This is a very quick tutorial that goes over one function, the Onion Skin in Photoshop CS5. The Onion Skin is equivalent to the function of a light desk for traditional animation. If you haven’t already, please see my first tutorial about [basic timeline animation] if this is your first time animating.
Start by making a new document and drawing on Layer 1 (in this example, held for 2 frames).
In the animation panel, on the bottom you will see a little icon that looks like an onion. When you hover over it, you’ll see “Toggle Onion Skins”.
Click on it.
You won’t see its effect until you’ve drawn more, but before that, go to the animation panels settings. There will be two options: “Onion Skin Settings…” and “Enable Onion Skins”. Click on the first option.
These are the Onion Skin options. Adobe has a description for each function on their site…
Onion Skin Count specifies how many previous and forward frames are displayed. Enter the Frames Before (previous frames) and Frames After (forward frames) values in the text boxes.
Frame Spacing specifies the number of frames between the displayed frames. For example, a value of 1 displays consecutive frames, and a value of 2 displays strokes that are two frames apart.
Max Opacity sets the percentage of opacity for the frames immediately before and after the current time.
Min Opacity sets the percentage of opacity for the last frames of the before and after sets of onion‑skin frames.
Blend Mode sets the appearance of the areas where the frames overlap.
Generally I don’t play around with these, and for this simple tutorial, they’ll remain at their default settings.
Create a new layer, “Layer 2”. Although it is a blank layer, with the Onion Skin on you can see a light render of the previous frame.
Go ahead with your next drawing on Layer 2 using the Onion Skin’s function as a proportion and movement guide. I’ll be animating a sneeze.
Continue on with the rest of your animation as usual.
A clearer example:
And that’s all there is to it. When you’re done, turn off the Onion Skin and play your animation to make sure it looks good (although you should be constantly going over your frames (scrubbing) to keep everything in check anyway).
The final product: