Lecture 55: Equipment for 2D animators..

For those who want to explore the world of traditional 2D animation in the future, here's a list of the kind of equipment you will need...


To start traditional hand-drawn animation it is necessary to have the above basic equipment. Namely… a lightbox, a peg bar, punched animation paper to match the peg bar, pencil and pencil sharpener.


Anything that offers a flat drawing surface with on/off back lighting will do. (Even a peg bar taped to a window in daylight has been known to be effective!) However, a good recommendation is the “LightTracer II(above) crafting box for most animation beginners. It’s relatively cheap, robust and provides everything required. Another less expensive and more portable option is an LED tablet that needs to be big enough to have a good drawing surface area, as well as space for a "peg bar' to be attached. One example can be found HERE.


Note: One idiosyncrasy of the “LightTracer II” is that you have to hold the right side of the on/off switch down for a while in order that the light switches on. Alternatively, a simple tap on the left side of the switch should turn the light off immediately.


Animation drawings need to be registered so that they don’t jiggle around the screen when transferred to video. Therefore all drawings need to be placed on a “Peg Bar” when drawn and scanned/filmed. The recommended peg bar is an “Acme” peg system, where the central peg is circular in shape and the outside ones are oblong. This needs to be firmly taped to the top of the lightbox for stability.


All animation paper has to be punched with holes that match the peg bar that is used. Animation paper comes in three sizes but for a student the most inexpensive approach is to use standard letter-size paper. (11” x 8.5” in the USA.) Paper can be bought ready punched, or can be punched after purchase with a specially designed animation punch. (Note: The punching needs to be done so that each sheet of paper can be placed on the "peg bar" prior to be drawn on.) An animation paper punch however can cost several hundreds of dollars to buy however, so it is far more practical to buy pre-punched paper at the outset. Again, if an “Acme” peg bar is purchased then the paper has to be pre-punched for an Acme peg system. At the professional level, paper can be purchased at the larger "12 field" (12 inches wide) of "16 field" (16 inches wide) size.


Pretty much any pencils are usable for animation but the favorite of professional animators are the “BLUE” (not PhotoBlue) “Col-erase” pencils made by Prismacolor. They have a very smooth feel for drawing and are perfect for the rough animation drawings that are necessary at a pre cleanup stage of animation production.


Any form of pencil sharpener will do but ultimately an electric one will save so much time and frustration in the long run if you mean to be serious with animation. “X-ACTO” are my brand of choice. But as long as whatever sharpener you use gives you a sharp point to your pencil as quickly as possible, it will do.


Those preferring to work digitally, directly into their computer or table will need some form of digital pencil or stylus to do so. Any "touch screen" tablet system, with stylus, will work. Otherwise, working on a regular computer with a digital drawing tablet or drawing screen, with digital pencil, will work. The most enduring and popular brand of these is "Wacom", although lower-cost rival brands are now beginning to enter the market.


There are many "drawing tablets" on the market but the Wacom "Intuos" (above) is one of the most popular. The artists draws on the surface but watches what they are drawing on their computer screen.


A more expensive route, but one that many serious professional animators and illustrators are taking, is a "digital drawing screen" approach with the Wacom "Cintiq" (above) being the most popular. With these, instead of the animator looking at their computer screen they actually see what they're doing on the surface they're drawing on. This can be connected to a desktop computer or some even work in portable tablet form.


There is a great deal of digital software that is either specific, or simply useful, for the 2D animator. This is a list of the main ones that I'm aware or - some better than others...

Flash animation on Wikipedia:

Adobe Flash, which I now believe is called "Adobe Animate", was the first 2D animation software out there - at least in the popular sense - when it was issued by "Macromedia". It was later bought out by Adobe and it's development has continued with them ever since. Now I sound vague about it because I've never used it personally. It was always too much of a "moving graphics" program for me, far removed from my own traditional 2D routes, so I never took to it. However it is still a major player for many digital 2D animators.

ToonBoom Technologies:

This is the company that makes a number of 2D animation programs, so I mention them hear by their company name rather than their product name. Their first program I took to immediately - "ToonBoom Studio". Despite its strange sounding name at the time I found it to be very much modeled on the traditional 2D approach and therefore I found it easy to work with and explore. I still personally used "ToonBoom Studio" for most of my 2D/vector animation needs, even though that product is not longer available the the company has moved on significant. Currently their grass roots equivalent to "Studio" is "ToonBoom Harmony ~ Essentials". "Harmony" is a suite of program they offer, with increasing options built in with the obvious increasing cost of purchase. However, if you're taking the vector-based ToonBoom route, "Essentials" is where you need to start.

Smith Micro – Anime Studio:

As a vector alternative to "ToonBoom Essentials", you might also look at Smith Micro's "Anime Studio". I have never used the program myself but a large number of digital 2D animators do use it. Therefore, before you purchase a digital, vector-based 2D program for yourself, you might do a comparison of capabilities - better still, try to test drive both of them before you purchase.

TV Paint

 There is one siginifant other digital 2D animation program and that is the French made, "TV Paint". This program is not vector-based. It is a bitmap based program and therefore offers far more opportunities for the art-based 2D animator. What I mean by this is that "bitmap" is like Adobe "Photoshop" and "ToonBoom Technology/Smith Micro" products are more like Adobe "Illustrator". Consequently if you want a more art-based approach - that is want your animation to be designed and executed in a number of art styles such as watercolor, charcoal, oil paint, pencil baed and with paper texture backgrounds - then "TV Paint" will be the choice for you.

Open Toonz

One final program I will mention is "Open Toonz". This is a wonderful program for the cash-strapped beginner, for the very reason that it's free and open-sourced. That means anyone can download it - and even develop it for their own needs - with no strings attached. The program as a strong track record as I understand it was developed by Hayao Miyazaki's "Ghibli Studio" for when they were working on "Spirited Away". When the movie was finished they released all rights to it, so that the 2D animation community can devlop it in accordance with their needs. A wonderful gesture!

Adobe Photoshop

We should just mention in passing that although "Photoshop" is not at all a 2D animation program, it is safe to say that most people working in an image/digital environment will find "Photoshop" (or something like it's equivalent) extremely valuable. However, you can exist without it if your can only afford one program and are committed to 2D animation.


Tutorials about all this can be found on the internet, with Tony White's own "Mastering 2D Animation" being found on the Udemy website HERE.


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