New to Toon Boom - Suggestions with what to get?


I was recommended to Toon Boom 2-3 years ago by a co-worker and it’s been a while saving up for new computer and software but I think I finally have enough to invest, especially with the 60% Off Sale going on right now!

I studied traditional hand-drawn animation a long time ago just as the industry had been evolving to digital animation, and so I haven’t had much experience using Photoshop/Illustrator/After Effects as much as I like, but I do have some basic experience with those mentioned. Never used Flash before. I was told that Toon Boom is a great animation and would be helpful in making the transition from traditional hand-drawn to digital for me. I studied and worked with the old fashioned techniques so I don’t.consider myself a beginner, and so I was looking towards Animate and Animate Pro as a place to start.

I believe the way I learned it was frame-by-frame animation, basically the way the old Disney artists did things. I have little experience with cut-out animation but I understand it and have tried it, but haven’t used it much because I’m used to squash and stretch and other techniques where I could draw it rather than type in numbers or click and drag things to animate, so animating cut-outs seemed a bit frigid for me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn it and get better with more practice. I read that Animate was for frame-by-frame and Animate Pro was for cut-out, but I have also read that with Animate Pro, you can also do frame-by-frame PLUS better cut-out, which would make sense since it is almost double the price. I was wondering if someone knew if that were true, because it would make sense investing in the product with the same options PLUS more wouldn’t it? Otherwise if they are indeed separate programs for different styles, maybe it is best to stick with Animate?

Also, I read on the page of what Animate and Animate Pro were useful for and the only difference was that Animate Pro was good for After Effects animators, but I didn’t understand why that was after looking at the features. It may probably be because I don’t recognize a lot of the terminology. I was wondering if someone could explain that to me because I know some basic After Effects and I want to know if Pro works hand-in-hand with After Effects in some way?

Finally, I was looking at the Storyboarding programs as well and I think they could go hand-in-hand since I want to do storyboarding as well. One thing I saw was that it is easier to pair Storyboard Pro with the Animate program but I was wondering if someone could explain why that is, and why the regular Storyboard wouldn’t work as well? I’m looking to get one of Animate or Animate Pro and pair that with either Storyboard or Storyboard Pro.

Thank you in advance and Happy New Year!

I’m no expert, but…

I was in pretty much the same place as you a year or so ago, wondering how to approach Toon Boom. I’d tried the competition and none of them felt comfortable to me, with my traditional pen and paper drawing skills and time constraints. I initially bought Animate and spent a lot of time with it, but it wasn’t long before I was itching for some of the more advanced features of Animate Pro or - gasp - Harmony Standalone. Not because Animate isn’t fantastic out-of-the-box, it is, very much so. But because I wanted the larger collection of effects. As it turned out, I skipped Pro altogether and went for Harmony Standalone.

The comparison charts on Toon Boom’s site give a much better idea at what they are good for than the simple descriptions on the product pages or the “recommended for” thing at the top of the chart, which seem to (confusingly) pigeonhole each product into a specialty. Sure, Animate has excellent frame-by-frame, but it also does cutout animation. However, Animate Pro does more advanced cutouts and has more of those “After Effects” like effects included (they are also node-based in Pro, which seemed very familiar to me, coming into computers from music and they resemble modular software synthesizers). Pro also does all the frame-by-frame stuff from Animate and more besides.

You mentioned that you like to squash and stretch in frame-by-frame. It’s worth noting that Pro offers some flexibility in that area, too, with Bone Deform functions. However, for my money, I felt it was worth going a step further and getting Harmony Standalone (which is on sale, too and, in fact, Toon Boom are very, very reasonable with payment options). Harmony Standalone offers Curve Deform, which allows you to do all those nifty flexibility things you like in frame-by-frame with cutouts too.

However, all of these programs offer the ability to combine both cutout and frame-by-frame - a huge time saver when working on your own, as I do.

The 60% off sale offers serious discounts, the likes of which only come around once or twice a year on their flagship products. I actually waited for this sale this year, budgeting so I could get Storyboard Pro on sale. I feel Storyboard Pro’s main benefit for me is that it can export projects directly into Toon Boom’s other programs, saving me loads of time. Plus, the animatics are neat to have as well. However, if you work with traditional storyboards, there is no reason Storyboard couldn’t be enough for your needs.

Coming from traditional animation, I imagine you’ll be pleased with whatever Toon Boom product you get. This stuff is nothing short of miraculous. The learning curve can be a bit steep at times, but the tutorials are terrific and the results you can get are very encouraging. I’ve never had as much fun drawing as I do now, thanks to Toon Boom. I find myself whiling away hours, drawing into the wee hours - something I haven’t done for thirty years. It’s exhilarating.

I probably haven’t offered any useful advice, but maybe it helps to know why someone else chose what they did…

Thank you for the reply, and no, your reply was very useful and helpful and enlightening. I believe all opinions matter and it is definitely great to hear what someone else did who was in your shoes before, so thank you!

Harmony looks amazing, but isn’t showing the price for me nor is it listed in the 60% Sale page. It said “Request Information” so I assumed maybe it was for companies or something. I’m not too familiar with the 3D and other advanced cut-out techniques they offer so I figured to maybe start a step down with the Animate programs, but now I’m interested, just that I don’t even know where to “Request Information” on Harmony, haha.

I had assumed Animate Pro would have everything Animate had plus more because of the price tag, but I was not aware that Animate Pro did frame by frame because everywhere I read about the two, they say Animate is for frame by frame and Animate Pro is the standard for cut out. So you can definitely do everything on Animate Pro that you can do on Animate?

I definitely like the faster exporting times from Pro to the other Toon Boom programs, and I definitely want something that does animatics really well. Is the regular Storyboard incapable of animatics? I’m definitely looking into picking up Storyboard Pro as well, but if I end up getting Animate Pro (or Harmony if I can figure out how to find out the price), I might wait until next year to pick up Storyboard Pro, since I’ll probably be spending this year leaning Animate Pro. One program at a time, I guess, heh.

Yeah, Animate Pro can do everything Animate can do and more. As far as I can see, Storyboard does not do animatics (beyond animated camera moves), but Storyboard Pro does. Storyboard only exports PDF formats, Pro exports directly into the animation programs, as well as other formats.

If you go to the Promotions section of the Store, there is a sidebar that has a Harmony Standalone promotion link (also ends today, apparently). The price isn’t available on the site. However, if you fill out an information request or call Toon Boom, they will give you the rundown. They are very nice people to deal with.