Creating Animations

We've familiarized ourselves with most of Pixen's tools, and most of them apply to creating static images as well as animations. To get started creating an animation, or a sequence of multiple frames, head to the File menu and select New Animation. As with images, you can specify the dimensions of the animation.

Animation documents look very similar to image documents, with the addition of the film strip view on the bottom. Here, you can see all the frames of your animation along with their durations.

The Basics

To create a new frame, just click the + button. You can also right-click on an existing frame and duplicate it with the Duplicate command. You can drag in images from apps like the Finder into the film strip view to add frames as well. To select a frame for editing, just click it.

If you want to edit an existing animation instead of making a new one, Pixen can open animated PNGs and animated GIFs to get you started. You can also promote any image document to an animation by going to the Animation menu and selecting Create Animation from Image.

To delete a frame, right-click on it and select the Delete option. Since animations must have at least one frame, the last remaining frame cannot be deleted. If you want to exclude a frame from your animation without deleting it, use the Skip command instead. The usual Cut, Copy, and Paste commands are also supported.

If you want to change the duration of a frame, right-click on it and select Change Duration. You can also double-click on the duration label and type a new value. If you want to change the duration of all frames to adjust the frame rate, use the Select All command first to select all frames. To re-order frames, just drag and drop them.

To see a preview of your animation in real time, just open the Preview window. Playback will be begin immediately.

When you're done with your work, you can export your animation as an animated GIF or animated PNG using Pixen's normal export tools. You can also export your animation as an image sequence, where each frame will be one image in a folder. Just select the Animation menu and click Export to Image Sequence. You can select the preferred image format and naming pattern such as My Artwork %f, where the %f will be replaced with the index of the frame to get names like My Artwork 1, My Artwork 2, ....

Pixen also lets you export a movie in the MP4 or MOV formats by using the Export to Movie command. Optionally, you can specify the scale of the movie.

Going Beyond

The top-level Animation menu has many of the commands mentioned above, and more.

If you select Show Previous Frame Overlay, Pixen will overlay a translucent copy of the previous frame over the canvas. In some apps, this is known as onion skinning. In the Animation Settings window, you can select whether you want your animation to loop, or pause after one run. This setting is honored when exporting to formats such as animated GIFs or animated PNGs.

Pixen allows you to export sprite sheets of your animations. To get started, head to the Animation menu and select Export to Sprite Sheet. In the window that appears, you can select which open documents you want to export.

You can also customize parameters such as the padding around the edges, the horizontal spacing between frames, and the vertical spacing between rows. You can blow up the whole animation by adjusting the scale parameter, and you can specify a maximum allowable number of frames per row (columns). If you specify 0, you will get a horizontal row. If you specify 1, you will get a vertical column. Animation sprite sheets are exported in the PNG format.

Pixen also supports the inverse operation: given a sprite sheet you can import an animation. To do this, use the Import Animation from Sprite Sheet command. Once you select an image, Pixen will ask you for the dimensions of each tile, and then proceed with the import.

If you have a folder containing a sequence of images, Pixen allows you to import it into an animation with the Import Animation from Image Sequence command. To get best results, the images should be the same size. If they are not, Pixen will prompt you to optionally resize them.

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