Basic Eyes Animation

Wouldn't you like to add a little life to your manga characters? In this tutorial, we will look at how to animate eyes in five straightforward steps using Adobe Photoshop CC! And the best part is, you can use these same steps to anime other aspects of your illustrations, too. So let's get started!

Step 1: Preparing the frames

First, you should prepare the frames by drawing three to five illustrations. On the chart above, the numbers indicate the frames in the order they appear, and the corresponding images show the shapes of the eyelids. The shape of each eyelid follows the shape of the character's eyes and slowly forms a sleeping expression. From 1 through 3, you can see that the eyelid's shape begins to flatten, and then from 3 to 5, the shape begins to arch downward near the center. 


1. When making each image, you should create folders Photoshop layer folders, and label them accordingly to make things easier when it's time to line up the frames for animation. The easiest way to label these is to use numbers that corresponds to the order in which the layers appear.

2. When drawing the next frame, reduce the previous frame's opacity and draw over the previous layer on a NEW layer (inside a folder). This will help keep the length and thickness of the eyelids consistent. Don't forget to change the opacity back to 100% after you are done.

3. The only thing that will move are the eyes, so put your still image into another folder.

4. The more frames you have, the smoother the animation. If you make only two frames, the movement will look jerky and unrealistic.

Step 2: Setup

Different versions of Photoshop have different names for this window, so be sure to check which version you are using calls it.

Step 3: Frame sequence

1. First, click on the "New Layer icon" in the "Timeline / Animation" window. This will bring up a new, duplicated layer in the Timeline window. 

2. In the newly duplicated layer, hide Folder 1 and show Folder 2. 

3. Repeat (1) and (2) until folder 5.

Step 4: Animating

The image above shows the frames required to make a single blink; the numbers in the yellow box indicate the folders' names (see Step 1). You can see that the sequence begins and ends with Folder 1 (red box). This returns the eye to its original open state.

Next, you need to choose the timing. For basic animation, 0.08 to 0.1 seconds is best. A time of 0.05 seconds is too fast, and 0.2 is too slow. Play around with the timing to see if your animation is moving smoothly. 

When you are done, select Frame 1 and click the play button.

If your animation loop is immediately restarting, change the time of the final frame to two or more seconds. This will pause the animation a moment before the loop resumes.

Step 5: Loop variation (optional)

You can vary the movement of the eyes by changing the timing of the last frame of each set.

The image above shows a basic movement sequence. The sequence has been split into two groups (red boxes) and three sets of movement. Set 1 pauses before moving onto Set 2. Set 2 immediately runs into Set 3 without stopping (the time on Frame 17 does not change). The end of Set 3 (Frame 25) stops for 5 seconds before replaying again from Set 1, Frame 1. 

As a result, the animation will blink - pause - blink - blink - pause - replay. If you follow the steps above, you should get something that looks like this: 

Final Thoughts:

I hope that this tutorial has been helpful to you, and that you will use it for your own illustrations and give your audience a little surprise!  The same method and technique can be used to animate other parts of a character illustration, so why not give that a try too? Maybe you can even make a fully animated character — wouldn't that bee cool? Good luck and have lots of fun!

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