When we were children, we were all impressed by the way cartoons were made, with their variety of colors, movements, and more. Growing up, many of us feed this interest through different types of visual art, including pixel art.
In this article, I am going to teach you how to make your own animations in Aseprite. Aseprite is a 2D graphics editor for Windows, macOS, and Linux. It was developed by David Capello to create and edit sprites and pixel art animations. To do so, Aseprite uses layers and frames.1 First of all, we must have a copy of Aseprite on our computers. If not, buy and install it. This is how Aseprite looks like:
Aseprite comes with inbuilt color palettes that will help beginners to pick the right colors, but also allows you to choose and make your color palette if you feel more adventurous.2 We will animate a little bird, which we will call Mike. We will proceed to draw different frames for it as we go through all his animation movement.
To make a walking animation, we must start with the idle pose, which is the pose our character has while standing still. In this frame, only one of its legs is visible (although, in fact, they are both there).3 Then, add a new frame. We will do this by pressing the Alt + N keys or going to the frame menu and then clicking on the New Frame button.
Once we have a second frame, we need to redraw some parts of the sprite. We will start with the initial position of our character and edit it a little bit.
We will draw (in this case) the bird with one of its legs on the front, and the other diagonally behind, to give the impression that it is taking a step forward. We will paint the back leg a darker color than the front one, giving the illusion of a shadow.
We will also make a small change to the tail. When taking a step, it should look a little smaller than it really is, due to the movement. We must keep in mind that even the body must show the effects of movement, not just the legs. This is VERY IMPORTANT for fluidity purposes.
For this animation, we will work with only four frames, but you can work with as many frames as you wish. But keep in mind that the more frames you have, the more work is needed to be done, but also the animation will look smoother.4 In the third frame, we will place Mike standing still again. We can just copy and paste Mike’s first frame and use it here for the third frame, to take a little shortcut.
The tail should be higher again since it is erect. See how its body position and posture changes from the previous frame.5 In the fourth frame, we will do the same as before but copying the second frame and pasting it here. This time, the left leg will go to the front; therefore, the back leg will be painted in a lighter color and the front leg in a darker one.
Note that it is the same drawing as the second frame, with just this difference. The color of the legs is the only thing that makes one frame the left step, and the other the right one.
You can and should always look at your animation from time to time; you can do this by pressing the little play button on the timeline.6 To post our animation on social media, we must export a GIF file and resize our sprite to make it bigger. We will do this in a very simple way, using the File → Export menu or by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Shift + S.
And voilà, we have our animated Mike!
If you want to tinker with Mike’s sprite, you can download the Aseprite file by clicking the button below: