Friday, December 2, 2011

Why this blog ? What will you find here ?

This page is a sub-section of my blog for online animation students Hand Drawn Animation Notes.

Here you will find sources and suggestions for purchasing or building traditional animation equipment. (see the links in the sidebar for companies which sell animation equipment and supplies online.)

See the next post for a list of topics.


UPDATE:  as of 05/12/2022  most of the information posted here is still valid, although some of the posts need to be updated.  If you find a broken link or one of the listed scanners or video cameras that is no longer being made , please feel free to contact me to let me know.   Hardware like scanners is updated frequently, so it's a challenge to keep it current. 




Hand-Drawn Animation Equipment and Supplies

Click on the links below to read the Topics covered :

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Basic equipment for hand-drawn animation

We'll go into more detail in other posts, but what are the basics you need to get started with traditional hand-drawn animation ?

1.) Animation desk with animation disc , or a lightbox with pegbar. (get the disc if you can , it's better.)

2.) Extra ACME peg bar for scanning or video testing your drawings. Get a thin, metal tape-down peg bar if possible because those are the most versatile.  Lightfoot Animation  has them or you can get a less expensive one from at this link:

3.) ACME punched animation paper. Lightfoot Animation or Cartoon Supplies have pre-punched animation paper (see links in sidebar) .   Ingram Bond animation paper from Lightfoot or Cartoon Supplies is recommended.   Ingram Bond paper is more expensive , but you'll notice the difference between this and the cheap photocopier-grade paper.   Ingram Bond  erases better, lasts longer, holds up to repeated flipping, the surface is better for drawing, it scans better.

4.) Pencils, various. Col-Erase red and blue.  Various brands of  Graphite pencils , HB, B, 2B .    Recommended graphite pencils include: Tombow Mono  and  Palomino Blackwing 602.

5.) Erasers:  Soft kneaded eraser (grey) , and "Magic Eraser" (white) .

6.) Exposure Sheets (free , printable X-sheet templates from  Pre-printed Exposure Sheets from Lightfoot Animation.

7.) Animation frame capture software. TVPaint Animation is recommended.  Or Digicel Flipbook or Toon Boom Harmony.  With TVPaint and Digicel Flipbook you can either scan your drawings or use an HD webcam for video capture of your drawings.  With Toon Boom Harmony you may only use a scanner .  Also look at a software like OpenToonz , which is free and can have scanned drawings loaded imported.

8.) a scanner for scanning your animation drawings into TVPaint , Digicel Flipbook,  Toon Boom Harmony, OpenToonz, etc.

The Epson Workforce Pro WF-7840 a good scanner that has both a Flatbed scanner and an Automatic Document Feeder for auto scaning up to 50 sheets at a time.

(NOTE: scanner models from Epson and other scanner manufacturers are constantly being updated , so the exact scanner model above may not be available, but look for a scanner that can handle paper size 11 x 17 , which will allow for scanning 12 Field animation paper or slightly cut-down 16 Field paper )


8 a .) a digital video camera or HD webcam mounted on a down-shooter (tripod or ideally a copy stand) to capture your drawings via video feed into TVPaint or Digicel Flipbook, etc.


A couple of resource docs:

 Traditional Animation Materials List

Purchasing an Animation Desk or Lightbox

POST UPDATED 08/19/19 -

One of the basic items you need to animate is an animation desk or a lightbox.

There are many different configurations of desks , some of which I have shown in the web album Animation Desks gallery in the sidebar links. You can peruse that album for ideas on how you might set up your own workspace.

There is also a PDF booklet that I have prepared called "Animation Student's Guide to Animation Desks" which may be downloaded by clicking on the link.

While it is possible to purchase or build a large professional studio-style desk such as this example of a Disney Studio desk ---

most of use don't have the space or the funds to purchase such a large desk for our home studio. (these desks are wonderful, but take up a lot of space and are very heavy to move).

A good , portable animation desk is the one made by Colin Johnson of Vancouver, BC , available through his web site

This desk is very good value for the money as he includes the white plexiglass animation disc , and a  backlight unit along with the desk itself. 

Animator Frans Vischer animating on one of the Colin Johnson desks. This photo is from Duncan Studios in Pasadena, CA where Frans was animating on the film Mary Poppins Returns (2019) 

There are similar portable table-top animation desks available from Lightfoot Animation , and ChromaColour U.K.

The ChromaColour portable animation desk is a little more lightweight and folds down flatter for storage,  if that matters to you .  Depending on where you live in the world the shipping from the U.K. may make this more expensive than the Colin Johnson Desk.

The Lightfoot portable lightboxes are much more expensive , but they do have a smaller "footprint" (only 24" x 24" compared to 36" x 24" on the Colin Johnson table and  30" x 24" for the ChromaColour table) , so if space is an issue you might want to consider one of the compact Lightfoot Easel Design Animation lightboxes :

A more compact , less expensive option would be to use a simple lightbox with a fixed animation pegbar (no rotating disc).

Lightfoot Animation sells the Artograph LightTracer II 12 Field lightbox (12" x 18") with an Acme peg bar pre-installed for about $119.00

Some online art dealers such as Dick Blick Art have these Artograph LightTracer II lightboxes for less , so keep your eyes open . Dick Blick currently sells the 12" x 18" model for about $80.00 (compared to list price of $129.00) . Add a thin tape-down Acme peg bar from for $7.00  and you'll have a functional animation lightbox. 

Or you can use one of these thin LED Lightpads with a Stand -   

A peg bar:

Get a stand for the lightpad to adjust it to a comfortable angle for drawing:   

These sort of set ups with a simple lightbox or the lightpad on a stand will work, but the disadvantage is it doesn't fully rotate , so you can't turn your drawing to the most comfortable angle to draw from like you can with an animation disc.  The disc mounted in a portable lightbox or in a drafting table is better.

(Colin Johnson sells this white plexiglass disc with peg bar for $85.00 + $18.00 shipping.
Lightfoot Animation sells a similar disc for $129.00 + shipping. )

Traditional Drafting Table adapted to Animation Table:

A step-up from a portable table-top animation desk would be to have a hole cut into a standard wooden drafting table so you can mount an animation disc on it , with a backlight unit mounted underneath. What you would give up in terms of portability and compactness you would gain in flexibility and comfort. A drafting table can be adjusted in both height and the angle of the tabletop for the maximum in drawing comfort. You can adjust the table to whatever angle is best for you. If you have the space this is really the best option for a traditional animation set up.

The Alvin Pavilion wooden drafting table ,  offered in a range of sizes from 24x36 to 31x42  ,  is a good basic drawing table.  These tables are available from or other art suppliers.

If you have the proper tools to make a precision cut 16 1/2" hole in the table top then you could cut the hole yourself , or hire a local woodworker who has the proper tools to make the cut for you .
You may have a friend or family member who has the proper tools to do this. Be very careful when cutting the hole.  The hole must be perfectly round with smooth sanded edges so the disc will turn smoothly.

Besides being able to fine-tune the height and angle of the drafting table it also gives you more space to pin up notes, model sheets, and X-sheets , especially if you use an extension panel as shown below. (the extension panel may also be used on the Colin Johnson desk to add space to clip on an X-sheet to the right or left side of the table.)

(click any image to view it larger)

(notice most of the artists have a corkboard on the
wall in front of their desks to pin up model sheets and
other notes)

If you have the extra space an over-size table top gives even more space to pin up your model sheets and other notes as shown below:

You will also find it useful to surround your drawing space with a folding table, shelves ("scene stackers") and/ or some sort of side-table unit to have a place to stack your drawings , blank paper, pencils, and other supplies, to keep them organized and close at hand.

Notice the tall scene-stacker to the right of this animator's work space. The drawings from various scenes can be kept organized in a shelving unit such as the one shown below:

This Winsor-Newton artist's tabouret shown below makes a good compact side-table unit for an animation desk. Paper can be stored in the lower shelves, while the interior drawers can be used to store pencils, erasers, peg hole reinforcements , and other supplies.

Here is another view of a typical animation scene stacker unit filled with animation drawings bound between chipboard panels and rubber-banded around the outside to protect the drawings and keep everything neatly organized. Below is a shorter scene stacker unit:

Anyone looking for ready-made Scene Stackers (for 12 field animation paper) take a look at these cube stackers available from various stores such as Target or Ikea -
There are other similar stacking shelf units available from different office supply and home decor stores.

The one linked to above is 15" x 15" , which is big enough for 12 field paper (12.5" x 10.5") , not quite big enough for 16 field paper (16.5" x 13.5" ) . Most people use 12 field paper so that's no big deal.  But if you wanted to use 16 field you'll need to find slightly wider shelves.

These type of shelf units (also from Target) are wider and you could add multiple shelves to it:

Scene stackers might not be the most glamorous item on your equipment list , but you'll be surprised how handy these shelves are for storing and keeping track of your animation drawings.

An inexpensive , functional scene stacker can be made from large size stacking file crates ("milk bottle crates") available from various office supply stores:

This economical file crate scene stacker could be further sub-divided into individual shelving compartments using sturdy cardboard or lightweight masonite panels held in place with wire or glued in place.