Budding artist needs advice.
November 15, 2007 7:37 AM   Subscribe

Help me find 2D animation software for my kid for Christmas!

My ten-year-old son has recently started reading and enjoying (age appropriate) graphic novels and he wants to start doing some of his own animation. He's been drawing with paper and pencil but has expressed interest in using computer software to aid him in his desire to create his own comic book.

I'd love some recommendations from those of you who have used 2D animation software. No 3D, please, and he's quite computer literate so it wouldn't have to necessarily be geared toward the under-13 set.

We've looked online at different products but what I really want is for someone to say, "Oh, I've used *insert name here* and it's really, really good."
posted by cooker girl to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe you should buy him a copy of Flash? (It isn't cheap, though.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:54 AM on November 15, 2007

Mac? I've heard that Gimp is a good (and free) Photoshop alternative.
posted by Pecinpah at 7:56 AM on November 15, 2007

Response by poster: Oh, sorry. I should have said: PC, not Mac.
posted by cooker girl at 8:03 AM on November 15, 2007

Your question is a little confusing...

You say he's reading graphic novels and wants to create his own comic book - why would you buy him animation software? Comic books and graphic novels are not animated - it would be like getting a video camera for a budding photographer.
Has he specifically expressed an interest in animation separate from his desire to create a comic book and perhaps you've merged these separate (although related) interests?

Flash would be good for animation - but I don't know if you can get a hold of an older copy (anything pre-mx) MX. Flash 5 was the most usable version, particularly for animation (IMHO)

If he wants to design characters you might consider something like Adobe Illustrator - but that might be a little pricey for indulging a 10 yr old's whims.

Inkscape is a free vector graphics package and its pretty easy to use.
posted by missmagenta at 8:22 AM on November 15, 2007

I'm not clear on whether you want software for making animation as in moving cartoons or static comics with panels and such.

For the latter, just for my own funning around, I bought a small Wacom tablet like this one, which is a very useful tool for something that costs under $100. It came with a free copy of Photoshop Elements. There have been very few times where I've felt I've needed a feature that Photoshop has that Elements doesn't have. (Of course, I'm a total amateur).

Then, in Scott McCloud's Making Comics, there's some explanations of how he creates the layers and panels for his own comics, which he does totally electronically.

I think a gift of a tablet, Making Comics (and maybe also Understanding Comics), and maybe some real life art supplies and a scanner would be AWESOME. If I didn't already have most of that stuff, I'd totally ask for it.
posted by lampoil at 8:23 AM on November 15, 2007

I would steer away from Flash - or at least from recent versions of Flash. The last few versions have put much more emphasis on the programming side of Flash. While they have added a few new bells and whistles to the animation toolset, it seems to me as if they are really leaving the animation side basically unchanged and unimproved - and while it is somewhat easy to use, it also has a lot of flaws, and can be flaky and maddening to use. (I use Flash every day for my job - and I also curse it almost every day.)

If you can get hold of Flash 4 or Flash 5 on ebay, those might be good to start with- no need whatesoever to spend big bucks to get Flash MX or MX2004 or Flash 8, or whatever the newest version is. I know that I've seen a lot of crazy aniamtions made by teenagers with Flash 4 and 5 on the web over the past few years - for a while it seemed like there were whole communities of teens devoted to creating bizarre animations set to weird music. There are lots of books out there for flash 4 and 5 for making your own cartoons - probably for sale dirt cheap on amazon and ebay.

I wish I had some good suggestions - but I have been asked this question before, and failed to turn up many convincing product reviews in my research.

This software might be a lot of fun for him and let him create a comic with his own art - though it isn't for animation - just for creating comic strips/books. To my computer graphics and animator's eye, it looks slick.

This kids game creation program has always intrigued me too.

(If he has lots of drawings and characters already, you might want to also get a scanner so he can scan in his own drawings to use within whatever software you get him - so he doesn't have to rewdraw everything.)
posted by chr1sb0y at 8:26 AM on November 15, 2007

[Forgive me for the lack of details to follow. I'm heading off to class and feel compelled to at least give you avenues to investigate.]

Blue Line Pro has a software section and a nifty industry publication called Sketch magazine. When I bought it from newsstands a few years ago, it really impressed and inspired me. The subscription price is a little too high for my purposes/magazine budget right now; however, I would pick it back up in a heartbeat.

How about a pen tablet? (Wacom is not the only brand, but the one brand I possess and have tried out in various models.)
posted by bonobo at 8:38 AM on November 15, 2007

I would download both the GIMP and Inkscape right now (they're both free and comparable to standard expensive programs) and then ask him in a week or two how it's going and use that to decide what on the pay side of things to get him for Christmas. (My guess is that he will either want a drawing tablet [i.e. Wacom], or Flash, or he'll decide computers and drawing don't go hand in hand at all anyway.)
posted by anaelith at 8:41 AM on November 15, 2007

Comic Life: Easy graphic-novel page layout, type, effects.

Manga Studio Debut: Do-able conversion of scanned drawings to manga-style graphics.

Anime Studio Debut: Easy, slick 2D animation; FAR easier than Flash.

The last 2 are entry-level versions of software used to create many professional comics and animations. Well worth learning, and lots of online tutorials are available...

Academic/Education pricing is available for all three; you can get the set for less than $70.

Definitely 2nd-ing a scanner and/or a graphics tablet, depending on whether he wants to draw on paper or on screen.
posted by dpcoffin at 9:16 AM on November 15, 2007

Response by poster: missmagenta & lampoil: Yeah, I said animation when I meant drawing/cartooning/static panels. He wants to do more graphic design, I guess? Chalk this up to a completely ignorant mom.

So, to clarify further, and hopefully avoid pissing anyone off because I'm a dunce, he just wants to draw his characters using the computer. They don't have to be animated, but I don't suppose he'd mind if they were.

Thanks for all the suggestions so far. I'll start looking into a graphics tablet and some of the software and sites mentioned above.
posted by cooker girl at 10:40 AM on November 15, 2007

Alright, with the clarification, I second GIMP and a tablet plus a scanner.

I'm very experienced with Photoshop, but I can see a ten-year-old version of myself in this decade totally devouring GIMP. Combined with a tablet for direct input while at a computer and scanner for on-paper sketches (he has a sketch book, I hope), he can fulfill his urges (until girls, cars, music, [insert other life-changing teenage stimuli] potentially consume him, at least.)

If he sketches, you and he might have fun exploring traditional methods like BIG paper, Prismacolor pencils and markers, conte, pastel, dip pens/inks, and watercolor or other paints. Also, the company I mentioned above (Blue Line) sells papers/pens used in drawing/inking/coloring in the comic book industry.

Not to stress you out or put pressure upon your son and squelch "creativity," but examination of anatomy and perspective (through books, classes, or talking with a mentor) can resolve (and sometimes create) issues with "reinventing the wheel."

Thanks, cooker girl, for being an involved (dare I say, "cool") mom for investigating this. You rock.
posted by bonobo at 11:08 AM on November 15, 2007

You might also want to look at scratch. It also has the advantage of teaching the basic ideas of programming in a very simplistic manner.
posted by dereisbaer at 5:52 AM on November 16, 2007

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