A lot of you have asked what software/tools I use to create The Introverted Attorney, which I genuinely appreciate – I do not know what I’m doing so I’m honored that you’d think I’d have any useful information to share around animating a curmudgeonly stick figure. 😂
The TL;DR is that I use Adobe Animate, but I’ll walk through my process, the various tools I've cycled through and how I ended up here in case it’s helpful or interesting to anyone.
As a relevant aside, does anyone remember having the composition notebooks back in school?
… Am I dating myself? Are kids these days using levitating holographic AI-powered tablets?
Anyway, I used to doodle the shit out of my notebook, like the pages would be 80/20 drawings to notes. This is probably why I don’t remember a lot of basic information we should have learned in the early years of education… like what’s an isosa-sausage-les(?) triangle? But anyway, I liked creating crude animations by drawing stick figures in the bottom right-hand corner of one page, changing their positions slightly on another right-hand corner of another page so that flipping the pages would create the illusion of movement:
Yep! So, that is basically the foundation of my animation knowledge…
Wait, WAIT!! Hold on, don’t go just yet! I can explain a little more…
How It Started
Prior to animating the Introverted Attorney, I created 2D comics. They started off as rough chicken scratch that I would draw on legal notepads to prevent myself from falling asleep at work (old habits die hard, huh):
I kept experimenting with the look and feel, as well as getting comfortable with drawing the characters:
For both of the comics above I used Photoshop and drew the characters directly on my laptop via the trackpad. In general, the move from literal pen on paper to digital gave me much more flexibility to try different things like, gasp, using color!
I did try using a drawing tablet to “graduate” from using the trackpad – this one in particular:
But, candidly, I couldn’t get used to the feeling of drawing on a surface that was placed farther off from the screen where you could see the output. For some reason, using my finger to draw on the touchpad of a laptop was more intuitive than using a stylus on a drawing pad. I think it’s because of the proximity of the drawing surface to the screen… or maybe my brain is a little broken since I see so many artists using drawing tablets like it’s nbd.
Either way, this led me to investing in an iPad to get more of the “pen on paper” feel (here’s the old one I got and still have):
I used the Procreate app on the iPad to draw the comics and, there you have it! This formed the groundwork of tools that I used to create the earliest Introverted Attorney animations.
Taking the same principle of “animating” from back in my composition notebook days, I would draw an Introverted Attorney scene in Procreate, duplicate it, and slightly change the position of the character, duplicate it again, so that there was a sequence of frames that could be stitched together for an animation:
So, in the beginning, I was literally drawing the animation frame-by-frame, which was very inefficient and didn't leverage any of the native animation capabilities within Procreate, but again, I had and probably still have no idea what I’m doing. In any event, it was a good exercise in understanding various animation principles, such as how to create the illusion of speeding up or slowing down the movement of an object, how to capture how our legs look when we’re walking, etc.
I would take the various frames that I drew in Procreate and then upload them to my laptop and import them into a free program called Pencil2D to arrange the frames in the appropriate order with the right amount of timing between each frame before exporting the sequence of frames into a finalized animation. Based on a quick search, this video does a good job of explaining how Pencil2D works (except, instead of freehand drawing each frame directly on the computer, I imported the images I drew in Procreate for each frame).
This process worked for a while, but I found that for longer or more complex animations, I would spend hours drawing each frame, even for very simple movements. Subsequently, this took up more space on the iPad, causing it to run slowly and doubled the amount of time I needed for each animation... Did I already mention that I have no idea what I’m doing?
How It's Going
That meandering path led me to what I currently use – Adobe Animate. I had dabbled in Adobe Flash for fun back when I was in high school (which preceded Adobe Animate), so I had little bit of familiarity with the platform. The key functionality that I wanted to unlock was the ability to “tween” (short for “inbetweening”) which is the process of automatically generating images that go between two frames. For example, in the image below:
If I wanted the square on the left to become the circle on the right, I could manually draw everything in between, or I could have Adobe fill in the frames in the middle automatically so that when I run the animation it appears to transition smoothly from a square to a circle.
Here's a giphy of a circle morphing into a square:
This has saved me a bunch of time and also helped my animations look more polished. As an example, here’s an early Introverted Attorney animation where I was manually drawing each frame (pay attention to the brain's movements):
Compare it with a more recent animation using Adobe Animate (keep focusing on the brain's movements):
The movements are a lot smoother in the second one, right? *Ignores the majority of people who don't notice any difference* ... RIGHT.
In terms of what this looks like behind the scenes – I use my laptop touchpad to draw directly in Adobe Animate and rely on tweening to fill in the gaps between various movements. For example, take this animation.
If we just focus on the hand/arm in the screenshot from the animation below, let’s say this is the starting position:
In the end position, I can simply move the hand closer to Introverted Attorney’s face and redraw the arm to bend more:
Then, the “tweening” capability helps fill in the frames between those two positions (saving me from drawing 5-10 extra images) so it looks like this (again, just focusing on the arm/hand):
This is basically the same process for each aspect of the character (i.e., Introverted Attorney's head, body, legs, eyes, etc.). However, for mouth movements, I still draw those frame-by-frame so that it matches with the audio used.
After the animation is finished, I export it from Adobe Animate to my phone, bring that file into Instagram and overlay the audio and text all within Instagram before publishing.
Most of the audio that I use and am inspired by comes from talented content creators on Instagram and Tiktok – you can see the source of the audio by looking at top or bottom of the video, depending on if you’ve tapped into it:
So, from end-to-end, I guess you could say the software/tools I currently use are Adobe Animate, my laptop touchpad, my finger, and Instagram.
If you’re interested in Adobe Animate, you can check it out through my referral link here; students can get a heavy discount on all Adobe products, including Adobe Animate.
FYI, this post contains affiliate links, so I might earn a small commission when you buy through links on this page at no additional cost to you.