May 30, 2008

Cool Tools: Pencil

Animation can seem so intimidating these days. With companies like Pixar churning out high-quality 3-D films with a staff of hundreds, animating can appear a daunting task to the common man. But it doesn’t have to be and Pencil proves that with its free and simple-to-use 2D animation software.

Pencil mimics hand-drawn techniques and stays simple by doing so. You draw each individual frame as if it were a single animation cell. The great thing about this is that you are able to test out the animation by stepping through it frame-by-frame. You can even play through the entire sequence using built-in playback controls.

Drawing tools are limited to basics such as pencil, pen, paintbrush, polyline, eraser, and fill bucket. These tools allow you to draw at any scale and to any size you desire. Once your animation is complete you can export it as a sequence of PNG frames, as a flash video, or as a QuickTime movie. There’s even a basic sound feature which lets you add audio to the timeline.

Pencil, as with any other animation software, can be a challenge to use if you are completely new to the process. But it’s a decent piece of software to learn on. If you consider yourself to be rather experienced, you can enjoy this tool for the pure enjoyment of it but you might be bothered by its simplicity.

Whether you’re new to animation or a seasoned pro, Pencil is an engaging, though basic, piece of software. Pencil may not have as many features as other animation programs out there but with its hands-on feel it can be a lot of fun.