How to Make iMessage GIF Stickers with SketchBook Motion

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Want to know how to make a GIF from art you’ve made? SketchBook Motion is the perfect tool to add simple animations to your artwork, and it’s easy to use for both beginners and experts. The best part is you don’t have to figure it out by yourself. This post is geared to help you every step of the way, from creating your drawing to sending completed animated stickers to your contacts. Even if you’re not an animator, we want to help you make your drawings come to life. Watch the following video to learn how to create your animations, or keep reading for the text version of the tutorial.

This cute Shibe below is from a popular internet meme you might know: Doge. He’s typing frantically at his computer while sleeping. We thought he would be really cute as a chat sticker in iMessage, and with iOS 10 it’s possible to make that happen. Keep reading and follow along using the brand-new SketchBook Motion app. If you’re a SketchBook Pro member, you automatically get access to all features of SketchBook Motion. If you haven’t yet gone Pro, you can try a free 15-day trial (no need to give us your credit card information), or simply use the free version of the SketchBook Motion iPad app.

doge typing GIF
The famous Shibe Doge, here seen typing furiously while sleeping.

Creating your animation layers

This tutorial is about how to animate with SketchBook Motion, so I won’t go into my drawing method in too much detail. I sketched the doge using a still from the original GIF as a reference, and I used the inking brush to create clean line art. The most important part of setting up your image for animation is to think about how to use layers strategically. For a regular drawing, you might put all of your line art on a top layer and all your color underneath in a separate layer. But for animating, you need to think in terms of individual layers as separate animation cells. Your lines should be combined with color, and you’ll keep the layers of your image separate based on movement.

Why, you might ask? In SketchBook Motion the animations are applied per layer. The whole layer will move, scale, or otherwise be affected by your animation. This is different from Flipbook, because in Flipbook you have to manually draw all your changes.

For the typing doge, I need each of his two arms to be on a separate layer since I want them to move independently. With each of the arms in its own layer, it will be easy to make it look just like the original doge GIF. One possible way to do this is to draw the whole image, duplicate the whole image as new layers, and erase out the pieces that you don’t need from each layer.

I did this and ended up with these three parts at the end:

doge animation gif drawing
The three separate images used to create our Doge animation. Want to give it a go? Download the images and assemble it yourself in SketchBook Motion.

Exporting layers as PNG

For your artwork, consider which elements will have motion and make sure they are isolated on their own layers. Your choices will be different for every animation you make. Try to envision it in your mind, and sketch it out first. You don’t want to invest hours of work only to find out the end result looks awkward or unnatural when animated.

Once I had all the different parts of my doge on their own layers in SketchBook, I exported each one as a transparent PNG. If you’ve never done that, you can simply click the eye icon to hide and show layers, and then use the “Save as” command to make sure you don’t overwrite your original file. I exported the three separate pieces of my image: doge_background.png, doge_frontpaw.png, and doge_backpaw.png. For this project, I drew this while using the desktop app, and I uploaded these to cloud storage (e.g., Box, Dropbox, iCloud) so I could transfer them easily to my iPad.

Importing layers into SketchBook Motion

Over on my iPad, I opened up SketchBook Motion and used the New Scene menu to import my doge parts all onto their individual layers. I made sure his front paw was on top of the back paw, and I put the rest of the image on the bottom of the layer stack.

imessage sticker tutorial step 1

Using the button in the bottom left corner labeled Animate I selected the front paw and chose Beeline mode. In Beeline mode you can have the layer follow a path, or rotate. Or you can just move the whole object to a different location.

making iMessage stickers step 2

Select the Pivot tool. Notice the little dot inside the circle? That’s the anchor point of the rotation. This means the object will move or rotate around that point.

We want his arms to feel like they are attached to his body, so I moved the anchor point to his elbow. Now use the blue handle on the dotted circle to choose how much to rotate his arm. Under the controls menu on the bottom row, I sped up the pivot to make it look like he was typing frantically. I followed the same steps for his back arm. Play around with the layer positions and speed of the animations. Once you’re satisfied with the result, it’s time to import the GIF into iMessage.

Sending your GIFs to iMessage

To import the GIF into iMessage, simply click the upload icon on the top bar and select Sticker to export. Sounds easy enough, right?

stickers for iMessage tutorial step 3

But before you can start spamming your friends with doge GIFs, you need to allow SketchBook access to iMessage. Don’t worry, you only have to do this once to set it up, and then you’ll be ready to annoy your friends forever!

Open up iMessage. Click the arrow next to the text box and select the app store icon for your stickers.


Now select the icon on the bottom left to edit your sticker options.


Select the store icon, and head to the second tab labeled Manage.


Turn on SketchBook under the Manage tab.


Once you go back to your iMessage screen, you should be able to see all of the GIFs you’ve exported from SketchBook Motion. You only have to do this once, and now you can keep exporting as a Sticker to send your animations to your friends in seconds. Have fun!

our final product: typing doge iMessage sticker