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How to Animate a Charcoal Drawing

00:06  Charcoal animation
00:52  Charcoal drawing
02:07  Picking a reference object
02:40  Banana
02:55  Tripod arm set up
03:25  Charcoal supplies

04:43  Stop Motion Studio app
05:21  Toning the paper
05:48  First frame
06:29  Second frame
06:39  Onion skin technique
08:08  Animation movements

08:56  Play back
09:39  Drawing the animation
10:14  Editing
10:53  Movie Speed, frames per second
11:33  Exporting your movie
12:11  Finished animation
12:18  Bloopers

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Create an animated movie using a smart phone and charcoal drawing.

Core Ideas

Movement, Timing, Storytelling

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Art Supplies: Kneaded Eraser
Art Supplies: White Plastic Eraser
Art Supplies: Vine Charcoal
Art Supplies: Eraser Stick
Art Supplies: Charcoal Paper
Art Supplies: Cell Phone Holder


Julie Sharpe

Julie Sharpe
Project Assistant

“This project was very fun for me! I love animation, even though it is a very frustrating and time-consuming process. I enjoy playing with facial expressions and personality through characters, so for this project I took one of my original characters and did just that.

One problem I ran into was taking consistently placed photos of each step of the animation process. I tried to keep the photos more or less in the same place, however, in the end the animation did turn out choppier than I would have liked.

Despite this, I still enjoyed this project, and it was a fun challenge to animate through traditional media rather than digital.”

Karas Cowger
“Charcoal animation can be difficult, but you will be so proud of yourself once you push through the challenge. For me, I was a little hesitant creating an animation out of charcoal since I was used to using a computer program.
After creating a small film with this medium, it has easily become one of my favorite ways of animating. The charcoal also gives so many more textures than what a computer program could do. Charcoal can look gritty, soft, or even cloudy during your animation process, which looks far better than what brushes on an animation program could offer.
After a while of animating with charcoal, you just get stuck in a rhythm and sometimes you’re having so much fun you don’t want to stop. It is very intricate, but every detail is so worth it at the end.”
Cecilia Cao

“Before I started this project, I had just finished an intense digital animation, and so I was eager to return to physical materials like the charcoal in this animation technique. This project was also a good opportunity to hone my abilities in observational drawing and frame composition.

My subject matter was something very ordinary. While scrounging around for ideas, I noticed this small, ornate mirror that sat on my desk. I would use it to put on makeup, lotion…one thing or another. But its primary purpose was for making stupid faces when working drained me out. I decided to capture this quirk in the animation, and it was fun drawing my strange expressions.

At the end, I wished that the animation was a little longer, and that I had used some kind of paper that was more durable. As so many of my charcoal drawings were done on newsprint, it became a force of habit to do everything charcoal-related on it. Not only is it cheap, but rougher newsprint grips the charcoal dust effectively.

The only problem was its durability; after several erasures, the paper had gotten frail, with fibers jutting from the surface. That made it increasingly difficult to work on, and I pushed it as much as the medium could handle.”

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