Hand Drawn Animation Tutorial

By Anthony Diaz de la Vega
Animation may require hundreds or even thousands of hand-drawn frames.

Hand-drawn animation is the process of creating hundreds or thousands of individual moments of action, then playing them back to create the illusion of a constant action or motion. Animation typically features 24 or 30 frames per second of action, meaning a half-hour animated show may have been made up of as many as 54,000 individual drawings or "cels". Sketching out a just couple minutes of animation will give you a firsthand look into how much work and technical detail goes into one of the most creative professions.

Come up with a two-second concept. This could be something really simple like a stick figure waving or a bomb exploding. Just make sure that it is not too intricate and features movement.

Sketch out your first image on a piece of white paper. Lay a piece of tracing paper on top of the original sketch and copy trace it lightly. Make a small change to this frame in the direction of movement. For example, if your animation will be of a bomb exploding it might swell a bit and the fuse will be slightly shorter.

Continue this same process for another 46 frames, each time making small incremental changes in the direction of the action. Lay the cels on top of one another in reverse chronological order (first image on the bottom) and flip through them to see the changes.

Mount a camera on a tripod facing a desk. Take a picture of each drawing in chronological order; try to keep the drawings centered in the frame by putting the pages in the same position for each shot. Upload the 48 pictures to a simple movie editing program like iMovie.

String the individual cels together in chronological order. Set the speed of the film playback to 24 frames per second. When played back, your simple scene will take shape, with the cels blurring together into a seamless two-second story.

About the Author

Anthony Diaz de la Vega has been writing professionally since 2007. His work has appeared on the Celebrity Net Worth website, among other online entities. Vega earned his Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Alma College.