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Ahh, My Drawings Are Alive!

Animated stick figure drawing in black and white. The characters appear to be wiggling.

This excited drawing is full of characters. Animated GIFs by the author

This spring break, kids are making animations inspired by composite creatures at the Museum. You can make animations at home too! Animation is also called the illusion of life! That's right. You can make your drawings appear to move, dance, and act on their own.

Animators like me use computer software programs like Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, and Flash to edit drawings and images in order to make them come to life. But there are also many other ways to animate without using special tools or software. Here are a couple of easy ways that you can start animating today.

Make a Thaumatrope

Thaumatrope animation of an Egyptian head wearing bright red sunglasses.

An optical toy with Hatshepsut on one side and red sunglasses on the other

A thaumatrope is a small piece of stiff paper or card stock with a drawing on each side. When threaded with string or rubber bands on each side and twirled between two hands, the two different drawings combine into a single image. Pretty cool, right? This is the simplest and quickest way to animate. It combines two images to create one image in your mind. The thaumatrope has been wowing people for more than 200 years!

Check out #MetKids—Create an Optical Toy: Thaumatrope to make your own.

Put Together a Flip book

Flipbook animation of a winking crocodile head.

A blinking flip book that reveals a lightning serpent mask

A flip book is a set of drawings that you flip through really quickly to create an animation. You may have seen drawings like this on the corners of book pages. Stick figures are fun and easy characters that often star in flip books, but any drawing that changes slightly from page to page will work perfectly. One of the special things about using a flip book is that you can change the action depending on how fast you flip the pages. A walking character can be sped up to running speed if the book is flipped fast enough!

In #MetKids—Create a Flip Book, learn how to make a flip book using a sticky notepad and a pencil.

Create a Stop-Motion Animation

Stop motion animation of dancing colorful figures.

A stop-motion paper party!

Using a tablet computer is a quick way to get some of your favorite objects moving. You can start by finding a stop-motion app with a quick search for the term "stop motion" on iTunes or Google Play. (I like using iMotion and OSnap.)

Some good materials to star in your animation are toys, modeling-clay figures, or cut paper. To create the illusion of paper coming to life, make a scene with pieces of paper and photograph it using the tablet's camera. Then, move the paper pieces just a little bit, remove your hands, and take another photo with the tablet. Continue making small movements with the paper and photograph each move. A lot of steps will create a neat animation of dancing and moving paper! To make the animation a little more challenging, try telling a story using the objects or pieces of paper by planning out each individual movement.

I'm always amazed when drawings, paper, or toys simply start moving, wiggling, and dancing all on their own! Tell me what you've made using animation in the comments below.

MetKids brand image of Greek hero Perseus holding up paint canVisit #MetKids, a digital feature made for, with, and by kids! Discover fun facts about works of art, hop in our time machine, watch behind-the-scenes videos, and get ideas for your own creative projects.

Department: Digital

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