Skip to main content

Pencil - Free 2D Animation Software


Pencil is a 2D bitmap and vector based, free animation tool for MACs, Windows and Linux that I'd like to say is the perfect introduction to 2D, computer assisted animation but can't.

It is a great tool. Clearly set out, easy enough to learn, versatile. In fact you can create an entire animation within Pencil, including audio tracks, and then export it all to a single movie file that you can upload anywhere. It will also export files as Flash/Shockwave movies (which is my interest in using it).

However, the Windows version of Pencil is extremely buggy making it frustrating to use and sometimes down right impossible (forced software closures, lost work etc.).

I suspect as a tool for creating animations, using bitmap images, Pencil is ideal. There's much less to go wrong. On top of that you could choose to edit all your frames in any bitmap editing software you choose then just import them into Pencil, add some sounds, export to a movie file and you're done. If that's all you need to do I highly recommend this software - its free - so give it a try.

Once you get into vector animation the frustration starts to set in. Specifically with the vector 'area fill' tool. If you haven't properly closed an area you'll keep getting a warning message telling you there's a gap in your drawing or you've 'Zoomed Out too much'. This is a known problem that is documented within Pencil's manual.

It's frustrating because often there are no obvious gaps - even if you zoom right in to check. I've found that larger areas are likely to trigger this warning. If you can't find any gaps then the best solution seems to be to break the area up into smaller fill areas using the 'invisible line' tool. Then fill each section as you go until the area is all filled.

Because of the buggy nature of this software, personally I wouldn't use it to create anything too advanced like a full vector animated movie. However if you're just looking for some vector animation software to create scalable, animated props, heads and backgrounds for your GoAnimate movies this is a good stop gap until you can get your hands on something better.

Pencil features a nice 'onion skin' tool that allows you to import a bitmap image onto one layer then use the vector tools to trace it - as I did with my animated campfire prop below (you may need to click on the image to see the larger version and my vector lines traced over the bitmap image).


By converting the bitmap animated campfire into a vector animated campfire it will now look great in any scene without becoming pixelated if you zoom in for a close up.

You can see the fully animated version of the campfire in Deer Hunters Creek.

Pencil creates animation through the use of Key Frames. This is great because it means you don't have to draw everything on every single frame. For example, with my campfire I drew the rocks onto one key frame then, over the next ten frames I only drew the fire (which obviously had to move on every frame to look like, well... fire).

If you look closely at the image of the campfire above you can see along the bottom of the screen there is a time line featuring two Vector Layers. Within that time line there are rectangular boxes. Each box represents a key frame. On the first vector layer there is one key frame for the campfire rocks. On the second there are ten frames for the fire.

You'll notice there is also a camera layer in the time line. This layer is used to size and frame your various 'shots'. Just like other layers you create key frames for the different camera shots.

For GoAnimate users you'll need to create a camera layer for your object with just one key frame. The camera size should be the same size as the GoAnimate Studio Stage (550 x 354 pixels).

You'll then need to size your object relative to how big you want it to be (initially) compared to the stage (generally it's best to make sure your object always fits within the stage. You can easily make it larger once you've imported it onto the GoAnimate Stage).

You'll then need to position your object in the top left corner of the stage with the corner being approximately in the middle of the object as shown below. (If you're creating a head prop then the top left corner of the studio is roughly where the neck of your characters body will be).


From there you simply export the file as a Flash/shockwave file (you will have to add the '.swf' extension to the file name yourself) ready to import into the GoAnimate Studio.

Note that for any GoAnimate users thinking that Pencil would be great for creating fully fledged GoAnimate compatible characters with, unfortunately you're out of luck. Whilst it's great for backgrounds, animated props and heads, it cannot save files in the correct format for characters.

Despite it's short comings I've used Pencil to create all my vector based props on GoAnimate. Sometimes I drag my feet thinking, oh no, I don't want to use pencil again, but, unless you want to buy some software, I haven't come across any other free vector animation software compatible with GoAnimate.

Like I said it's a good stop gap. If you find yourself using Pencil a lot and you're really interested in flash animation then you'll probably want to buy something better eventually.

That aside, for a free program it really does have potential. The drawing tools are quite basic but, with enough patience, you really could do some very impressive animation work.

Comments

  1. Awesome. Great review. I tried out pencil and found it frustrating. Possibly for the reasons you mentions. I can't quite remember.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Amazing review, very detailed.

    Just wondering, is it only for BETA users?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Not sure what you're asking Panda Boy? Pencil is free software for anyone to use.

    If you're asking if only GoAnimate Beta users can upload flash props etc. then I'm not sure. I think that is still the case but you would have to check with GoA's staff.

    ReplyDelete
  4. One thing that really impressed me was the smoothness of the pencil when drawing. I've worked with high-end animation and drawing programs that don't bother applying an iota of smoothing to drawn lines, leaving you with a grainy, pixelated mess. Flipbook softens that so that, if you're working with a fine enough line, it feels almost like drawing with a real pencil.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I haven't used Pencil much for freehand style drawing but it really does create some very smooth lines. Wish it was a much more complete program though.

    ReplyDelete
  6. this software is so annoying and so frustrating once i have finished what i am doing with it im going to burn the software to disk then spend several hours hitting it with a baseball bat till no fragments of the disk are left. dont get this software ever out of everything i have used this can be the most time consuming and annoying

    ReplyDelete
  7. I hear you anonymous ;-)

    Once you get a feel for what's likely to cause the program to crash you can minimize the annoyances.

    I try not to use Pencil for anything too complex simply because I'd probably end up hitting it with a baseball bat too.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Very nice - easy to follow, simple, and working. Thanks for the knowledge!
    More templates easy to download

    ReplyDelete
  9. All the comments makes me not to download it.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Nice tip. I find this one useful as a beginner and I was able to make my first transparent image. That is main objective is to make traditional animation and use of pencil design, just amazing.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

I welcome, read, and respond to genuine comments relating to each post. If your comment isn't that save me some time by not posting it.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Popular posts from this blog

Real Human AI Text to Speech Voice App by Replica Studios - AI voice actors for games + films

Replica Studios TTS App. Image: Replica Studios It really pays to attend Reallusion's free animation demonstration Webinars. At a recent webinar, host, Kai DeNeve, featured Replica Studio's A.I. Voice Actor system . Replica uses Artificial Intelligence to learn a real voice actor's speech patterns, tone, and inflection, which can then be used with their Text To Speech (TTS) system to produce the most realistic computer generated voices yet (or at least that I've come across). You can even fine tune how individual words are said and more. Their TTS system works through a downloadable desktop app for Mac and Windows. There are also bridging apps if you want to use their system for voices in UnReal and Unity Gaming systems. Sign up for a free account and get 30 minutes of free voice downloads (that's 30 minutes of recorded audio - not 30 minutes to download audio - that you can download a line at a time). After that you can purchase 4 hour blocks for just USD$24.00.

Animating Warwick Hays Skateboarder Ed Character for Cartoon Animator - Can Ed Kickflip?

Skateboarder Ed. Character by Warwick Hays. Warwick Hays has built quite a sizeable collection of characters, props, and backgrounds for Cartoon Animator that I've yet to really explore, however, being the tragic skateboarder that I am, it was surely fate that I would buy his Skateboarder Ed G3 character as my first purchase. Now I don't know a lot about Warwick but, based on the design of the skateboard prop that comes with Skateboarder Ed I'm fairly certain Warwick doesn't know much about skateboarding, and/or probably didn't use a good reference when designing his skateboard. Bart's skateboard has changed over the years, though curiously, even later versions, barely get closer to what an actual skateboard looks like. To be fair, Warwick's holding up a tradition of animators who clearly haven't seen a skateboard or noticed how skaters actually ride them. Just check out Bart Simpson's flat plank of wood with wheels from the opening int

My First Anthropomorphic Character with Reallusion's Character Creator 3 (Pipeline) & Reviving My TETAnimations YouTube Channel

Skateboarding Cage Monster - Heelflip. Reallusion's Character Creator 3  is a pretty incredible application for creating any kind of human digital 3D character quickly. Its power comes from the way it can totally deform a standard human base template character into a seemingly infinite number of body types and shapes. While I wouldn't recommended it as a your only 3D character sculpting tool, it is very powerful with just how much you can edit a character's form at the vertex/mesh level. I've experimented a little with CC3's Edit mesh functions, mostly using it to hide areas of an object I don't want seen. Bat Storm's cape is a good example where I used the ability to hide vertices to completely remove the assassin's hood from the neckline up. Just on a whim I wondered if I could create my Cage Monster character entirely in CC3 (with exception to his skin textures which I edited in Krita). The character is basically a stylised human body with a monster

Your First Look at Bat Storm Animated and Launching My Patreon

Bat Storm. Traditionally my Bat Storm character has always been a parody of whichever movie Batman is in the limelight. Back in the GoAnimate days that was Christian Bale, but now we have a new, upcoming Batman with Robert Pattinson. What better way to greet the new guy than with Bat Storm's own 'camera test' teaser just like Robert Pattinson's suit camera test. This is actually the very first public release of my new Bat Storm character model animated. Prior to this it's only been 'leaked' still images (does it count as leaking when it's the show creator deliberately posting images publically?). Anyhow Bat Storm pays homage to two Batmen ahead of their time (Val Kilmer and George Clooney) who had the balls to wear nipples on the Batsuit. Clearly a diversionary measure designed to disarm unsuspecting bad guys with laughter.  If no one is taking you seriously that's clearly an advantage! Visit my Patreon Page for more information. L

#XPPenanimationchallenge - How I Created My Entry for XP-Pen's First Animation Competition

XP-Pen's Mascot, Fenix, in A Change of Art by TET. XP-Pen , the makers of a range of pretty sweet pen display monitors, and Reallusion , the makers of some pretty sweet animation apps, teamed up for XP-Pen's very first Animation Challenge with the theme of 'Change'. Any form of animation was acceptable with entries needing to be a minimum of ten seconds in length. Entries closed on June 16th, 2020 (sorry, this blog isn't really a breaking news site, I probably should've mentioned it back in March when entries submissions opened) so it's too late to enter, but I wanted to tell you the tale of how I ended up creating my entry in a really late evening, the day before the deadline. Watch my entry below. Remember the theme is 'Change' and XP-Pen suggested in the rules that including their mascot, Fenix, somewhere in the animation would be looked upon favorably.   The Ideas Scenes from Skater - My First XP-Pen Competition Idea. This was not my first idea

Voice All Your Own Animated Characters with Voice Changer

Voice Changer by AVSoft is real time voice manipulation software that can be used for a wide range of purposes including (according to their website); Voice-over and voice dubbing for audio/video clips, presentations, narrations, voice messages, voice mails, E-greeting cards, broadcasting, etc.; mimic the voice of any person, create animal sounds, change/replace/remove voices in songs, videos,etc. I bought it for the specific purpose of changing my own voice, to extend my vocal range, for voicing characters in my own animations. I was fortunate enough to get this software at a significant discount that made it difficult to refuse, given that I'd never tried it, or even heard of it before. I'm not sure if I would have bought it at the full price given that much of what it can do (for my needs) can also be done with the freeware audio program, Audacity . AV Voice Changer Interface. Voice Changer is relatively easy to install and set up. Once installed simply

Artbreeder - Using AI created Character and Background Content in your Animations

A selection of User/AI generated images from Artbreeder. If you're looking for an endless supply of 2D character and background images for your animations then Artbreeder , an online Artificial Intelligence (AI) that generates image mash-ups you can tweak as much as you like, could be the ultimate content library. What is Artbreeder? Artbreeder is free to use though there are various paid plans, that give you additional features, such as higher resolution download images or more settings to play with. All images created on the site are Public Domain (CC0 License) and can be used in commercial projects. Using Artbreeder's online app you can generate head shot portraits, full body characters, landscapes, and other scenes simply by choosing two or more existing images to mash together then, using a series of sliders, to select which traits from each image you wish to lean toward in the final image. Photo Comparison - Top is my original uploaded photo. Bottom is Artbreeder's ap