What do you think of Pencil2D?

Hello Pencil2D community!

I am a software developer, looking for a hobby. I realized that I really like 2D animation. I have used Anime Studio in the past. However, I feel that vectors/bones make it difficult for me to express my ideas. It seems I need something for frame-by-frame animation.

I took a look at Toon Boom. Maybe it is the ideal tool, but the interface is a real mess (therefore Flash is also out of the question!).

Then I found Pencil2D! The interface is simple and intuitive. Superb!

Other than a very curious exporting problem on Mac, I really like the application.

I heard that there wasn’t much progress back in 2014. I’d like to know what do you guys think of Pencil2D for the future - is it a reliable path for a 2D animation hobbyist who intends to work on more elaborate projects overtime? Or should I reconsider other alternatives?

Alternatives? I see no alternatives except Tupi. Not sure if Tupi is great though. I tried using it. It’s kinda hard to get used to it. Plus, I don’t think I can make a good quality of animation with it.

So yeah, it seems like there is no alternatives. I tried searching for alternatives, but I got nothing.

I don’t use Pencil2D only to make animations. I use Inkscape, GIMP and Blender for it as well. (Yeah, open source programs babeh! x3)

I really like the look and feel of Pencil2D, and Pencil before that. So far it’s the best 2D animation tool i’ve seen for Linux. I have to be honest and say that i feel it’s still not something i can put my time and energy into using for anything major yet (for playing around, it’s great). It’s got some pretty big bugs, including a huge memory leak that prevents its use for HD animations, and is missing some basic necessary features. I continue to monitor its progress, continue coming here and helping other users, encouraging use and development of the program. Basically i see Pencil2D as having the potential to be the perfect application for digital 2D animation, on any platform…it just needs some work.

Of the applications i’ve tried, i think Pencil is easily the most enjoyable to use. Here are some others:

(I’m posting this with the assumption that you’re not looking for a vector animation program)

Tupi is vector, so if that’s an issue then it might not work for you. http://www.maefloresta.com

Blender has new animation features for its grease pencil tool, which allow it to be used for frame-by-frame 2D animation. Its grease pencil is not very versatile, though, so at this point i would say it’s limited to being used for sketching out rough animation. It has one major advantage over other open source programs, in that it has the ability to sync audio and video. http://www.blender.org/

Synfig Studio is working on getting what appears to be bitmap drawing included (via mypaint brushes), but from my brief experience with the dev version it seems to be not quite there yet. The previous versions are sloppy, in my opinion, but it seems to be popular regardless. http://www.synfig.org

Gimp has very basic animation capabilities built-in, and there is a plugin called GAP, or Gimp-GAP, which adds more animation features. In my opinion it’s a mess, though…very clumsy interface if you’re accustomed to working with any of the usual animation/video software programs. http://www.gimp.org/ (i don’t know an official website for GAP)

There is an animation fork of MyPaint, called Dopey. It’s still in a very early & unstable stage of development, but might turn into something good eventually. https://github.com/dopeyanimation/dopey

I’ve heard good things about Animation Paper (previously Plastic Animation Paper), but since i’m on Linux (and the free version doesn’t seem to work well in Wine or Virtualbox) i haven’t used it myself. http://animationpaper.com/

I think pencil is great, but every day I use it I come to like it less and less. There are some big bugs that need fixing in order for this to become a great software. I’m in the middle of making an animation at the moment, and Pencil2D is starting to tick me off. I’m at about 215 frames or so and several things keep happening. One is that Pencil will quite often go into super slow mode, and lags so bad I can’t do anything. After a few minutes it starts to work fine. Other times, whenever I try to do anything the window blinks to white and then to normal, and when playing an animation it goes white until its finished. I also just realized that pencil messed up about 20 of my frames and I will have to go back and fix and move them all back to the way they were, which is hard to do when pencil is lagging so bad it takes 30 seconds to expand the keyframe window. Besides all these issues and more, pencil is great. I hope that these bugs can be fixed, because if they can it will be an amazing program.


I suggest you to not make your animations with more than 100+ frames. Neither 0.5 nor 0.4 can handle that much frames. Heck, I even get afraid that something bad might happen if I’m close to 70 frames. >.<

Ok, So this is what I do, because I did notice that the more frames the worse it acts. Instead of using hundreds of frames and lots of camera movements, I will split up the file and make several files that make the scenes of my animation and compile them elsewhere. That should work great. Thanks!

Instead of using hundreds of frames and lots of camera movements, I will split up the file and make several files that make the scenes of my animation and compile them elsewhere.
That's how it is done in some other animation applications, like Anime Studio.

Flash has its own scene system, but you can tell it is pretty much the same strategy: one scene is one file. It’s just that Flash makes it look seamless.

The software is good, but the only thing I really dislike is coloring. I made an animation but when I used the bucket tool to color a portion of it, it created a huge block of color that blocked a large portion of my animation. I tried to undo it but it did not go away. I had spent at least an hour on this project so I was pretty upset about it. I am wondering if there is a way to color a project but not completely ruin your animation.

Hi @idkwhatishouldput

Could you elaborate on that “huge block of color” and what version of Pencil you’re using?

It’s true that if you don’t fill on a layer with lines, then the bucket tool will make a square of paint, this is because the canvas is infinite, you should be able to undo it though.

I really love Pencil2D, I love the layout on the newest version, and I’m really happy that a ton of bugs were fixed.
I weirdly have made rough animations with a few thousand frames with no issue, but the block of color has happened on all versions that I’ve used. I think that because it’s a infinite canvas without a real border it will create that block if your lines aren’t filled in.

Anyway, Pencil2D has been the best animation program I’ve ever used. Gimp crashes at 40 frames, Kirta crashes my computer, Flash is expensive and Macromedia crashes after 4-5 strokes, I really dislike vector or anything that stabilizes a stroke too much so Syfig and Tupic were never really appealing, PAP doesn’t have sound, and OpenToonz, while really cool, just wasn’t worth the time for me.

Pencil2D is simple, runs on my toaster of a computer, has all the features I need and is slowly implementing all the features I want, everyone on the forums are friendly, and in general it’s just cool.

I liked the way you summarized all the possibilities for drawing/animating in digital art now -a-days… and I agreed with you about Pencil2D. It is by far the more intuitive and easy to use so far for that matter

Personally, flash is very user friendly. It has a bit of a learning curve but its fairly easy to use. However if you are a true beginner, pencil2d is a great program to practice on! Granted, it lacks scrubbing, and the layers, in my opinion, are a bit confusing. It still has a lot of potential if a few tweeks were made.

Hi @FeralBite, Scrubbing is coming on our new release, that is very close now, and it comes with a lot of other new features.

What is confusing with the layers?

I wouldn’t exactly call it intuitive. Some shortcuts are non-standard and figuring out how to do simple things, like rotate an object, require a Google search. And that rotate feature is volatile. I ended up just rotating images in photochop and importing the image sequence, instead. That’s the biggest issue I had. If I had drawn directly in the program, that really would have bothered me.

Undo is unpredictable, so save then save as, before doing something major. Onion Skins are also wonky. Some appear and disappear when you’re moving objects.

It also crashes, stalls, and gives me runtime errors a bit more than I would like.

That said, once you get the hang of how to work around the issues, they become small and the workflow becomes quite fluid. It took me a day to figure out all the components I needed for a 94 frame project and two to actually create it, all from hand drawn, scanned in pieces. I also like that I don’t need a monster processor to run it efficiently, like some other products. And there is a lot of information out there to help figure it out quicker.

I like where it is going and anticipate what this project will look like in the future. Open source projects take time to get there and need support to get better. This is one I think is worth supporting.

Sounds like you may be using an older version of Pencil2D, the rotation behavior was fixed in v0.6.5. If you are not using at least that version, please update immediately. You will find it more stable, although many bugs remain.

@Aezarien Hi. Thank you for taking the time to write your criticism and suggestions.

Some shortcuts are non-standard and figuring out how to do simple things

Pencil2D has a lack of documentation since we simply don’t have the time to create it. If you need a list of all the shortcuts available go to Edit > Preferences > Shortcuts > you can learn which ones exist and you can also reassign most of them.

Regarding the “intuitiveness” of the rotation tool, yes, it’s not intuitive. It’s on the roadmap to add proper handle previews for each transformation type along other features related to a free transform tool.

Undo is unpredictable.

Yes, and that’s why there’s a parallel project that tackles this issue. In the near future we will have an improved undo/ redo system with a history panel, this will encompass most if not all of Pencil2D’s actions, including layer and frame deletion, you can read more about it here https://github.com/pencil2d/pencil/pull/953

Onion skins are also wonky. Some appear and disappear when you’re moving objects.

This is a recent issue in 0.6.5 I’ve already reported this here https://github.com/pencil2d/pencil/issues/1426 and was actually fixed here https://github.com/pencil2d/pencil/pull/1471 by @scribblemaniac

You can download a development version that has the most recent fixes at https://www.pencil2d.org/download/#nightly-build-

It also crashes, stalls, and gives me runtime errors a bit more than I would like.

If you’re using Windows 6 times out of 10 it’s a windows problem. Unless you show us a log or screenshot (with proper error code) of the warnings, there’s little we can do to figure out what’s happening in your specific hardware.

I like where it is going and anticipate what this project will look like in the future.

Thank you, we hope to continue improving this software in the foreseeable future, our only impediment is that we’re all volunteers so we can work on our free time, which is why progress might seem slower than commercial (e.g Harmony, Animate CC) or sponsored FOSS solutions (e.g Synfig, Blender, etc)

Please do let us know if you run into a specific crash that tends to repeat and make sure to read the known issues list and ways to workaround these problems: https://www.pencil2d.org/2020/07/pencil2d-0.6.5-release.html#known-issues--gotchas