We’re gonna help you take your Post-It note stick figure animation game to the next level.
As filmmakers, we’re no strangers to the moving image. We live, breathe, create, and eat video. As photographers and designers, we are experts at navigating the constraints of storytelling through still images and intuitive, evocative design.
But if you’re like us, you always want to take your craft to the next level. And where do Filmmakers, photographers, and designers all perfectly intersect? In animation.
That’s right! We’re bringing you a top-down look at diving into your first animation project through Adobe Photoshop. Don’t worry though we’ll make it as painless as possible and you’ll come out of this How-To ready to take down Pixar (with a little bit of practice 😉).
Step 1: Write your story first
To start, we’re just going to stick to creating a simple looped animation on Photoshop. But once you get the hang of it, you should always have a story or an end goal in mind. This is arguably the most important yet most often overlooked part in all creative work.
Step 2: Plan it out
Pick a simple motion to recreate. This could be a walking motion, a character waving, or even pouring a glass of water. Find artwork, photos, videos, or even other animations to reference to. Once you’ve compiled all of your reference materials and you have a brilliant idea in mind, it’s time to break it down. All the way down.
Imagine the overall motion you are trying to animate and break each movement down into different phases. Then break it down even further. (Think: Phases of the moon and how they are differently shaped) Think of each phase as being a ‘frame’ in a storyboard that should lead seamlessly into the next. We want the difference between each frame to be as small as possible in order for the motion to be as fluid as possible.
This article will break down the specifics of key posing, blocking, splining, smoothing out, and adding life to your frame sequence.
When digitizing and saving each frame, make sure to name the files in chronological order to streamline the next step. (ie. frame1, frame2, frame3, … )
Creating each frame individually is the most difficult and tedious part, we know. But we promise all of your hard work will pay off. Make sure to stay organized and the rest will be a breeze.
Step 3: Bring it to life!
This is the technical part, so follow along closely.
Upload each frame you’ve created in chronological order to Photoshop as individual layers. Open Photoshop and follow this navigation: (File > Scripts > Load Files into Stack). Navigate to the folder containing all of your frames made in the last step, select all the files and click Open. Then click OK to import the frames into a single layered file.
This should be easy as you have already numbered your frames and stayed organized. The first (and lowest) layer should be your first frame and the top layer should be your last frame.
Open up a video timeline through the Window menu at the top (Window > Timeline). Open the menu in the middle of the panel to select ‘Create Frame Animation’.
In the upper right corner of the Timeline panel, select ‘Make Frames From Layers’ and this will convert all the layers you just uploaded into individual frames in your animation.
Select the Play button from the bottom of the Timeline panel or press the spacebar to preview the animation! (COOL right?)
Step 4: Tidy up
Animation too choppy? You can lower the duration of each frame underneath each image in the Timeline panel. The lower the duration per frame, the faster or more fluid the animation.
Now that you have all the foundational pieces put together, it’s your chance to Tidy. That. Baby. Up. Fix glaring discrepancies between frames by adding a ‘phase’ between another ‘phase’ or by removing them. This article here can give you a deeper look at how to approach this.
Remember, practice makes perfect. We’re not all Pixar animators on the first try!
Step 5: Loop & Enjoy
You’ve reached the finish line! Navigate to the repeat menu at the bottom of the Timeline panel and select ‘Forever’ to create an eternally looping animation. Hit Play or the spacebar again to see all of your hard work in action.
Now export that bad boy by navigating to the top to (File > Export > Save for Web (Legacy)). Select GIF 128 Dithered from the Preset menu and select 256 from the Colors menu. Make sure to select Forever from the Looping Options menu. Hit Save and select a destination for your animation.
You did it. You’re a champ. We’re so proud of you.
You deserve a drink.
Speaking of a drink. Now that you’re a legendary filmmaker/photographer/designer/animator, you absolutely cannot miss the opportunity to crush the Bombay Sapphire Creative Brief that our friends at Talenthouse are currently running.
Submit your very own animation for a chance to win some cold hard cash. You have until January 17th, 2020 at 5PM UK local time. Don’t miss out!