Animate drawings with Pencil2D

Run It

Pencil2D always displays the onion skins of the last or next five images. To change this, go to Edit | Preferences and select Tools. To define how many previous images Pencil2D displays, add a number for Number of previous onion frames shown; similarly you can define the Number of next onion frames shown. (Pencil2D automatically extends the timeline up to 10,000 frames.)

You should now have created several frames where the ball slowly drops from the top to the bottom. To view the animation, select the first frame. Then press Ctrl+Enter or click the right arrow triangle in the timeline. Depending on how many images you have created, the animation may be over fairly quickly. This changes if you enable the curved arrow in the timeline or select Animation | Repeat. During playback, Pencil2D will repeat the animation until you press the corresponding button or Ctrl+Enter to stop it again.

The playback speed can be controlled using the fps input box on the timeline's right side. By default, the animation runs at 12 frames per second (fps). You can experiment with lower or higher values for your ball. Then make sure that your last frame is visible on the drawing area.

Transparency Report

Many scenes consist of several objects (e.g., the ball could fall on a wall). Pencil2D supports layers so that you do not have to repaint the background in each single image. Layers work like slides, which the tool simply superimposes on top of each other.

To create a new layer for the wall, choose Layer | New Grid Layer and assign a name such as Background. Pencil2D now adds a new line to the timeline. Click the Background layer. Everything you paint from now on is assigned to this layer.

Use the Polyline tool to draw a line under the ball from left to right. If you play the animation now, the ball drops onto the line. To include a photo of a real wall, use File | Import | Image to load an image on the currently active layer.

In the timeline, you will find several small boxes, each representing a single image. Pencil2D displays each of them until a new frame follows in the line. Try this out by selecting the middle of the animation with the . and , keys and then creating a new frame with F7. Paint a yellow sun with the brush. The sun will appear in the second part of your animation (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Here the first frame of the background would be seen for four frames. Then Pencil2D switches to the single image with the sun.

To delete a single frame, select the corresponding layer on the timeline, then select the corresponding frame, and select Animation | Remove Frame. Unlike clicking on the trash can icon, Pencil2D deletes the entire image rather than just clearing the drawing area.


Pencil2D superimposes the drawings in the layers in the order in which they appear in the timeline. In Figure 7, all drawings in the Background layer would appear above the ball. You can change the order of the layers by dragging the name of a layer up or down to the desired position. During fine-tuning in particular, it can sometimes help to hide a layer. Simply click on the dot in front of a timeline name.

Thus far in my example, I've worked with bitmap images (i.e., with pixels). Pencil2D also has vector layers. One vector layer is automatically created by Pencil2D; others can be created by selecting Layer | New vector layer. These layers work like the image layers, but you can only draw lines and geometric shapes. In return, all objects can be moved and distorted individually later. To do this, click on the respective line with the Move tool. The object can be scaled using the handles that then appear and moved to another position using drag and drop (Figure 8).

Figure 8: The triangle in the vector layer can be compressed and stretched using the handles.

If you want to share your animation, create a video by selecting File | Export. The Movie sub-item saves the animation as an MP4 file; alternatively, Pencil2D supports exporting to an animated GIF.

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