We already know that there are commercial programs out there such as Adobe Flash to create professional animations. What’s more complicated is finding a freeware equivalente that offers a similarly well-developed workspace. Synfig Studio is one of the few truly interesting alternatives out there, a free GNU-licensed tool that lets you create vector graphics and 2D animations.
Unlike other similar programs like InkSkape, Synfig continues to receive updates and support for its creators. Although it was launched in 2005 as a free, open-source software, it was actually invented years before as a help tool for the now-extinct professional 2D animation studio Voria Studios.
According to its official webpage, Synfig is a free, open-source 2D animation software designed as a powerful profesional solution for creating high-quality animations using vector and bitmap graphics. It eliminates the need to create them frame by frame, allowing you to produce high-quality animations with few people and a low budget.
Although the tool’s main focus is on animation, it can also be used as simply a static vector image editor, although it’s precisely due their parametric generation that makes these graphics ideal for animation, since you don’t have to change the project resolution and the key frames are automatically interpolated throughout the program, allowing you to create fluid animations with little effort.
It includes support for use with the most common digital drawing tablets and lets you work with a comfortable layers system familiar to anyone who’s used Adobe products, with exclusive features like the options to use gradients to color with dynamic shading, not to mention the huge number of filters and distorsion, transformation, or geometric effects included by default.
With regards to its import-export capabilities, the save format is exclusive to the tool through its own XML file format packaged into compressed files, although the extension (called .sif) is compatible with other programs such as InkSkape itself. The rendering of the videos can be done in AVI, Theora and MPEG, MNG and GIF. In terms of importing, it allows you to work with vector images in SVG format.
Although there are several online tutorials and resources to learn how to use Synfig, from the official webpage you can download a video-course for whatever price you’re willing to pay.