A little over a decade ago, top-of-the-line digital 2D animation software cost between ten to twenty thousand dollars. Today’s software is not only far more robust than those earlier programs, but it’s also financially attainable by nearly all artists.

Today Toon Boom announced a major upgrade to its flagship software with the release of Harmony 12, as well as introduced a new subscription pricing model. Their North American industry-standard animation program is used in the production of popular TV shows like The Simpsons, Gravity Falls, Adventure Time, and Bob’s Burgers, as well as features including Paramount Animation’s The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of the Water and Disney’s The Princess and the Frog.

Toon Boom’s goal with the launch of Harmony 12 is to “democratize animation with a product line full of new features for studios and enthusiasts alike.” Subscriptions to Harmony start as low as $15 per month.

Harmony will now be available in three distinct editions targeted at everyone from students to industry pros: Essentials (simple paperless/cutout style projects aimed at hobbyists and enthusiasts); Advanced (professional-grade solution for studios, freelancers, and others who need full paperless and simple cut-out); and Premium (fully featured paperless and sophisticated cut-out style animation with full character rigs). A feature comparison chart for the different versions is available on the Toon Boom website.

Harmony 12 has a number of significant improvements, especially to its bitmap brush tools (the traditionally vector-based Harmony had lagged in this area compared to TVPaint and Photoshop); support of OpenFX plugins, which significantly expands its capabilities as a compositing tool; and enhanced compatibility with Unity for game developers.

Some of Harmony 12’s key improvements:

Bitmap Brush Improvements – Artists can now create customized bitmap brushes as textures for experimental and organic creations. Along with dual brush support, artists now have even more ways to apply unique looks.

Bitmap brush improvements in Harmony 12 include a dual-brush and "Photoshop-level brush control" that allows users to adjust brush roundness and angle. (Click to enlarge.)
Bitmap brush improvements in Harmony 12 include a dual-brush and “Photoshop-level brush control” that allows users to adjust brush roundness and angle. (Click to enlarge.)

Open Platform Tools – Harmony 12 supports OpenFX plugins, which can be used to add striking special effects to characters and scenes. Industry-standard Collada and Alembic 3D files load into Harmony, and animated character rigs can be exported to the popular Unity game engine.

New game export features in Harmony allow users to preview game animation in Harmony, and then export to Unity. (Click to enlarge.)
New game export features in Harmony allow users to preview game animation in Harmony, and then export to Unity. (Click to enlarge.)

Light Shading – Harmony 12 adds surface volume and lighting to 2D objects, providing automatic tones/highlights for characters that are far more efficient than adding shading nuances by hand.

Harmony allows users to add automatic tones and highlights to characters. (Click to enlarge.)
Harmony allows users to add automatic tones and highlights to puppet characters instead of drawing them frame-by-frame or building rigs. (Click to enlarge.)

Deformer Improvements – Simpler set-up and new envelope controls are perfect for bending, squashing and imparting highly organic character movement. New game bone deformers provide game engine compatibility.

Harmony boasts improvements to its deformers that bend, squash, and stretch characters. (Click to enlarge.)
Harmony boasts improvements to its deformers that bend, squash, and stretch characters. (Click to enlarge.)

Performance Improvements – Harmony 12 delivers rendering speeds that are up to 65% faster, as well as real-time visualization of deformers and special effects.

Following the lead of other software manufacturers like Adobe and Autodesk, Toon Boom has also introduced a subscription model. The subscriptions are available at both monthly and annual subscription rates, with the lowest price being $15 per month for the Essentials (with the purchase of an annual plan).

It’s still possible to purchase the software upfront, too, in what is referred to as a perpetual license. Harmony Essentials costs $375; Harmony Advanced is available for $975; and Harmony Premium will set you back $1,975.

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