Finger Tip Blending Cloud Animation

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The "Finger tip" blending tool is an incredibly versatile drawing tool that can serve several different purposes. It can be used to blur, blend and/or drag colors around on the editing layer. Its versatility in function makes it incredibly useful for drawing anything fluid that has soft edges - which is essentially what clouds are

Needless to say, the Finger tip blending tool is one of my favorite tools to play around with -- and I am quite excited to share at least one of its uses here


I will be covering a method for drawing clouds using the "Finger tip" blending tool, then go into a fairly straight-forward demonstration of animating it

This will not be quite as simple or straight-forward of a method for drawing as other drawing tutorials will be, as the Finger tip blending tool is incredibly versatile and can take a bit of practice to get used to its various uses; however, many of processes used here can be applied to drawing other objects such as flames or pools of water

Initial Color Placement Steps

The first step, after placing down a backdrop, is to place down blobs of color for your clouds on a new layer -- the shape does not matter particularly much, as long as the size of blot of color is close to the size of the cloud you wish to draw or large enough to push around with the Finger tip tool

Next, place down blobs of color on the same cloud layer for the shadow on the clouds -- while you do not necessarily need to be precise, you will want to match the expected area the shadows should be

You will want the shadows to be on the same layer as your cloud since you can manipulate both at the same time with the Finger tip blending tool -- otherwise you will need to take the additional step of blending or drawing the shadows separately

You will probably want your shadows to be drawn a little darker than your desired final shade since blending with the Finger tip tool will thin it out and make it become lighter

If you are using multiple colors, repeat the last step of adding blots of color onto the cloud in the general areas that they are meant to be -- for simplicity's sake, I will keep with just the white cloud and the shadow

Finger tip Blending/Drawing Techniques

There are several main tricks for manipulating the form with the Finger tip blending tool -- I do not know if there are any 'official' names for these, so I will be making something up to call them

The "Wiggle" -- Basically, you select a small area then wiggle that section around a little bit

This can sound incredibly simple, but slightly changing how you wiggle the section around, how much you wiggle, as well as how much pen pressure is applied will affect the result of the blending - a "back and forth" wiggle will create a different effect from a "circular" wiggle, and wiggling the area more will blend/blur the colors more

Generally, wiggling will be a lot more time consuming than using other blend tool options which will create the same if not similar effect for larger areas - if you want a generic blend/blur, use the specific blend/blur brush instead of the Finger tip. Finger tip is better only in cases where you need a more controlled and unique blur when other blur options aren't quite able to satisfy your needs

"Cutting" -- Start from outside the shape, then move inward to drag transparent/background pixels into the figure to "cut" into it

This is used to help shape the figure and can be used to "clean up" some of the edges a bit; however, while this can help reduce the amount of blur on the edges of the figure, you will still be unable to get perfectly crisp edges - for clean edges, you will want to go back with another tool such as the G-Pen to redraw them

"Expanding" -- Start from inside the shape, then move outwards to drag your colored pixels out to make your figure larger

"Drawing"/"Dragging" -- This is used for when you are trying to pull a piece of material and make it longer. You will start with some colored pixels as well as some transparent/'background' pixels and drag them around

For these demos, I will generally start off with a medium-sized brush for the Finger tip tool, then move to a smaller brush size to fine-tune if necessary. A brush that is too big has a tendency to "skip" or create some jagged edges without blending properly, possibly because the program lags a little bit when processing the pixels. You will need to find the appropriate brush size for your own purposes when utilizing this technique, and I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with the shortcut keys for adjusting brush size for easier adjustments

Above are the finished cloud drawings. If you end up over-blending, simply switch to one of the paint tools and add on a bit more color in the area it is needed then continue blending with the Finger tip tool

Animating Clouds

As you will likely have noticed while drawing with the Finger tip blending tool, moving around parts of the cloud almost looks like it is being animated in front of your eyes

This is essentially the idea behind animating with the Finger tip blending tool -- turning the adjustments made using the Finger tip blending tool into frame-by-frame changes for the animation

Below is a video demonstration of the following steps for animating a cloud with the Finger tip blending tool

Animating with the Finger tip blending tool works quite well with the straight-ahead style animation; however, in-betweening key frames with this method will likely be considerably more tedious as sections of key-frame animation tend to require "guessing" at where the proper placement of where the blur should be, then going back through to readjust each placement to smooth out the animation. Blurring tends to not be particularly friendly with too much readjustment, which is why this method doesn't work too well with key-frame animation if texture and color density are not easily maintained while making the adjustments

Preparing Your Timeline

For animating clouds with the Finger tip blending tool, I recommend the straight-ahead, frame-by-frame animation method. This will be the most straight-forward method since blurring/blending is essentially a one-way street so in-betweening will be a hassle

If you are working from a pre-existing illustration without a timeline, enable timelines and create a new timeline

If you do not have an existing Animation Folder, you will want to create one as well

Select Frame 1 of your Animation Folder on the Timeline. You do not necessarily need a layer or registered cel for this step yet

Go into "Animation > Edit Track > Batch Specify Cels"

On the "Batch Specify Cels" menu, input the following items:

(x) Specify Value (N)

Specify Cel
Start Number: 1
End Number: [Last cel number you will be animating on your timeline -- you can hit 99999 if you want - it will automatically adjust to the max value of 1000, and it will cut off on the last frame of your selected range on the timeline]
Number of Frames: Leave at 1 if you want to animate each frame or set it to 2 if you want to animate every other -- this setting tells the program how many frames each cel will be held for

Ignore Number of Repeats/Repeat to the end -- you are probably not animating a loop, so a single round will be sufficient

Ignore "Insert empty frame for each cel specification" - we want a reasonably smooth animation so each frame needs to be filled by a cel in sequence
Ignore "Skip cel number" since we want every cel in sequence order

Your resulting timeline should look something like this (aside from range selection, since I selected a smaller range of frames to work with after creating the cels):

After generating your cel specification, move your cloud layer into the animation folder if you have not done so already -- name the cloud layer "1" to match the first cel name - doing so will link layer "1" to cel "1" and your cloud should become visible on your stage when frame/cel 1 is selected

You will be ready to animate after this step

Animating the Cloud

For animating the cloud, you will want to select layer "1" within your animation folder and make a copy if it within the folder -- it will automatically be named "2," which will link it to cel "2" that you have specified earlier on your timeline

To begin animating, select layer/cel "2" and start making adjustments to the cloud using the Finger tip Blending Tool. Unfortunately, Onion Skinning is not particularly helpful for this as you will be moving around solid colors which cover up your Onion Skin reference -- you can try decreasing opacity so the Onion Skin is a bit more visible while doing this, but since the Onion Skin is also a fairly solid color, they tend to end up blurring together anyway which renders it difficult to make good use of

After making adjustments to layer/cel "2" - select layer "2" and make a copy of it. It should automatically be labeled layer "3." Rinse and repeat the adjustments with the Finger tip blending and copying the last working layer

Once you have a few layers done, you should be able to select a small range of your animation timeline to scrub through your cloud animation to make small adjustments to each cel to smooth out the animation. You will want to do this little by little while you animate, selecting a small amount each time to quality check

Continue through the animation until you finish

Above is the short piece of animation that was done during the video tutorial demo

Considering how fast it is running, I would consider taking each cel and having them held for another frame or two to slow it down - possibly attempt to in-between if I am feeling motivated

Additional Notes

For wispy clouds, you will have difficulty animating using the Finger tip Blending tool with the above mentioned method. Consider copying and pasting then transforming the cloud layer instead, then lightly touch up the wisps with one of the blend tools

For larger clouds which are billowing and growing larger, consider making smaller sections of cloud animation for the center sections to create the billow effect, then copy and paste the animation and readjust the timing of each smaller animation

When animating a large sky filled with clouds, consider drawing out and animating a few clouds rather than all of them, then make copies of the animations and readjust the position, scale and timing of the animations across the sky

Color adjustments post-animation will work as well for helping create variance: eg. placing a layer above the animation, setting "Clip to Layer Below" and changing the blend mode




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