2D animation software recommendations?

I'm looking to do some very basic top-view traffic simulations (vehicles traveling through intersections, etc.--animating characters such as those in the graphic below).

Does anyone have any recommendations for inexpensive (<$200) or open-source 2D animation software that plays well with Storyline?

Thanks for any suggestions you might have!


18 Replies
Allan Dunlop

Thanks, Geert.

I've looked at that list and many others, and have tried about a half-dozen programs, yet haven't found something that's basic and inexpensive. I gave up on using a 3D program I'd tried after I realized I'd be halfway to being certified as an astronaut before I was able to get something to move from one side of the screen to the other

Will keep looking. In the meantime, if anyone has tried some of the bare-bones programs that work without too much investment of time, I'd really appreciate hearing about it.

Thanks again!


Jerson  Campos

I can't speak for any of the free software, I've never used any of them. I have used Anime Studio and Adobe Flash for animation. You can do animation in after effects too, but I think it would be overkill, plus its not easy to use.  Anime Studio was fairly easy to use, but then again I was coming in from using flash for a while so I may have had a head start on it.

I have several questions.  How complicated do you want this animation?  Do you need it to repeat ? do you need it to pause during the animation so you can inform the users about something? 

Allan Dunlop

Thanks. Right now I'm looking for really simple animations. I'd like to be able to depict a car passing a cyclist, and show a cyclist and a car making a turn in an intersection, (with the appropriate angles depicted throughout the radius--something I can't do with PowerPoint's motion path option).

Being able to pause it to display on-screen scripts would help, but it's not critical. Other than that, there's not much else I need for the time being.

No doubt in the next several months I'll be wanting to do more, but for now I don't want to make things more complex than needed. I'm willing to use one program for a couple of months, and then pay more (and go through the learning curve) after that time for a more high-end one.

vinayak kadam

In my opinion not everything you require is easily possible for anybody to develop in Storyline. As of now Adobe flash would be the best option if its just a 2D animation. But I am hopeful that in near future with more updates Storyline would be teh best answer for projects whhich are developed in Flash against Storyline.

Allan Dunlop

Thanks to you both.

Yes, it would be fantastic to be able to do simple animations directly within Storyline. It's an excellent program, and I didn't expect to be able to do any more than I could in PowerPoint, so I certainly won't hold that against it.

Maybe going with Flash will be worthwhile. I'll consider that if I can't find something else soon.

I appreciate the input.

Allan Dunlop

You've both convinced me.

I think I'll make use of the recently-offered Adobe Creative Cloud. Access to all apps is $50/month (annual commitment) or $75/month (cancel any time). This is an option I'd looked at before, but now they have a single-app option for $20/month (annual commitment) or $30/month (cancel any time).


Thanks for the offer of assistance, @Jerson. I'll go through whatever online tutorials I can find so that I don't bother you unnecessarily, but will message you if I get stuck.

Jerson  Campos

I've actually started using After Effects for most of my animating.  I find it a lot easier to do certain types of animation and working in 3D space. It's also a lot easier to create character rigs that make animating characters easier down the road.  I'm still fairly new to it, but I like the results so far. 

So far my workflow has been:
Create artwork in illustrator/photoshop
Import to After Effects
Create animation in After Effects
Export animation as png sequence
Import to Flash as consecutive images
Create SWF movie file
Import into Storyline.

The reason I like to end up with a SWF file is for the transparency. Adobe has removed the FLV file format from their newer applications. I can import the SWF files and time it to any buttons or objects I want to add over the SWF movie. Also I don't have to worry too much about the movie being compressed to much and losing resolution.

Allan Dunlop

Thanks, Jerson. I hadn't considered AfterEffects yet. Will look into this. I appreciate your laying out the steps in detail.

I did finally get around to learning Flash, and found that works quite well--it's just a bit of a steep learning curve given the power it has. As I'm sure many on this forum have found, trying to master the wide range of applications needed to put together and market a complete course (graphic design, photo manipulation, video shooting and editing, audio recording and editing, Storyline, LMS, web design, email newsletter creation, etc.) takes a great deal of time. If only I had a team! (Maybe soon...)

Jerson  Campos

I used Flash to create a bunch of short animations that would explain the content a bit better, kind of what you mentioned in the original post. I also do this to do a motion graphic animation for the objectives instead of old boring bullet points,  clients and users seem to enjoy this more. I want to create animated characters for one of my next big courses, so that's why I moved to After Effects. Rigging up characters in AE is much easier.

I know what you mean about needing a whole team.  Luckily for me I spent most of my youth learning about animation and graphic design instead of doing the whole club scene, so I'm fairly proficient in these areas. I also love doing this stuff so any chance I can do animations, I'll dig right in. 

One thing you may also want to learn is the principles of animation. There are 12 very simple principles created by disney animators  that will help you make your animations a bit better. 

Keiran Harvey

I'm definitely the odd one out here, but PowerPoint is pretty good at basic stuff. You export the slide as a movie. Needs a bit of thought though with export size, resolution and file size. You then use slide layers and triggers, variables etc to get things changing.  

I have also used crazy talk animator which has a lot of add ons that can save you a bit of work. 

Another I have used is Tumulit Hype which is pretty good, but is a Macintosh only software, but comes in at about $40 for the basic version, but has an in app purchase to the pro version which has many things like physics built in - No programming skills required and is pretty intuitive. 

For art assets I am a fan of Envato.com as you can get very good and a very broad range of assets cheaply.