides you with an excellent version of a multi-plane animation camera stand through its tools and its methodology for using those tools.

We are here to help, so get started learning your new chosen craft.-JK