With Procreate animation, that drawing of your favorite flower can become a field of blooms dancing in the wind. A red-hot mustang can turn into a high-speed police chase, and a butterfly can transform into a kaleidoscope of monarchs flying south for the winter. Animation is one of the easiest ways to infuse more life, movement, and action into any of your artwork.

The great news:Animation is possible for any creative. In the past, animation was only possible with complicated computer software and a degree in the subject. Today, with accessible apps like Procreate, all you’ll need is an iPad, stylus and a little determination. 

Follow these helpful tips to animate your illustrations in Procreate.

Learning How to Animate in Procreate

Animating in Procreate is one of the simplest ways to give life to your drawings, which comes with its benefits and drawbacks. With the right Procreate animation tutorial it’s relatively easy to learn—especially if you already have experience working in Procreate.

On the other hand, Procreate’s animation capabilities are slightly limited compared to other animation apps, which means building out an entire episode of the cartoon you’re working on might be better done elsewhere. 

Getting Inspiration for Your Animation

Two hands hold an iPad over a wooden table. On the screen is a cartoon woman dressed in pink holding a baseball bat within Procreate. On the side of the screen, the layers menu is open.
Explore your favorite places and things to get inspiration for your next animation project. 
Still from Skillshare Class Animating in Procreate: Simple Steps to Create Awesome Animations by Danni Fisher-Shin.

If you’re already an experienced artist you might have notebooks full of ideas that can be transformed into an animation. If so, consider yourself asking questions about some of your drawings. 

  • How would your undersea monster spend their average day? 
  • What would bring a big smile to the face of your sparkly-gowned princess?
  • How would your award-winning actress act after winning the award of her dreams?

By giving your drawings a deeper story and asking questions about their personality, you’ll be able to better imagine how they would act when animated. 

If you’re new to drawing, look inwards and around you for your inspiration. This might be in childhood picture books, your favorite hiking trail, heartwarming or heartbreaking memories, vintage magazines or a cool restaurant you like. Taking walks, looking through Pinterest or Instagram or visiting a museum can also spark new creative ideas. 

Just remember to pick a simple design that you won’t mind redrawing in every frame of your animation. A simple character, scene or object can be a great place to start! 

Get Moving with Animation Assist

Now that you have chosen your design, it’s time to bring it to life! Your first step will be turning on Animation Assist, which you’ll find by tapping the wrench button at the top left of your screen. This will open the Actions menu. Simply tap Canvas and you’ll see the option to toggle on Animation Assist in Procreate

By turning on Procreate’s animation feature, you’ll get a visual timeline of your frames underneath your drawing, opening the door to a process called onion-skinning plus instant playback options. When animating in Procreate, your frames will be represented by the different layers of your drawing. It’s just like your layers panel but turned on its side and it shows the layers in chronological order from left to right. 

Your animation will end up being a combination of all of the different layers you’ve drawn. 

Why Work from a Reference 

This split screen shows a person clicking on a layer within Procreate using a stylus. The layer contains a drawing of a man walking. The right side of the screen shows a close up of this man.
Using an animation reference is one of the best tools for beginners.
Still from Skillshare Class Animating in Procreate: Simple Steps to Create Awesome Animations by Danni Fisher-Shin

One of the hardest things about animation is understanding how people and objects move in the real world. Since the minute details of movement are not what we’re thinking of when a friend walks toward you or a baseball flies by at a baseball game, you might need to spend a little time analyzing how to make your animation move as naturally as possible.

One of the best ways to ensure natural movement in your animation is to work from a reference. You can do this by watching animation reference videos, which show slow movement over a grid so you can take a deeper look at every single motion. If you can’t find a good reference video, you can film yourself doing the action you’d like to recreate. 

Need to Create an Animation-Ready Image?

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Another option is using a reference download like creator Danni Fisher-Shin. If you choose to use a reference template, all you have to do is upload it into Procreate and draw your character or object over it, frame by frame. If you want to start from scratch, start by sketching out your main frames. For a bird flying up to its nest, you might create a frame of the bird standing in the grass, midair and then happily in its nest. 

Once you have your main frames drawn out, you can work on creating the in-between layers. This might include your bird flapping its wings down as it hovers right off the ground, back up and down again as it moves through the sky and then making its way through the leaves of the tree and settling into the nest. 

Finishing Your Figure with Finesse

Adding in little extra touches can help your animation look even more realistic. If you’re animating a bird, you can analyze the shape of its wing as it moves. If you’re animating a person, take a look at how a person’s wrists bend as they move or whether their feet point down or forward during each part of their step. 

Pay special attention to joints like the shoulders, hips, elbows, knees, ankles and elbows. Most of the movement will be happening here, so if you’re just looking to explore animation for beginners, focusing on those key spots will help you streamline your creation. It’s important to watch your animation as you create it to make sure it’s as smooth as possible. The more frames you add, the longer and smoother your animation will be. 

Adding Color and Fun Extras

It’s easy to get lost in the little details of your animation for hours. Extra elements like shadows, sunshine and fashion accessories can add even more depth and beauty to your animation. 

Depending on the look you’re going for, you might also be able to add in a second character, scrolling background or some text to your animation at this point of your creation process. 

This split screen shows two hands next to an iPad open to Procreate with a drawing of a woman dressed in pink and holding a baseball bat. The right side of the screen shows a close up of this woman.
With a little animation, this baseball player’s jacket will be breezily blowing in the wind.
Still from Skillshare Class Animating in Procreate: Simple Steps to Create Awesome Animations by Danni Fisher-Shin.

Adding Embellishment to Your Animation in Procreate

Congratulations! At this point, your animation will be very close to being finished. If you’ve created all of your frames and added extras like shadows and lighting, it’s time to make those final adjustments.

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, 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. 

You might also want to make adjustments to the color or overall look of your animation. For this, you can use the Transformation tool to change the opacity, saturation or size of your drawing. 

Adding Audio in Procreate Animations

While users have made it known that they would love the ability to add audio into their Procreate animations, this is not something that is currently available within the app at its current 5.3.3 version. 

Exporting Your Animations to Share them With the World

And with that, it’s time to share your animation with the people who matter most! The final step to sharing your animation with your supportive friend or a producer looking to hire animators for their new short film will be exporting it. 

Deciding the Best Way to Export for Your Project

To export your animation from Procreate, you first have to know your main project goal. The export option that’s best for you will depend on your animation end goal. If you’d just like to add an animation to your Instagram or make an animated TikTok persona, it’s best to export your animation as an mp4. 

If you’re looking to make fun GIFs specifically or want your animation to run on a loop within a blog post or on your website, you can save it as GIF. By saving your animation as a GIF you can also use it to make a simple sticker GIF that you can use in a TikTok or on your Instagram story. 

Different Ways to Export Your Animation in Procreate

If your hand-painted GIF or migrating salmon animation are ready to be brought to the world, simply click on the wrench symbol in the top right corner and then click Share. You’ll see four animated options:

  • Animated GIF
  • Animation PNG
  • Animated MP4
  • Animated HEVC

You already know how to use animated GIFs and MP4s, but animated PNGs and HEVCs have their own unique benefits. Animated PNGs are similar to GIFs but have much higher visual quality. Just be aware that these aren’t widely supported yet. Animated HEVCs are similar to MP4s but they have a transparent background, which makes them great for projects where the subject or object is the most important part of your animation. 

Discover how to animate your characters and add detail in Procreate with this tutorial.

Time to Get Moving on Your Animation Journey!

You’re well on your way to making your own living animation. Over the next few days, block out time in your schedule to explore each of the necessary steps and techniques you can apply to your favorite illustrations. Before you know it you’ll be animating everything under the sun.

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Written By

Calli Zarpas

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