Free Software for Animation

Once a year I teach Animation & Interaction at MKstart in Amsterdam. When I started teaching this class over 10 years ago, I used Flash. I’d make some very tiny animations with them during the first few classes and then some mini games during the last few classes. I loved it, they loved it, it was great. When Flash died, eventually I switched to Animate. The brush tool is still the same, the regular crashes are the same, but working in Canvas has made Animate more buggy and unreliable. I haven’t found any good alternatives so I use it anyway.

The students are not expected to have the software themselves. They use the school laptops during class. This year, because Corona, I was in New York, my students were at home–without school laptops…

The students do not have a lot of money, they do not have very fancy computers and the school doesn’t have enough money to fix those problems. The first thing I decided was to focus on one of the two subjects. The second thing was that it would be animation.

I made a website for them where they would be able to find all the classes online with examples and were they could upload what they’d made if they wanted to. I also added a list of free software that might come in handy and instead of just copying and pasting from everyone else’s lists of free software, I tried all of them to see if they would work for my class.

What did I look for?

  • suitable for 2D drawing / animation
  • options for people who can’t install any software on their machine
  • software for turning a series of photos into a movie
  • software that doesn’t rely on a webcam
  • flipbook software
  • software with timelines
  • drawing software
  • image manipulation software
  • easy and intuitive to use because if they’re all using different software, I won’t have time to explain it all

The list

Animation – online

  • Make a video from pictures, StopMotion: Kapwing
  • Very simple animation software: Brush Ninja
  • Make a digital flipbook, also very simple: FlipAnim
  • Make a pixel animation with Piskel
  • Converting a series of PNGs is also possible at
  • You can also convert a series of pictures to an animated GIF, for example with EZGIF
  • At EZGIF you can also make a APNG (Animated PNG), which sometimes leads to a more lightweight file with good or better quality than a GIF: worth a try
  • Another service that converts pictures to a GIF: Make a GIF

Image editing online

  • Doka.Photo | Free Online Image Editor | Powered by Doka.js – A free photo editor, nice to use
  • Another online photo editing app: Fotor
  • Online vector / drawing app: Gravit Designer (not just for designing apps or websites!) works in most browsers but you can download it as well
  • Online vector / drawing app Vectr is a little simpler than Gravit but also good. Can be used in the browser but I think it can be downloaded as well.
  • Online vector / drawing app Boxy SVG works in Chrome and Chrome-based browsers (Opera, Vivaldi, Brave, new Edge).
  • Online vector / drawing app Method Vector Editor
  • Photopea is a Photoshop clone online
  • The free version of Pixlr E has some limitations but a lot of options as well and it’s really nice to use

Animation and image editing online

  • Krita is wonderful software for drawing and animation, it has vector options and very good brushes
  • Inkscape is vector drawing software
  • Gimp is photo editing software in which you can also draw and make some very simple animations
  • Pencil2D Animation is 2D animation software
  • Synfig is also 2D animation software
  • Blender is very extensive animation software (though 3D, just to good not to mention)
  • OpenToonz is also 2D animation software
  • MorevnaProject OpenToonz is a different version of the same software as OpenToonz

Those are my lists. One of my students really liked using Krita although he didn’t use the timeline, he would just string the separate drawings together in the video software that came with his computer.

At least two student drew the frames by hand, took photos of their drawings with their phones and made them into a movie using Kapwing or free video editing software. Some of them used FlipAnim some used Pixlr.

Some students had crappy computers, but they did have iPads with Apple pens and Procreate (or their parents or sisters did), which has some timeline options that work pretty good for simple animations.

Leave a Comment