2D Animation Software: Which One a Beginner Should Choose?

Reviewing two popular 2D animation software, TVPaint and Toon Boom Harmony.

TVPaint or Toon Boom Harmony, which one a newbie should choose?


If you want to create 2D animation, you will definitely have a question, which program should I choose? Perhaps the most popular software in the industry right now are TVPaint and Toon Boom Harmony. To a beginner, the functionality of these products may seem indistinguishable. Still, there is a difference, and one program may be better suited for a particular task than another.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the differences between the two software to figure out which one is best for a beginner.

TV Paint

The program was released in 1991 and was designed to work with 2D and digital animation. The French company TVPaint Developpement did its best to make sure the software was perfect for almost any task.

Still, TVPaint is mostly used for hand-drawn frame-by-frame animation. This tool is best suited for feature films and short films in traditional 2D styles. Here are a few examples of pieces created in TV Paint:

Works of our students

Red Turtle, an Animated Fantasy Movie, 2016

Samurai Jack, The Animated Series

Kitbull, a Short by Pixar

Why Animators Love TVPaint

The main TVPaint feature is its advanced bitmap drawing functions. This program has almost any possible tool needed to create a picture, similar to Photoshop or Procreate. This kind of functionality is what makes TVPaint so popular with lovers of hand-drawn animation.

Another advantage of this software is the ability to create storyboards. In the Professional Edition package, there is a whole set of tools for detailed work with each frame. For example, you can draw individual frames and export them to PDF, or animate the frames with sound and then add them to the finished video sequence.

TVPaint allows you to conveniently work with each frame.

Why not All Animators Choose TVPaint

Many users find the TVPaint interface is difficult to navigate intuitively. It may take time and some guidance to understand the basic workflow. The software interface is different from other popular products in this field (Adobe products, for example), but once you understand how the basic drawing tools and brushes work, you will feel confident enough.

The non-standard interface of the program is unusual for Adobe users.

It is also worth noting that there are no vector drawing tools in the program. That means the clean-up process can be time-consuming.

Price and Purchase Conditions

In terms of price, there is good news and not-so-good news. The good news is that you only need to buy the software once, and there are only two editions of the software, Standard and Professional.

The Professional edition stands out for its useful features, which are:

  • Several automatic tools and the ability to create a storyboard, which was mentioned above
  • Faster coloring process
  • The ability to deform objects instead of redrawing a pose
  • Layer blending modes


Now to the not-so-good news, which is the price and buying hurdles. As of November 2021, the standard version of the software costs up to $586 and the Professional Edition costs up to $1464 depending on the currency exchange rate. Also, you can’t buy it as a digital copy, because you’ll need a USB security key plugged into your computer to authenticate the software. When you buy the DVD, you should be prepared to pay up to $23 for shipping.

We allow our students to get a 10% discount on the Standard and Professional TVPaint editions. To find out more, please contact us.

Toon Boom Harmony

This program has wide functionality and was released by Canadian developers in 1994. The software is popular in 130 countries around the world. It is used by the largest animation studios like Warner Bros. Entertainment and The Walt Disney Company. Toon Boom Harmony is powerful software used mostly for TV series, but also for commercial animation, feature films, and even video games.

Looney Tunes Cartoons: Dynamite Dance by Warner Bros. Entertainment

Animated series of another major animation studio, Disney

Works of our students

Let’s take a closer look at all the advantages and disadvantages of this software.

How Toon Boom Harmony Gained the Trust of the Largest Studios

The set of tools for vector drawings is one of the most notable differences between Toon Boom Harmony and TVPaint. They allow you to draw a clean line without artifacts and change it easily at any stage of the process. As for storyboarding and working with each scene separately, there are no significant differences from TVPaint. It all comes down to your preferences and habits.

The ability to rig a character is another feature that separates Toon Boom Harmony from its opponent. With the help of pivot points and deformers, the animator can easily change the pose of a character and give its movements additional effects. This function significantly speeds up the work process, since the animator no longer has to redraw the character for each frame, changing its movements is enough. The program also allows you to work with hundreds of layers, textures, masks, which results in high-quality animations.

Pirate rigging. On the left is a preview of the character. On the right are the structure and the logic of its movements.

The work with composition is much more refined than in TVPaint. You can set up a scene in a multi-level three-dimensional space with a virtual camera, add special visual effects and precisely control how each element interacts with the rest of the composition. In addition, it is possible to create a scene depth by combining 3D elements with 2D animation.

“Large studios choose Toon Boom Harmony because the program has tremendous potential for frame-by-frame animation. The ability to work with 3D space, camera view similar to specialized software, the ability to combine flat and volumetric pieces, X-Sheet and many other functions is what all animators love Harmony for”.

Irina Golina-Sagatelyan, the mentor of Harmony courses at our school, who has Rick and Morty, Carmen Sandiego (Netflix), and many other projects in her portfolio.

“Harmony has some cool character customization tools. The rigging process is being constantly improved. In version 17, the master controllers are designed so that you can achieve a 3D effect in the character’s movements in a couple of seconds while keeping the animation smooth. The program also has its own learning portal where everyone can learn from beginner to advanced for free”

Ekaterina Maksimova, the mentor of the course 2D Animation for Export, whose portfolio includes Ilya Muromets and Nightingale the Robber, Captain Underpants (Netflix), and many other projects.

An example of how master controllers work in Harmony

Are There Any Downsides?

All these extended features are available to the advanced user only. The interface itself is not too complicated, but more complex manipulations will require certain technical skills. That’s why it can be difficult for a beginner to navigate through a variety of tools at first.

One of the main disadvantages of this program is the lack of drawing functionality. The set of tools for vector drawing in Harmony is limited, and creating a bitmap image is nearly impossible. However, you can import files from any other software. Bitmap or vector images, video of any format, proxy files, all this can be imported into Toon Boom. At the same time, the possibilities of frame-by-frame animation are endless, which makes the software so popular.

Toon Boom doesn’t have as many tools for detailed storyboarding as TVPaint. For this part of the process, its developer suggests using separate software, Toon Boom Storyboard Pro.

Artist Michael Morris (The Simpsons) doesn’t think that the separate software for storyboards is a disadvantage. In his interview for the Harmony blog, he explains why.


For October 2021, the price of Toon Boom Harmony depends on the package. There are three of them:

  • Harmony Essentials is a basic package. It includes tools for vector drawing and storyboarding
  • Harmony Advanced has bitmap drawing ability and supports scanning drawings from paper
  • Harmony Premium offers additional options for working with the composition and character rigging


Users can buy a subscription package or a permanent license. Toon Boom Harmony offers a variety of subscription options with annual or monthly billing.

Which is Better, TVPaint or Toon Boom Harmony?

Which program should a beginner choose after all?

The functionality of Toon Boom Harmony and TVPaint is very similar, and in many cases their tools are interchangeable. But when choosing software, it is worth considering that TVPaint is more suitable for hand-drawn frame-by-frame animation in traditional art styles. While Toon Boom Harmony is more convenient for cutout animation.

TVPaint Strengths:

  • Wide opportunities for drawing directly in the program
  • Ability to create storyboards and detailed work with each frame


Toon Boom Harmony Strengths:

  • A set of tools for bitmap drawing
  • Character rigging features
  • Advanced tools for working with composition


The cost of the complete software package is approximately the same for both programs. But due to the TVPaint inconvenient purchase process and the monthly subscription option that Toon Boom can offer, Harmony has the advantage.

And finally, a parting wishes from Edward Kurchevsky, the mentor of Traditional 2D animation course at AnimationClub.school:

“When choosing a program, think about what projects you would like to work on. Serials and feature films with vector animation or bitmap works? It’s easy to switch from one program to another, if you want. The main thing is to master the basic principles of animation. Perhaps people who aren’t familiar with traditional 2D animation techniques will find it a little more difficult to switch to bitmap animation in TVPaint, since there is no character rigging and the animation process itself is a little more complicated. And vice versa, those who can draw will find it easier to navigate a Toon Boom Harmony. In any case, you can learn how to draw animation both here and there. The only question is what exactly you want”.

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