DIY Animation for Beginners | Ryan Consbruck | Skillshare

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DIY Animation for Beginners

teacher avatar Ryan Consbruck, Animator & Illustrator

Watch this class and thousands more

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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

9 Lessons (34m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Tools & Materials

    • 3. Objectives & Style

    • 4. Planning

    • 5. Visuals

    • 6. Timing & Movement

    • 7. Voiceover

    • 8. Editing

    • 9. Sharing & Recommendations

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About This Class


What will we explore?

In this course we will explore the creatively empowering medium of animation and the fundamentals for creating it with a single person or small crew. 

As it is central to the medium, we will look at how movement can be represented in different styles. We will also look at the basics of character design, backgrounds (and other world building), representing speech visually, and the basic principles of editing.

Who is this class for?

The class is geared towards beginners and will focus on basic storytelling and representation concepts.

What do I need for this class?

For this class you will need the following:

- Sketchbook

- Large newsprint pad or storyboard sketchbook

- A computer and Adobe Creative Suite (specifically Photoshop, After Effects, and Adobe Media Encoder) 

- iMovie or other video editing software

- Wacom tablet, Cintiq, iPad Pro (with Astropad) or other digital drawing device

What is the project for this class?

The project for this course will be to create a short animation based on a piece of audio. This will include storyboarding, animatics, and a final animation. This exercise should help you understand the basics of animation and help you create an initial clip for an animation reel.




Additional Resources:

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Ryan Consbruck

Animator & Illustrator


I am an illustrator and animator doing my best to keep it weird.

By day I'm an architect and by night I descend into a DayGlo world of grotesque creatures.

I am currently developing an animated web series called Murder in Spacetown (set to release in mid 2020).

Join me to learn how to create your own world with a small team and no budget!



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1. Introduction: Hello, my name is Ryan Consbruck, and this is DIY animation for beginners. I'm an illustrator and animator with a background in architecture. I've taken the drawing in 3-D modeling skills that I learned in architecture and applied them to various animated personal projects. Some of these projects include an animated background that I made for a comedian and music video. Currently I'm working on my own animated series which I plan on releasing on YouTube. In this course, we're going to be looking at the fundamentals of animation. This includes character design, background design, movement, and basic editing and production principles. This class is for beginners who enjoy drawing and want to bring their drawings to life. The skills in this course can be used to develop storyboards, animatics, and fully realized animations. Basically, when we want to help you take your, the kernel of your creative idea and bring it into the world. In this course, I'll be teaching my specific process, which involves drawing in Photoshop with an iPad Pro and modifying those drawings and After Effects. You may choose to use other programs besides Photoshop and After Effects like Flash. But I'm hoping that the skills taught in this course will translate to other mediums and processes. Throughout this course, we're going to be working on a project which consist of choosing a ten, the 30 second piece of audio. This can be a song, a podcast, a movie, just something that we will be using to develop storyboards and animatics, and eventually a final animation. For the first part of this project, I'd like you to choose your piece of audio and maybe look at some different animations online, like the animations for the my brother, my brother and me podcast or the flop house. There's a lot of good animations out there that go through the basic principles of animation and translating audio into visuals. Thank you for joining me and I can't wait to see what you've come up with. 2. Tools & Materials: For this course, you will need a few items. You'll need a sketchbook, a large part of newsprint to draw storyboards quickly. You can also use a storyboard sketchbook. You'll need a computer that's capable of running Adobe Creative Suite, specifically Photoshop, After Effects, and Adobe Media Encoder, as well as some video editing software like Premiere or iMovie. Finally, you'll need some kind of digital drawing device, like a Cintiq , which is much more costly, but it has a screen on it, or a Wacom Bamboo tablet, which is a lot cheaper but obviously doesn't have a screen. Personally, I use an iPad Pro with an app called Astropad, which mirrors what's happening on my computer screen on the iPad, so I'm able to draw on programs like Photoshop. 3. Objectives & Style: In this lesson, we're going to talk about what it is you're trying to accomplish with your animation and how you can develop a personal and consistent style. Now, there's something unique about animation in that it's almost completely untethered by reality. We want to identify what are the parts of your story that lend themselves to being told through animation, and make sure that we're keeping those ideas central to your animation throughout the project. Given these endless possibilities, you want to start to think about what the rules are that you start to create for yourself as you begin this world building process. It's also important to identify what's within your realm of ability. You don't want to decide that you're going to take on everything and then realize that you can't do it. Start to think about what you can do with the team that you have. You might want to do some very limited dialogue or just focus on the movement. Try to keep it personal and keep it relevant to your abilities. I would start with some quick test. Sketch out your character or background, find out how long it takes you to create something that you're satisfied with. If you multiply the time it takes to do the singular element, is it manageable at a larger scale? This process may lead you to discover that your project should be three minutes instead of 30. One way to start building your personal style is to start a collection of different qualities that you like in other pieces of art. This is really easy to do with Pinterest or some other visual collage. In the series I'm working on, a lot of the characters are pulled from a mural that I made a few years ago, and it's allowed me to build a quick visual library. As you continue this process of collecting all this visual imagery, you should start to notice patterns that appear that will help you build your own image library. You want to be careful to differentiate your work from your inspiration and identify what's unique about your worldview and how you can apply that to your own personal style. Another thing to consider is whether or not your project requires a script. A script can feel like a hindrance to your creative process, after all, this is animation and I assume you're here because you're excited about the visuals. But a script can be extremely useful in helping you outline and understand the structure of your story. The script also serves as a document that clearly translates your vision and intent to others before you've had a chance to create the visuals. Initially, I found that I kind of dreaded writing a script, but once I did, it was thrilling. Script formatting is relatively simple, but we'll get into that a bit more in the next lesson. Finally, before you begin your animation, start to think about how much help you might need. Do you maybe have some other artist friends that would be willing to collaborate on character or background design? Start to think about how much creative control you might be willing to share. For me, I wanted to have full creative control over the visuals, but I was more than happy to have my friends do some of the voices. For this lesson's assignment, choose a character and a background that goes with the clip that you selected in the last lesson. Draw the character and background and try to incorporate some of the common qualities from your inspiration board. Think about what movement your character will be making in the scene. How are they interacting with their environment or objects within their environment? What can we learn about the character from the way they move? Once you have a character and background roughly sketched out, move on to the next lesson where we'll talk about how to plan out the scenes for your project. 4. Planning: Hello, and welcome again to DIY animation for beginners. In this lesson, we're going to be talking about planning. Since animation is [inaudible] a visual medium, you might be most comfortable using storyboards to plan out your project. Storyboards are a quick and disposable way to get all the ideas that are floating around in your head and put them on paper. It's also a good way to see how that imagery works with timing, action, and dialogue. When story-boarding, I tried to think in terms of cinematic qualities. It can be handy to organize every frame by the rule of thirds. Whether you're doing it mentally or sometimes it requires actually drawing out the grid. I've heard it's good to think about the cuts of every scene as if it's the camera blinking. If you linger on a scene, it can add dramatic effect, but in most cases you probably want to cut around every three seconds. Obviously, this should depend on the senior coming up with, but these are good rules to start off with. You don't need to lock it in just yet, but you should have a sense for what ratio you want your animation to be. If you're planning on putting your project on Instagram, you might want to square ratio. But if you're doing something a little bit more traditional, you probably want to stick to 1080 by 1920. If you plan on eventually having your animation in the theater, you may want to go as high as 4K. Well, it sounds technical. You want to figure this out at the beginning of your planning stage so you don't put a lot of effort into drawing things at the perimeter that will eventually get cut out. Writing a script can feel daunting and it can feel like an impediment to your creative process. But I found that it's essential to keeping everything running smoothly. I think writing a script becomes easier when you make an agreement with yourself that you can rewrite it as many times as you need to and you will, so it's important to start that very early in your process. Some projects may not require a script. When I was working on a music video, I just worked from a storyboard. But writing a script allows you to work through various ideas without having to animate every single little scene. It also allows you to share those ideas with friends and collaborators and get immediate feedback. Before you jump into the script, it's best to write up a loose outline. This takes off some of the pressure of sitting down to a blank page. What are the major story beats? What scenes get you excited about your project. You don't have to know how the project will end or begin. Start at the scenes that are interesting to you and flush out the rest as you go. I don't have any real screenwriting training, so you may want to do some research into what the official screenwriting format is. What's important is that the scene is clear to you and clear to the people that you'll be sharing the script with. There are some handy script running plug-ins for Google Docs. The way I have mine set up is title and seen at the top. You can use this to explain the environment and the mood of the scene, provide some descriptions for the general characters. Once you begin a dialogue indent and call out the character. Maybe provide some direction for how the character is speaking, below this in parentheses. If you're changing characters, start over and provide additional direction. I also like to use the script as a way to give myself direction on artwork or maybe specific things that I don't want to forget later on. For this lesson's assignment, listen to the audio that you selected in the first lesson. It might help to write out any dialogue or descriptions of the action. Begin breaking it up into pieces and choose where you'd like to cut the scene. Roughly sketch out what each cut looks like. How are you framing it? Is it a close-up shot, a medium shot, or a wide shot? Does the scene require an establishing shot or does it start in the middle of the action? Think about what movement will happen in the scene and how you can frame that movement. Once you're happy with the state of your storyboard or script, move on to the next lesson, where we'll discuss the production of visuals for your animation. 5. Visuals: In this lesson, we're going to talk about the visuals for your project, specifically the style and identity that you'll create with your characters and background. First, you need to decide whether or not your project is going to be in color or black and white. This is going to depend very heavily on how much experience you have already. If this is one of your first big projects, I recommend working in black and white because it just makes things a lot easier. However, if you want to use color, I suggest you create something like a puppet in Photoshop and move the parts in After Effects. We'll talk a little bit more about how to do this in the next lesson. If you end up using color and you want to animate frame by frame, I suggest programming actions in Photoshop. I'll show you how to do that at the end of this lesson. Remember to use a reference whenever you can. Pinterest is your friend here. I also like to use a 3D program called Rhino and I'll model the basic form that I have in mind and sketch over it in Photoshop, but you can also animate the 3D model as well. Google SketchUp is a free program you can use to do basic modeling, but also don't be afraid to build little models or take selfies just so that you have a reference for what something looks like. It can also be really useful to walk around your neighborhood and take some photos or videos to pick up on details that you may not have otherwise considered. Based on your storyboards, how many backgrounds will you need? If you're zooming in and out of the same background, make sure that your file is large enough that it doesn't degrade in quality when you zoom in. You may want to draw a different angle to add some diversity to the scenes. When you're designing your character, you may want to create a character sheet so that you have a reference for what that character looks like from different angles. I don't really do this for my animations, but I do like to have a standard character that I use as a size reference for other characters. But in an animated series, it can be useful to have these character sheets for consistency. If you're creating a character that needs to move, make sure that your layers are organized really well with proper naming conventions and that it's very clear to you. First roughly draw out your character, then redraw all the individual body parts over that rough drawing, each on their own layer. We will use this to create a hierarchy of all the layers in After Effects so that they all move simultaneously. In Photoshop, you can use actions to reduce the amount of repetitive tasks that you have. I like to use it when I'm selecting a region and I want to fill and then I want to create a stroke in that same region so that there's not a weird white border all the way around. But you can use actions for lots of different things. For this lesson's project, pick a scene from your animation where a character will move. Draw the character at the beginning of the scene, the end of the scene, and the middle of the scene. Think about how much action occurs between the span of those moments and then think about how your character would specifically move between them. In the next lesson, we'll talk about how to represent that movement in different ways. 6. Timing & Movement: In this lesson, we're going to talk about movement and timing. This is the heart of animation. It can be accomplished in many different ways but in this lesson, we're going to be talking about frame-by-frame animation and puppet animation. My preferred method is to use Photoshop to create frame-by-frame animations. Basically I go to Window, timeline, and that will create a sequence of frames that you can control based of which layers you're turning on and off. In the timeline, you can set the length of time that each frame will last. Like going here and selecting the amount of time that you want the frame to last. When I'm planning out the animation, I'll take the length of time that the scene is supposed to last and then divide it by a few segments usually about six or eight, something clean and even, so I'll just roughly sketch out each of those individual frames, sometimes in a different color so I can have a better idea of how much it's changing. Then once I get a smooth motion going, I'll go back and redraw with cleaner lines. If your layers are really well organized, you may only need to animate one part of the body. So with this seagull, you can see that the arm is the only part that's moving, and I'll just roughly draw out the individual lines the same way I did with the previous hand. So once the motion has smoothed out, I'll go back and recolor everything. Once you've worked out the main motion that you're trying to convey, you can go back and add other subtle details like breathing in or eyes looking around. The other method is to use After Effects to build a puppet based off of the character that you've created. Once you've created your character in Photoshop, you can drag it into After Effects. Once you've added your character, select the "Puppet" pin tool and it will allow you to place pins throughout your character where you want the character to be movable. So you can just move those individual pinpoints over time, and by doing so you can start to create motion in the character. There are a lot of other complicated ways of doing this. But for the purposes of this lesson, we're just going to show the simplest one. The other thing After Effects is good for is creating fake camera movements. I'm going to show you how to do the parallax effect, which basically creates the illusion that a camera is zooming into your background. This is relatively simple. To do this, create a Photoshop file with three layers, the foreground, the middle ground, and the background. Once you've narrowed down the three layers, drag the Photoshop file into After Effects. Then you can modify each of those layers so that they zoom at different percentages. The closest one you want to zoom at, the largest percentage like 150, the middle-ground you'll want to zoom at a smaller one, which is like 125, and then even in the background and you still want it to zoom a little bit. But just a little bit so 105 or 110. Once you've scaled each of those layers, it will start to create the effect of zooming into the scene. For this lesson's assignment, take the character that you created in the last lesson and create some movement using either of these two techniques. In the next lesson, we'll be talking about how to bring your character to life by sinking the sound that your voice actor is making with the movement of the character's mouth. 7. Voiceover: In this lesson, we will discuss how to give direction to your voice actors and how to animate the movement of your character's mouth to match the sound of that character's voice. There are plenty of relatively inexpensive microphones that you can get that will perform pretty well. When I record a voice-over, I use the Samson Go Mic and it's a pretty good quality mic but you need to remember to keep it about nine inches in front of the person's face. For these classes, I've been using the PowerDeWise Lavalier Lapel Microphone. If you're looking for something a little more professional, I recommend going to to find an extensive review of different podcasting and voice over microphones. It's important to record your voice actor first, so that you have something to match the visuals too. When I'm working with somebody doing voice over, I like to have them read a drive the first few takes with no effect, just so that they can get familiar with the lines and then once they're comfortable reading the lines, you can give some personality to the character. I think it's also important to try a few different takes on the character. You can say, do this in a rougher voice, do it in a higher voice. Try to get a range of that person's ability and then you can choose the one that you like most at the end. When you're recording voice over, it's a time to experiment and try a lot of different things because it's easy to record multiple takes. You can record in quick time audio recording, garage band or audacity, among other things. Hello, there. I'm handler man and this is Space town. To animate speech, your character will need about nine different mouth shapes. You can use more or less but these nine shapes should cover the range of speech. At this stage, you want to keep your layers pretty simple. I just have my character and then each of the individual mouth shapes on their own layer. You can reuse these mouth shapes for each of your different characters but if you want it to be relevant to that specific character design, you may want to use different mouth. I like to export each mouth shape as its own PNG file, so that when I bring it into after effects, I can very tightly control how much time that shape will take up. You'll open a new after effects file and import the background, the character, the mouth shapes and the audio that you recorded into that file. First, drag your background into the composition, then drag your character as well as the mouths. Select your character and each of the mouth layers and move them as a group together, set them into position in the scene and then bring in your audios, so that you can figure out what shape each of those mouse will need to be. Hello, there. Open up your phone and go into selfie mode and look at the shape that you're mouth makes when you say each of those words. This should help you suss out which layers would match best with what's being said. Then you can start to position each of those mouths based off of what your character is saying. If there is an H sound, you would use the H-E mouth. If there's an O sound, you would use the O mouth and so on. Set aside a chunk of time to work on this because it can be very time-consuming. Well, just do a quick version of it here. Hello, there. Because your eyes perceive just slightly slower than your ears, you'll want to move the frames of the mouth movements back about one to four frames. Hello, there. You may want to render your composition a few times, so that you can tweak the position of those mouths. For this lesson's assignment, record your own audio and either using the file that accompanies this lesson or your own files, sync up the mouth with the speech in your audio. In the next lesson, we're going to cover some basic video editing principles and workflows. 8. Editing: In this lesson, we're going to talk about some basic editing workflows and how to add some atmosphere to your animation with sound effects and music. Using After Effects, there's two different ways that you can export a scene. You can either render your composition from After Effects or you can use Adobe Media Encoder, which will produce some more manageable file. Once your composition is ready in After Effects, go to composition, add to Render Queue. Here you can modify your file type. I recommend Lossless if you want full quality. There are alternatives to this in Adobe Media Encoder. As you may have noticed before, from composition in After Effects, you can select, add to Adobe Media Encoder Queue. Once all the settings are where you want them, you can hit Render. For the purposes of this tutorial, we're going to render in Adobe Media Encoder. Once you've saved your After Effects file, open Adobe Media Encoder. Click this little plus sign, and you can add your After Effects file from there. Depending on the size of your file, just might take some time. You can select the format of your file here. I'm using H.264. From this dialog box, you can select the format that best fits your animation. After you've selected the format that you want, hit the play button in the top right corner to render. If you want, you can assemble your entire animation within Adobe After Effects and export using this method. I prefer to export individual scenes in After Effects and then import them all into iMovie to assemble them together. I think this makes it easier to coordinate music and other sound. Once your scenes are ready, drag them into iMovie and start to place them on the timeline in the order that you want them. You can either start by laying out your scenes and figuring out your sequence based on that, or you can start with the music that you want and layout the scenes based off of how they fit with that music. When your scenes are roughly laid out, select your music and any other audio and drag it into iMovie. You can use a blank scene as a place holder to start to pad out the scenes based on the timing of your audio. Use this slider over here to change the scale of your scenes. If you want to see them all at the same time or you want to get really narrowed into the one specific scene. This helps a lot with editing more minute details. You'll see in this scene that I'm trying to lay everything out based off of how the scene lines up with the music. There's a guitar riff that is about three seconds long and I'm matching up every scene with that riff. Once you have the larger scenes fleshed out, you can start to tweak each of the individual scenes by half seconds or quarter seconds. When everything is just the way that you like it, you can export your scene by using this icon in the top right. That's the file with an arrow pointing up. Make sure to choose the proper resolution. Obviously, the higher the better. You may need it for different purposes. Just use what you think is best for what you are doing and lean towards higher quality. You can enhance your animation by adding music. You can find some free music on the Free Music Archive or other websites with free music. If you want to create something of your own, there's a few different ways out there to easily create your own music. I'm a big fan of the Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators. They are these 50 to $80 little synthesizers and drum machines that are really easy to play with and you can create some pretty cool soundtracks for your work. The other alternative is using GarageBand, which has made it very easy to make your own soundtracks and integrate real instruments and software instruments. I'm also a big fan of the FunkBox Drum Machine app that gives you a bunch of vintage drum machines and helps you create pretty simple beat which can work really well as background music. For your final project, assemble all the individual scenes that you've created in this class, and sync them with some audio, whether that's speech or music. Well, that should be enough to get you started. In the next lesson, I'll provide some recommendations for next steps like how to promote your work and some further reading. 9. Sharing & Recommendations: Congratulations, you've completed the first steps towards finishing your own animation. In this final lesson, we'll look at some ways that you can promote your work and some additional resources for learning about animation. I think Instagram is the easiest way to share your work. You can get a lot of feedback very quickly and you can build on an audience that you already have. It's important to make sure that your export settings are optimized to the latest version of Instagram. Googling the year and best video format for Instagram should give you the latest version of what settings to use. If you don't already have a YouTube page, I would set one up and start putting your work on there as well. It's important to put your work in as many places as possible. When I released my music video, I went on to Reddit and I just looked for different subReddits like animation, music videos, anything that I thought would match with the music video that I made. A lot of these subReddits are very welcoming of people sharing their work. Make sure you look at the rules for that subReddit to make sure you're not violating any of their terms. Another great resource for sharing your work is FilmFreeway. It's a database of thousands of different film festivals throughout the world and some of them allow you to submit your work for free. This is a great way to build an audience outside of your normal audience. This one's silly, but it can be really satisfying to create an IMDb page for yourself and start to post your work on there as well. Every Thursday night, Adult Swim hosts a development meeting where people call in and pitch their ideas. This can be a great way to show off some work that you've been working on or get feedback on what you need to change. HowStuffWorks has produced a fabulous podcast called Drawn: The Story of Animation that goes through the history of animation and how many contemporary cartoons are created. Two of my favorite YouTubers are kindoflinc and Vewn. Kindoflinc has a great five-minute summary on his animation process and I highly recommend looking at it. I'll post a link to this video on the class page. Another single artist animator is Vewn and she creates these amazing emotive, super detailed animations that she releases every few months or so. If you haven't seen that already, I highly recommend Alberto Mielgo's Storyboards for Spider-Verse. Three years ago when they were beginning the production of Into the Spider-Verse, he and a small team basically assembled a short video that would generate most of the style for the latest animated Spider-Man movie. Finally, if you're looking for an older resource, Richard Williams, one of the animators for Who Framed Roger Rabbit, created this great book called The Animator's Survival Kit. It's a great resource for hand-drawn animation techniques. Thank you for taking the time to watch these tutorials. I hope they were helpful in jump starting your interest in animation. Please share your work in the Skillshare community, and watch this space in the future for more tutorials. Good luck.