How To Animate In Clip Studio Paint

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Animating can be a lot of fun, but the tools to get there can be frustrating. That’s where Clip Studio Paint (CSP) comes to the rescue!

In this article, you will learn how to animate using this fantastic artist’s toolbox, and soon you will be ready to bring your ideas to life. 

The final goal of the article is to reach this cel frame animation:

I am much too excited for further introductions, let’s get started!

Note: All screenshots have been taken from CSP (EX – version 1.13.0) in Windows.

(Wait a minute, what’s the difference with CSP PRO? Some features differ between the PRO and EX version; in PRO you will be limited to 24 frames, but that is more than plenty for this article; no need to worry.)

Check out this list of Drawing Programs that are Suitable for Beginners!

Step 1: Create a New Animation Project

Open CSP. In the menu bar, up top and left, select File and then New, a pop up window will appear.

Select Animation as the document type.
Set the canvas size and resolution, for this article we are going with 1920px by 1920px (hello square!) and 100 dpi for resolution.

Tip: The options and preferences available on the Animation project window are numerous. Explore around, you will find that setting the appropriate preferences (like timeline naming, frame naming, file management) can spearhead your animation work. CSP offers all of these settings so you can concentrate on what’s most important, animating!

Step 2: Open the Timeline window

As an illustrator, your layers are your forte for keeping a complex illustration tamed. When animating, look to your Timeline to give you that same power.

It looks like this (usually located at the bottom of the screen). 

Don’t see it? Oh, no, panic! I’m joking,don’t panic. Just go to the menu bar up top, select Window, and in the drop down search for Timeline(X), and click on it.

The Timeline window is a heavy-hit player, if you are new to it, you might want to take a side quest for a moment to briefly learn about its power. However, if you feel equipped to skip the quest, just move on to Step 3. 

Timeline Window In Clip Studio Paint

The timeline window helps users manage and organize frames over time. 

Sequencing Frames

The primary purpose of the timeline window is to arrange and sequence individual frames. In animation, each frame represents a single image or drawing.

The timeline allows you to organize these frames in a chronological order to create a sequence of images that, when played consecutively, simulate motion. Cool, right?

Frame Management

It provides tools for adding, deleting, and manipulating frames. You can add new frames to extend your animation, remove unnecessary frames, and rearrange frames to adjust the timing and flow of the animation. 

Timing and Speed Control

The timeline window allows you to control the timing and speed of your animation. You can set the duration of each frame, determining how long it will be displayed before transitioning to the next frame.

This influences the overall speed and smoothness of the animation. Timing alone can make a big difference on the look and feel of how your Sketches come to life.

Onion Skinning

It displays a faded version of previous and upcoming frames, making it easier to maintain consistency in movement and poses across frames. It is the equivalent of traditional animator’s “light tables” where they could see their previous drawings and let that guide them on the new ones.

Playback and Preview

This preview functionality allows you to review your animation in real-time, helping you identify any adjustments needed in terms of timing, motion, or transitions. You are the director, after all.

Keyframe Animation

Keyframes are frames where you define specific poses or changes in your animation. CSP then automatically generates the in-between frames to create a smooth transition. Nice!

To recap this side quest, the timeline window is a central hub for managing the temporal aspects of animation, providing essential tools for frame organization, timing control, and playback. Like we said, it’s a heavy-hit player.

Step 3: Add frames to the Timeline

You can add/delete frames from your Timeline by right clicking over a frame (you know what frame because the one in focus is highlighted as red) and selecting Insert/Delete frame.Make sure you have 24 frames in your Timeline!

Step 4: Create an animation folder

The animation folder will allow us to hold our drawings and animate them. In the Timeline menu, click on the icon as seen on the screenshot. 

Once we click on it, in the layers window we will see the new animation project.

Step 5: Add animation cels and draw

We are going to draw the three main key animation cels for a bouncing ball. The ball will come in from the left, bouncing in the center bottom, and go off screen on the right. To help us with animation we will define the three key positions of the ball first, before we get started on the in-betweens.

Wait, cels? What is that? Think of cels as the sheet of paper animators use for each drawing. The amount of time a cel is in a frame is adjustable by the animator, depending on the amount of time we want the cel to appear (makes the animation style look different!).

Click on the first frame on the Timeline, then click on the icon for New animation cel (it’s right next to the one for creating the animation project).  The frames have numbers at the top, that’s how you know which is the first, middle, and last frame based on the 24 we have on screen.

Draw the ball coming in from the left of the screen.

Repeat the process for the next two drawings:

– Click on frame 12, add animation cell, draw the ball in the center bottom of the screen (squashed)
– Click on frame 22, add animation cell, draw the ball leaving screen on the right

Step 6: Playback in Clip Studio Paint

The moment we have all been waiting for, play that animation! Click on the Play icon on the Timeline’s menu.

Once you play it, you will feel like it goes by so fast and definitely choppy. That is because we are playing at 24 frames per second, and we have only drawn three cells that stay in view at 4 frames per cel.

For a slower playback, frame by frame (very useful when seeing how two drawings look without having to play the whole animation folder), click on the icon next to the Play. For it to work you need to manually click it for every frame. 

If you are not sure as to why the animation looks so choppy, then it is time to follow me on another side quest! On the other hand, if you just rolled your eyes because this is not your first rodeo animating, then go ahead to step 7.

Cels, Frames and Timing In CSP

In traditional animation, animators work on transparent sheets called cels. Each cel represents a single frame of the animation. The term “cels per frame” refers to how many of these transparent sheets are used to create one frame of animation.

For example, if an animator uses three cels to create a frame, they might draw different elements on each cel and then layer them to form the complete frame.

In the CSP world, we have one cel per frame, at max and at minimum. In other words, only one cel per frame is allowed, not more. But what we can play with is cel timing in a frame(s). Cel timing refers to the duration each cel is displayed within a single frame of animation.

The timing of each cel influences the speed and fluidity of the animation. An animator may choose to display a cel for a longer or shorter duration to create specific effects. For instance, holding a cel for a longer time can create a slower motion, while shorter durations can convey a faster motion.

As you saw, by default when creating cels in CSP, they are “held” for at least 3 frames.

How Cel Timing Affects Animation

The timing of cels within a frame directly affects the perceived speed and fluidity of the animation. Varied cel timings contribute to the illusion of movement.

Adjusting the timing of specific cels can emphasize certain actions or moments in the animation. For example, holding a cel for a longer time on an important frame can highlight a key pose or expression.

Cel timing is crucial for creating convincing animations. By carefully controlling the timing of each cel, animators can mimic realistic movements, expressions, and reactions.

Cel timing can be used creatively to achieve specific effects. Quick cel changes might convey surprise or excitement, while slower changes can convey contemplation or tension.

The possibilities are endless!

Step 7: Refine the Drawings with Onion skins!

Now that you are well versed in frames, cels and timings, let us refine the current animation by adding cels and drawing more positions for the ball to go through so the animation can be a bit smoother.

As you start to add new cels, you will notice something missing. How do I draw if I don’t know what the last position was and what the next position will be? Here’s where onion skin comes through for us. Onion skin allows us to see the cel before and the cel after, while drawing the current cel. 

Those are all the tools you need to finish this animation, great job! Now go ahead and finish drawing the ball positions in between the three main ones we already have established in the project.

Step 8: Export

To export the animation, we will go to the menu File, then Export animation, and then choose what version to export. In this article we are exporting as Animated GIF.

At this point, when you export your wonderful animation, it will look like this. 

Virtual high five!

Now that we have presented the amazing tools Clip Studio Paint has for animating, you have the necessary knowledge to spice this animation up. Here’s how: add a second animating folder and use it for adding color to the bouncing ball.

Create a cel on the new folder for every cell in the old animation folder holding the drawings, but instead fill the ball up with color. Add a background color through the paper layer in the layer menu, and now you have a polished animation!

We have got a bouncing ball. Well done and see you in the next adventure!