Pencil 3.0.4

An application that allows users to create animated digital comics using a clear and customizable interface

  • Category:


  • Version:


  • Works under:

    Windows Vista / Windows XP

  • Also available for:


  • Program available in:In English
  • Program license:Free (GPL)
  • Vote:
    6.4 (305)
Pencil 3.0.4
Pencil (GPL)

Pencil is a piece of artistic software for Windows that allows you to draw vectors that you can use to build personalized comic strips. The app is completely free since it relies on open-source flexibility, and it can be updated by any of the dedicated users in the online community. You can even alter the app yourself and post your changes online so others can enjoy them.

This software is built around a system of animation techniques that appear to be drawn by hand. The main workspace for the app is the Timeline, and you can use the Timeline to insert layers of varying types. They can be bitmap images, sounds, camera photos, or vector images. You animate by manually selecting frames for transitions in each layer before arranging the layers in the proper order. These keyframes will link through the various layers so you can achieve the desired effect.

To begin with an empty file, you'll use the Pencil tool to draw a rough sketch of your characters using the bitmap file type. Then you can add a vector layer that includes color via the Fill tool and the Pen tool. If you've ever tried any other animation tool, such as Flash, you'll notice that Pencil is much easier to use. Options are clearer, and the interface doesn't hide anything. The main display includes all the features and functions you might need, so you don't have to go looking through complex menus to find them.

Another great thing about the user interface for Pencil is that the control palettes are modular, which means they can be closed or moved so that your workflow is smoother. This is especially helpful if you want to perform the same sort of edits or content creation on a repeated basis. It takes some time to acclimate to such a flexible system, but once you have mastered its nuances, the app becomes quite useful.

There are some problems with the software, or at least there are things that feel like they are missing. For instance, the app is made for PC systems, but it's nearly impossible to use the mouse as an effective tool for sketching. If you had a tablet system connected to the PC, the problem would vanish, but many amateur digital artists don't have such luxuries.

Another thing that's strangely absent from an artistic app like this is preloaded artistic content. There are no templates, shapes, objects, or other pre-installed content to act as a base for your creations. If you're a standard user trying out the app with nothing more than your mouse, it will be difficult to create anything more detailed than stick figures.

If you've got the time and patience to insert incredible detail into an animation, this system is great for teaching the basics. You might even find the mouse an adequate tool for your own use.


  • Open-Source
  • Entirely Free
  • Structured Timeline
  • Customizable UI


  • Difficult Mouse-Based Drawing

Pencil is a drawing and animation software that allows users to create their own digital comics and animations. The main purpose of this program is to mimic traditional, hand drawn animations with a simple and easy to use interface allows anyone to make traditional 2D animations.

Users can create traditional animations or cartoons using bitmap or vector graphics in this free, open source program. Layers for sound and camera images can be added to give animations more detail and authenticity. Animation works by setting key frames on individual layers and arranging the layers in chronological order on top of one another. Users start out by sketching their animations on a bitmap layer with a traditional pencil tool. Once the sketch is finished, it can be inked in and made sharper on a new vector layer, and later sound effects and graphics can be added.

The interface is much clearer than expensive, high-end animation tools, such as Flash, and allows for a certain amount of customization. One of the most convenient features of Pencil is that all tools and options are on display from the beginning, with no required searching to locate additional tools and options. Palettes and tools can still be detached or removed to create space or further simplify the interface, however.


  • Timelines are neatly organized and easy to make use of.
  • The drawing interface is simple and easy to work in, but allows for some customization. The simplicity of the program is designed to enable anyone to create animations.
  • Open source license makes Pencil easily accessible and a good alternative to people who are interested in making animations but don't feel like spending money on expensive animation programs.


  • As with many drawing programs, it can be difficult to produce good, quality drawings without a graphics tablet.
  • Predefined items, such as templates or shapes, are not included with the program.

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