Flip book Animation Tutorial: Character Heads

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Flipbook Tutorial: Character Heads - banner

It’s time for the fourth installment of our Flipbook Animating Tutorial series by Andre Quijano. If you’re new to Flipbook, be sure to check out the Introduction to Flipbook as well as our other Flipbook Tutorials on the SketchBook blog. Today we’re going to be animating heads, particularly the motion of a rotating head. We will still be working with some shapes, but this time it’s just for a bit of prep before we start getting into the actual animation. Want to take it with you? You can download the Working with Flipbook: Character Heads PDF which explains the process in more detail.

We’ll learn to turn a 3D shape in an arc from two points so we have a better understanding of how to animate in the third dimension. We will also challenge ourselves by changing the perspective and animating from different angles. First, we will go from left to right; then up and down. We won’t spin our shapes on the spot but turn them around like so:

Flipbook Tutorial: Character Heads - animating an object turn by turn


Note about .skba files

We’re providing some of the actual Flipbook files for these animations so you can download them and open them in SketchBook. These files have the suffix .skba at the end of the file, which tells SketchBook that it contains animation. If you’ve never played with the Flipbook feature, this is an excellent way to try it out and learn how it works. (The PDF also has download links to the demo files of the examples provided.)

animation files download
Download the .skba files and open in SketchBook to see exactly how they work.

A head start: warming up

These warm ups are meant to give you practice with not only the motion of shapes as they move and rotate but also add the element of lighting and shading to make them more realistic. Practice with the shapes below, and you’ll begin to get a better understanding of how objects move in a 3D space — in particular how they react to elements such as the light around them.

each turn of the dice

[Download the Rolling the Dice .skba animation file.]

Flipbook Tutorial: Character Heads - rolling dice animated GIF

Try changing the light source and play around with the lighting and shading. It can at first be challenging to figure out exactly where to place shadows, but you will eventually get the hang of it. Always remember you can reference real life examples or online images if you need some help.

Flipbook Tutorial: Character Heads - How a light source affects turning and rotating

[Download the Rod and Triangle .skba animation file.]


pyramid cylinder animated GIF

This is the point where we move closer to animating the actual human head. The cube and pyramid combo below may seem a bit silly if you think about it as a head, but it’s the human head in its most simplified form. Remember that almost all animation can be broken down into simple forms. So if you ever have trouble with shading or rotation, try to envision the subject broken up into simple shapes.

Flipbook Tutorial: Character Heads - blockhead drawing in each stage

[Download the Blockhead .skba animation file.]

cube pyramid animated gif

Rotating animating heads

Now we’ve gotten to the good part. For this exercise we’re going to treat the head and neck as one whole object as this tutorial focuses on how the head and face look as they move across the canvas. You can sketch out a simple head using a circle, an oval, and a cylinder for the neck. First let’s review the anatomy and key components of the head:

Flipbook Tutorial: Character Heads - how to draw a basic head shape

The key takeaway should be that it’s okay to be rough! You want to prioritize capturing the motion and not spend so much time on the detailing of single frames that will be overlooked when animated. Just focus on the timing and placement.

Flipbook Tutorial: Character Heads - heads: each turn

As you begin to flesh out each frame just think about the placement of the features, recall your studies of anatomy (or just Google search them) and slowly adjust the placements and clean up whatever looks out of place when you play it back.

rotation animating head GIF

[Download the Rough and Quick .skba animation file.]

Pay attention that the placement of the features remain consistent as the head moves across the canvas. After you have more or less roughed out your animation we shall switch to the foreground where we will add the facial details and strengthen out line work and erase the midground sketch.

Flipbook Tutorial: Character Heads - line drawings of head shapes pre animating

animating head GIF

[Download the Turn to the Right.skba animation file.]

Once you’re done, all that hard work will be worth it because this animation can play forever and ever. Don’t fall in love with a single frame or even the end result — fall in love with the process. Variety is key to making the exercises more effective. From animals, humans and anything your imagination can conjure, experiment to your heart’s content and make different kinds of heads come to life with emotion.

Not a SketchBook Pro member?

Flipbook is just one of the many perks SketchBook Pro members get to take advantage of. If you want in on the fun, try a 15-day trial membership (no credit card information required). Just activate your Pro membership from within the app.