Cel Animation Basics: Create a Weaving Loop Animation | Scott Hoch | Skillshare

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Cel Animation Basics: Create a Weaving Loop Animation

teacher avatar Scott Hoch, Motion Designer & Cel Animator

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

11 Lessons (35m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Getting Started

    • 3. Your Class Project

    • 4. What is Cel Animation?

    • 5. Squash & Stretch

    • 6. Slow In and Slow Out

    • 7. Arc

    • 8. Step 1: Rough Animator

    • 9. Step 2: After Effects

    • 10. Step 3: Exporting

    • 11. Conclusion

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About This Class

Howdy! Have you ever wanted to dip your toes into cel animation but didn't know where to start? The goal of this class is to familiarize students with the cel animation workflow and give them confidence to use cel in their projects.

You don't need experience animating frame by frame but a basic competence with either drawing or motion programs like after effects is a plus. This class is great for illustrators and motion designers who want to add a new arrow in their quiver to bring their clients visions to life as well as taking your personal projects to the next level! 

I'll take you through the process step by step, from sketching to animating and finally compositing. By the end you'll have a beautiful looping animation that you made from scratch. With that base you'll have conquered your fears and will be able to learn other cel animation techniques. Before you know it you'll be a pro!


Music Courtesy of Incompetech. Archival Footage is property of Disney. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Scott Hoch

Motion Designer & Cel Animator


Howdy! I'm a freelance motion designer and cel animator from Detroit Michigan. I've lived in Michigan my whole life and always loved to draw silly pictures and make people laugh. I attended the College for Creative Studies in Detroit where I learned traditional animation. While I was there I discovered the wonderful world of motion design and learned that I didn't need to move away to have a successful career in animation! I'm always trying to add a handmade touch to each project by incorporating cel in some way or form. some way or form. 



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1. Introduction: There's something about traditional animation that instantly eye-catching, that brings in organic handmade quality to any project it's part of. Howdy? My name is Scott Hawk. I'm a freelance motion designer and cell animator from Detroit, Michigan with over five years of experience creating animations like the kind you see here. In today's class, I'm going to be teaching you some of the basics of traditional animation by creating a weaving loop animation. I'll take you through the process step by step. First, we'll sketch to get an idea of what we want to animate. Then we'll create our GIF and rough animator and export to After Effects. Once we're there, I'll show you basic color correction and texturing techniques. After that, all that's left is exploring out your GIF and sharing into whatever platform you want. By the end of this class, you'll have a beautiful looping animation that you made from scratch. I encourage all of you to share your work in the project gallery of this class so you can see what you've made and learn from one another. This class is for illustrators and motion designers who want to dip their toes into cell animation, but don't know where to start. By the end of this class, it's my hope that you can take what you've learned here and apply it to your own work. I'm excited to share my process with you. So let's get started. 2. Getting Started: For this course, the main thing you'll need is an animation program. I'm going to be using RoughAnimator on the iPad, but feel free to use any animation program that you have or are used to. This could be a Adobe Animate, Adobe Photoshop with the NMDES and plug-in, or any of a few 100 open source programs that you can find on the internet for free. So I'm just going to show you how to quickly get set up and RoughAnimator. You go to the bottom right here and select a New project. Here you can name it whatever you want. Make sure the resolution is fine. Anything that's one by one or a 69 is usually pretty safe bet. I usually always work in 24 frames per second when I'm doing cell animation. You click ''Okay'', and this is what RoughAnimator looks like. It's a little bit different from other animation programs. In that sense it's on the iPad. You don't have a bunch of shortcuts or a bunch of tools. It's really stripped down, which I think is great for at least getting a rough animation laid out really fast and the fact that you can just draw it right on the iPad is great. You don't need a super duper, fancy sentic or whatever. Here to the left, you have your Tools panel. Then your Tool options comes out like that. Just like that, you can also hide and reveal your timeline up here. Let's just go ahead and make our first drawing, just for demonstration purposes. If we draw, let's say, 1, 2, 3, and we want to go to the next frame and have a second drawing. We can either go to the top left and click "Add drawing" which gives you a bunch of options. Or if we're all the way to the right, we can just click this arrow here with the plus sign in the bottom left. These buttons just let you easily scroll through your various different layers and if you're at the most right in your timeline, you can add a layer there. So having the add drawing button is super helpful if say, you want to add a drawing right in the middle of the first and third frame. Now if you play this, it looks really fast. That's because each drawing is only being held for one frame. Now usually, what most people do and what I do, is we hold each frame or each drawing for two frames each, just to give it a little bit more time. So really we're animating in 12 frames per second, and holding each drawing for two frames. That's a pretty basic overview of RoughAnimator. If you're using this program, feel free to click around and look at all the tools there are. I probably won't be using anything else other than what I've shown you. Am sure I'll go over things again when I'm actually going through the process of drawing the animation. But that's it for now, so let's move on to your class project. 3. Your Class Project: The basic idea of a weaving loop, is to have multiple elements on screen, that move into each other, to create the illusion, of complexity. You can make your GIF whatever you want, but I highly suggest keeping your idea simple, like circles, or blobs, you can focus on animation, and not get tripped up, with design, or overly complex scenes. The great thing about this project, is it's only six to eight drawings, or frames, but it looks like a lot more work. It's the perfect way, to jump into cell, let's get started. 4. What is Cel Animation?: So what is Cel Animation? Cel animation is a term that Motion Designers came up with, that basically means anything that's frame-by-frame, traditional or hand-drawn animation, and a digital program like Flash or Photoshop. The story of how Motion Designers and a lot of the advertising agencies in general started to call it cel is pretty long, and boring, and pointless but here we are. What I will say, is the actual word cel is in reference to a clear sheet of plastic the animators use to ink and paint on when creating the final artwork for an animated film. Cels are what we still call each frame in an animation program. I'll go over cels and the timeline later, but for now, let's talk about the 12 Principles of Animation. In 1981, Ollie Johnson and Frank Thomas released The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation. Not to be overly dramatic, but this book was a complete game changer. Before this, there were barely any resources out there. If someone wanted to become an animator, other than shutter out hundreds of thousands of $s going to one of a handful of art schools that had animation programs. This book came straight from two of Disney's legendary nine old men. If you don't know what that means, I highly encourage you to do your own deep dive. Animation history is a lot of fun, and just like knowing art history will make you a better artist, I strongly believe that knowing animation history will make you a better animator. I could go on and on about it but for now, let's just focus on the 12 Principles of Animation that were introduced in that book. Those are; squash and stretch, anticipation, staging, straight-ahead action and pose to pose, follow through an overlapping action, slow in and slow out, arc, secondary action, timing, exaggeration, solid drawing, and finally, appeal. If you're a Motion Designer, a lot of these principles already sound familiar to you. That's because they adhere to basic laws of physics, which adheres to all forms of animation, not just cel or character animation. We're only going to cover a few of them in depth, but obviously knowing all of them is a good thing. 5. Squash & Stretch: The first principle we're going to cover is squash and stretch. This is probably one of the more important principles of animation and definitely one of my favorites. Every object has weight and flexibility. The easiest way to demonstrate this is with a ball bounce. No matter how much you stretch and squash the ball it maintains the same weight. The velocity causes the weight to displace creating stretch. When the ball hits the ground, all of that momentum needs to go somewhere. It can't go into the ground, so it squashes the ball as much as it can before the momentum goes back into the ball causing it to bounce. 6. Slow In and Slow Out: We got squash and stretch. But how do we actually know when the ball is at its slowest and when it's at its fastest? Objects in the real-world need time to speed up and slow down. This is known as slow in, slow out, or ease in and ease out. Motion designers use this every day in their work. Timing goes hand in hand with this. As in reference for how many frames each action takes. When an object is at its fastest, there are only be one or two frames that we can physically see. But as it eases into its slower or resting positions, there are more drawings or frames. 7. Arc: Most things in the natural world move on an arched path. When you see an animation that feels really good, organic looking, there's a good chance it's moving in a circular pattern. If an object needs to get from point A to point B, it will usually have a path that will have arcs in it. When we plan out the path that are leaving loop animation will follow, you'll get a really good sense of how this works. Those are the main principles I want you to focus on for now, but if you want to do a deep dive into some of the others, you're more than welcome to. 8. Step 1: Rough Animator: What we have here is rough animator, this is a basic animation program like Adobe Flash or Adobe Animate. The way we're going to start this project is just by sketching out basic forms and shapes. Anything that we want to have like this circle turn into this triangle, how this triangle turn to this blob, can really be whatever. I'm just going to sketch out a few basic forms. This is the basic composition that I ended up with. I'm just really drawn to blobs, I guess. They're easy to draw and have really natural movement and acceleration to them. Now that we have a sketch or a drawing that we're happy with and we're looking at. We're like, "Okay, I can see basically how this would animate." We go ahead and make a new layer and select a really bright color like red, and we just draw out how we want to get from point A or point 1 to point 2, point 2 to point 3, and etc. Certain loops, obviously this can be whatever you want. They can have multiple different things going on, like have one path going one way and then having another path going a different way. But just to keep this simple, I'm going to have each shape morph into each other in a linear fashion. It goes in a circular pattern like this, and ends up at the beginning all in about six frames. Basically, all we're doing is drawing one thing morphing into another thing and just repeating that a few times. By the end of this it'll look like one long cohesive animation. Let's start by drawing how this circle is going to morph into this giant triangle, and what we can do is draw two lines to go. This outer edge needs to turn into this outer edge of the triangle down here, and we have about 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 frames to do it. Going back to what we talked about with the principles of animation, we want the first few drawings to be slower. I can even have 3B up here and 4B closer to the 5 over here to leave this gap, because the way easing works is shapes need time to speed up and slow down. We want a illusion of like a fast-moving arc, you can see that just by making little tick marks as well. Let's just start by drawing. This will be roughly where we want the second frame to be. Where we roughly want the third frame to be, and as you can see I'm already morphing this circle into more of a triangular shape. By the time it's down here it's really close to the sixth frame. So that's basically how you get from a circle to a triangle. Because we are just drawing this out, you can make this look how pretty you want it to. I'm just going to go through and do this with all the shapes. I'll just play a time-lapse here, and I'll see you when I get done. All right. Here we go. As you can see here this looks like a mess, but if you do things like keeping certain pads on separate layers and using a bunch of different colors. You can keep it more or less organized for yourself, and if it's not perfect don't worry about that. We're keeping it loosey-goosey, and as you keep going you can think of different ideas on the fly and this is more or less just a guide or a sketch to reference back to. Now that you have this basic sketched done, go ahead and make a new frame on your line layer and let's get animating. I'm just going to do what I did last time and start with these first two shapes right here, and then do the rest time-lapse because this part takes a while and is a little bit boring. It's something that you just get better as you do it. I'll just show you basically how this first shape goes. Once again, making these first shapes really close to the original layer because these are really slow at first and then they get faster. While this time-lapse is playing I just want to reiterate that I'm animating on tubes, meaning that each frame or layer that I'm drawing on is being held for two frames. I also have my original drawing on its own separate layer underneath my lines layer at about 50 percent opacity, so that I can use it as a guide while I'm animating. Once we have our animation basically roughed out and looking pretty good, I like to go over and redo everything in a second pass having each shape on its own layer. Having everything on its own layer will make it a lot easier to edit later in After Effects. That should be it for rough animator. All that's left to do is to go to the top-left of the screen and click the button with the three lines on it, go to Export Video, and I would like to save everything out as P&G sequences. Whenever I export out a cell animation that has multiple layers, I usually like to export out each layer as a different P&G sequence. That way we keep everything a lot cleaner and easier to make changes to later in After Effects. 9. Step 2: After Effects: Now we're at after effects. I'm going to try to go slowly in case this is your first time opening after effects. Basically, just like any program we have toolbar up here and I'm just going to go to new composition. Just name this anything like weavingloop, Skillshare, something like that and make sure it's the same aspect ratio as what you are using. I was going 1,080 by 1,080 as that's a one-by-one square, which is good for any social media. I'm pretty sure I was working in 24 frames per second which is the standard so that's fine, and we click "Okay". Then if you were using Dropbox and have it all synced up to your computer, you can just double-click in this project panel and here are all the shapes. You just go in one-by-one and clip the first image of your sequence and make sure PNG sequence is clicked in this little button, and then you click "Import." Just like that it fills in right there. I don't have a background right now so this checker mark means this is transparent. We go in here and just put, I don't know, zero one, or a circle, or whatever naming convention you want to adhere to, and I'm just going to go in and do that with all of them. Now, we have all of our shapes imported. They go right up to the 12th frame mark and then they cut off so you can either trim the work area to just be 12 frames long by going to composition settings and changing the duration to 12 frames. Then if you press "Play" it'll just loop like it did in rough animator, or if you want to have a longer duration and you want each of these shapes to continue looping, what you can do is right-click on a layer, go to time, enable time remapping and now you can extend that, but it just stays there. This is the start and end point of the sequence, these little diamonds here. You just go to the stopwatch and you Alt click it which brings up an expression. If you don't know expressions, it's totally fine just follow along with me and type loop, and you want this third option loop out. Now, this triangle will continue to move and if you do that with all of them, there we go. It continues to loop. Now, it looks like it holds this 12 frame a little bit long so let's go ahead and actually make this 11 frames long by making the 11th key frame the last key frame. You just highlight all of your layers and click on this diamond right here, and delete the 12th one. Now it loops a little bit faster. Let's keep this about two seconds long, let's say. Although if you're posting to social media, it's always best to have whatever gift or video you post to be very short so try to keep it just 11 frames when you post your final. You can do a whole bunch of other stuff in here, offset things and do all crazy stuff if you know crazy stuff in after effects, but just make sure your loop is as tight as possible. You can go anywhere on this timeline and any 11 frames will loop. That's the cool thing about this. Now that we're in after effects, maybe we don't want each of these to be a really red color. We maybe want them all to be different colors. What you want to do is go to effects and presets, wait for it to load and you type in fill. I'm sure there's all different crazy effects and better color correction things, but I'm trying to keep it really simple right now. Now, we have all those black outlines that we made are now a solid color and you can change that color to anything you want. Now the problem is once this loops, it's going to change color like that. It's not going to look seamless and maybe you like that color change step style. It's really up to you, but what I'm going to do is put a key frame on the color by clicking this little stopwatch next to color and then I put that on the sixth layer so pull up that key frame, you click this little down arrow and go to effects, go to fill and our little key frame will be right there. Or you can just press the U key on your keyboard, the letter U and that pulls up all your key frames, and I'm going to key frame this blue to turn into this red. Now it changes colors like that. I think that looks pretty cool so I'm going to have that with all of these. I'm just going to have a little time-lapse here and figure out what colors I like and what animations I want to happen and I'll see you in a little bit. I just quickly went in and change the colors of each of these shapes to be more of a monochromatic color scheme. You can obviously make it whatever color scheme you want. I like how each of these colors blends into the next. It's got a cool trippy, hippy, dippy doo da effect to it. Now that you're at this point, it's really all about making last minute touches and embellishes to your work to make it feel more like your own. If you're a motion designer and you know after effects really well, you can do 100 million different things to make this look cool. I'm just going to show you one texturing technique that I like to use sometimes and it's to get a nice texture, little shadow inside the shape. We're going to use the layer styles to do that. All you have to do is click on a layer, right-click, go to layer styles and you have all these options here and you can play with any of them, but I'm just going to stick to inner shadow. You see there's a tiny little black line going across it so it brings down this drop-down menu and you go into layer styles, inner shadow. I'm just going to take the distance down here and make that about 50. Make the size or the sharpness of that line there, make that about 35, and I'm just writing in numbers arbitrarily. This isn't an exact science, whatever feels good to you. I'm going to take that angle of it and make it. The light is coming down from this direction for whatever reason. Then finally change the blend mode from multiplied to dissolve. Now you have nice pixel, grainy shadow inside the shape. Someone tripped to make it so this grain is more natural-looking, is to right-click, go to New, Adjustment Layer and apply this effect called turbulent displays. It's all blobby right there but you just take the size turn it down to two, take the amount, turn to 30 and just like that. It's a very subtle difference and it makes the outliner you shape a little bit more blobby, but if you're okay with that, then that's a pretty good way to make your shadow feel a little more natural and a little bit more believable. Once you've got that done, all you need to do is take your layer styles and copy paste it to the rest of your layers and there you go. That's looking pretty good. I think I'm going to call that done for now. At this point, all you need to do is export it out either as a video or as a gift and share it to whatever social media platform you want. Again, I want to highly encourage you to share what you've made in the project part of the Skillshare class. I'm going to try to comment on everybody that uploads their project in there. Hopefully, this didn't take you too long. It took me about a half hour from start to finish. Doesn't have to be pretty, but of course you can put as much time and finishing embellishments into it as you want. I'm excited to see what you guys make. 10. Step 3: Exporting: Now that we have our finished animation, I'm just going to quickly show you how to export out for your social media or sharing it on the Skillshare page. If all you want is a dot MOV, the easiest way to do that is to go to File, Export, Add to render queue. Once we're there, we have a bunch of options down here. Click on lossless, go from AVI and select Quick Time, and anywhere from Apple ProRes 422 to 4444 is usually where I like to go. After that, you click on the blue output two and you just select wherever you want your animation to be saved to. After that, all you need to do is hit render. Once you have your video file, you can either use that to upload to social media or if you want your very short video to actually be a GIF, you can bring it into Photoshop. That's as easy as going to File, Open and selecting your video file. Photoshop will import the video and show each frame on the canvas like this. To save it out as a GIF, you go to File, Export, Save for Web, Legacy and then you get a whole bunch of options like this. Make sure the file format is a GIF. You can play with a bunch of these different options depending on your GIF, maybe it's best to go with selective resolution or Color reduction algorithm. I've found that adaptive works pretty well. Choosing the kind of dither algorithm is also important. At any point, you want to make sure that your file stays below a certain amount. I think on Twitter they're able to handle about five to eight megabytes of data. Another thing you can play with is how many colors. If your GIF is pretty simple then maybe something like 32 colors will work. For me, since my colors keep changing from one color to the next, I like to have as many colors as I can in here. Finally, make sure that your looping options is set to forever. You can hit the little play button to make sure that this looks good as a GIF. After that, you just click Save. After you've done that, you can go to whatever folder you saved it to. Mine's just right here, I think. If I double-click on that, it should just pop up. There you go. This is a GIF. It'll run forever and ever. You can share this to Twitter. I'm not entirely sure if the Skillshare page supports GIFs but if it does, go ahead and upload your GIF to the Skillshare page. That'd be great. 11. Conclusion: and there you have it. You've made to the end of the class. Hopefully, by this point, you should have a 6 to 8 frame looping animation that you made all by yourself from scratch . Hopefully you found this class helpful. And you understand traditional animation and the principles a lot better than you did before. Be sure Share your work to skill share. If you shared to social media, tag me at Art Scott Hook. If you run to any issues or have any questions at all asking the community page below Lastly, if you aren't already, follow me on skill shares. So you never miss when I post more content in the future. Thank you so much for taking this class I have. You have a great rest of your day and I'll see you later.