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Animation can be intimidating—especially if you try to use some of the more advanced, complex software options. However, anyone can learn to create an animation with Procreate. Procreate 5 animation features are intuitive and easy to use, and in just a few simple steps, you can bring new or existing creations to life as a Procreate GIF. Below, we’ll explain how.
6 Steps to Animation Using Procreate
Procreate makes animation simpler, but it does take time and practice to master those skills. We’ll discuss how to create a simple GIF in the steps below.
Create a Simple Procreate GIF
Procreate animation uses the techniques of frame-by-frame animation. In other words, you will use several frames of the same illustration, making slight changes to each one. Then, Procreate will play those frames in a loop, creating the illusion of motion. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown to make your own Procreate GIF.
Step 1: Prepare Your Artwork
First, you’ll need to choose an existing illustration that you’d like to animate (or create one from scratch, if you’d prefer). Create a duplicate version of that illustration specifically for animation by swiping right on the canvas icon and selecting “duplicate.” This way, you’ll still have a full version of your illustration—with all its layers intact—in case you ever want to change or use the original.
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At this point, you can also choose to crop the image if you only want to work with a portion of the original illustration.
Then, you’ll need to merge layers together based on exactly what you plan to animate. In the example below, Skillshare instructor Brooke Glaser wanted to animate the two separate hands holding the ice cream cones—so she merged the different layers that made up each hand and cone (i.e., the ice cream, the sprinkles, the hand, and the fingernails). You can also remove layers if there’s anything you don’t want to include in the animation.
Skillshare instructor Brooke Glaser explains how to merge layers in an illustration based on the exact elements you want to animate.
Step 2: Turn on Animation Assist
Then, you’ll need to turn on the Procreate animation tool, called Animation Assist. Simply go to the wrench icon in the top left corner, click on “canvas,” and then toggle on the Animation Assist feature. This will bring up a new animation toolbar at the bottom of the screen.
Step 3: Add a Frame and Slightly Adjust the Image
Now, you’ll create duplicate frames of the image you prepared and begin making incremental adjustments. To duplicate the frame, hold down the “add frame” button on the Animation Assist toolbar, and you’ll see a second frame appear.
Within the new frame, you can move each element that you want to animate. Simply select the element you want to move and drag it into the desired position. As you move each object, you’ll see a semi-transparent version of the element in its original placement—this is called an onion skin. It shows you the frame that came before so you can more accurately see how the image will move once it’s animated.
At this point—even with just two frames—you can go ahead and play the animation. It will be choppy and short, of course, but seeing it in motion will give you a better idea of how you want to proceed.
Glaser demonstrates duplicating a frame and making the incremental changes that will eventually create the illusion of movement.
Step 4: Continue Adding and Adjusting Frames
Adding more frames will allow you to create a longer, smoother animation. So from here, you will essentially repeat the process outlined in step 3. However, make sure to duplicate your most recent frame (rather than the original frame) so you can make incremental adjustments to the animation. You can play the animation at any time to determine if you want to add more frames or make any other tweaks.
Adding more frames will create a smoother animation.
Step 5: Finalize
Depending on the movement you created, you may notice that it looks a little jerky. This happens because Procreate animation loops the movement by default—in other words, it plays the animation from start to finish, then starts again at the beginning. If you made a balloon rising to the top of the illustration, for example, it would jump back down to the bottom of the screen each time the animation looped.
You can remedy this by enabling the ping-pong option. In the settings of the Animation Assist toolbar, select “ping-pong.” This will cause the animation to play forward and then backward (on repeat), smoothing out movement.
The final version of Brook Glaser’s ice cream GIF uses the ping-pong setting, which plays the animation forward and backward on repeat.
Step 6: Export and Share
When you’re done and satisfied with your GIF, Procreate makes it easy to share your creation with the world. Click the wrench icon in the top left corner, then click “share,” and the dropdown will give you three format options for sharing: animated GIF, animated PNG, and animated MP4.
Depending on where you want to share your animation, you may also need to change the file size. To reduce the size, you can select web-ready resolution, which will significantly shrink down your file. Alternatively, you can duplicate the original canvas, then use the crop and resize tool on the duplicate version to reduce it.
Procreate Animation Options and Styles
In the steps above, we outlined how to achieve a simple type of animation called position animation. This is when you take an object you’ve already drawn and simply move its position on a canvas. There’s a wide range of effects you can achieve with this style—a car driving across the screen, a balloon floating into the sky, two glasses of champagne clinking together.
However, you can also create other styles of animation with Procreate:
In this type of animation, you will make changes or modifications to something you’ve already drawn. For example, by changing the opacity of the yellow in the pumpkin below, you can create the look of a flickering light. You could also change the size of an object—for example, you could create the effect of bubbles expanding in a drink or steam rising out of a cup of coffee.
Changing the opacity of the yellow in this image creates the illusion of a flickering light within the pumpkin.
To create an animation in this style, you will need to redraw the object that you are animating, but it can be as simple or as complex as you’d like. For example, to make a character blink her eyes, you would only need to redraw her eyelids opening and closing. To make wiggling letters, you would redraw the same words a few times, with slight differences.
These wiggling letters were created by redrawing the words several times with slight differences, ultimately creating an illusion of movement.
Procreate Animation Tools and Terms
Animation Assist: This is the main Procreate animation tool. Enabling Animation Assist will bring up an animation-specific toolbar, where you can duplicate and adjust frames and play the animation.
Animation Background: With this feature, you can lock in a background for your animation. This consistent background will appear under every frame of your creation.
Animation Foreground: Alternatively, the foreground feature can lock a foreground element into place, so it appears over top of every frame of your animation.
Onion Skin: This faint layer allows you to see the previous image in the animation sequence. Procreate also includes color-coding on the onion skin—red for previous frames and green for upcoming frames.
Ping-Pong: By enabling this setting, you can have the animation play forward, then backward—rather than in a loop.
Loop: With this setting, your animation will play from start to finish, and then loop back to the beginning to play from start to finish again—and continue on repeat.
One Shot: When this setting is enabled, your animation will play from start to finish one time, and then stop.
Frame: In animation, a frame is an individual picture in a series of images. When played in a sequence, these images create the illusion of movement.
Frames Per Second: You can use the frames per second feature to speed up or slow down the speed of your animation.
Position Animation: In this type of animation, an existing object is animated by simply moving it across the canvas.
This GIF showcases position animation—a girl and a bundle of balloons floating up through the sky.
Transformation Animation: Another type of Procreate animation, transformation animations require you to make modifications to parts of the images you’ve already drawn. Together, those modifications create the illusion of movement or change.
Redrawn Animation: One step beyond transformation animation, this type of animation requires you to redraw an object or image several times to create the frames for your animation.
Creating animation with Procreate is an easy, fun way to bring your illustrations to life. Even if you’ve never made a Procreate GIF, these steps will give you the tools you need to create—and share—a mini animation in no time.
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