#AD4EVER Back to Basics IV: Cutout Animation – A Technique Evolving with Time

(Featured image from the famous South Park TV series)

This week we are taking you on a trip back down history lane, teaching you one of the oldest and simplest animation techniques that has evolved with time. Cutout animation has witnessed the change in society and embraced the ease of making animations using the latest technology without losing its fundamental principle.


The Shift in Production Process

Traditionally cutout animation is a method of producing animation using flat objects, characters, props and backgrounds cut out from different resources like photographs and magazines, and materials such as paper, card and fabric. These cutout pieces can then be used in your work. Nowadays cutout animation is mainly made with digital images using computers rather than physical scissors.

The South Park TV series is a great example of this transition, as its first episodes were made with actual paper cutouts before digitalising it and switching to the use of computers.

In this episode of #AD4EVER Back-To-Basic, we will demonstrate what cutout animation is and show you how to use the crop and stamp tool in Animation Desk to capture different components for making cutout animation. The best part of this technique is that the sky’s the limit and you can let your imagination run wild. You can design each cutout pieces yourself or collect materials from different sources and build your own unique piece.


How it is done

Prepare the reference images

First, gather together your cutout pieces. You can download pictures from the internet, shoot your own or draw them yourself. For this specific animation, we have prepared images of the sky, a plane, a character and some decorations.

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 3.40.22 PM

Create a new project

Give your new project a name and set the frames to 1.


Import the plane image

Starting with the plane, import the image of the plane onto layer 1.


Cut out the plane

Carefully cut out the shape of the plane using the crop tool and then copy it.


Readjust the plane on the next frame

Add a new frame and turn on the onion skin so you can take the previous frame as a reference. Reposition the plane, adjust its size and paste it.


Paste it frame by frame

Repeat the previous steps until the plane has been pasted on each frame. If you want to make a loop animation connecting the first and last frame, you can make a copy of the first frame and move it to the end of the set.


Once the plane has been completed, go back to frame 1 and delete the original reference image.

Apply same technique to the rest of the component

Do the same for the pilot’s body and head and any additional decorations. Using the same technique, import the reference image, crop the needed part, copy it and paste it on the next frame after reposition and readjusting its size.


Work on the background

Insert the background image to the background layer. To enhance the illusion that the plane is flying forward and emphasis its speed, you can add some moving clouds. On layer 2, draw a cloud with a brush on the far left of the frame. In the following frames, move the cloud slowly to the right and paste.


Quick Summary: Cutout technique at a glance 

  1. Import reference image
  2. Crop needed section and copy
  3. Paste on the next frame after repositioning and size readjustment
  4. Do the same for the rest of the frames
  5. Delete the original reference image

Now it’s your turn to make your own cutout animation! Happy animating!