Toon Boom Studio to Toon Boom Harmony 12 Essentials: Should You Upgrade?

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This article was updated on August 23, 2015. See the updates at the end of the post.

Have you checked out the new Toon Boom Harmony product line? Launched on April 13, this 2D animation software comes in 3 editions: Essentials, Advanced, and Premium.

If you’re currently shopping for 2D animation software for beginners and hobbyists, you may be considering the Toon Boom Harmony product family.

Read on to find out about Toon Boom Harmony product line and pricing as compared to Toon Boom Studio. The discussion is based on info I gathered from Toon Boom product pages, Toon Boom community forum discussions, as well as info from their marketing representative.

Toon Boom Studio Vs Harmony

Toon Boom Studio Product Roadmap

Toon Boom Studio is an excellent 2D animation product for beginners and hobbyists to get started on their 2D animation adventures.

Your may come from different backgrounds. But one thing you have in common is you’d like to create and share your very own animated cartoons.

You could be that Saturday morning cartoon kid who’s now trying to explore animation. You could even be a stay-at-home parent, street photographer, IT consultant, mathematics teacher, or an engineer. Regardless, you have tons of ideas and stories to tell, and you want to tell them using animation.

But one of the biggest questions holding you back is:


While the full answer to that question requires a whole separate discussion, you need to realize that one of the key answers is to pick an animation software and start using it to create animations. Hands-on learning is the best learning approach in this case.

And assuming you decided to start with 2D animation and you picked Toon Boom Studio for your software, now you’d like to know how the release of Toon Boom Harmony 12 will impact Toon Boom Studio users.

For starters, let’s have a look at what happens to Toon Boom Studio (currently at version 8.1). This figure shows the timeline for product sale and support for Toon Boom Studio:

Toon Boom Studio Roadmap

The software will continue to be offered for purchase until October 16, while support will continue for another year from the launch of Toon Boom Harmony 12.

Also, while it should be obvious to most people, for those who are still concerned, rest assured that your copy of Toon Boom Studio will continue to work after that.

Toon Boom Studio Upgrade Options – Perpetual License

The prices for NEW perpetual (standalone) licenses are $375, $975, and $1975 for Harmony Essentials, Advanced, and Premium, respectively.

If you are a current Toon Boom Studio user, you should have received the e-mail from Toon Boom offering an upgrade to a perpetual license for Harmony Essentials for $99. And you get to keep your Toon Boom Studio perpetual license, too. How cool is that!

So that answers the question of upgrading to a perpetual license for Harmony Essentials. If you have the budget, you can also choose the higher-end editions. The figure below shows the perpetual-style license upgrade options for Toon Boom Studio users:

Toon Boom SW Upgrade from Studio to Harmony

Alternatively, you may also choose NOT to upgrade at all and simply continue using your Toon Boom Studio software.

And when you finally decide that it’s time to move to Toon Boom Harmony, you can choose to purchase Toon Boom Harmony’s license via the new Desktop Subscription plan.

Toon Boom Harmony 12 Desktop Subscription

The Desktop Subscription plan is very similar to Adobe Creative Cloud subscription model. Subscribers get software updates for the latest software versions and bug fixes.

So in this case, your subscription has nothing to do with any of your Harmony perpetual licenses. They are simply separate license purchases.

The lowest subscription price is for Harmony Essentials paid annually at $180, which works out to be $15/month. The following figure shows the Desktop Subscription costs for all of the Harmony editions (click to enlarge).

Toon Boom Harmony Subscription

Essentially, you could purchase your Desktop Subscription and pay monthly and turn on/off your subscription, or even switch between editions (like shifting gears!).

This licensing model may be something worth considering for those of you who plan to use Harmony Advanced or Harmony Premium editions but are on a tight budget.

Note that project files are compatible between all Harmony 12 editions. You just can’t edit or access higher-end features when using the Harmony Essentials edition.

Also note that Toon Boom Studio project files are NOT compatible with any of the Harmony editions. However, Toon Boom provides a method for converting your Studio projects into Harmony 12 projects.

Transitioning to Toon Boom Harmony 12

There are many new FREE tutorials and demos available on Toon Boom’s official website to help you get started with Toon Boom Harmony 12. Here’s the link to the video series for your convenience:

Harmony 12 Video Tutorials


Toon Boom Harmony 12 comes with the highly affordable Essentials edition, which is suitable for hobbyists and beginners, while at the same time being similar to and compatible with the higher-end editions (Harmony Advanced and Harmony Premium).

The new Desktop Subscription licensing model makes it even more accessible people to use the Harmony Advanced and Harmony Premium editions, which are industry standard 2D animation software used by many production studios. With the monthly subscription model, users can turn their license subscription on/off or even switch between editions as needed.

Existing Toon Boom Studio users have an option to upgrade to Harmony Essentials by purchasing a perpetual license for $99.

Things are not identical between Studio and Harmony Essentials, so be prepared to learn new stuff such as how the interface and elements work.

Therefore, if you’re currently a Toon Boom Studio user, you may want to consider upgrading to Toon Boom Harmony 12 Essentials if you’d like to keep up with the latest in 2D computer animation software technology. It opens up possibilities and opportunities for collaboration with people in the industry who are using the same technology standards. Additionally, according to the developers, you can expect better performance all around.

Having said that, Toon Boom Studio is still good enough for most enthusiasts. If you’re happy with what you can accomplish with it, holding off for as long as you feel comfortable is also a reasonable decision. After all, you’ve already paid for the license, which I believe was a great investment.

For folks who are more visually inclined, I’ve put together a video to summarize the key messages from this post:

If you’re currently shopping for software for your 2D animation hobby, download the 21-day FREE TRIAL software (Toon Boom Animation) and take both Toon Boom Studio and Harmony Essentials for a spin and do your own hands-on comparison.

Toon Boom Studio is priced at $249 (perpetual license) and will be discontinued after October 16. It’s really easy for beginners to learn and get started with creating your animation.

I’ll be sharing all new materials that include Harmony Essentials usage and demos (yeah, I upgraded!). Be sure to SUBSCRIBE to the 2D Animation mailing list to get the latest projects, tips, and demos to help with your own 2D animation journey:

Join the 2D Animation Mailing List!

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Update (August 23, 2015):

Although Toon Boom previously stated that Toon Boom Studio would be available until October 2015, the product is no longer available on their website as of today.

Like it or not, the only entry-level and most affordable 2D animation software from Toon Boom is now Harmony Essentials.

However, there are alternatives in the same price range or cheaper that beginners and hobbyists may want to consider such as the following (not an exhaustive list):

  • Pencil 2D – open source (FREE) 2D animation software for traditional hand-drawn animation technique only. Check their blog page for the latest updates and user feedback.
  • Synfig Studio – full-featured open source (FREE) 2D animation software.
  • Blender – open source (FREE) full-featured professional-grade 3D animation software. Yes, 3D! But users have successfully used it for creating 2D animation. There’s even a website (Blender2D) that specializes on teaching 2D animation using Blender. Go to YouTube for tons of video tutorials on this topic.
  • Anime Studio Debut – by Smith Micro, priced at $49.99 (perpetual license) as of this update. The Pro version is $149.99 (perpetual license) and is claimed to be much better than Harmony Essentials. I’m not the expert, so do your own research! I’d love to get it if I had the extra budget.
  • Crazy Talk Animator – by Reallusion, priced at $49.95 as of this update. The PRO version is $179.95. Prices are for perpetual licenses.
  • Adobe Flash Professional – available as a single-app subscription (no perpetual license) for $19.99 monthly or $239.88 annually.
  • Adobe After Effects – available as a single-app subscription (no perpetual license) for $19.99 monthly or $239.88 annually.

I added Adobe Flash Professional and After Effects to the list above for comparison for those of you who are curious. For many people on Earth, $19.99/month for a single-app subscription is not affordable, but a one-time cost of $50 is realistic. And for some people, $150 for a perpetual license is still affordable. Remember, the target audience of this post is NOT PROFESSIONALS, but hobbyists.

Do you have other suggestions for 2D animation software (under $300) for the list? Just let me know by e-mail (




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