Pencil Animation Tutorial

Written by curt lanning
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Pencil is a free open source program that specialises in 2D animation. As an open-source application, it is free to use and redistribute. Pencil is similar to Adobe Flash in it's layout. The tools you use are positioned on the left while the timeline found at the bottom of the screen holds the animation frames. If you are willing to invest the time to learn the necessary animation skills, you can make your own cartoon within Pencil for free.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Computer
  • Drawing tablet
  • Pencil program

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  1. 1

    Download Pencil if you don't have it, and run the installation program.

  2. 2

    Insert frames into your animation. To do this right click the timeline (in either the vector or bitmap layer) and select "Insert frame" from the menu that appears. Each frame is like a different picture that will play in a rapid order to create the illusion of movement or animation. Select the appropriate layer to insert each frame into. If you are drawing everything in the Pencil program, be sure to use the pencil and eraser tool located in the tool bar. Repeat this step until you have all the basic animation done, making each frame slightly different and the movement smooth.

  3. 3

    Add colour to your animation (unless of course your animation is entirely in black and white). You can use the paint brush and paint bucket tools in the tools palette on the left side of the screen to add any colour you need to your frames. If you've drawn it all with the pencil tool, you'll need to colour in your drawings in each frame using any colour tools you think you'll need to get the job done.

  4. 4

    Don't forget to add audio unless you intend for the animation to be silent. Right click the timeline and select "Add sound layer" from the menu. From there you can import audio by clicking on Layer > import sound. Then position your audio where you want it on the timeline. It only accepts the WAV format on Windows and it accepts any type of QuickTime audio on the Macintosh system.

  5. 5

    Export your animation clicking on File > export. Select the format you want to export to by clicking on the appropriate format in the menu that appears. A save box will appear asking you to name your animation and the path to export the file to. When you have filled in these details, click "Save." Your animation will be ready to view as soon as Pencil finishes exporting it.

Tips and warnings

  • The difference between vector and bitmap is that vector images deal primarily with shapes while bitmap images involve more detailed pictures.
  • Animation can be hard work and you must have the necessary skills in drawing, digital art programs, and colouring. It can take months or even years to get the basics down.

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