chariot on a record wheel


In which I answer questions that keep happening!

Disclaimer: I am not a professional animator. I feel slightly uncomfortable giving out advice in light of this, because it becomes a case of the blind leading the blind and I am not a great teacher. So take this advice with a grain of salt, know that I am a hobbyist who knows nothing of animation beyond the small scope of what my personal studies have unearthed, and that I may even unintentionally mislead the would-be animator in this ignorance. I encourage you, if you are interested in animating, to do what I have done and google ‘how do I even animate’, to learn and synthesize and come to conclusions for yourself as well.

Q: Are you going to finish the Homestuck animation?

A: Yes. In a sense. By the end of this project, the animation will be fully sketched out, and fully synced with the music. I will not be refining the lines. I will not be coloring it. But you will be able to watch on youtube a version without ‘WIP’ in the upper left hand corner.

Q: How old are you/Where are you from/What do you do?

A: 22, the US, student.

Q: How do YOU animate?

A: So many ways to answer this question! With a tablet and Photoshop. With patience and something animated playing in the background of my computer. Blindly??

Most likely you want to know the nitty gritty of animating in Photoshop and this is outlined briefly here. It’s not a very nitty gritty tutorial, and it’s barely a tutorial, but it’s how I animate. I’ll give a try at a step-by-step sometime?

Q: But HOW do you animate?

A: I wasn’t kidding when I said with patience. But as for learning, I think most of the intro-level animation homeworks include animating a bouncing ball, because in this one exercise you learn techniques like Squash/Stretch, Timing/Spacing, Movement arcs, and Volume (making sure the ball is the same size throughout). These are some principles of animation which are outlined far better in books like Cartoon Animation and the Animator’s Survival Kit, both of which you should look into if you have an interest in pursuing animation, as I am fairly sure they are industry standard.

Additionally with the animating ball exercise you’ll get a sense of how long it takes to animate something. The answer is: a long time. I like the payoff of animating. Seeing something you’ve spent so long on come to life is immensely satisfying. But if it were a graph it’d be like this: image

If you google around for ‘how to animate a bouncing ball’, you will find everything technical you need to know. Also google ‘principles of animation’.

Q: Advice for beginners?

A: ANIMATE NOW!! No actually, the mental block of perceiving yourself as ‘not good enough to do ____’ is one of the first and largest hurdles to doing any type of creative art. You really should not ‘wait until you’re good enough’ to start whatever project you want to start. Start it now. You will probably get frustrated, you will probably think ‘this sucks I suck I’ll never be good’, and woah bam welcome to being an artist; it is a study in trying to catch up with your expectations of what good art is and most times perceiving yourself as falling woefully short. But despite this, you should keep trying, keep improving (and you will improve if you keep doing it).

Also a good foundation in anatomy helps everything. 

Also watch a ton of cartoons.

Q: Have you taken animation classes?

A: None, unfortunately. I once took a course titled ‘computer graphics’ early in highschool where they taught me that everything is photoshopped and You Can Photoshop Too. Offhandedly, the teacher mentioned that you can do simple frame by frame animations with Photoshop. Consequently that entire class was very relevant to my life.  

Q: How long have you been animating?

A: A little over a year now. My tumblr animation tag is literally every animation I’ve ever completed in my life.


Q: What animation program should I use?

A: Okay so I actually have very little experience with legitimate animation programs. I would recommend Adobe Flash, as being able to animate in flash is not only a very valuable skill to have PERIOD, but it is very commonly used and thus has a zillion very accessible tutorials by very talented people.  My problems with Flash are more aesthetic than functional, but it is what I would consider the go-to program for animators.

ToonBoom? I can’t say much about it because my experiments were not so successful. But I have seen great things animated in ToonBoom.

Now, Adobe Photoshop is what I use BUT. It is not a program built for animation. Sure, it has animation capabilities. But I am pretty sure animating with Photoshop is like using a team of Chihuahuas to pull a dogsled. You’ll get there eventually but they will be terribly temperamental on the way and why the heck aren’t you using Huskies, you terrible human being.

Animating in Photoshop comes with a number of problems. Namely, memory problems which account for lag and freeze and everything that’s terrible in the world. If you’re running 32-bit windows, you’ll only be able to allocate 3GB of RAM max to Photoshop (Edit->Preferences->Performance). If you’re running 64-bit, you can allocate all of your RAM save for 1GB, if you so choose. I have 6GB of RAM and I give 3GB of it to Photoshop, more if I’m exporting a video.

After the memory problems, the biggest problem I find with Photoshop is timing. The timing calculations are not entirely accurate, and that matters a lot in animation. For example, in the frame by frame mode of animating you can choose to allocate 0.0 seconds to a given frame of animation. What is that. How much is 0 seconds. Does that mean this frame is not going to show up in the animation at all?? Turns out 0.0 just means REALLY REALLY FAST in Photoshop timing language. But you shouldn’t be able to allocate NO TIME to any frame in the first place, what are you even doing, Photoshop.

Most of these can be obtained for trial on their various websites. They can also be obtained permanently on other various websites.

Alternatively a flipbook and pencil are nice! Kinda smudgy is all.

You could also probably google around and find other programs that people like to use.

Q: Why do you use Photoshop if it’s such a terrible animation program?

A: GOOD QUESTION. Well I like how things look in Photoshop. My problems with Flash are that you can always tell things were made in Flash. There’s just a sort of line quality to the animations it produces, even when you’re doing frame by frame things and not using the shortcuts Flash has built in for animators. I’m not knocking Flash, I know it can do great things (Wakfu). This is just a personal aesthetic thing I’ve got going on here. PERSONAL CHOICE.

I knew the basics of animating in Photoshop when I really got the sudden urge to finally jump into animation (which was a year ago with the first Homestuck animation I did), and Photoshop was right there. I didn’t want to download a new program and figure out how to animate in it, I just wanted to animate RIGHT AWAY.

But I’m probably going to try using a different program for further animation experiments though.

Q: Reading back on this, mostly what you’re telling me to do is google?

A: Haha yeah. Self-teaching is important! And I don’t have a ton of knowledge on animation. The way I taught myself was to watch a ton of cartoons, read a few books, go through tutorials on the web, and then try to apply what I learned. I couldn’t find a lot on how to time animation with sound… so I just decided to try learning through doing. When all else fails just try it!!


That about wraps up the most common questions I get about the Homestuck animation and the animating thereof! I hope it shed a bit of light on just how much I do not know what I am doing. Thank you :D

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