Watch | How do I make a flipbook?
by Paul Cornish
From your computer
Families and adults
Flipbooks are amazing. Books of still images that look like they’re moving when flipped through. What could be simpler? And yet since the humble flipbook was patented in 1868, it’s paved the way for the invention of the films, TV, and computer games we know today.
Flipbooks are like animated movies you can carry in your pocket, and the best thing about them is they’re really easy to make.
Read on for our top tips for making your very own flipbook, including some tips for making a flipbook all about space!
How to make a flipbook
What do I need?
All you need to get started is something to draw with – a pen or pencil, and a rubber – and something to flip. You could use a notebook, some sticky notes, or some cards joined together with a bulldog clip.
Tip 1: Plan it out
Before you start your flipbook, have a think about what story you want to tell. Give your story a beginning, middle and end. Perhaps you’d like to draw a rough version of your story in the form of a comic strip or storyboard first?
Tip 2: Keep it simple
Don’t forget, you’re going to have to draw the pictures over and over again, so avoid making your designs too complicated.
Tip 3: Start from the back
You can flip a flipbook from front to back or from back to front but starting at the back gives you a huge advantage. As you draw on each page of your flipbook, you can trace anything that hasn’t changed from your previous image. This technique is called onion skinning and is a great way to help your animation to look really slick and professional.
If you can’t quite see through your page, you can hold it up against a window or light so you can trace through.
It’s also good to draw your first two pages exactly the same, so when we flip through the book, we get a good look at how your animation begins.
Tip 4: Think about how things move
Animation is all about making things look like they’re moving. So, it’s worth having a think about what things look like when they move, and even why they’re moving in the first place.
According to Isaac Newton a thing that’s still will stay still unless acted upon by an outside force. A thing moving in a straight line will keep moving in a straight line unless acted on by an outside force.
This means that if you’re drawing a moving ball then you might want to think about why it’s moving. Did somebody kick it? Does the ball stop? What stops it? Does the ball change direction? Why? Does it bounce off something?
What if our flipbook story is set in space?
In space if you kick a ball there’s nothing to stop it. No walls to bounce off, no air to slow it down, no gravity to pull it down. That ball could keep travelling forever. That would make for a very long flipbook!
Newton also told us that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This means that if you kicked a ball in space, you would be sent flying back in the opposite direction, with nothing to stop you! That could make for a dangerous game of football, but an amusing flipbook!
Tip 5: Check your work
One of the most important tips is to go back and check your images every couple of pages. It’s good to work in pencil because then you can easily rub out anything you’d like to change.
Tip 6: Add Pen
Once you’ve drawn every image, you can leave them as pencil drawings, or you can go over them in pen, or even colour them in. If you colour your drawings in, make sure the colours are the same on every page.
By following these tips you’ll be able to make your very own flipbook.
But if you’re really interested in animation, there’s always more to learn!
The 12 principles of animation
In 1981 Disney animators Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas published a book called The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation. It’s been called “the Bible of animation” and “the best animation book of all time”.
In the book Johnston and Thomas lay out 12 basic principles or rules of animation. These rules are still being followed by professional animators to this day.
Squash and stretch
Squashing and stretching the object or character you’re drawing will make it look flexible and give the illusion of weight.
Timing and motion
The more drawings you add to your animation, the slower your object or character will move. If your object or character is moving quickly, you’ll want fewer drawings.
What clues are the objects or characters in your animation giving that they’re about to move? If your character is about to jump, are they bending their knees?
You’re the director! Use different camera angles or play with light and shadow to make it clear to the audience what’s going on in your animation and what they should be focusing on.
Follow-through and overlapping action
Think about how the loose parts of a character’s body should move. If your character is in motion and then stops suddenly, things like hair or long clothing will keep on moving briefly before catching up.
Straight ahead and pose-to-pose action
Sometimes animators draw every movement in an animation from beginning to end. This is called “straight ahead action”. On other occasions an animator may only draw the major actions and then fill in everything in between later. This is called “pose-to-pose action.”
Slow in and out
Drawing more images at the beginning and end of a sequence will make it look like your character is speeding up and then slowing down again.
Actions should follow an arc to make them look natural. If your character is moving their arm, the path that arm follows should be a curved arc rather than a straight line. Unless of course, your character is a robot and is supposed to have unnatural movements!
Making a character’s movements more extreme can make your sequence more exciting.
Think of an extra action that your character might do to complement the main action. If your character is walking, maybe they’re swinging their arms too?
Any characters or objects you draw shouldn’t look flat. They should look like they exist in 3 dimensions. They should look like they fill up space and have weight to them.
Your characters should have personalities. The viewer needs to find them interesting enough to want to follow their story.
The 12 principles of animation apply to all forms of animation, from flipbooks to computer animation.
If you have an interest in drawing and storytelling, who knows? One day you could be following these same basic principles at a studio like Aardman or Pixar.
And your journey could start with a flipbook!
A massive thanks to the Year 6 pupils at Hareclive E-Act Academy whose ideas, questions and prototypes have inspired this article as part of our Hareclive in Space project.
Many thanks to Room 13 for their support and expertise and to the Science and Technology Facilities Council for funding this project.