4: Animation Strategies: related posts Digital Media In Process

After Effects

4: Animation Strategies: related posts Digital Media

Adobe Animate

Animate features and advantages
  • Vector stick animation allows very easy and quick manipulation.
  • Easy motion graphics with shapes.
  • Html coding for motion graphics.
  • Character rigging and links to Adobe character animator make character development relatively straightforward.
  • Symbols for automating cycles and loops
  • Layer blend and opacity modes.
  • Hand painting styles and link to Adobe Animator.
  • Potential for very low band width.
  • Interactivity with html canvas.
Animate gaps and challenges
  • Number of features means a very high learning curve.
  • Artistic styles are not as advanced as Procreate or TV Paint.
  • Can crash easily if overloaded with complexity eg of art brush strokes or complex characters.

Flash Styles

Ross Bollinger Pencilmation

Animation techniques

Stick animation

Alan Becker

Ross Bollinger Pencilmation

Drawing and basic keyframing

Using Adobe Animate for Frame by Frame animation requires:

  • very good drawing for key poses and in-betweens
  • good understanding of the Disney animation principles
  • understanding of drama and timing

The best tutorials available are by:

Howard Wimshurst Animator Guild:

Flow, intensity and dramatic timing

But with good drawing and understanding how to create dramatic timing, extremely dynamic animations are possible.

The best tutorials available are again by:

Howard Wimshurst Animator Guild:

Lighting, atmosphere and distortion
Camera movement and 3D

Adobe Animate 2020 other features and tutorials

Character animation and rigging
4: Animation Strategies: related posts Digital Media In Process

iPad software review

In parallel to experimentation with physical materials, I developed technical skills in a range of digital software options that can simplify and automate the drawing process.

I started with experimenting with iPad software as a means of quick exploration, brainstorming and drafting. Procreate 5 and Adobe Fresco in particular have brushes and graphic capabilities that are very useful as part of a workflow with more professional animation software.

Assignment 3.2: Visual Exploration: iPad Drawing and animation experiments

I later developed skills in software used by professional independent animators – particularly TVPaint – for my more experimental polished vignettes.

Digital software used

  • Procreate 5
  • Adobe Fresco
  • Stop Motion Studio

Software Overview and Feature Checklist

My list of key things to look for when choosing animation software:

  • Drawing tools vector drawing tools for creating motion and scaling and/or pixel-based tools for more artistic effects. Including image import so that backgrounds and other features can be created from photographs, artwork or imported images from other drawing and painting aps.
  • Symbols or re-usable elements, including import from other software.
  • Puppets and rigs : ability to create characters with movable skeletons and bones that can then be manipulated for action as in 3D animation.
  • Tweening or smoothing/interpolation of animation between drawn key-frames, including control of the number of before/after frames, colouring and opacity.
  • Onion-skinning: viewing of previous and following drawn frames to facilitate accurate drawing of current frames
  • Layers to be able to create scenes with background, foreground and multiple animated elements with different animation rhythms.
  • Timeline features: control over frame speed and duration, easy addition and deletion of frames.
  • Audio features to import music, narration and sound effects – preferably onto separate layers for multiple sound effects, music and/or voice over.
  • Text features to add titles, captions, credits and additional text overlays.

I started by experimenting on the iPad with different software, to experiment with different styles and basics of short animation:

But I found the professional software on a pc with bigger screen and much better timeline automation features much more user and RSI-friendly for my work. I was already familiar with Adobe Animate, used for some of the diagram animations on this blog. But after looking through tutorials and reviews on You Tube, I decided on:

  • TVPaint because of its drawing and painting features.
  • Adobe Premiere for final compositing and sound effects

Other software to be further explored in future:

  • Blender for 3D
  • Adobe After Effects for compositing
  • Adobe Animate for tweening and interactivity
  • ToonBoom studio for easier smoother cartoon-style animation
Bloop animation review of the main professional software: 3D from Autodesk (3DMax, Maya and?); Blender (free 3D); Cinema 4D; After Effects; Adobe Animate; Photoshop; TVpaint; Toon Boom. See also
Overview of free and professional software: MohoAnime Studio (free); Synfig (free) ToonBoom Harmony (professional used by Disney); Opentoonz (free Open Source used by Ghibli for Princess Mononoke) Cel Action (free no drawing tools); pencil 2D (minimalist traditional FbF); Tupi Pen Source tweening; Flipbook imports drawings from a scanner; Sprinter Pro to import and animate bones; Stop Motion Studio for Stop Motion.
Useful overview that guided my initial review of the software – subsequently extended in the list on the left.
!!Software comparison Excel chart to be done

iPad Software Review

Rough animator

by Jacob Kafka for hand drawn animation application runs on Android, iOS, Mac OS, and Windows.


  • Well-designed timeline with unlimited layers, easily adjustable exposure length of individual drawings, for pose-to-pose or straight-ahead animating
  • Onion skinning
  • Preview playback and scrub along timeline
  • One audio layer for importing audio and lip syncing
  • Import video for rotoscoping animation
  • Customisable brushes
  • Export animation to Quicktime video, GIF, or image sequence
  • Export projects for import to Adobe Flash/Animate, After Effects, and Toon Boom Harmony


  • Limited brushes
  • Only one audio layer
  • Transformation features with numeric position, rotation and scale, but limited flexibility and without registration point


Developed by Visual Blasters LLC for both android and iOS. This is a much more robust animation software designed specifically for animation.


  • very quick and easy drawing and frame by frame animation with anime style marker and brush, onion-skinning etc
  • multiple layers for each frame to do complex moving backgrounds and camera effects
  • easy selection and transform tools to move objects around in space with registration point
  • easy timeline manipulation
  • can import, add and remove video
  • multiple track audio including import and recording of own audio as well as in-App sound libraries.
  • has a video capture to export a record of the animation process
  • export as MP4, GIF, IMAGE SEQ


  • separation of timeline and layers makes animation quite time-consuming.
  • limited brushes biased towards anime style
Good overview of a more complex layered animation process of one scene in manga style from rough drawings from sketches through inking on layers to colour. Including video capture of steps. Music very distracting though.
Shows the process of drawing and colouring a simple one layer animation with several scenes.

Procreate 5

For short artistic cel animation and/or artistic redrawing of animations from more specialised animation software. Only available for iPad.


  • Sophisticated drawing, painting and image creation tools including infinitely customisable brushes and smudge brushes, blend modes, masking, flexible selection and transformation tools, effects and ability to import photographs and video to timeline.
  • Timeline with assignable foreground and background layers, and possibility of separate frame-lengths for each frame.
  • Layers for each frame produced through grouping in a separate layers panel.
  • Onion-skinning flexible options of number of frames, colouring and opacity
  • Text tools
  • Export of creative process videos.


  • No audio
  • Complex to use unless you are very familiar with procreate drawing and painting tools.
  • Animation features are a bit clunky because of the separation of timeline and layers panels.
Very good basic introduction to animation in Procreate with use of layer groups, foreground and background and workflow.

Motion Book

Very simple easy to use programme for digital flipbooks. Its simplicity makes things quick and easy to produce minimalist animations that can be exported to Procreate and other programmes if needed. Very good for learning basics of animation.

  • 4 basic brushes
  • basic timeline without layers but can allocate a frame for background and import photos and movieclips to it for rotoscoping.
  • inApp purchase of selection and transform tools.

But a bit basic for my purposes, though was good to learn on.

Animation Desk

Animation desk by Kdan is another animation app that allows to create animations and cartoons on android or iOS device. It is free and easy to use app where you can

  • good selection of 45 different brushes
  • easy frame by frame animation with easy alteration to frame timing etc and storyboard labelling and export
  • create animations on videos, images, PSD layers.
  • on-line Kdan cloud community


  • no audio
  • not text
  • no layer blending


Lego-style 3D animation developed by Google for android and iOS users.

This is a very simple App that is an entertaining introduction to 3D storytelling with narration and mood music. Movies are inherently amusing because they have the feel of children playing with lego figures:

  • You have the option of different scene numbers but are guided to have a beginning, middle and end. But these can be swapped around and extra scenes added.
  • Each scene is recorded live with a set length and stop watch while the director moves the characters around and does a voice-over narrative or adds live sounds.
  • You can zoom in and out of scenes with a somewhat jerky movement. The inbuilt scenes are quite complex with different floors of buildings and moving parts. You can draw your own very simple coloured backdrops – one brush, eraser, paintbucket and large set palette of colours.
  • There are an array of inbuilt characters that walk, talking mouths, can be scaled and moved around. Arms and feet can kick, hit and hug, but limited actions. Colours and certain parameters of each character can be changed. Only one character can be moved at a time – like children playing with lego.
  • You can draw your own characters and objects that can be extruded to be 3D but with no moving parts.
  • There is a choice of mood music – one per scene – with volume control. If you want your own music this would have to be input at the time of recording. There is no facility for importing your own sounds.

Stop Motion Studio

Stop motion studio is a popular animation apps for android and iOS users which allows make animation video on your device. It is an easiest app to get you into stop motion movie making for android and iOS users. It is also used as slow motion video app to make slow motion video with different video editor options. App has lots of attractive features, which makes it super easy to get into stop motion video. It has different modes as overlay mode, grid mode, integrated movie editor and others.

Stick Nodes

Stick Nodes is a tweened IK stick animation Apdeveloped by ForTheLoss Games, Inc for Android and iOS users. It is a powerful but also quite clunky and complicated stickman animator app with:

  • options to construct fully animating kinematic stick figures and/or import ones ready made. These can be exported to a library for re-use.
  • add one background image per project
  • automatic frame-tweening with ease and stretch
  • sound effects using sound effect apps 
  • text captions
  • virtual camera to move and zoom.

It is a possible Ap to use if you do not have more professional Aps like Adobe Animate. But time for the steep learning curve is substantial to do more than a few Japanese kick box animations with text (see below). That time is better spent leaning Adobe Animate.

I include these tutorials here because some of the techniques can be applied to cel animation figures also.

Official tutorial 1
Official tutorial 3
Official tutorial 2
Official tutorial 4

Background animation

PicsArt Animator

PicsArt Animator

PicsArt Animator is a GIF and video maker app which allows you to create animations & cartoons on your android or iOS device. You can easily click snap using your 3D camera apps and use them to create beautiful animation video on your smartphone. It allows you to draw frame by frame animations and see animation timeline with play mode option. There are some advance drawing and sketching tools listed in this app which can be used to make beautiful animation video for free. Along with these you can also use multi-layering for complex animations and also control animation length and speed.


Animates loop photos and cinemagraphs.


Movepic is a popular photo motion apps for android and iOS users which allows you to easily create live photo with animate effect. It is available with both free as well as app to purchase option with lots of features. It brings fabulous photos & gifs into your social life with various animated effects and beautiful filters. You can easily animate anything in loops photos simply by drawing a path , and make your still images into awesome loop photos & cinemagraphs. Along with these it also allows you to adjust the speed of the loops photo animation.


Featuring @spaghettinoodies fun animation! To be featured use #flipaclip in your post! #art #animation #fyp #foryoupage

♬ original sound – FlipaClip
2DFrameByFrame 4: Animation Strategies: related posts Digital Media In Process



2DFrameByFrame 4: Animation Strategies: related posts Digital Media Physical media

2D Animation Principles

2D animation in particular is inevitably a process of abstraction. It is not possible for the human eye and brain to follow infinite details in moving images. Even in video, motion blur between frames. a process and the malleability of time is its primary material. It is not the image, drawing or shape of each frame that matters in animation, rather it is the difference between the frames that generates the illusion of movement in animation.

It is the animator’s ability to control and play with these intervals between frames that matters. It is important to think in terms of intervals, rates of change and flux, rather than thinking in terms of still images or compositions.

The Illusion of Life

Early ‘cel’ animation

  • Winsor MCKay 1914 Gertie the Dinosaur was one of the earliest animations made on film. Each drawing was redrawn on each page and captured on film and then projected at a rapid rate. McKay presented his animation as a stand-up show with live narrative. Written text is also included on some of the frames.
  • JR Bray Dachshund: introduced the background shot and discovered use of celluloid sheets for layering where only certain elements changed each time.
  • Raoul Barre: Dreams of Hercules and Crazy Cat uses write on text.
  • Willis O’Brien stop motion animation of a prehistoric world.
  • Paul Terry move the background to show movement.
  • Fleischer rotoscoping to create realistic movement Clown and ink
  • Pat Sullivan Felix the Cat

Typically, an animated feature would require over 100,000 hand-painted celluloid ‘cels’. These would be photographed one by one onto a painted background using a rostrum camera – a specialised camera used to animate still objects.

Common visual conventions include:

  • Use of lines radiating from eye to show noticing something.
  • Lines out of mouth for noise
  • Dream bubbles.
  • Use text screens and build-up text to drive the narrative. These screens move up and down to continue the feeling of movement from the animation.
  • Music of different moods and tempo
  • Whole screen moves up and down like camera shake. On old films the grit and scratches also flicker to give movement.

Depended on a huge studio of different animation departments. Men did the design and better paid jobs. A large army of low paid ‘girls’ did most of the repetitive drawing and painting that provided the profitability. This gender power imbalance led to gender stereotyping of characters and narratives and is also replicated in much of the contemporary Disney-style animation in Africa and elsewhere.

In order to reduce the amount of drawing and work required:

  • each image was constructed using multiple overlaid layers of drawings on transparent sheets of celluloid (cels).
  • images can be presented as looped cycles that are repeated and/or transformed to stagger or reverse timing to create complex animations.
Gertie the Dinosaur, Winsor McCay
1914 Produced for a Vaudeville Act it took McKay a year to draw the thousands on pictures needed for this film.
Uses cycles and loops. When Gertie raises her feet, right and left in a little shuffle dance approximately 8 minutes into the film, the same sequence of drawings were used in a loop.
Mickey Mouse; the background scenery is drawn once for use in a scene, while Mickey is re-drawn multiple times.
Here the layering is even more complex, with multiple loops for the dance of each skeleton.

Disney principles

Disney and many other animation studios are concerned with animating figures for story-telling. Disney animation is often pointed to as the ‘gold standard’ – noticeable in comments on African animations that those refer much more favourably to smooth Disney-style animation than more obviously African graphic styles.

Over time Disney developed a series of principles to train their animators to produce their distinctive cartoon style.

The 12 principles of animation by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson have been particularly influential in animation training courses today.

1) squash/stretch
2) anticipation and leading attention, can have multiple levels
3) Staging/exaggeration/sequencing to make things clear
4) straightahead/pose to pose drawing
5) Follow through and overlapping action
6) slow in slow out
7) arcs
8) secondary action
9) timing
10) exaggeration
11) solid drawing
12) appeal

There was also a lot of experimentation by Richard Williams with walk cycles.

Walt Stanchfield’s ‘Drawn to Life’ is much more exploratory and less dogmatic in guiding the animator through a wider range of exercises in perception and gesture drawing.

See my work in Sketchlog 3: Illusion of Life.

12 Principles of animation: detail

Frames of Movement

Experiments in visual music

“What happens between each frame is much more important than what exists on each frame”

Norman McLaren, (1914 – 1987), Scottish Canadian animator, director and producer known for his work for the National Film Board of Canada (NFB)

In parallel to developments in US from the 1930s animators like Norman McLaren  at Canadian Board of Film were experimenting with other areas of animation and filmmaking, particularly the relationship between space and time in perceptions of movement.

Their experiments included more abstract hand-drawn animation, drawn-on-film animation, visual music, abstract film, pixilation and graphical sound that have become very influential in contemporary digital animation. They are particularly relevant in discussions of frame rates and ergonomics, animation of objects and motion graphics used as complement to figure animation.

Time, Space and Flow

It is most common in animation to draw on twos, this is both because drawing on ones is double the amount of work and because working with twos lends a smoother appearance to slower actions, avoiding unnecessary jitter that can accompany shooting on ones. It is generally thought that working on twos adds a particular liveliness to a fast action rather than working on ones, which can make an action appear more leaden.

Howard Wimshurst tutorial Adobe Animate. Focus on end and extreme poses first, get these right and flowing. Then in-betweens. 24FPS on 2s, or 1s and 3s, or even 3s and 4s.
Howard Wimshurst tutorial Adobe Animate. If two characters are interacting then draw them at the same time going back and forth, but on different layers, so the interactions can be fully developed together. Make figures move and swing. Add motion blur lines. Bring in energy streaks like Ross Tran. Do streaks on ones, character on 2s and 3s, with redrawn resting poses that ‘breathe’. Can add lightning flash with reversed colours.

Contemporary 2D principles

Most, but by no means all, contemporary independent animation uses digital software. A wide range of approaches and styles can be produced. This can use frame by frame digital drawings that follow the same principles as traditional animation. It can also use vector drawings for tweened animation and Inverse Kinematic skeleton rigs that can be manipulated like puppets. The main professional software is ToonBoom Studio, TVPaint and Adobe Animate. With free software like Flika and tablet software.

Mark Baker
Pencilmation using Adobe Animate

From art and graphic design

Lines of Communication

Much of the power of animation comes from the drawing style and how far the type of line supports the emotional and narrative content.

Clean outlines lines for manipulation of rigged characters have become the norm. They are easier to read, clearly separating characters from backgrounds and are easier and faster to replicate as part of animation studio production lines.

Hand-drawn lines in natural media, or digital lines that attempt to replicate natural media, convey emotion and feeling.

to recall the reality within the drawing rather than thinking the drawings themselves are real

Isao Takahata

There are many different line styles that can be used expressively: thick lines, thin lines, variable width lines. Choices to be made about the colour of lines and how far they affect colours of shapes. Different types of line can be used for different characters. Or can change with a character’s emotions.

It is also possible to omit lines all together to give greater freedom with palettes. But this requires attention to tonal contrast and negative space so that figures continue to be readable against backgrounds.

Joao Solemo
Joao Solemo

Experimentation with different types of line. Japanese. Scratchy line

Lines on the ‘boil’

In traditional animation when an object, character or scene is at rest it is not still or motionless, it ‘boils’. Boiling is the term used to describe an animated effect in which the outlines or surface of an otherwise still character or object are made to wiggle or quiver in drawn animation. This is achieved by the looping together of several tracings of the same image (usually between 3 to 8 drawings). Boiling movement is used to sustain the illusion of movement in the animation overall and provide the impression of life or liveliness.

Questions about boil

  • What ‘boil’ technique is used? Why do the lines move and what elements, if any are allowed to be still?
  • Does the pace of the boil emanate throughout?
  • What emotional or narrative purpose does the use of boiling serve? Does it make for a more lifelike effect or is the boil deployed humorously?

‘Boil’ is the term used to describe an animated effect in which the outlines or surface of an otherwise still character or object are made to wiggle or quiver in drawn animation. Even when an object, character or scene is at rest it is not still or motionless, it ‘boils’.This is often achieved by the looping together of several tracings of the same image (usually between 3 to 8 drawings). Boiling movement – in combination with unlooped variation in drawings as figures move – is used to sustain the illusion of movement in the animation overall and provide the impression of life or liveliness.

In traditional animation (like Winsor McKay’s Gertie below) boiling is almost inevitable because of the nature of the analogue drawing and/or filming process. In old film there has been some degradation in the film chemicals that make us aware that this is an ‘old’ film, evoking a sense of nostalgia. In drawings there are always variations in thickness, tone and colour of drawn lines and colouring in some media. These variations can be emphasised or exaggerated eg in the textboards and specific parts of the dinosaur drawings below to direct the eye.

In contemporary animation like Peter Millard and John Hodgson where technology gives greater control over production and editing there is often very conscious use of boil to direct the eye in ways that reinforce the narrative, and for emotional effect. Sometimes this is ‘boil’ in the sense if looped animation, other times it is variation in drawings as frames are drawn and/or painted. It is often quite difficult to separate the effects of the two or make out what is due to drawing, and what is achieved through processing with filters in digital software. Often there is a combination of all three types of flickering in an animation.

The eye would be drawn to very still objects if everything else is moving. So in Millard even the blank background at the beginning boils to maintain interest and give a sense of anticipation. Probably the only true looped boil. The apparent boiling in the thin pencil drawing of the face is probably not always looped. But the effect of the continuous small variations as it moves across the screen makes us try to constantly see and interpret emotions in every slight variation in shape and size of outline, eyes and mouth. But as there are several sources of movement happening we cant quite grasp it, emphasising the feeling of powerlessness and transcience in the title.

In ‘Dogs’ Hodgson varies the type and extent of boil significantly in his expressive drawing to create feelings of nervous anticipation, energy or chaotic movement and lack of control. But for moving objects central to the narrative, boiling in outlines is reduced with more subtle variations in colour shading and crosshatching to create atmosphere without detracting from our understanding nuances of narrative and expression.

Questions about boil:

  • What ‘boil’ technique is used? Why do the lines move and what elements, if any are allowed to be still?
  • Does the pace of the boil emanate throughout?
  • What emotional or narrative purpose does the use of boiling serve? Does it make for a more lifelike effect or is the boil deployed humorously?
Peter Millard, Since the Better (2015)
Peter Millard, Since the Better (2015) This animation starts with a blank screen that shimmers with slight variations in white/cream while a shrill cild/female/robot/alien? distorted voice sings a vaguely familiar melody. This creates tension and anticipation waiting for something to happen. Then the voice suddenly changes to the more familiar deep male opera voice as the childlike simple pencil drawing of a man’s face moves slowly at the same speed and horizontal position across the screen. This drawing ‘boils’ with slight apparently random changes in the drawing as a whole – size and shape of the face circle, eyes and pupils and length of the line of the mouth. This creates a real poignancy of sameness, thinness of the line and blank expression in contrast to the heavy emotion of the ‘we will overcome’ vincera aria that also references the masculinity and tribalism of football matches as well as the operatic strength itself. The title ‘since the better’ then adds a layer of loss and past ‘glory’.
Jonathan Hodgson, Dogs (1981): In this animation all elements are on the same layer and constantly in motion but at different paces of boil. The drawings seem to pulsate with the anticipatory and upbeat music. There is a constant shimmering/flickering of expressive crayon lines based on variations of the thickness, tone and colour of the drawn lines and crosshatched shading. Occasionally the figures are quite and the lines quiet. Other times the figures are still but the lines vibrate energetically to show anticipation. Sometimes the figures move and there is less pulsation on the lines to throw attention on the narrative. Sometimes cthe colour shapes pulsate and shift more than the lines, sometimes figures, shapes and lines all move energetically and dissolve into chaos.

Shape and effects???