Ian Sachs of Shutterbug Productions could afford to produce his children's cartoons only by using an Apple Mac. When he was planning Alphabet Castle, he found television companies would not pay him enough to cover his costs if he drew the cartoon conventionally. So he paid pounds 4,500 for a Mac and was still able to make a nice profit.

He has since produced other series, such as Scat The Stringalong Cat for BBC's Playdays, and does a lot of work for CD-Roms. But he was surprised when one of his cartoons carried off a prize at the recent British Animation Awards. "Doing it on a desktop computer you don't expect to get very far in things like this," he says.

He creates his animations in Fractal Design's Painter software, which costs only pounds 375 for the Mac and PC, but is an extremely powerful painting tool. The animation is done in Macromedia Director, which costs about pounds 650. He says Director is ideal for Flintstones-style cartooning, although detailed Disney-style drawings need Painter or Adobe Photoshop, which have to be used with Director or the more expensive Adobe After Effects.

For those who want to try a bit of amateur animation, Fractal Design has produced Dabbler 2.0, for Mac and Windows, which costs only pounds 75. It may not be a serious tool, but it works. The interface is simple, and it works with pressure-sensitive graphics tablets (available as a package for about pounds 145).

Features include a flipbook, four layers of "tracing paper", a lot of natural painting tools and special effects, such as chalk, airbrush, motion blurs, glass distortion, paper textures and page rotation. It even has pre-set brush effects that mimic the style of Van Gogh and Seurat. As it can export to all the main file formats and even save QuickTime movies, it should not easily be dismissed as a child's toy, and would be ideal for use with multimedia.

If you cannot draw, Fractal Design makes Poser, a pounds 150 program that models human figures (2D and 3D) accurately and quickly. It would be ideal for rapidly creating storyboards, and its files are easily exported.

Now, would-be cartoonists can have a Mickey Mouse experience for Mickey Mouse money.