What is a typical workflow?

I’ve watched some tutorial videos and read most of the documentation, but I haven’t found the typical steps one would do to create an animation, just obvious information like “this is the pen tool, it draws things”.

Can someone who knows give me a list of steps, please?

Also, is it really true that one cannot create objects and move them automatically between frames? Is it all completely manual, so one has to draw each complete frame of the animation?

Is there any way to draw perfect circles? How to draw curves and arcs?

Seriously, what is the point of creating a whole program and then not documenting it all, even quickly? So frustrating.

@david062 This program is made y people who donate their time. No one is getting paid for their work or making money from the software. Of course we could use a documentation, but it takes time. If you go to the help menu there’s an embedded quick guide that explains the tools and some tips. or press F1.

You can also watch this comprehensive tutorial on the software by a community contributor on YT:

There’s also the Pencil2D YT channel where there’s a ton of playlists from other people’s tutorials and work:

If you want to learn an animation workflow with Pencil2D watch DJSAnimation100 videos on this playlist:

I know it’s frustrating when something isn’t given right off the bat, but there’s more material than you might think and we have gathered it in the Tutorials section of this website at https://www.pencil2d.org/doc/tutorials.html

Hope that helps.

No, I’m really sorry, but this doesn’t help. Of all the videos I have tried to watch, https://www.youtube.com/embed/videoseries?list=PLkxWc7jmDfJzhAAB1bu6ynXdJJHGsAZHo&wmode=transparent&rel=0&autohide=1&showinfo=1&enablejsapi=1 is perhaps the best. But it doesn’t teach! It just shows a frame being drawn, then some magic happens and the frame is being compared with previous frames! It doesn’t explain what is being done, it just shows the animation being developed fast, fast fast!

All I really asked for is a list of the steps: do you draw first? then what do you do? then what do you do? None of this documentation just explains what the basic steps are!

Also, you didn’t actually answer ANY of my specific questions. Just bragged about how there’s lots of documentation and besides there’s time to program but no time to document.

Please, please go back to my original question and take a bit more time to actually answer my questions, particularly the one about wanting a list of steps in creating an animation. One step should be adding a frame, but when is this done? Another step should be adding a key frame, but when should this be done? And why do you have key frames when you have no interpolation? Or do you have interpolation?

I’d like to use pencil2d for a project, but after playing around with it for half an hour or so, I can’t make it work! And I can’t find a detailed description of the workflow (the steps to take to make an animation). Please help.

Some projects do their documentation first, so they know what the program has to do!

I’ve never seen anyone defend a lack of good documentation so much ever before!

I’ve watched some tutorial videos and read most of the documentation, but I haven’t found the typical steps one would do to create an animation, just obvious information like “this is the pen tool, it draws things”.

Can someone who knows give me a list of steps, please?

The steps taken to create animation in Pencil2D come from traditional animation pipelines. Often times the workflow can happen, but it’s not limited to the following:

  1. Draft an animation using rough sketches. This is usually done with the Pencil tool in a bitmap layer.
  2. Then once the rough draft is made for your entire animation, and you are content with how the motion is presented then you can create the line art in a new layer. This is known as the “clean-up” stage as well as the “inking” stage, from the ink & paint part of a pipeline. in here you can use the ink tool.
  3. The “Paint” stage was done using Brushes to color the drawings behind the lineart. In Pencil2D You can use another layer below the lineart and paint the color behind it for all your areas. It’s also possible to copy and paste the drawing in the second layer and use the fill tool with an increased color tolerance to fill the color to avoid getting a white halo in the fill outline.
  4. if you need to refine parts of the lineart or coloring stages, in the past you couldn’t do that as easily. Here you can use the eraser and also use the selection tool to carefully move or remove parts of your drawing. In the future Freehand selection tools will become available as well.

Animation drawing, “clean-up” and painting are equally time-consuming stages of a production so they are done by several people. If you want to read more on HOW an animation is made and apply that knowledge to any animation program, not only Pencil2Dm you can read this documentation from toonboom harmony a commercial industry standard software: https://docs.toonboom.com/help/harmony-12-2/premium/animation-workflow/traditional-animation-workflow.html

Also Toonboom Animation has an excellent free resource to learn all the processes involved in animation production and some of them are software agnostic. You can visit that resource here:

Also, is it really true that one cannot create objects and move them automatically between frames? Is it all completely manual, so one has to draw each complete frame of the animation?

This software is for now focused on drawing. Other software does have interpolation capabilities. If you want to inbetween transformations I recommend getting Flash, re-branded Animate CC in their latest versions. You can use a Free trial to do a test drive. You can also use Opentoonz, which is free and has interpolation capabilities.

Is there any way to draw perfect circles? How to draw curves and arcs?

Not yet unfortunately. Developers are aware of this requirement but are first stabilizing the software to reduce the chances of people losing their work due to a faulty operation.

Seriously, what is the point of creating a whole program and then not documenting it all, even quickly? So frustrating.

Sometimes documentation takes a long time, and the human resources are limited to creating and fixing the program. The original developer was mostly working on his own for 4 years so he didn’t have enough time to document it while having a full time job. That is not to say that documentation should not be made, it totally needs to be created, every software requires up to date documentation for their end users, but unfortunately Pencil2D does not have this right now and that’s why we try to provide as much one-to-one support as possible while we make it available for end users.

Also, you didn’t actually answer ANY of my specific questions. Just bragged about how there’s lots of documentation and besides there’s time to program but no time to document.

It wasn’t my intent to brag. I was providing alternate resources to assist you into getting further acquainted with the software due to the lack of documentation. Unfortunately that intent was not communicated adequately and thus the resources were not perceived as helpful. Nothing more.

Considering you’re having difficulties with Pencil2D due to the lack of documentation I can provide alternate links to other free animation software that do have proper documentation and that will allow you to do interpolation. They also have a more robust community that might help meet your needs in case what has been communicated here does not resolve your queries.


Have a good evening.

Thank you, José!

I think the part I am most interested in is your Step 1. Can you please expand it, and explain how to create frames and use onionskin and any of the other techniques you skipped?

I am currently looking into Synfig, and will take a look at your links when I have more time.

It seems to me that creating one frame at a time is very laborious. This is just the kind of labor that computers can handle!

I’m a beginner in animation. I’ve tried several tools and techniques, but none are the kind of tool I can easily imagine to generate prototype/pilot animations using the power of the computer. Here is how it would work, as I see it:

Step 1: you would start a scene by sketching (freehand or with drawing tools, bitmap or vector, I don’t care, but vector objects would be easiest to interpolate by computer) some objects that will be in the scene.

Step 2: you grab some lines with the mouse and start pulling to move and distort one or more of the objects, or making them visible or hidden, depending on shift keys. Frames get generated as you go, and you can click a key to see them loop up to speed and click other keys to speed up or slow down the translation or distortion. You can even grab the lines that make up text characters, move them around, twist them, etc.

Step 3: now that you have a working sketch for the scene, you go back and add effects that require more user input (this could be programming, like with GreenSock, or preferably something else).

Step 4: on to the next scene, until done.

There should also be an option to have a really low frame rate, and automatically fade-transition from one frame to the next. This is mechanical, so it can be also done by the computer.

With a system like this, I could quickly sketch out an animation and even use it to plan out timings and layout for a more detailed animation using Unity, Mo.js, Web GL, Adobe After Effects, or who knows what real modern animation tool.

Take a look at the video and the playlist that @JoseMoreno linked again, there is a wealth of information their on how to use the program. You can also discover many of our features by simple experimentation now that you have the basics. There’s no one right way to animate, so you kind of just have to try things discover what works best for you.

It seems to me that creating one frame at a time is very laborious.

Animation is a lot of work. Anyone that told you otherwise is either lying or knows something I don’t.

The general idea you are describing is often referred to as “tweening”. This is not a feature that Pencil2D currently supports. Pencil2D instead focuses on the traditional 2d workflows of frame-by-frame animation. Both approaches are still used today in the animation industry as they have a very different style or feel to them. If you are set on using tweening, FireAlpaca, Synfig, OpenToonz are good free alternatives. As @JoseMoreno has already said, Flash is a very popular proprietary program for this, but most professional animation programs will have at least basic support for tweening. As a warning all of the programs (except maybe FireAlpaca) have a significantly steeper learning curve to them than Pencil2D so if you are struggling to learn the basics here, they could prove even more challenging for you.

Just because you are creating one frame at a time does not mean that you must redraw every frame completely. Often animators will split their scene up into layers for different objects so that only the parts that change have to be redrawn in a new frame. Duplicating a previous frame to use as the base for the next frame is also commonly used to reduce the amount of work required. Creating cycles is also a common technique and while we don’t currently have a specific tools to loop frames, the frames can always be duplicated or looped in an external program.

I suspect fading between frames would look pretty terrible at low frame rates (basically it would be like watching someone hold the next button on a powerpoint). At higher frame rates it would not be as noticeable, but at that point you don’t really need to make the frame rate any higher.

Finally one other thing I want to add is that animating one frame, and then the next, and then the next, and so on is only one of multiple possible workflows. Absolutely some people animate this way (I forget the term for this, @JoseMoreno probably knows if there is one), but many animators, particularly in professional environments, will draw out the “keyframes”, frames that represent some key part of the motion (such as the bottom and top of a jump), and then work on drawing the frames inbetween by imagining how the drawing would look part way between those two positions.

@david062 I see, thank you for explaining your requirements. Unfortunately as per your request on point one I’m afraid I don’t have the time nor the resources to teach what amounts to, at the very least, a college-level semester worth of information, while taking intensive courses on all the required skills to become proficient at it in the allotted time.

There are however alternate resources on the web that may be able to provide or complement your knowledge with the necessary information in ,quite likely, a far better way and in less time that what I could tackle. These are two of the best examples:


With that said, it is crystal clear after reading the entirety of your response that Pencil2D is simply not the right tool for the required workflow even though your proposed steps are certainly doable, they are not possible with Pencil2D’s current technology.

As it stands now, the application that would most likely match your approach, philosophy and perception of animation is perhaps Moho Pro 12. This is a very powerful vector animation software with the capability to do mostly everything that you outlined, along frame by frame animation, and can even be interfaced and extended through a programming language. It also has an excellent set of manuals and documentation along a vibrant community of experts and enthusiasts that use such a refined tool.

I’ll share a set of example videos from an older version of Moho (previously called Anime Studio) which are only a showcase of possible techniques such as “point to point” and hybrid rigging animation that might cover in a general sense what you were describing

As an additional suggestion, since you also mentioned After Effects, I’ve seen it host similar base animation capabilities for vector animation, plus it can also be extended to through programming. Here’s a speed animation example video which incidentally covers a full animation process from layout planning (the initial drawing to stablish the camera angle framing in relationship to the character) to finished interpolated animation using After Effects.

Lastly, I strongly suggest that you to also review the free toonboom learning resourses that I shared in my previous response as the parent company has crafted learning tracks to specifically certificate users not only in Toonboom harmony but also as capable animation technicians to become proficient in animation.

Other than that I wish you well and hope you can create wonderful things once you find the most appropriate tool for your creative endeavors. Take care.

José, Thank you for your reply.

However, I wasn’t asking for professional training in animation. I only asked to understand how Pencil2d works in a normal workflow. I wanted to understand when and how key frames should be created, for example. The answer should not have taken this much time if you had understood my question from the beginning. Okay, never mind.

Moho Pro 12, which you recommended, costs $400. That is an enormous amount of money for a nonprofit charity, which is why I have said here that I am looking for a free or low-cost tool. Pencil2d was attractive because of its price.

You write long answers, which is probably why you are tired of talking with me and anxious for this to end. But your answers are off-topic, so they don’t help me. I was just trying to learn how to use pencil2d, not how to do animation, which I am learning from other websites without any problems.

Thank you for taking time to write to me, and I wish you and pencil2d lots of success. Unfortunately, I cannot use it as I cannot figure out how to create a sequence of frames using this tool. The tool seems to be good, but the documentation is poorly thought out. Just two paragraphs of Help information, well-written, would make all the difference in the world in allowing people to make use of this product.

If you are interested in seeing what really good documentation looks like, please visit https://wiki.synfig.org/Doc:Animation_Basics . Here is a similar product (a little more complex; it includes automatic tweening), so the documentation style would work for pencil2d as well. Of course, the content would be quite different, as pencil2d has a different interface. But, as I said, pencil2d actually needs a much more modest intro document, one that simply lists the steps for generating an animation, which should just take a few sentences.

Hi @david062,
In the Preferences, in the Timeline section, under Drawing, you choose the first option, to make a blank keyframe if none exists.
The white screen in the middle of your window is your field. It is 800x600 by default. If you want another size, double click the camera layer.
Let’s start animating. Select the Bitmap Layer. Select frame number 1. Draw a small circle in the left side of the screen. Now select frame number 2. Frame number one will be visible untill you start drawing. Draw a circle an inch to the right of the first one. Select frame number 3. Again draw a circle an inch right to the second.
Select frame number 1 again, press the Play button, and voila - there’s your first animation.
After that there are more layers, onion skins, and plenty more.
The documentation is not at all satisfactory, but we are very few few volonteers working on this, and we have priorities. One of my hopes is that we this year can some official Pencil2D tutorial videos, but I can’t promise anything.

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David, I just tried your instructions. Wonderful! I got the pleasure of making my first animation, and it only took one paragraph of text to get me going without confusing me.

This makes me look forward to more: I want to be able to create parts of the animation that will not move, and parts that will move, and just redraw the parts that will move. This will require just one more paragraph of information.

And so on.

I wish you all luck in producing your documentation, which as you can see now is easy to do. I think your tool has an important place as a simple tool to do manual (flipbook) animation, leaving other tools for other purposes, other kinds of animation.

I am currently happy learning Synfig Studio, and wish you all luck and goodbye. I feel good that I was able to contribute something valuable to your project.

I’m glad you succeeded in making an animation, and my smile gets even wider when I read that you think you were “…able to contribute something valuable…” to Pencil2D.
Good luck, and Happy Animating!

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@david062 My deepest apologies. I didn’t mean to sound condescending or to provide verbose responses out of spite. I was genuinely trying to help and I regret any confusion or frustration previous responses may have caused you.

I’m glad to see David has guided you better than I could, and hopefully his expert but succinct pointers have helped you to better pursue your artistic journey with renewed interest.

By learning from this interaction, we will certainly double our efforts in creating approachable documentation for the tool as well as documenting the process involved in traditional animation created with the software. This is however not an easy task for us, but one we look forward to.

As part of our volunteering towards this project our mission is to shape Pencil2D to be a simple yet complete tool for drawn animation and we’ll aim to take the necessary steps to make it as accessible and easy to use as possible for users worldwide.

Once again thank you for your interest, patience and contributions through this conversation and with the amount of genuine sincerity that can be expressed through words, we also wish you the very best with your artistic endeavors.

p.s. I’d like @davidlamhauge to answer to your specific question about moving & static parts due to his experience, but If I may, you can create your “static” drawings in one bitmap layer (e.g a torso, car chasis), and in a different bitmap layer create the “moving parts” (e.g arms, wheels). This will be mainly to avoid redrawing the whole character or subject of your drawing.

Pencil2D has an embedded automatic exposure system, so just creating a single drawing in a separate layer (such as a background or a held / static part) will allow that drawing to be seen until the end of your animation as long as there is no other keyframe in the layer.

That is very kind of you. This was a simple misunderstanding of the type of Help I was looking for when first learning to use pencil2d.

Yes, I had rather suspected that using layers was the answer, but it is not easy to see how to use layers in your tool! Again, what I wanted was a simple list of steps to take to get the job done.

Help is not that difficult to write, if you just pretend to know nothing about the tool or workflow that you are describing. The example that the other David gave should be an inspiration for those who know how the tool works to follow in writing easy steps for the rest of the process.

I’m moving on now, bye to all.

There are a lot of videos on YouTube “Pencil2D Tutorial” - there are a lot of information about this soft. You may watched its - there are all answers from yours questions, surly! And all workflow described.