Animation workflow

Typical flow for animation

Ideation and drawing phase

  • Research
  • Thumbnails
  • Story boards
  • Story board in motion, proof of concept

Question to ask yourself – How will you be building with animation?

  • Will you be making a frame by frame animation?
  • Will you be create shape layers and then use motion tweening for those shape layers

Frame by frame vs. motion tween

Understanding the difference between frame by frame and motion tween | video

Frame by frame:

Drawing the entire animation, a single frame at a time. Has been around since the first animations


  • You have a high level of control over each frame,
  • easier to more spontaneous animations


  • takes longer
  • lots of drawing, especially if you want a very fluid looking animations

Motion tween:

You have item A on one side of a page and item B on the other and the computer will do all of the in between frames for you

Advantages: Saves times, valuable skill set for junior level designers

Disadvantages: Steeper learning curve, especially in the beginning, as you have to learn the development process as well as software applications

Can make for a more mechanical looking animation, which is why the programs use things like easing and the graph editor to make actions look more natural

Decide how you want to work for this project

Creating a rough pass

Creating a rough pass of your animation will help you understand both the layer breakdown and also the physics of the piece. This might be the “proof of concept” animation that you made or you might choose to make a second more refined one

Some applications to create this rough pass could be fire alpaca, procreate, rough animator for ipads or photoshop. 24 frames per second is what will give you the most fluid animation. Some people prefer to draw their rough outlines on 2s, meaning that they draw it every other frame

Find the logic in what you draw first. For example, if you are animating a body, first draw the torso, then the limbs. Next add the motion of the head and then any additional items that are in the animation. Since the torso is at the core of the figure, it makes sense to animate that first

Frame by frame animation can be done in either Adobe Animate or After Effects. The advantages of Animate is that the user interface is more simple and there tends to be less steep of a learning curve. Some students prefer to begin in Animate and move to After Effects for the second assignment.

Prework in Adobe Illustrator

  • Import sketches to illustrator
  • Create an artboard for each one of your shots
  • Work very intentionally with layers. How will you be breaking up the motion? What objects will need to be on different layers? Refer to your rough pass animation
  • Select a digital color palette, can start with a site like
  • In illustrator, use the “recolor artwork” option to quickly work through multiple color ways

Frame by Frame animation

Adobe After Effects

Frame by Frame animation in Adobe After Effects

Adobe Animate

Frame by Animation in Adobe Animate

Motion tween

Adobe After Effects

Motion tween animation in Adobe After Effects – working with shape layers tutorial

Adobe Animate

Motion Tween Animation in Adobe Animate