Animation- Character #2- Animate using multiple layers & segments

Table of Contents


Why layers?

As mentioned in Pixel-Art: Layers, isolated layers allow you to add more detail without redrawing the surrounding sprites. 

 Layers also give animators the ability to add motion without actually animating the sprites. 

This method is similar to Spine animation- it can save a ton of time in the long run. 

There are downsides though.
Animating fluid motions becomes difficult with the many layers to juggle around.
3D motion becomes an issue due to the 

But for the most part, using multiple layers for complex or highly repetitive animations are the way to go.

Lets dive into the technical aspects of it!

Setting up your layers

I personally enjoy using 3-5 layers when animating a character with either a ton of detail or ton of repetition.

Here’s how I organized the layers for the animations in Platformer Starter Pack:
1. Front Arm
2. Body & Head
3. Legs
4. Back Arm

But for characters that are simple in style but require fluid motion, 1-2 layers will suffice!

This stick figure (from an old project) is an example of a single layered animation.

Setting up your sprites

Cut up your initial sprite into segments based on your layer types.

Then draw variations based on generic movements your character will have. Focus on the keyposes.

These variations do not need to be perfectly accurate because they will be fixed at the end of the animation process. 

Animating segments

This part is just like the software Spine.

If you havent heard of it, you’ve probably seen it in a game before. Its when an animation relies on movable joints rather than the old school ‘flip-book’ styled animation.

As stated before, this style of animation saves a ton of time at the cost of fluidity.

Piece each layer together & add movement to each segment.

Start off with the core motion of the character (Body and Head) and work from there.

Polishing the animation

Once you have a decent animation mock-up up, adjust the sprites to give them a cleaner look.

Don’t be afraid to redraw the sprites completely!

I needed to get these sprites done in a rush so I only changed the sprites that absolutely NEEDED to be changed. Take your time with it if you wish to make the animation fluid!

Exporting the Animation

Export as one Layer

Merge your character layers into one then export that one layer.

Exporting grouped layers & frames

Select the Grouped Layers your animation is in.

Then select your desired frames or Tags.

(If you’re unsure how to create Tags, follow the GIF down below)



I'm a Game-Dev specializing in 2D VFX & Animation. I wish to simplify the learning process & help creatives learn new skills through LearnIndie.


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