Adobe Animate Review

Adobe products are usually considered the gold standard of programs used in creative applications, and for a good reason. They’ve consistently been well-supported and extremely versatile, while Adobe remains an industry leader in developing new artist tools for computers. Adobe Animate CC (also known as Animate and formerly known as Flash Professional) lives up to the brand reputation. It’s got many tools for animation it’s hard to know where to begin, as well as every file type, export, modifying tool, or plugin you could dream of.

Animate includes an interface packed with features that could take a decade to master. You can use the program to create Flash games, movie animations, kinetic typography, cartoons, animated GIFs, and basically any sequence of moving images that you could dream of. This means it is ideal for creative professionals, students in an industry-related class, dedicated hobbyists, or those that already heavily use the Adobe Suite. These groups will have the most success adapting to the interface, as well as the easiest time learning the controls.

However, new users will need to spend dozens of hours on tutorials, classes, and other learning activities. If you don’t have time for this, Animate is probably not for you; you won’t be able to reach the full potential of the program.

Adobe Animate Pros

  • Clean interface matches other Adobe tools.
  • Plethora of “getting started” tutorials.
  • Many different canvas types.
  • Every export option imaginable.
  • Supports vector and bitmap images of all types.

Adobe Animate Cons

  • Extremely steep learning curve for new users.

What Is Adobe Animate CC?

Adobe Animate is a program from Adobe’s Creative Cloud Suite. It offers the ability to make many varieties of animated features, games, or other Flash multimedia. The program was called Adobe Flash Professional for more than ten years; that name was retired in 2015.

The main features of Animate are as follows:

  • Integration with your Adobe cloud library of assets
  • Easy cross-platform use with other Adobe products
  • Creates animated movies, cartoons, or clips
  • Creates Flash games or interactive Flash utilities

Is Animate Free?

No, it is not free. You can try the program for 14 days at no charge and without a credit card, but you’ll need a license after that. You can buy the program individually for $19.99 a month, or as part of the complete CS6 package for $49.99 a month. Student and teacher discounts are around 60%, and Adobe offers several enterprise or business pricing packages as well.

If you are currently a university or even high school student, you may have access to this software for free through your school’s computer lab. Many educational institutions make widespread use of the Adobe suite or offer discounts and licenses to current students. Check with your school’s website or student center.

How Do You Use Adobe Animate?

Animate is an extremely complex program; how you use it is entirely dependent on your project goals. For this review, I went through a brief animation tutorial, but Adobe also offers dozens of free resources if you have another goal in mind. Adobe has published more than 500 pages of how-to material, so I’ll just give a few details here to get you started.

When you first open Animate after downloading, you’ll be sent to the home screen where you can choose a new type of file, open a pre-existing project, or view tutorials and learning resources.

As you can see, the startup screen replaces the canvas area until you choose what project you’ll be opening. The rest of the interface remains the same no matter what file you choose. The interface is actually rearrangeable as well, so you can drag and drop panels as needed.

There are several file type options available. You can create your project with any of them, but the differences lie in the code language used to execute. If you plan to add interactive features or know you need a specific language to integrate your final product with a website, then you should pick the project type that matches your goal and expertise. If you’re just doing simple animation, this is less of an issue. If you have no idea where to start or are experimenting, I would recommend beginning with the HTML5 canvas.

Adobe Animate Examples

Adobe encourages those who post their animated creations online to use #MadeWithAnimate. Here are a few examples of how others are using Animate for cartoons, GIFs, and more.

Getting Started with Adobe Animate

It would be impossible to cover every feature of Animate in this review. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, try this 482-page documentation Adobe published with a section for every button, tool, and clickable item in the program. For this article, I’ll be focusing on a few general categories that are representative of the much larger scope of Animate.

Be aware that visually, the PC and Mac versions of Animate are slightly different. I tested on a Mac laptop, so your screen might not appear the same as mine.

Assets

Assets are a key component of a project. For Animate, assets can come in the form of vector images, bitmap files, audio and sounds, and more. The Library tab, near the Properties tab, stores all of the assets in a project.

Animate is designed to work flawlessly with the other Creative Cloud programs. It offers integration with your Adobe cloud, allowing you to easily drag and drop components from your storage to the canvas.

You also have integrated access to Adobe Stock graphics, which you can purchase or use in a watermarked format depending on your goals. If you’ve made your own graphics ahead of time, you can import them from Photoshop or Illustrator.

For more on managing your project library, you can read Adobe’s documentation here.

Frames and The Timeline

Animation of any kind requires a timeline of frames to execute. Adobe’s timeline is very versatile and even contains hidden tools.

When you look at the main timeline, you’re viewing the main stage. You can put as many objects and layers here as you like, create paths for them to travel over time, or many other specific movements.

Any time you add an object to a layer, a keyframe is automatically created in frame one for that layer. You can add your own keyframes as well by selecting the frame number and then inserting from the menu bar.

There are also secondary timelines for symbols. If you create a symbol and add a tween to it, you can access this matching timeline. To edit these symbols’ animations, double-click on them from the main stage. The rest of the canvas will become slightly grayed out except for the selected symbols. In this view, you don’t see layers from the main stage.

Lastly, you can access special ease effects by expanding the timeline window and then double-clicking a layer. This will produce a large graph which lets you edit movement based on ease presets or those that you have made.

It would be impossible to fully cover the use of the timeline, so you can view this tutorial from Adobe for a more in-depth introduction to these features.

Key Tools

The tool panel in Animate is very similar to that of Photoshop, Illustrator, and other Adobe applications. The main toolbar contains more than 20 commonly used manipulative and drawing tools.

Many of these tutorials support vector graphics as well as bitmap, eliminating the need to perpetually transfer files between your vector editor and Animate. They even have vector painting brushes available.

The bone tool is specific to animation. It allows you to create character rigs that make for easy editing of limb and body position as you move from frame to frame.

The Properties panel allows you to modify some aspects of a selected object on the canvas without using transformations or painting techniques. It’s great for quick and simple changes. The options for editing change depending on what kind of object you have selected.

Scripting

Scripting is a great way to add interactivity to your Flash game. It’s what brings the game to life, and an outstanding feature of Animate that differentiates it from a lot of competitors.

Unfortunately, it is also an extremely complex topic to cover. If you’re a non-programmer, Adobe offers a “code snippets” feature for interactivity. The goal of snippets is to allow those without coding knowledge to make use of some common functionalities. You can access snippets by going WINDOW > CODE SNIPPETS.

If you are a programmer, the following information might be more relevant. Adobe scripts are primarily written is JSFL, which is a JavaScript API specifically for flash use. You can create a new JSFL file but opening Animate and going to FILE > NEW > JSFL Script File. If you would rather write in ActionScript, you can create a document for that language instead.

This will open a coding environment.

Scripts are a great feature for both avid coders and those that are code shy. To use them effectively, you’ll need plenty of practice, just like with any complex Adobe feature.

Exporting/Sharing

Animate offers several different ways to get a project from the program into a usable file. The main type of Animate file is the .fla, which is what your projects will save as not matter what canvas type you’re using. If you want to view the file outside of Animate though, you’ll need to either publish or export.

Publish and Export are Animate’s two forms of file sharing. Publishing a file offers unique file types with settings tailored to the type of canvas you are publishing. For example, an HTML5 Canvas has a different publish configuration than AIR Desktop. Publish gives you access to specialized file endings like .OAM (for sending to other Adobe products) or .SVG (for vector graphics). Once you choose “Publish”, you’ll immediately have those files on your computer.

“Export” offers more commonly known files types such as .MOV and .GIF. This is more useful if you’re trying to create a file of a final project since files created through “export” cannot be reopened in Animate and edited.

In addition, some of these files will require the use of Adobe Media Encoder to properly export. This program will download automatically with Animate, so don’t worry about not having it. In addition, it will open automatically when needed.

When I tried to export a simple video in .mp4 format, I was greeted with this panic-inducing screen of export complexity:

Luckily, you don’t have to do much at all. In the top right panel, right-click your file (blue text) and adjust any settings. Then choose the green “play” button, and it will be exported to your computer!

When I finished playing with the various export and publish options, my desktop had half a dozen different files for the same project. This is great if you work cross-platform or have specific needs. They’ll definitely be covered!

Conclusion

Whether you’re an industry professional or a hobbyist, Adobe Animate CC offers a range of tools that will get you from point A to point B. The program is suitable for all kind of users and is generally considered the benchmark to which other animating platforms are compared. While it may take you a while to learn the ins and outs of Animate, it will be well worth your time and give you access to the most powerful tool on the market.

From cartoons to complex games, Animate is a top tier program. With plenty of support and a large community, you’ll have answers to every question as you get started or expand your knowledge.