Colorful Debate – Toon Boom vs Flash

One of the things that stood out for me when I first learned my way around Toon Boom Animate was the color palette. It’s got intelligent color management that allows you to pair a color with an object – the equivalent of saying pants=blue. Down the road, if you want to change those pants to green, and on multiple drawings, it’s as easy as shifting that color — once. While Flash obviously has its advantages too, it faulters in this regard, as you can see in this video below:


  1. Thats an fast stop watch. But i get the point ;)

    I’ve never used ToonBoom, but good to know these differences, thanks!

  2. Unfair comparison, because the Flash user didn’t use, or know about, the “Find and Replace” tool, which works for color, as well as text. Anywhere the blue was, it would turn yellow in a click, just as fast as Animate.

    I’m not saying Animate isn’t better at a bunch of stuff (especially bones and whatnot), but this was definitely an flawed demonstration.

  3. Find and Replace isn’t 100% reliable unfortunately. Groups don’t get changed, and if you use Illustrator to create your artwork then you’ll likely end up with a lot of grouped artwork.

    It will also fail if you have some artwork selected in a symbol. Flash keeps art selected when you exit a symbol, so you may have to dig through your library to find the offending symbols, deselect the art, and then try again.

    Dave Logan made an extension for Flash that mimics the Toonboom functionality by using bitmap fills. It’s not the same as having a properly integrated color management system, but it works pretty well as long as you can get everyone on the project to use it. There’s always some lazy bastard though…

  4. yes find and replace!

  5. Rafael July 16, 2009

    FIND and REPLACE !!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Chris J July 16, 2009

    Find and Replace is a sloppy work-around at best. This is a feature Flash has needed for a long time. All it would take is implementing the concept of a “spot color” identical to Illustrator. Change the color of the “spot color” and everything using that spot color would automatically change.

    I can only assume that the reason its NOT in is because Flash’s legacy code (symbols groups, etc) would have to be completely ripped apart and put back together again to support it. There’s no other explaination why they haven’t done this yet.

  7. “spot color” sounds like its finding the color and replacing it ;)

  8. manji312 July 16, 2009

    Of course color management might not have been added because Adobe seems painfully clueless as to how people use their software. Sigh. I like Flash and lots of the things it does, but I’m pretty much decided to move to Animate once I get the funds because of Adobe’s obvious lack of interest in those who use Flash to draw and animate. Tired of pointless big ticket features being added (i.e. IK) when the core drawing tools, the onion skinning, and color management could use improvement.

  9. Wow, thanks for the find and replace comment. I never knew that functions could be used to replace color as well. that might shave of some time in the future

  10. I think they fixed that “can’t find and replace in groups” thing in later versions of Flash, I think 8 and beyond. Probably the same time they fixed the “Can’t draw with the brush in a flipped symbol”. I use MX04, so I’m not sure exactly when. ;)

    Animate is a wonderful program, though, and I agree that Adobe isn’t really supporting Character Animators much (if at all), but Flash (MX04) does a bunch of stuff that I can’t leave behind. Almost wish I could sometimes, but then I come crawling back.

    (Aniforce- Very welcome! Hope it helps! Nice stuff, btw! Neat camera work!)

  11. Drew Newman July 16, 2009

    Flash + After Effects > Toonboom.

    Toonboom is totally superior but way expensive and I do not see it breaking through the adobe lineup to take a seat as an industry standard.

  12. Until Toon Boom comes down on their pricing everyone is going to use Flash no matter what.

    (I prefer Toon Boom though!)

  13. balams ass July 16, 2009

    you still cant draw comfortably in either one of them so until they fix that they are both equally shit

  14. “I do not see it breaking through the adobe lineup to take a seat as an industry standard.”

    Hey Drew, Toon Boom is one of the industry standard in animation, Fox, Disney, Film Roman, … they’ve been in that business before we discovered Flash. Remember USAnimation ?

  15. manji312 July 17, 2009

    I find them both pretty serviceable to draw with, I just wish that Flash had more brush tool options, customizations, etc. Personally I have never been very thrilled with Toonboom’s fetish for bending over backwards to mimic the paper production process in the computer. With Animate you can work without xsheets and whatnot, but every once in awhile it still feels like I am taking an extra step to do something because it fits closer to the paper process of doing things. Of course, I’ve only played with the demo so I am by no means an expert. At this point I think it would be great if Adobe Illustrator received a Flash style timeline and one could animate within groups like symbols in Flash. Then Flash can be its ‘platform’ or whatever Adobe is doing with it these days and those who want to do vector animation would have a tool with flexible drawing, color, etc. and not be tied to and limited by the Flash web player, or whatever the excuse is for not implementing more useful features for character animators. End rant. :)

  16. Hey gang, I own/instruct for , and have taught about 200 hours of Flash from version 7 to this latest. Flash is an excellent program, but if I were asked back in 2001 where it was headed, I wouldn’t have thought it would be what it is today, which is really not a broadcast quality animation program. I would have thought that Flash was headed where Animate is today. I’ve used the non-Pro and Pro versions enough in the past few months, to see that Toon Boom’s developers really researched why animators have been drawn to Flash for so long and put together a program that will feel similar at times, but actually IS a professional toolkit for broadcast work.

    Comparisons like this one between the two programs will go on for years, but I think thats just because Toon Boom would like to convert over more Flash animators because its really YOU users that are going to realize “holy sh**, this program solves A LOT of problems.” And hey, I feel like if were going to invest all the time it takes to create a solid piece, I’d want to be able to export it out to HD or even Blu-Ray once thats an option. And anyone that really uses Flash CS4, and has stress-tested it like I have, knows that there are serious problems exporting at those sizes.

    I’ve taught a few lengthy lessons in Animate if anyone is interested, they are ALL FREE, here’s the latest on the Pro version… … check out the Module Library and Network stuff in particular. One example, imagine being able to create Filters totally separate from symbols. So if you delete the symbol, you don’t also lose all the Filter settings. So you have a node network where you can create a standalone Filter and connect it to one object, or another, duplicate it, change its stack order, all really quick. Relying on functions like “Find and Replace” will seem like a cruel joke after playing around in Animate Pro some.

  17. I can’t really argue many of these points that you’re making for Animate. Just wish it wasn’t so expensive!

    It just really bothers me that the demo shown here is blatantly deceptive. There’s a much better way to do this than just running through the frames and clicking everything, and I just wish I knew whether or not this was ignored for dramatic effect, or the person was simply unaware of it.

    Either way, it’s an inherently flawed comparison.

  18. Drew Newman July 18, 2009


    I’ve paid my bills only with Flash. I’ve been in LA for two years and haven’t seen a single toonboom job ad, so maybe somewhere else. Disney’s always looking for 3d people these days :)

    I do like the program, I just never see jobs for it. I’m also really attached to after effects.

  19. Drew Newman July 18, 2009

    As for exporting, you take a swf file into After effects and you can make it as ridiculously large as you want. That’s one of the true strengths of vector graphics.

    Flash + AE!!!!

  20. As Dave Wolfe said, I made an extension to do this called Autocolor. Unfortunatley, some JSFL changes kind of borked it from Flash CS3 on. I didn’t / don’t really have time to work on it or maintain it, but I would be more than happy to release the source if someone wants to give it a try.

  21. Chris J July 20, 2009

    Ironically, Actionscript is now robust enough that you could almost use Flash to write a program like Animate or ToonBoom. It would take years, of course, so we’ll probably never see it, but it’s a tantalizing possibility.

  22. MKTaylor July 20, 2009

    I don’t understand why people are harping on Find and Replace. It’s never failed me once, not once.

    And anyone using groups are out of their mind. Groups are import tools only. Distribute to layers, break, turn into a graphic and do things the right way.

    Groups are bugs waiting to happen, at least in animation. And when your exporting layers for use in AE, theres no point in keeping a neat library. Besides. If you’re using animated groups for web-stuffs, you might as well embed a swf. It’s 3-4 lines of code, and your saving yourself the vector space anyway.

  23. Ranoka July 23, 2009

    Video is bit unfair, seems like a bit of a cheap shot when there are ways of doing the same thing in Flash faster with Find and Replace.

    It is true that find and replace doesn’t work in Flash MX2004 and 8 for selected artwork and groups, but they fixed it in CS3 & CS4. The JSFL mentioned above is only useful for MX2004-8.

    One thing you need to know with find and replace is it ONLY does it for stuff on the stage, so any symbols in the library that aren’t on the stage will get skipped and won’t get re-coloured.*

    I drag everything in my library onto the stage and do find + replace on colours then delete the instances.

    Big problem I’ve found is find and replace can get hellishly slow on big projects (like 3-5 min wait for each search)!

    *This is also true for ActionScript in the left side of the Actions panel, you can only see Keyframes/layers of symbols with code in if they are on the stage.

  24. Flash won.

    - Find and Replace color will take less then 10seconds. Sorry ToonBoom. GG no re.

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