VFX: Smoke #3- Landing Smoke-cloud Animation process

Table of Contents

What we're animating

In this article, we will be discussing the animation process of a smoke cloud. The smoke cloud is referenced from the Asset: Smoke FX

Lets get started!

Step 1. Setting up Symmetry Options

Before we start, lets set up our Aseprite workflow.

We are dealing with symetrical animations so we will need a way to mirror our lines.

You do this by going to the View tab and toggling the Symmetry Options on. 

Once toggled, a set of symmetry buttons will appear on the top. From there, you can turn it on and off whenever necessary.

Step 2. Rough motion sketch

As the scale of an animation increases, so does the importance of planning. What do I mean by that?

When animating smaller scale animations, its no big deal to redo a frame or two. It only takes a few seconds to minutes to fix an issue. But as the sprites become larger with more colors to work with, those few minutes turn into few hours REAL quick. 

Mastering this sketch phase will allow you to speed-run low res animations and give you the foundation to tackle on even the most ambitious animations.

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Step 3. Clean up core motion

In my opinion, this step is the most important when dealing with large scale animations. This is because the overall ‘feel’ of the animation is polished in this step. Even if the edges & details are done well in the next step, the animation will feel ‘off’ if the foundation is not spot on. 

There is no right or wrong in this step. Its all about going with your gut & doing your best to convey it in animation form.

If you don’t have a ‘feel’ for what’s right or wrong, record your favorite animations and study them frame by frame!

Here are a few Aseprite tools I enjoy using in this step:

Onion Skin (F3)– Preview the frames before & after your current one. These settings can be altered.

Preview Window (F7)– This loops the animation on a separate window. The preview animation plays within the Tag

Left & Right Arrow Keys– Move inbetween frames quickly. Great for sketching animations.

Preview Window
Onion Skin

Step 4. Polish Animation Timing(add/remove frames, smooth out dissipation, etc..)

Now that we have a decent motion sketch, we can focus on smoothing out the animation’s timing to perfection. 

In this example, I add an extra frame before the smoke disperses outwards. This extra frame adds a tiny bit more anticipation, which makes the outward climax feel more satisfying. I dont add more than 1 frame because it would make the climax… TOO dramatic. 

Its not enough to make the ‘coolest’ animation possible. Its about understanding the CONTEXT of the animation & what role it plays. 

In this case, we are animating a smoke cloud used for an impactful landing. The smoke is not as powerful as an explosion but it sure is larger than a hop. 

The bottom animation shows how an extra frame was added at the very start. 

The top animation was adjusted to match the timing of the additional frame. 

Step 5. One shade at a time

Once the silhouette is complete, we can focus on shading the animation. You can start this step earlier but it is personal preference. 

Shading is all about giving your drawing a sense of depth. In this case, depth means a top-down perspective.

This animation will only have 2 shades but the same principles apply. Keep the perspective consistent throughout the animation. 

Shading one shade at a time helps keep the perspective consistent. If I were to juggle a bunch of colors at the same time, I would get confused & end up making more mistakes. Those mistakes would take longer to fix because there are more colors to deal with! 


Thank for reading! I hope this walk-through helped you in some way. This is the first time I’ve written something like this so please forgive me and my horrible writing 😀 

I’ll see you on the next one, buh byee -j


Smoke FX Library

A library of Smoke FX used in games & animations.

Categories: LearnSmokeVFX



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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