Week 2

Introduction to Adobe Animate

Animate is part of the Adobe Creative Suite (like Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign , Premiere etc.). It is a vector-based 2D animation software. It was previously called Adobe Flash Professional and retains much of the original interface. It is one of the industry standards for 2D animation (Here’s a list of TV shows created in Flash/Animate). While it can be used to create interactive animations, apps and web interfaces, we will only use it to create linear character animations in this class.


The Animate interface can be setup differently for different usages. I prefer to use the Animation workspace (go to Windows > Workspaces > Animation). The Classic workspace also works well for animation.

The most important windows when animating are:

  • The Stage is where all the action takes place. This is where you’ll place and adjust your visual elements
  • The Timeline is where you control action through time. It is composed of layers, which are composed of frames (the individual rectangles within each row). Keep your timeline organized by consistently naming your layers.
  • The Tool palette is where you’ll find tools to create and edit visual elements. While you can import files from Photoshop and Illustrator into Animate you can also build all your content directly in the software.
  • The Properties window  is context sensitive, and you can set many properties (i.e: stage size, stage color, brush color, brush style etc.)
  •  The Library contains a list of items you’ve created or imported into your file (i.e:sounds, illustrator files, symbols etc. )

You may want to adjust some of these elements before moving forward (i.e: placing the Timeline at the bottom vs. the top of the interface, placing the Library under the Properties and minimizing unnecessary windows – see below). You can save these adjustments by going to Window > Workspaces > New Workspace.

Here’s a video on YouTube that covers some of the windows and palettes of Animate. It also shows a bit about the difference between frame by frame animation and tweening, covered below.

Frame by Frame vs. Tweening

There are two basic ways of using Adobe Animate to create motion:

  • Frame by frame is the most similar to the century-old technique of 2D animation: the animator draws every frame of the animation.
  • Animate (and other digital animation software) also offer tweening features wherein the animator defines 2 keyframes and the software generates the steps/drawings “in-between”. While this technique works well for very simple shapes and positioning, it cannot be applied to more intricate character animation (i.e: a head turn or walk cycle).

While the two techniques can be combined (i.e: a frame by frame walk cycle that is tweened from the left to the right edge of the screen). We will use a combination of techniques in this class.

This video walks through animating a ball frame by frame and animating it with tweening in Animate.

Paint vs. Symbols

There are two types of objects one can draw on the Animate stage:

  • Paint: The animator can draw on the stage by using the brush, pencil or pen tool. This creates an editable vector path.
  • Symbols: Shapes and paths can be grouped and locked inside a symbol. Each symbol has its own Timeline. This can be very useful in creating loops, lip-synching steps etc.

When tweening, you must use Symbols. For our first assignment, we will use frame by frame.

We will first use the Paint Brush tool *Keyboard shortcut: Y  and Pencil tool *Keyboard shortcut: Shift+Y to draw on the Stage:

  • By default, both tools draw a vector stroke on a path.
  • You can control the stroke’s width, style and color in the properties menu.
  • The Paint Brush tool also allows you to draw your strokes as fills (which will be filled in if and when the path is edited).
  • You can also control the Paint Brush tool’s smoothness: the higher the smoothness, the fewer the number of anchor points (and the less control you’ll have over the stroke).

If you create a closed shape, you can fill it with the Bucket tool *Keyboard shortcut: K

File Format

To create a new project with settings appropriate for HD videos, go to File > New make the following adjustments and click OK:

  • Width: 1280px | Height: 720px
  • Ruler units: Pixels
  • 24 fps (frames per second)
  • Background color: White (you can always change it in the properties window later on)

Go to File > Save As and give your file an appropriate name and location.

Exporting to Video

Your Adobe Animate file uses a proprietary format called .fla (for “Flash” – Animate’s previous incarnation). This is your working file, with all your layers, frames etc.

In order to view your animation as a self-contained video file (the format required to upload to YouTube, Vimeo etc.) you must export it. Note that all your layers (even hidden ones will appear in the exported version). Consider creating another version of the file before deleting layers.

To create a video of your animation:

  • Go to File > Export > Export Video… 
  • The Render size should be the same as your Stage/HD
  • Ignore stage color can be left unchecked
  • Make sure that the Start Media Encoder Render Queue Immediately option is checked
  • Stop exporting should be set to When last frame is reached
  • Select the location where you want the exported file to be saved by clicking on the Browse button
  • Press the Export button

Video covering these steps is here.

Video Tutorials

I have made a few simple video tutorials that demo using the software. (They are linked in the text above as well).

Key Concepts


Animation (no matter the software or technique) is made up of frames. In Adobe Animate, these frames are represented on the Timeline. There are three types of frames in Animate:

  • keyframe is represented by a black dot inside the grey rectangle on the timeline. It means an important property (or the entire frame) has changed from the previous frame. *Keyboard shortcut: F6
  • frame is represented by an entirely grey rectangle on the timeline (no dot). It means there are no changes between this frame and the previous one. *Keyboard shortcut: F5
  • blank keyframe is represented by a white dot inside the grey rectangle on the timeline. It means the frame contains no drawing/information. Notice: if you draw something on a blank keyframe it automatically becomes a regular keyframe. *Keyboard shortcut: F7


FPS stands for Frames Per Second. The standard frame rate for traditional animation is 24fps. This means 24 frames for each second of animation.

Working on 1s or 2s

animation on 1s

animation on 2s

animation on 3s

While the standard frame rate is 24fps, fluid motion can still be achieved by repeating each drawing twice – or “working on 2s”. This can save the animator a lot of time as he/she will only need to create 12 different drawings for 1 second of animation. If the motion is very slow and subtle, working on 1s (1 drawing per frame) will yield better results.

Assignment for this week: Ball Study #1.

It will be due on February 18. Here are the details.


Make sure you have done the following by our next meeting

  • Explored the Animate interface
  • Understand squash and stretch and slow in slow out.
  • Understand the difference between tweening and frame by frame animation
  • Complete the Ball Study #1 assignment
  • Export your finished project as a video, post it on YouTube or Vimeo, and post it on OpenLab and the discussion board
  • Upload the fla file to Blackboard with a link to the post on your portfolio on OpenLab