animate drawings

How to Animate Drawings On Paper: It’s So Easy!

Most people struggle to animate on paper, but it’s not as difficult as you think. In fact, it begins with your drawing. At Animation Skill Studio, we like to draw with a tablet, which is faster and produces professional artwork.


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That being said, here’s the basic steps to animate drawings on Paper:

1. Create Layers/Layers
2. Create Timeline
3. Order Layers/Layers
4. Save and Export

Basic animation techniques:

1). Frame animation
2). Keyframe animation
3). Combination of single frame and keyframes
4). Path Animation
5). Ball over corner

Watch this video to learn how to animate drawings

Animating your own drawings is a time consuming but not impossible process. Drawings, pictures, or cartoons that you want to animate should be saved on a transparent background.

You probably also need multiple shifts to effectively represent movement, depending on your ultimate goal. With precisely prepared images, multiple layers, and a little patience, you’ll find that you can create a simple animations.

If you want effectively animate your drawings on Paper, here’s how to do it:

Alternatively, you might also want to animate on other applications like Photoshop.

Four steps to animate drawings on paper in Photoshop

Animating drawings is actually very easy, the complicated aspect is getting the drawings in place. There are lots of programs that can help create animations from your project.

Here we leave you four basic steps (explained, of course) so that you can animate your drawings and save them as video in a simple way.

Important Points to Keep in Mind

i). We start from the assumption that you already have drawings to animate (in color or black and white). This works for traditional animations (on paper) or for digital animations.

ii). For paper animations it is necessary to scan each sheet and then open all the files (yes, one by one) in Photoshop. Passing them to Photoshop is only necessary in case you want to clean your animation, that is, erase the imperfections that the scanner usually leaves.

Whether with the scanner or with Photoshop, I recommend saving your images sorted by numbers, example: img001, img002, img003, et cetera.

In this way Photoshop recognizes the order by putting them as layers and you do not have to struggle with that. Also, save them in a specific folder for the project.

iii). For digital animations, all you have to do to start is to have your images sorted and pull them all to a new document in Photoshop.

iv). If you want to change the size to see better what you are doing, in the lower left corner you will see the percentage in which you are viewing your file. You can modify it.

1. Create Layers/Layers 

  • First a document is opened (the measurements depend on your personal taste) and all the layers necessary for the animation are created, they are usually many. As in theory they already have their drawings, they can simply drag them to their document in Photoshop, which will generate the layers automatically. (Do not forget that ordering your images from before will save you time).
  • You can find the layers where it says “Layers” or “Layers”, in the lower right corner. To delete one, simply drag it to the icon of the trash can.

2. Create Timeline 

i). When you open your document you will not see anything you need to create your animation: the timeline. To open it, go to “Window” and look for “Timeline” or “Timeline”.

ii). When they find it, click on the left side, a black popcorn will appear. That means that the timeline has been activated (you will immediately see it, anyway).

Now open, in the middle of the timeline you will find an icon that says “Create video time line” and have to click iii). there.

3. Order Layers/Layers 

i). In the timeline you can see all your layers in purple. If they are not big enough, up to the bottom there are icons of two triangles, separated by a middle line. With that line you can modify the size to see better what you are doing.

ii). In the timeline you will also notice that at the top there are numbers that say 00, 02f, 04f and so on (the lyrics may vary according to your language). That measures the “frames” or “frames” per second of its animation. This is important because each layer they have must measure about 02f or 02c.

iii). Remember to leave a blank background (or another that you have drawn in case it applies) so that everything happens on that background.

iv). The layers should be arranged in the following way, from left to right, from bottom to top. Each one must measure about 02f (two frames). Each one must occupy its own space, it is important that they do not join them.

4. Save and Export

i). Once your drawings are ordered, you can do a test by clicking on the space bar or by “playing” at the top of the timeline. If you like how it has been, it’s time to save and export.

ii). To save click on “File” and then save your animation wherever you want. I recommend that they be in the same folder where they have the photos: open another folder inside that for their tests and final files. Save the file in Photoshop format (psd) so you can edit it later.

iii). To export click on file and then “Export”. Then click on “Render Video” and wait a moment. In the options that appear they can save it in Quicktime or H.264 format, whichever they prefer, and there they can also edit the size or speed of each frame. Up the options you can name your file as you want and select a folder to save it.

Basic animation techniques

There are many different ways and techniques to create animations. Often several working methods are combined with each other to achieve an optimal result.

Of course, the process of creating animations also depends on which tools are used and how comfortable the individual functions are for the necessary tasks.

Basically, a distinction can be made between two- and three-dimensional animation. 2D animations, like classic animated cartoons, tend to use stylistic representations.

In contrast, 3D animations try to look as realistic (photo) as possible and are therefore comparable to video recordings. This presentation is limited to 2D animations.

The techniques for 3D animation are mostly similar, but much more complex – on the one hand because of a third dimension added, on the other hand because for the generation of photorealistic images a number of other properties must be considered.

Common to all techniques is that the illusion of moving objects is created by showing frames one after another very quickly.

This corresponds to the operation of a flip book. However, the techniques differ in how these frames are generated.

The spectrum ranges from the manual drawing of each frame, key scenes, lists of animation steps for individual objects to the automatic drawing of the scene by computer algorithms (Steinmetz, 1999 , Khazaeli, 1998).

Frame animation

In this type of animation, each picture is drawn by a single person. One uses the single image animation, if a movement sequence can not be generated automatically automatically.

This is the case, for example, for scenes in which many details, in particular the form of the depicted objects, change at the same time. Think of a butterfly flapping its wings or a person whose arms and legs are moving while exercising.

For human perception, the relationships between the different body positions are easy to understand, even though the contour changes completely. Therefore, tracing the contours for a skilled draftsman is not a problem. A computer, on the other hand, is not easily able to create these individual images.

Keyframe animation:

Of course, the star artists of the animation studios did not draw every picture but only key scenes themselves. The monotone drawing of the intermediate images was left to working drawings.

On the PC, you become the Starzeichner and leave the work to your computer, because for many animation sequences, it is enough to specify keyframes.

The many frames that show the intermediate steps of the change are calculated by the animation software. This always works very well when objects change linearly.

Examples are the position change of an object or the uniform change of size, brightness, color, transparency or even the form. Generating the intermediate images is called tweening (short form of in-betweening).

Imagine a car driving straight from left to right. In this case, the first keyframe would be the car at the left edge of the scene, the second keyframe will show the car at the right edge of the scene.

The individual intermediate positions of the car are easy to determine, therefore, the individual images can be calculated automatically.

To make a single motion more natural, many programs allow an object to move slowly, then faster, and slower at the end – the individual movement distances are calculated automatically.

Animation packages often use a timeline. The timeline consists alternately of key and intermediate images. As a user, you only have to define the keyframes, the images in between are generated automatically. The number of frames between the key scenes determines how fast a movement takes place.

The automatic generation of intermediate images is most often used for position and size changes. It works best there too. On the other hand, changes in the shape are problematic, as they are usually very uneven.

So it’s easy to turn a circle into a rectangle. But according to which rules are intermediate views calculated when the first keyframe shows a moving car and the second one a destroyed car that has hit the wall? In this case you cannot avoid a single-frame animation.

Changing from one representation to another is also called morphing. Using special morphing software, the user can specify additional clues as to which contours in the second keyframe correspond to the contours in the first keyframe.

The quality of automatically generated images increases as a result. If the changes are not too big, such as the transition between two faces or the transformation of similar animals, then the results are very good.

Since Morphing allows you to track exactly which contours correspond to each other, such animations can be used to visualize similarities and differences between similar objects.

Combination of single frame and keyframes

The animation techniques with single and keyframes are not mutually exclusive, but can complement each other. Key scenes can be defined not only with static images but also with animated sequences of images.

The change of an object itself happens like a single-frame animation by displaying single frames one after the other. With the help of the key scenes, however, you can now specify how and where these individual images should be drawn. An example illustrates this.

You can create a single-frame animation to set the individual arm and leg positions of a moving person. You can then use this animated person in two key scenes in different positions. When creating the overall result, the individual intermediate positions are calculated automatically.

At each intermediate position, the following picture of the animated person is drawn. When an image cycle of the animated person has been completed, playback starts from the beginning.

You therefore need to draw a lot less images for the more complex single-image animation, because repetitive motion sequences are used multiple times.

In a keyframe animation any number of animated objects can occur. It is even possible to use a keyframe animation in another keyframe animation. Animation packages like Flash allow you to nest animations as deep as you like.

Path Animation

For some movements, the use of keyframes is too inaccurate, as the following example demonstrates:

Ball over corner

The ball moves rigidly to the defined key positions. In the real world, however, he would follow a gentler, curved path. These requirements are met by the technique of path animation.

You can draw a motion path for an object along which the object should move. For drawing the movement path, you can use stretch trains, gentle curves or freehand tools.

Another property of the path animation is that objects can not only move along the path, but can also orient themselves to it. This means that an object is still rotating during the movement. The gradient of the curve serves as a rotation angle for the animated object.

Animation lists

In this form of animation, one starts from a single image scene and specifies in a linear list actions, how this scene should arise and/or change.

The best-known example is probably the custom animation in PowerPoint. In this presentation software to design individual slides with graphic objects, such. E.g., texts, diagrams or pictures.

Animation lists determine how and when the individual graphic objects appear, change or disappear. Each individual action describes exactly one animation sequence, eg B. the flying in of an image or the color change of a frame. The animation duration is set as the property of the action.

The exact animation flow can be controlled to a limited extent. This allows you to specify which animations start together or one after the other and how much time should be left between the animations.

But above all, an animation can pause until the user initiates the process by clicking on it. This allows the animation to be controlled during playback, albeit very limited.

A slightly more sophisticated variant are animation lists that start with defined user input, for example when clicking on a graphic or when dragging objects to other screen areas (drag & drop).

Animation with scripting languages

Also on the change of an existing scene, the animation is based on scripts. A script is a relatively simple and manageable computer program that has been formulated in a scripting language.

With special commands, the graphic objects in a scene can be changed and animated. The graphical objects can themselves be animated pictures (“sprites”).

Many animation packages have their own scripting language (for example, Lingo in Director or ActionScript in Flash). Typical commands are changing the current position on the screen, resizing, or fading in a graphic object.

The advantage of a programmed movement is that you can respond to user input and the current environment of objects. Using simple if-then control structures, it is possible to decide how the animation will continue, for example: B.

  • If the object hits a wall, then change the direction!
  • If an object collides with another object, then start an animated explosion!
  • If you press object A, start the movement for object B!
  • If the mouse is over an object, then slow down the movement of the object!

With scripting languages complex movement sequences can be defined and calculated. If motion sequences are to follow physical laws, then the mathematical formulas for position calculation can be implemented in the scripting language.

As a programmer you do not have to worry about the representation of the graphic objects, you only change the properties, for example position, size, color or transparency.

Frequently, the programmed animation steps are started when certain user inputs (mouse clicks, mouse movements, input keys, drag & drop ) have taken place.

Again, the programmer does not have to worry about recognizing these inputs. He only defines the reaction. Scripting languages are therefore a good and – relatively – easy way to design interactive animations.

Animation with calculated frames

Sometimes it is not enough to simply rearrange graphic objects. If complex changes are shown, then the images must be created individually – similar to the single-frame animation. But instead of drawing the individual images by hand, computer algorithms are used to generate the images.

This is often the case when simulations are to be rendered visually. When graphing changing parameters, each individual pixel may need to be drawn differently.

To generate the individual images, libraries with graphic functions are available in many higher-level programming languages. Common features include drawing points, lines, rectangles, ovals, text, raster graphics, and line segments.

The following example simulates a car trip. The course of the road is redrawn for each single image using calculated coordinates.

When a frame is completely drawn, it replaces the last image displayed on the screen. The end user sees only finished drawn images, which are composed into a continuous flow of movement:

This form of animation development is the most flexible but also very expensive. It is usually reserved for software developers.

Animation effects

A special case of calculated animation are effects. Existing images can be manipulated to create special effects. Examples are blending effects between images or two animated sequences of images, the blurring of animation sequences, the generation of wave effects over an image or explosive divergence of individual image segments.

Although the algorithms required for this are also very complex, since the images are always processed in the same way, many programs already have numerous effects ready for use.

As a user, you only need to specify the images and select the desired effect. With effects, presentations can be relaxed and films made attractive. Too many effects are disturbing

Further animation techniques

The animation techniques presented here are most commonly encountered in practice. In particular, for the creation of 3D animation exist some other techniques, such. B. automatic movement due to physical properties, inverse kinematics or camera shots.

In the field of 2D animation, there are also approaches to defining motion sequences using control systems or visual languages.

In the past, animation effects were also generated by the rotation of color tables. Certain colors (e.g., blue areas of the sea) are cyclically interchanged, giving the impression of a movement.

Since only the color table, but not the image itself changed, this method was very popular due to the low memory and computing needs.