How to Animate 2D Shadows [Scribble Kibble #71]

6 days ago
Different ways to animate cast shadows and form shadows in 2D animations. More animation tutorials: Form ...

English subtitle

This tutorial shows different types of 2D
shadows and how to animate them.
It does not teach how to know where a shadow
should be.
For that, look up tutorials on light and shadow
in 2d art.
Before we start, you need to know that a cast
shadow is the shadow that comes off of an
object, and a form shadow is the shadow on
the object itself.
Let’s start with animating cast shadows.
The easiest cast shadow to animate is a circle
underneath your character.
Make a black circle, set the opacity to about
15%, and make it follow your character.
Some animators use hard edge circles, others
use faded circles.
It’s a style choice.
If you want to be super fancy, you can animate
the shadow size to match what the character
is doing.
Another type of cast shadow is a mirror of
your character.
Copy your character, turn it into a silhouette,
set the opacity, flip, and position underneath
your character.
If you have Toon Boom, you simply set your
layer to be a shadow.
Due to the amount of detail in a mirror shadow,
you may want to blur the edges with a filter
to make it more believable.
Most art programs have a drop shadow effect.
A drop shadow is a good choice if your character
is near a wall and you can’t see their feet.
If you see the whole character, there needs
to be a connection between the drop shadow
and the character, because this doesn’t
make sense.
You can manually make a correct shadow.
Copy the character to create the base shadow,
then draw in the connection.
At this point you’re getting into pure animated
cast shadow, where you draw the shadows by
Because shadows are mirrors of objects, most
of the time you can get away with copied and
flipped images, but if you have a shadow cast
over complex surfaces, you have to draw and
animate it by hand.
Stick to simple shapes for shadows you have
to animate and you’ll save yourself a lot
of time.
That’s it for cast shadows.
Form shadows are another matter entirely.
Most animations avoid form shadows except
for nighttime scenes, scenes that have dramatic
effect, or closeups.
The easiest way to add a form shadow is with
an effect.
For example, every program has Inner Glow.
Depending on what program you have, you’ll
have different effects to experiment with.
One of my favorites in After Effects and Photoshop
is Satin, since it allows you to change the
angle of the light and give the cheap shadow
a bit more nuance than inner glow.
Unfortunately, other than effects, the only
way to get form shadows is to draw them.
If you are working with animation puppets,
form shadows aren’t as bad because you can
draw them on the puppet pieces.
This also works for highlights.
For frame-by-frame animators not using effects,
you have no other option than to draw form
shadows by hand every image.
If you are a beginner with lighting, stay
very simple.
Perhaps only a shadow under the chin to start.
The more shadows you add, the more you have
to keep track of.
If you are animating form shadows that cover
a whole section of a character, a separate
shadow layer masked to the character art is
the best way to manage them.
This way you don’t need to worry about coloring
inside the lines.
Unlike cast shadows that can be nonspecific
circles, form shadows should accent the 3D
shape of the character.
For beginning animators it’s going to take
a lot of drawing before form shadow placement
makes sense and you know where to put them
to accent your characters the best.
If you’re struggling with shadows, make
tons of 2D still art, study shadows in life,
and (I highly recommend this last one) try
to sculpt your characters, even if it’s
rough shapes with playdough.
You will get better at form shadows when you
start to understand a 2D piece of art is actually
3D, and you can imagine what things would
look like in three dimensions.
You will get better at cast shadows as you
learn more about lighting and light sources.
That’s all for this shadow tutorial.
For more animation tutorials, click the link