Alright, so if you’re trying to get started with animation, it can be kind of overwhelming to search around online, since there are literally thousands of guides and articles and videos on the topic.
And that can be a bit much when you just want to sit down and get animating already.
But today we’re keeping it simple: we’re going to recommend animation equipment for beginners.
We don’t have any sponsorship deals with anyone, so this won’t just be an Amazon affiliate link bonanza. For the most part, we’ve tried to go through the basic types of tools you’ll be needing, though at times we will also recommend specific brands and items that have worked for us in our own experience.
Also, this might go without saying, but this is equipment you should consider getting if you want to try some 2D animation, rather than 3D animation.
3D animation doesn’t really require any special tools, other than modeling and animation software, of course. And just wrapping your head around Blender should be more than enough to keep you occupied for a good long while.
This is all about 2D animation, via a computer or tablet. Sure, you can do some 2D traditional animation on actual paper, but that would probably end up being much more expensive and time-consuming than just about any digital alternative.
Though, you know what? If you really want to practice some animation on paper, one of the cheapest ways you can do it is to buy a few spiral-bound drawing pads from an art store, with 15lb paper or maybe 20, and draw with whatever pen or pencil or charcoal you feel like. If you want to, you can detach and scan each slice later on.
But the tools we;re about to talk about are related directly to 2D animation completed via software, which is an excellent way to practice animation without using up a bunch of physical materials.
Ok, let’s get going!
The first tool you should look into is a USB drawing tablet, and we don’t mean a full tablet device like an iPad.
Drawing tablets are designed specifically to work in tandem with various software, from animation and art software to programs like Photoshop.
The more expensive type of tablet also has a screen, so that you can see your lines appear on that screen, 1:1.
But honestly, as a beginner, and even as a pro, you don’t really need this type of tablet. They can be nice, but they also have their own set of problems, and the prices are no joke.
Even a small USB tablet without a screen should be just fine, and you can get a quality tablet from Monoprice or Wacom for about $40, or even less if you get one used or find a bargain.
Though they offer a great deal of value to animators, they’re relatively simple devices, so there aren’t many points of failure.
Also, they almost always come with their own stylus, so you won’t need to worry about any added costs there.
Though setting up one of these tablets with your computer is very easy (we recommend mapping the tablet so that only a portion of the total space is active (this will make it less tiring to navigate the screen with your stylus)), it does take time to get used to using the table to draw lines.
It will probably feel clumsy at first, but with time and practice, it will start to feel much more natural.
An artist glove, or a tablet glove, is a somewhat strange-looking glove, typically made of cheap materials, that’s meant to be worn on your drawing hand.
You’ll want to have one of these while you’re using your USB drawing tablet. Basically, it just gives your hand a bit of support and cuts down on friction between your hand and the tablet.
Most importantly, it prevents contact between your hand and the drawing surface. If you’re working on a smart tablet with a capacitive touchscreen, this is crucial. Otherwise, you won’t be able to rest your hand on the screen without triggering some function or making a mark where you didn’t want one at all.
These are very inexpensive as well, so don’t plan to spend more than $10 on one. And if you’re left-handed, make sure to find one made just for lefties.
Ok, so this one is kind of obvious, but you’re going to need some animation software to practice animation on your computer.
If you’re already an Adobe subscriber, then you may already have access to Animate, so check your plan for details.
There are many other paid animation programs out there if you’re willing to spend a couple hundred bucks on one, but if you’re looking for a free program, Krita is a good choice.
Like any program, there’s definitely a learning curve, but in certain ways, Krita is even more versatile than Adobe Animate because it offers a wide range of brushes, while the vector-based Animate is limited to one basic brush type and its various parameters.
If you don’t want to animate on a computer using a USB drawing tablet, there are other options out there, the most basic of which is traditional animation using actual paper.
But since this is an expensive and inconvenient option for most people, we will instead focus on using smart tablets to get started with animation.
Sure, there are plenty of other smart tablets out there, and most of them are less expensive than an iPad, but iPads have a few huge advantages.
Best of all, iPads are typically supported for a number of years after their initial release, and Apple has also attracted huge numbers of developers to create programs to sell on the App Store.
The App Store has tons of animation programs, both free and paid, that are very easy to use, and which make use of the iPad’s various features.
Also, at least in our experience, using iPads is a pleasant experience. You’ll also find plenty of accessories for sale that are compatible with iPads, depending on model of course.
If you’re going to be animating mainly on your computer using a USB tablet, then you don’t need to worry about a stylus. New USB tablets include their own stylus, and they tend to be quite comfortable to use.
But if you’re going to be animating on an iPad or a similar device, then you’ll need to purchase a stylus separately.
These can range pretty wildly in price and functionality. A basic stylus will probably only cost about $20, but it also probably won’t have many functions other than being able to hit buttons, draw lines, etc.
But nowadays, we also have the Apple Pencil, which is only compatible with some of the latest iPads out there.
The Apple Pencil costs about $100 brand new, but it can do a lot that other styluses typically can’t, such as giving you different angles for drawing, in the same way that an actual pencil would give you the option to use it at different angles to get different effects.
But there are high-quality alternatives out there as well. A stylus like this one tends to be priced around $60, which is still less than the Apple Pencil.
If possible, try out some different styluses, either in a store or via some friends who already own them. Choosing a stylus is important, so don’t rush the process or settle for one that you don’t really like.
That’s about all we have for now, so get out there and animate something. It’s possible to start animating without spending any money at all, but a few key purchases will make things a lot more enjoyable for you and give you the results you want.
Also, it takes time to get good at absolutely anything, so don’t expect to be a great animator right away, but if you practice and study the art of animation, you’ll improve over time and start making exactly what you want to make.