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How Freelance Animators Can Effectively Use Pencil 2D Animation

ben marvazi 2020

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Succeeding as a freelance animator requires you to have the necessary animation and business skills, as well as good animation software to keep your animation clients satisfied with good quality animations.

If you’re considering becoming a freelance animator, check out our blog on the answers to 12 of the best freelance animation questions to see what to consider before starting a freelance animation business.

Also, check out this blog on 8 of the most essential skills to learn as an animator to make sure you’re equipped to start a freelance animation business!

Start-up freelance animation businesses need to save as much money as possible to get their business off the ground while they grow their client base. This involves saving money on animation software as this is an essential tool for any animation business. 

Due to the sheer number of animation software programs to choose from, the choice can be quite overwhelming. When considering things like cost, ease of access, and user-friendliness, it can be hard to decide which animation software program to use for your freelance animation business. 

For a list of the 10 best animation software for freelance animators, check out our blog explaining the pros and cons of popular animation software for freelance animators.

You can also check out this list of the 14 best 2D and 3D animation software if you’re interested in dabbling in both 2D and 3D animation. 

When trying to decide what animation software to use, it’s important to remember that you don’t need to break the bank. The cost of animation software is especially important when you’re just starting as a freelance animator as business costs can add up quickly.  

The best course of action when trying to save money as a freelance animator is to look for free animation software to use while you grow your freelance animation business. Looking for free animation software brings the challenge of trying to differentiate between good quality animation software and software that is not so good.

The challenge is to find animation software that offers you all the necessary features to produce good-quality animation projects. Free animation software might sound promising, but more often than not you’ll get what you (don’t) pay for.

Luckily, there is software out there that is not only free but can offer you everything you need to get started as a freelance animator. But how can you choose between all the different options available? Luckily, we’ve done the legwork and Pencil 2D Animation is a great option. 

Pencil 2D Animation is one of the more popular options because it’s completely free to use.

Not only that, but it also offers a bevy of valuable features to help you create the best possible 2D animations for your animation clients.

In this blog, we discuss the many benefits of using Pencil 2D Animation as a freelance animator and how this animation software can help you grow your freelance animation business by saving you valuable money. 

1. Overview of Pencil 2D Animation

an animator wondering what pencil 2d animation is

Image by Schitt's Creek via Giphy

As suggested by the name, Pencil 2D Animation is a 2D animation software that is free to download and use. You can use Pencil 2D Animation for personal or commercial projects as it is an open-source animation software licensed under the GNU General Public License. 

The software can be downloaded on any operating system, including Windows, macOS, and any Unix-like operating system. This versatility makes Pencil 2D Animation the perfect software for animators who are just starting and don’t necessarily have the funds to invest in new hardware or software.  

Pencil 2D Animation is generally used to make cartoon animations using traditional techniques like tracing drawings and onion skinning. Pencil 2D Animation also manages vector and bitmap drawings, making it a convenient, all-in-one program to use for all your 2D animation needs. 

In addition, Pencil 2D Animation also allows animators to save their 2D animations in the software’s native file format. Pencil 2D Animation also allows you to export animations either as a sequence of images in JPEG, PNG, BMP, or TIFF format, or to export your animation as a video in AVI, MP4, WebM, GIF, or APNG format.

Speaking of features, let’s discuss the many features Pencil 2D Animation can offer freelance animators. 

2. What Features Can Pencil 2D Animation Offer Freelance Animators?

awesome features from pencil 2d animation for freelancers

Image by McJuggerNuggetsGifs via Tenor

According to the Pencil 2D Animation website, this animation software can offer its users an open-source and free animation application that is available across various platforms. They also state that the software has a minimal design so you can “focus on animating and not what button to hit next.”

Pencil 2D Animation also gives animators the ability to switch between raster and vector workflows to create digital sketches or paintings. This flexibility allows for working on different aspects of an animation project at one time.

Pencil 2D Animation’s features make animation a fun, simple, and cost-effective job.

Pencil 2D Animation allows animators to edit images, add layers, and duplicate or remove keyframes via one unified platform. There are various integrated editing tools animators can use to customize their entire project to their, or their client’s, specific needs. 

These include adding custom colors, blurring images, or changing the canvas size. Pencil 2D Animation also provides many other features such as importing or exporting data, task management, and data visualization.

Another useful feature Pencil 2D Animation has is that the software lets animators view previous or upcoming frames, create animated cartoons, view multiple drawings, edit videos, and adjust the size of the tool panel as needed.

These are just a few of the great features Pencil 2D Animation offers freelance animators, but there are much more. Here’s a complete list of all of the features Pencil 2D Animation offers animators:

  • Animators can create drawings and animations in 2D.
  • You can create animations and transitions between animations.
  • Pencil 2D Animation has a configurable workflow that is customizable to your unique needs.
  • Pencil 2D Animation allows you to extract data.
  • You can import and export both data and media using Pencil 2D Animation.
  • Like most animation software, Pencil 2D Animation has a basic drag & drop option.
  • As expected, Pencil 2D Animation also allows you to edit and trace images.
  • Animators can easily manage various projects with Pencil 2D Animation’s interface that allows you to seamlessly switch between projects. 
  • You can render images or videos in a variety of different formats. 
  • Pencil 2D Animation allows you to overlay text onto your animations or sketches. 
  • This animation software has third-party integrations for ease of use.
  • Animators are easily able to create video content from scratch or edit existing video content.
  • Pencil 2D Animation has an import/export Database that allows you to view all the media you have previously imported to, or exported from the software. 
  • In addition, Pencil 2D Animation has an image library.
  • You have full control over your projects, including customization options that include the preset templates included in the software. 
  • Speaking of which, Pencil 2D Animation has a library of preset templates for you to use if you don’t want to start a project from scratch. 
  • Pencil 2D Animation also has advanced animation curves.
  • Weight painting is included in the software, along with high fidelity auto-meshing.
  • You can import music and fonts into Pencil 2D Animation. 
  • There are a variety of video resolution options for you to choose from when exporting animations in video format. 

Aside from these built-in features, Pencil 2D Animation is ideal for freelance animators specifically. Due to the software’s many features as well as the fact that Pencil 2D Animation is extremely quick to download and start using, it optimizes your production pipeline by helping you complete animations quicker. 

3. What Benefits Are There for Freelance Animators? 

  • Pencil 2D Animation Is Free
pencil 2d is free for animators

Image by fannkobe via Tenor

Pencil 2D Animation is completely free to download and use for either personal or commercial projects. This makes it ideal for freelance animators who lack the funds to invest in expensive hardware and software.

  • Pencil 2D Animation is extremely user-friendly

Due to its basic layout and self-explanatory functions, Pencil 2D Animation has been made to be as beginner-friendly as possible, as well as easy to learn for more experienced animators looking to try new animation software. 

  • Pencil 2D Animation is Available Across Most Operating Systems

The software is plug-and-play, making it ideal for animators who work from home or who travel a lot with limited access to desktops or notebooks. All you have to do is visit the Pencil 2D Animation website, click download, choose your operating system, and you’re good to go. 

The installation is quick and easy, and you can be up and running in a matter of minutes. And the best part is that Pencil 2D Animation doesn’t require Wi-Fi to run, making it ideal for those without access to Wi-Fi. 

  • The Pencil 2D Animation Community
the pencil2d animation forum and community

Image by Pencil 2D via

There are various support systems offered by the Pencil 2D Animation team to help animators use the software to its full potential. They have a great FAQ page where you can find answers to commonly asked questions like common program errors and how to fix them, as well as explanations about certain features included in the software. 

Pencil 2D Animation is also active on several social media sites such as Facebook, Discord, YouTube, and Tumblr. They also have an online forum where community members can chat and share ideas, as well as ask for help with their projects. 

This online forum is probably the biggest reason why Pencil 2D Animation is great for freelance animators. There are established animators who have integrated the software into their production pipeline and they can offer support and advice in these active communities. 

Along with the FAQ page, there is a comprehensive user manual available on the Pencil 2D Animation website. The user manual provides an overview of the entire Pencil 2D Animation program, how to use it, what features are available and how to use them, and a short tutorial on how to start animating. 

Along with this basic tutorial on how to start animating, there are other, more specific tutorials available on the Pencil 2D Animation website. These tutorials range from the basics of Pencil 2D Animation, and how to use specific features like rotating an image or scrolling the background on an image layer. To top it off, these tutorials are available in three different languages: English, Spanish, and Portuguese. 

If you want a comprehensive review of Pencil 2D Animation and its features, check out this video of an animator’s first impression of Pencil 2D Animation.

4. Overview of the Pencil 2D Animation Application Interface

pencil 2d animation interface

Image by Pencil 2D Animation via

Before moving on to a short step-by-step explanation of how to install and use Pencil 2D Animation to create animations and sketches, here’s an overview of the software’s application interface:

  • Whiteboard

When launching Pencil 2D Animation, you will notice a whiteboard in the middle of the screen surrounded by controls panels, tools, and features. This Whiteboard is where you will create the main portion of your animation. You can add more Whiteboards to act as layers which you can use to add detail and movement to your animation.

  • Tools Box

On the left of the screen, there is a Tools feature that includes a brush tool, pencil, eraser, a bucket tool to add color, and all features that will allow you to sketch out a cartoon or animation and define it.

  • Options Box

Below the Tools Box, there will be an Options Box where you can define the attributes of the tools you’re using. For example, when using the brush tool, you can customize the thickness of the brush or how light or dark the color will appear. 

  • Display Box 

Below the Options Box is the display box where you can manipulate the sketch you’ve drawn by flipping it vertically or horizontally. The Display Box also allows you to apply onion skin to your sketch to create movement. 

  • Color Palette

The Color Palette can be found in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. Here you can choose between the basic colors of the rainbow (blue, green, red, yellow, orange, purple), and white and black, to add to your animation. 

  • Color Box 

The Color Box can be found in the top right-hand corner of the screen. Here, you can customize colors by choosing specific color shades from a color wheel. 

  • Color Inspector 

Using the Color Inspector, you can customize colors by changing the brightness or opacity. 

  • Timeline Panel 

This is one of the most important parts of the Pencil 2D Animation software. This Timeline Panel allows you to apply layers to your animation starting with the bitmap layer, vector layer, and camera layer. You can also add keyframes to create a video animation, while also being able to delete and duplicate frames, and more. 

If you find that any of these windows get in your way, you can minimize them or remove them from the screen completely. To retrieve them, simply reselect them in the “windows” dropdown menu at the top of the screen. 

For comprehensive tutorials on how to use Pencil 2D Animation, check out this page on the Pencil 2D website where you can find tutorials on anything you might be unsure about.

And for a detailed demonstration of the Pencil 2D Animation interface and features, check out this video demonstrating all of the features offered by Pencil 2D Animation!

5. How to Get Started With Pencil 2D Animation as a Freelance Animator

Learning how to use a new animation software can be daunting, but Pencil 2D Animation’s ease of access and user-friendly interface makes it extremely simple. Here’s a short step by step on how to get started with Pencil 2D Animation:

  • Creating animations with Pencil 2D Animation
creating animation with pencil2d animation

Image by Pencil 2D via

If you’re new to Pencil 2D Animation, start by creating a simple animation first to get used to the user interface and learn the basics. Here’s a step-by-step on how to create a basic circle animation:

  1. First, start by drawing a circle on the Whiteboard using the Pencil tool. The Whiteboard also represents the first frame of your animation.
  2. Next, click the Keys icon in the Timeline Panel to add a new frame and draw another circle. 

By using the Keys icon,  you can add new frames or go back to the previous frames and edit the sketches made there. By following these steps, you’re creating an animation on the bitmap layer. By adding more frames, you can make your animation as detailed as you want. 

  1. Once you’re happy with the number of frames added, you can click the Play button in the Timeline panel to see how your animation flows. 
  2. After saving your animation in the format you prefer, you can export it and embed it in any place you desire.

For a comprehensive guide to using Pencil 2D Animation, check out this user manual explaining how to get started with the software as well as how to use all the different features provided. 

You can also check out this video that provides a frame by frame of basic animation on Pencil 2D Animation!

How to Effectively Use Pencil 2D Animation as a Freelance Animator

With a minimal design and an easy-to-understand interface, Pencil 2D Animation is one of the best animation software for aspiring animators. Not only that, the software is so simple to understand, even experienced animators can use the software if they choose to try something new. 

The Pencil 2D Animation community is always updating the software by releasing new updates and fixing any errors or bugs. In addition, they release Nightly Builds which includes all the new features and fixes. 

There are many options available in Pencil 2D Animation when it comes to creating 2D sketches or animations, and any animator can create a strong portfolio using Pencil 2D Animation. If you’re still unsure about anything related to Pencil 2D Animation, check out their FAQ page for answers!

If you’re looking to grow your animation career, check out our free masterclass, download a copy of our free marketing handbook, and check out our blog on “How to Start an Animation Studio”!

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