How to Make a Flipbook
Experience the creative joy of this analogue artform
We don’t know about you, but as much as we love digital technology and computer animation, sometimes we just want to use our hands and create something physical. There is a lot to be said for the joys of analogue and the process of making something in the ‘real world’. Instead of drawing on an iPad, you can paint on paper, and instead of animating with software, you can create a flipbook!
On the off chance that you don’t know what a flipbook is, let’s start with an explanation. The technical name for a flipbook is a kineograph, and it is one of the earliest animation devices. It’s not certain when the first ever flip book was created, but the first known reference we have is from 1868, when John Barnes Linnett filed a patent for one. There is a chance the flipbook existed for a while before 1868, but even so we can say it is well over 150 years old.
A flipbook is one of the simplest forms of animation that there is. It’s a continuous sequence of images in a book, which when flicked through quickly from the start to the end creates the illusion of motion. As with all types of animation, each image is a step forward from the previous one, and it’s this that tricks your eye into thinking there is continuous motion. The most common type of image is hand-drawn illustrations, but it can also be photographs or even printed illustrations.
If you’re of a certain age, you’ll almost certainly have created your own form of a flipbook at some point in your life. Most people do it by doodling on a notepad in school, drawing a little sequence of images in the corner of the pages that you then flick with your thumb. You could create a flipbook in this way today, but we think if you’re going to make one, you should really do it properly, so we have created this lovely guide on how to make your own beautiful flipbook.
What You’ll Need
OK, before you get started making your own custom flipbook you’re going to need these supplies.
- Stack of Paper: Any kind of paper will work, but we recommend using something that is a little thicker if you can as it will be easier to flick through. A4 sized paper is a good choice.
- Scissors: to cut the sheets of paper
- Pens, pencils or markers: to draw with
- A ruler or flat edge: to draw your cutting lines on the paper
- Binder clip, glue, rubber bands, or masking tape: you’ll use one of these to bind the edge of your flipbook
- A stapler: can be handy for binding pages
- A printer: can be used to print out a template
- A light source: like a window or light box, to use for tracing
Before you get started
Now you have all of your supplies at hand you’re probably itching to get going, but before you dive in we strongly recommend you follow these tips first.
Make a plan for your flipbook
You could be a total maverick and just start drawing directly into your flipbook and make it up as you go along, but we strongly advise against this. Instead, we suggest you take a separate sheet of paper and map out a plan for your flipbook content. Think about what kind of scene you want to create and what will happen in it. How will it start and how will it end?
You can draw a rough plan for how the frames will progress and use this as a guide. It’s a good idea to draw at least three frames, one for the beginning, one for the middle and one for the end. This will give you a good plan of how your flipbook animation will progress.
Keep it simple
When it comes to creating your flipbook animation, you are going to be making multiple versions of the same picture, just a small step forward each time. If your scene is too complicated or there is too much going on, then this is going to make it difficult to recreate effectively and be much more time consuming to get right.
When you’re starting out it’s best to keep things simple. Stick figures are a great option to begin with as they are single lines that are easily replicated, but anything will work as long as you make sure it isn’t overly detailed.
The step-by-step process
Step One: Prepare your paper
We think a good sized paper for a flipbook is four inches wide by three inches high, or if you are using metric, that will be roughly 10cm wide by 7.5cm high. It’s best for the pages to be rectangular as the left hand side of the pages is where they will be bound.
If you have index cards or paper that is already this size then you can just skip to the next step, otherwise you’ll want to cut your larger sheets down to size. Start by taking your ruler and measuring out the rectangles on the page and marking them with a pen. You should be able to fit six rectangles on a standard A4 sheet of paper.
After you’ve drawn out all of your rectangles, you can cut them out using the scissors. We find that a minimum of 25 pages is best for a flipbook. You can do more pages than this, but we don’t recommend any less. Once you have all of your pages cut, it’s time to move on to the next step.
Step Two: Draw your first frame
Now the fun really begins! Take a sheet from your stack of paper and number it in the top left corner in pencil. It’s good practice to number each page in sequence as this will help you keep track of the pages, and you can always erase the numbers at the end.
This will be the first frame of your animation flipbook, so look back to the original plan you made earlier and draw your first frame in pencil. You can go over the drawing with a pen later, and as you make more and more flipbooks you will be able to use a pen straight away, but to begin with we recommend using a pencil.
An important tip to follow is to place your illustration on the right hand side of the piece of paper, and to not put anything on the far left hand side of the page. The reason for this is that the binding will hide anything on the far left side, and the right side is the one that will be most visible when flipping.
Step Three: Draw your second frame
Take another piece of paper and place it over your first frame. If your paper is thin enough, you might be able to see the first frame through the page. This isn’t usually the case, especially as when the paper is too thin it often doesn’t flip well. To allow you to see through the first page to the second, you can use a lightbox. If you don’t have a lightbox, you can hold the sheets up to a window. We also find that you can lay the pages over a tablet device with a bright screen.
To create the illusion of movement through animation, each frame is a slight movement forward from the previous frame. You should then trace your new frame with a small change to the previous frame – this can be a small limb movement, and eye blinking, or whatever it is that moves the animation forward.
Step Four: Draw the remaining frames
Repeat the process of drawing each successive frame until you have all of the frames prepared. Refer back to your original plan to make sure you are keeping on track and that the animation is going according to your plan. Some people also like to draw the final frame immediately after the first frame, and then use this as a guide to make sure your frames end up where you want them, but you can also just do them as you go along.
Once all of your frames are finished, you could also draw a cover for your flipbook as a nice finishing touch.
Step Five: Add pen lines and color
If this is your first flipbook you will most likely have been using a pencil to draw the frames. Now is the time to go over the pencil lines with a pen. Using a pen doesn’t only look sharper and better, it will also prevent your flipbook from fading and help it to last longer.
At this stage you can also use markers or pen to add color to your drawings and bring it even more to life and make it a beautiful design. This isn’t essential and a lot of flipbooks consist of just line drawings, so it’s really up to you how you finish it up with the coloring and detail.
Step Six: Bind that bad boy
This is the final stage of the flipbook creating process. Now that all of your flipbook pages have been created, it’s time to put them in order and bind them. One of the easiest ways to bind the pages is to use a sturdy bull clip – this will keep all the pages in order.
If you don’t have a bull clip, or if the one you are using isn’t holding the pages in place, there are a lot of alternatives. If your paper is quick thick, you can wrap rubber bands at the left side of the pages to hold them in place. Another good technique is to use some masking tape to secure the pages. You can also use glue and glue the pages together along the left edge. If you have access to a heavy duty stapler then this is an amazing solution and easy way to bind the pages.
Whatever binding method you use, you just need to make sure the pages aren’t slipping as this will ruin your animated flipbook.
Step Seven: Flip it good!
At this step you are done and have created your very own flipbook! Now all that is left to do is flip it and show it off to everyone. Flipping it is pretty simple, but can take a little practice to get the timing exactly right. Use your thumb to flip the pages and watch fantastic flipbook come to life! The animation sequence should take around two seconds to complete, so just keep practicing until you have it down.
We hope this guide on how to create a flipbook has inspired you to make your own. We spend a lot of our lives in the digital realm and it can be really refreshing and fun to do something analogue for a change. Making your own flipbook is a delightful experience that will also make you appreciate the art of animation, and they are a piece of cake to make.
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