I thought it might be fun to mention some of the stuff I’ve found useful for pixel/animation work in Photoshop.
First thing is obviously to turn off all the anti aliasing.
Switch the Paintbrush for the Pencil, put the Eraser into pencil mode, and untick “anti aliasing” check boxes for the Lasso and Paintbucket. I like to go into the settings and turn off pixel grid if it’s on- that thing makes it impossible to see!
The “contiguous” toggle for Lasso and Paintbucket can be really useful. If you want to fill color on a 1 pixel diagonal line this lets you do it without individually touching each pixel.
Generally you have a layer for each frame and use the visibility toggles to hide the layers you don’t want visible on each frame… so only layer1 is visible on frame1, layer2 on frame2, etc.
But it can sometimes be useful to keep characters split up into multiple layers. To help with that, I put layers for each frame in a folder and animate the visibility of the folders on each frame. Then I can use the magnifying glass dopdown at the top of the Layers Window to hide the layers not currently visible. So as I move through the frames of my animation, all the unnecessary layers automatically hide.
Set the dropdown to “attribute” and leave the attribute on “visible”. You can use the little toggle next to “visible” to turn the hiding on/off.
I use this sometimes for walk cycles; I’ll put the head, torso, pelvis, arms and legs each on their own layer, then put all the layers in a group. I’ll make a copy of that group for each frame and animate the visibility of the groups.
Then you can move an arm or a leg up or down without having to redraw anything around or behind it.
When working with your guy split into layers like this, it helps to Alt+RightClick on a body part to auto-select the layer it’s on.
Usually Alt+RightClick only works with the move tool but if you toggle “auto select” this will work for the pencil/eraser too. (Be aware with “auto select” on, the move tool will move whatever layer you click on instead of the layer currently selected).
Creating and Collapsing Layers
In the menu at the top right corner of your Timeline window, there are a few useful tools.
New Layers Visible in All Frames defaults to ON, but I like it turned OFF. With this off, when I create a new layer it will only be visible on the frame I was on when I created it. This means i can create new layers on the fly to add details to the frame I’m working on, and it won’t mess with any other frames.
Flatten Frames Into Layers is also really useful and does exactly what it sounds like. When your many messy layers get out of hand, or when you want to move onto the refinement stage of the animation, use this to automatically flatten the layers of each frame into one single layer for each frame.
Be sure to hide your background layer before you Flatten Frames Into Layers, or you’ll end up with the background flattened in there too. You can unhide it after you’ve flattened, as this process doesn’t get rid of your original layers, just hides them all.
With complex walk anims I’ll often keep the layers separate while I’m sketching out the basic movement to keep it all very tweakable, then collapse it down and work with one layer per frame while I add details and refine the pixel jaggies and stuff.
That’s it really for basic tools setup, I’ll go step-by-step through an animation to show what I’m talking about some time soon 🙂