How To Draw Like An Animator


[1] Storyboarding ideas

Based on an idea you want to animate, we first make storyboards. These are the blueprints for animation.

Here, we will figure out the how the character will fill the frame, how it will move, how the camera will move if there is camera movement, etc.

When moving backgrounds etc. with camera movement, the canvas will have to match the size of the entire background.

Therefore, creating storyboards before creating a canvas is recommended to streamline the workflow.

This time, we will create an animation of a character moving from the bottom of the frame to the top. The camera will follow the changing background.


Career paths for animators

Film / TV

The most obvious career path (though not the easiest) is working on movies and TV shows (Disney, Pixar, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network etc.)

Even though the most common perception of what an ‘animator’ does is animating characters like Wall-E or the dog in Up, a lot of animation work in this industry happens in VFX and mechanical animation in live-action films as well. Almost every effect-heavy live-action film you see uses animators to some degree.

Most of the work in the film and TV happens in California, and getting into the major studios might take years of applying before getting in the door.


Working in commercials takes a different set of skills than film and TV. Though you might still be animating characters, the timeline of production is much quicker, and you would be expected to do more different tasks rather than specialize.

Also, =commercial work will often be motion-graphics rather than character animation. That means knowing After Effects and/or Cinema4D is more relevant if that’s your path.

Animating on commercials might not be what you went to become and animator for, but it can still be a lot of fun, and there is much more work to be had, and locations are almost a non-issue, since most major cities have production companies producing commercial work to some degree.

Pre-visualization (Previz)

A less known field for animators is previz work. Previz animators create a pre-visualization of the piece (commercial, movie, etc…) by animating temporary figures in a mock environment to allow the director get a sense of their shots and composition.

You’ll be surprised how many studios and production houses use previs, and some companies are dedicated to only create previs for different productions.

With the massive growth of the use of previz in both commercial, TV and film, previz animators can get work in a multitude of fields and locations, though as an aspiring animator you might not get to do your best work (since animation has to be done quickly and quality isn’t much of a factor) and your work will not actually be seen by an audience.

Video Games

The video game industry is massive and there is a lot of work for animators in it. The work itself varies greatly from motion capture to full character-animation, to creating animation cycles that loop throughout the game.

If you’ve even played a Blizzard game, or watched some of the cinematic pieces from Final Fantasy games, you know that video games produced some of the greatest pieces of animation, and pushed the technology just as much as films did. Working in this industry could be a lot of fun, and it employs animators in both 3D and 2D and offers a great variety of work.

Motion Graphics

I’ve mentioned motion graphics when I wrote about working on commercials, but motion graphics artists work on a much wider verity of projects. From explainer videos to event projections to software UI demonstrations.

Motion graphics life is often the life or a freelancer, jumping from one project to the next, using mostly After Effects (sometimes in combination with Cinema4D)


A new rising type of animator is the independent animator. They mostly use YouTube as their main platform and make their living through ads, sponsorships and merchandise, and ore and more of these animators surface all the time.

Other animation filmmakers can use crowdfunding to fund their movies, or get studios to fund their films on an indie budget.


Why Building a Career in VFX Makes Sense In-Demand Job Opportunities in Animation Use of Animation in Different Sectors Use of animation in e-learning Best Career Opportunities in Video Gaming Industry

How To Draw Like An Animator Details

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What you’ll learn

  • Learn to think like a master Disney animator, by pLearn to think like a master Disney animator, by planning your animation in advance
  • Discover Tom Bancroft’s thought process for develoDiscover Tom Bancroft’s thought process for developing an action scene
  • Get to know the 12 Principles of Animation and exaGet to know the 12 Principles of Animation and examples of each
  • What are the various types of animation and importWhat are the various types of animation and important animation terms
  • Find out the difference between sketching and drawFind out the difference between sketching and drawing
  • Master the 'BIG THREE' Animation Concepts: Timing,Master the ‘BIG THREE’ Animation Concepts: Timing, Spacing and Squash & Stretch
+ See more

 Onion skin Function

Click [Timeline] palette > [Show animation cels] > [Enable onion skin] to overlay the preceding and following cels over the current cel.

▲ The previous cel will be shown in blue and the next cel will be in limegreen.

You can set the color and number of skins displayed for the onion skin by selecting the [Animation] menu > [Show animation cels] > [Onion skin settings].

Use [Select next cel] and [Enable onion skin] to speed up your work and draw each keyframe.

*4. Setting animation repetition

One animation cel can be used multiple times by setting it on a separate cel in the timeline.

In this example, the animation of the wings can be repeated by specifying the same layers to different cels on the timeline.

Right-click frame “7” in the timeline where you want to add a cel, and specify the “1” cel that has already been drawn.

Do the same for frame 9 and 11.

The animation in cel 1-3 will be repeated after frame 7.

*5. Playback and checking the animation

Once you have drawn a character in every cel, play the animation and check the movement.

Click [Play/Stop] on the [Timeline] palette.

The animation will be played back with the specified fps.

Pressing [Play/Stop] again will stop the playback.

We will adjust the sections that you want to move smoothly and delete unnecessary cels in the next chapter.

Who is this course for

  • Artists who are starting out in animation and want to learn the basics (some drawing experience required)
  • Animators who would like to brush up on the essentials and learn the process from an industry veteran
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Long Reads

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How to create an animatic in Boords

Step 1: Round up your images

You’ll need images to make an animatic. Animatics are made using sketches or ‘scamps’ – rough versions which indicate what’s happening in a frame. Your images just need to convey action within each scene. Generally, these are the same images used at the storyboarding stage.

Remember, the goal of your animatic is to create a rough version of your final piece, not the final piece itself. Avoid using ‘finished’ images. Focus on timing, not visual detail. There’ll be plenty of time for that later.

In Boords, there are a few different ways to add images. You can drag some pre-prepared images onto the frame or upload them from one of the connected file storage services, like Dropbox or Google Drive.

If you haven’t prepared any images yet, you can draw directly into the frame with the drawing tool. Or alternatively, you can search the Image Library by clicking Edit image, then Stock illustrations & photos. Search for an image that works for you, then click Insert.

Step 2: Convert to animatic

Both storyboards and animatics use the same images, but there are some fundamental differences between the two. Unlike a storyboard, animatics usually have subtitles, varying frame lengths and an accompanying audio file or soundtrack.

Click Animatic to convert your images directly from storyboard format to an animatic.

Your animatic will be arranged into a timeline with the position of each frame marked by a grey dot.

Step 3: Add audio

An audio track can be considered the pillar of an animatic. It adds depth to the piece and gives the viewer a feel for how the finished production will flow. The audio track could be in the form of a voiceover, background track or other specific sound effects.

Select Add sound to upload an audio file from your computer to Boords. Once uploaded, you’ll see a waveform of the audio to help guide you through.

Step 4: Time it out

If you’ve added a voiceover or soundtrack, that will define the length of your animatic. Equally, you might have a pre-defined length. For example, videos for social media often have to be made to a given length.

Once the overall length is determined, you can begin setting the duration of each frame in a process known as timing out your animatic.

Grab the frame marking by hovering over it and the hold the Shift key. Keeping Shift held, drag the marking into place. When you place your cursor over the frame marking, you’ll see the timecode of each frame.

Using the visual of the audio waveform will help to sync the audio with each frame.

Step 5: Share for feedback

An animatic’s strength is in its flexibility; they are not finished pieces. Therefore, it’s easier to cut sections of your film based on feedback. If you have committed time and energy into creating a finished animated movie, cuts like this are harder to make.

The in-built commenting feature in Boords makes the process of gathering frame-specific feedback much more manageable.

At this point, your animatic should be right on track for feedback.

  • Click Share in the top-right of your storyboard.
  • Copy the link.
  • Send this link to your team/clients for feedback.

They can leave feedback by adding comments to specific frames.

Step 6: Export to MP4

An animatic is a stepping stone. When you’re happy with the timing of your film, you’ll want to move into production. Your animatic then becomes the reference for your final film.

Create and share Animatics online. Trusted by 150,000+ creatives. Try Boords Free

At this stage, you’ll want to move your animatic into the animation software you’re going to create your final piece in. Boords allows you to export animatics as MP4 files and also has an Adobe After Effects plugin, which will enable you to import timed out animatics directly into your project.

To export to MP4, select Download, then Start New Render.

With an animatic in hand, you’re in the best possible place to start animating!

Understanding CustomPainter

As the ShapePainter class extends from CustomPainter, which is an abstract class, two methods must be implemented within it:

  • paint: This method is called whenever the object needs to be repainted.
  • shouldRepaint: This method is called when a new instance of the class is provided.

The paint method has two parameters:

  • canvas
  • size

If we have a child specified inside the CustomPaint widget, then the canvas will have the same size as that child. In our case, the canvas area will take the size of the entire Container.

Draw Line

Now, I am going to draw a horizontal line located at the center of the screen (as if it is dividing the screen into two halves vertically).

To draw that line, you have to determine the two pairs of coordinates that it would be joining, and then you can just connect them by drawing a line.

The code for drawing the line is given below:

The code for drawing the line is given below:

Here, you have the paint variable storing an instance of the Paint class, which is like a paintbrush and helps in specifying its color, strokeWidth, strokeCap, etc.

Then, there are two Offset variables that specify the starting and ending position coordinates.

Finally, the drawLine method is called on the canvas for drawing a line between the two Offset positions, and the paint variable is also passed to this method.

You can return false in the shouldRepaint method because there is no need to redraw the line.

There is also another method you can follow for drawing a line using Path.

While using Path, you will need to specify another property for the paint variable, that being style (here, I have defined it to be PaintingStyle.stroke). If you do not specify this property, then the drawn line will not be visible.

The moveTo method is used for changing the current location of the point to the specified coordinate.

The lineTo method is used for drawing a line from the current point to the specified point on the canvas.

Then the drawPath method is called on the canvas for applying the paint to the path and displaying it on screen.

This will produce exactly the same result as the first method.

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Create animatics automatically from your storyboards

With our online animatic maker you can add frame timings, audio, and subtitles, then save to MP4 or After Effects.

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