The Best 2D Animation Apps for iPad

The Best 2D Animation Apps for iPad

6 min read

Apple has been the brand of choice for graphic designers, animators, creators and visual artists for decades.

upgradeEver since the first edition of the iPad dropped in 2010, the tablets have been adopted and used for creative and graphic work. One such iPad use that has exploded in popularity in recent years is animation. Drawing and animating on a tablet can feel very intuitive, especially when you’re working with the Apple Pencil. This has led to a proliferation of animation applications on the app store, all of which have different pros and cons.

Whether you’re a professional animator looking to experiment with an iPad, or a beginner trying their hand at frame animation for the first time, there will be an app out there that works for you. Here, we’re going to give you the lowdown on some of the best apps available and help you choose the right way to let your animation ideas take flight.

Want to start animating on your iPad? Here are some apps we recommend.

Animation Desk

If you’re looking to create your own animations on a frame-by-frame basis, then Animation Desk is a great choice. You can start from scratch and draw directly in the app, and if you use it in conjunction with the Apple Pencil it really replicates the experience of drawing on paper. However, unlike drawing on paper you’re able to easily use more than different brushes on up to nine separate layers. It also offers additional tools like onion-skinning and rotoscoping.

As well as being able to create your own animations from scratch, you’re able to import video, PSD files, and images. This gives you more flexibility and enhances your creative options. In terms of animation, you’re able to set what FPS you like, create animation loops, add audio, and more. When your animation is done, Animation Desk offers multiple export options such as GIF, Photoshop (PSD), and video.

If you want to try Animation Desk before you buy it, there is a free version available, although it is more limited in functionality than the full version and you'll need to upgrade to unlock advanced features.

Thumbs up:

  • Good integration of Apple Pencil

Thumbs down:

  • You need to be good at drawing to get the most from it

Pricing: Limited free version, Pro version starting from $2.49 per month

FlipaClip

If you’re looking to make a 2D cartoon type of animation, FlipaClip is a great pick.

The clue is in the name – the app operates like the kind of flipbook you probably made back in your school days. Like an old school flipbook, FlipaClip is very easy to use and feels intuitive. Of course, the fact that it is a digital app means it comes with a whole lot more functionality and cool features than a flipbook. It’s compatible with the Apple Pencil, but you can also use your finger.

There is a range of drawing tools on offer, including pencil, pen, brush, and sketch pen, plus other tools like lasso, fill, and text options. You can create up to 10 layers for your animation, but on the free version, the number of layers is limited to just three. The app also provides an animation timeline, the ability to change the frame rate, and the option to add audio.

What’s good about FlipaClip is that it comes with a bunch of tutorials, so you can dive in and learn how it works straight away. Plus, there is a strong online community for the app and plenty of YouTube content to help you get the most out of the app.

Thumbs up:

  • Very intuitive and user friendly

Thumbs down:

  • Limited options for the free version

Pricing: Free, with paid for in-app upgrades to unlock additional features

Animation & Drawing by Do Ink

What’s neat about this app is that it’s not only easy enough for beginners to get to grips with, but it also offers enough advanced functionality and tools to make it a great resource for more experienced artists too. Animation & Drawing has powerful vector graphics tools, including Bézier curve editing with automatic curve smoothing. It also has the freehand drawing options you would expect, including pen, pencil, brushes, and fill, plus geometric shape options and some art props too.

When it comes to the animation aspects, it has both flipbook and keyframe animation, frame-by-frame or single-frame options, as well as motion paths that can be dragged by your finger. It also has adjustable frame rates of up to 30 frames per second.

Once you’re done with your motion animations, you can export them in a variety of formats including PNG and H.264 as well as pick an aspect ratio like 4:3, 16:9, and 1:1, so you can get your animations right for whatever platform you need with ease. Animation & Drawing also makes it easy to save to your iPad’s camera roll which makes it even simpler to share your work where you want.

Thumbs up:

  • The art props are cool!

Thumbs down:

  • The maximum frame rate is 30 fps

Pricing: $4.99

Animation Creator HD,,,

Have you ever got to a point in your project where you wish you could just rewind and start from an earlier point, but then you find your ‘undo’ option only goes so far, and you’re stuck? Well, one of the great things about Animation Creator HD is that it has unlimited undo/redo. This isn’t the only unlimited thing it has – when it comes to animation, it also has unlimited layers.

You might be saying ‘sure, unlimited stuff is cool, but what else does this app have going for it?’, and the tea is that Animation Creator HD also has all of the animation tools and functions you’d expect from an animation app, and then it has some more sprinkled on top. You can create drawings from scratch using pencils, pens (with ink flow effects), brushes (with various stroke types), shapes, and even spray cans. It also has an onion skinning feature, an animation scrub tool, the ability to add audio, and more.

What we like about this powerful animation app is that you can also import your own photos and video clips to use as background layers. And when it comes to export options, Animation Creation HD leads the way with its ability to output animated videos in Ultra HD 4k as well as lower resolutions and in gif format.

Thumbs up:

  • Unlimited layers and undo/redo

Thumbs down:

  • No free version to trial

Pricing: $3.99

Animatic

If you’re mainly sketching and drawing on your iPad and would like to find an easy way to make your work more dynamic and less static, then Animatic might be the app for you. It’s more straightforward and limited than the other apps on the list, but this also works in its favor. The simple interface is easy to get to grips with and isn’t as overwhelming as other more tool-heavy apps out there.

Working with the Apple Pencil, you’ll be able to very quickly make more flipbook-style simple animations and bring your work to life. A downside is that you’re only able to use the preset color options, and if you want improvements in onion skinning options and repeatable frames then you’ll have to upgrade to the Animatic Pro version.

You can export your animations in a variety of export formats, like GIF, MP4, and PSD. While you’re not going to be using Animatic for longer animation projects, it is a fun and accessible way to animate with your iPad.

Thumbs up:

  • Intuitive interface

Thumbs down:

  • Limited brushes and functionality

Pricing: Limited free version, premium subscription starting from $4.99 for six months

RoughAnimatorfeaturesfeatures

One of the cool things about RoughAnimator is that it was actually developed by an animator, Jacob Kafka, which means that it really is coming from an animator’s perspective. It has led the app to develop somewhat of a devoted following, and it has plenty of features for you to get your teeth into.

It focuses on hand-drawn animations and has powerful tools like timeline scrubbing, an onion skinning feature, layers, custom brushes, and control of the frame rate and resolution. You can also import video content for rotoscoping animation, plus add audio and sound effects to your animations. Animations can be exported as GIFs, Quicktime video, and image sequences.

For further editing and post-production, you can also import your RoughAnimator projects into Adobe After Effects and Adobe Animate. This really opens up the potential for your animations and allows them to be integrated with other parts of the process more easily, for example, you can create an animated logo in RoughAnimator and then add some special effects using Adobe After Effects.

Thumbs up:

  • Made by an animator, for animators

Thumbs down:

  • The audio workflow can be tricky

Pricing: $4.99

This list of apps is by no means exhaustive, and there are a lot of other animation apps available in the store.

However, the selection we have made is the ideal place to start. Some of these apps are the most popular for good reason – they are best equipped to enable you to get your ideas from your head onto the digital equivalent of paper, and bring them to life.

To be a great 2D animator, you first have to get good at drawing. You can practice sketching on your iPad with the Vectornator app. Paired with the Apple Pencil, it feels just like drawing on paper.

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