By Jeremy Falkowski
This tutorial will cover the steps in producing a
quality inbetween/cleanup drawing. Itís important to become good
at this skill, as inbetweening is typically the entry-level position
at an animation studio. Even if you donít have the materials listed
below and are unable to do the practice inbetween, simply familiarizing
yourself with the process will help you immensely when starting
out at a studio.
What is inbetweening? Inbetweening involves taking
two drawings and roughing in and cleaning up a line in the middle
of those two drawings. Sounds simple enough, right? Well itís not.
The inbetween test Iíll be using with this tutorial is relatively
easy, but when you get into detailed inbetween assignments like
those given at the large studios, it will take you many tests, many
hours, and many hand cramps in an attempt to get good at it. In
my opinion, the difficulty of inbetweening/cleanup is a good thing.
After all, you donít want to be spending eight hours a day at an
animation studio doing a mindless and tedious job, and as youíll
learn by the end of this tutorial, inbetweening is anything but
Even though an inbetween will only appear on screen
anywhere from 1/24 of a second to 1/12 of a second (if the drawing
is shot on twoís), every drawing counts and sloppy cleanup/inbetween
work will be apparent. For one thing, the eye can see up to 30 frames
a second so your drawing will be visible. Also, any errors that
may seem small on your animation paper, will be magnified many times
over and will become large errors when viewed on a movie screen.
Thatís why companies that really pride themselves on their animation
will not accept an inbetween that is mediocre or just good. Each
drawing counts and each drawing must be excellent.
For this tutorial, Iíll be using two key drawings
of a leaf for the sample inbetween. If you would like, you can print
out my two key drawings copy them onto your animation paper and
do the inbetween along with me.(leaf1, leaf2) And of course you
can always create your own key drawings and practice inbetweening
Materials: A carmine red col-erase pencil:
itís important that you get this exact color. Most studiosí ink
and paint systems wonít pick up this color when the drawing is scanned
in, so that only the final graphite line will be picked up, and
not the underlying red drawing.
- A light table (if you donít have access to one, you can purchase
a portable light box at cartoon colour co. for $75, or if you
are handy, you can build your own).
- A pencil sharpener. Itís very important to keep your pencil
sharp at all times and most are around $10-$15 at an office supply
- Several sheets of animation paper. (Use the heavier animation
paper from cartoon colour co. as the cheaper stuff is like tissue
paper and is difficult to flip)
- Hole protectors. These are important because when you flip the
paper, the holes will start to expand and rip and the drawings
will begin to move around and the inbetween will be inaccurate.
- A kneaded eraser.
- A .3 mechanical pencil with .3 B lead (if you canít find B lead,
F and HB are acceptable alternatives).
All of the above supplies can be purchased at cartoon colour co.
For a free catalogue, call them at (800)523-3665.
Arrangement on the peg bar: Letís call the first key drawing
"1" and the last key drawing "5" (the drawing with the end of the
leaf turned up), and your inbetween will be number "3". Place drawing
1 first on your peg bar, and then place drawing 5 on top of that.
Now place your blank sheet of animation paper, which will be the
inbetween, on top. In the top right hand corner of each piece of
animation paper, write the number of each drawing. Your drawings
should look somewhat like
Put your hole protectors on: Put your hole
protectors on once the paper is on the peg bar, and use the protectors
for both the key drawings and the inbetween. If you donít have any
hole protectors you can still do the exercise, but like I said,
after a lot of flipping, the holes will start to expand and tear
slightly and the drawings will begin to move around. This will result
in an inaccurate inbetween. Another thing youíll notice if you donít
have protectors is that the holes will be too big for the pegs and
the drawings will keep falling off the peg bar while you are flipping.
You donít want to have to hold down the drawings while you are flipping.
One hand should always be in position to flip with the other hand
drawing. The hole protectors will help keep the drawings securely
on the peg bar.
Turn your light table on: When working with
the red pencil, the initial stage of inbetweening, you want your
light table on. When you are applying your graphite line you want
your light table off. Very experienced cleanup artists can do the
majority of the inbetween without the light at all. But this takes
many years of training your eye, and since the studios expect exactness,
most people use the light during the initial stages.
Flip the key drawings: Itís important to flip
your keys alone several times before starting any drawing to get
a feeling for the action. It becomes particularly important when
you have an entire scene to inbetween, say 10 or 12 key drawings,
and you need to understand the action as a whole.†
How to flip?
- Begin by holding the left side of the top drawing (no. 3) with
your thumb on top and the index finger and middle finger of your
left hand underneath the drawing (assuming you draw with your
right hand; if you draw with your left hand, hold the paper with
your right hand). Then place your ring finger and pinky underneath
the second drawing. There should be no fingers underneath the
last drawing; it should stay flat against the light disc.
- Flipping should be started by seeing the bottom drawing first
(drawing "1") by pulling the top two drawings up a bit. Donít
lift the bottom drawing at all. Just let it stay flat against
the animation disc.
- Next bring the top two drawings down and see the top drawing,
the inbetween (drawing "3").
- Then lift the top drawing up with your thumb and index finger
and push your middle finger down on the middle drawing (drawing
"5") as far as possible in order and see the middle drawing. Try
to push the middle drawing as far as you can with your middle
finger so that it lays flat against the disc when you view it.
You want to view all of your drawings when they are flat not when
they are at an angle to you.
- So in review, itís bottom drawing, top drawing, middle drawing,
bottom drawing, top drawing, middle drawing, bottom drawingÖetcÖetc.
Becoming a good flipper takes some practice, and you want to get
fast at it so that you can see the movement of the drawings and
not just see the individual drawings. Your paper should start
to crinkle on the side. Donít worry about this. The camera wonít
pick up these crinkles.
Helpful tip: if the key drawings you are inbetweening are near
the top of page, hold the paper at the top left hand side; if the
drawings are near the middle, hold the paper near the middle left
side; and if they are near the bottom hold the drawings near the
bottom left hand side. You do this in order to see the drawings
as easily as possible. If your drawings were at the bottom and your
flipping near the top, itís difficult to see them. This is common
sense, but itís still a good reminder.†
Inbetweening is broken up into three stages: first drawing
the line in with your red col-erase pencil; second, pushing back
the red with your eraser, and third, drawing in your final graphite
Drawing the inbetween, Part 1: Drawing in the "rough"
Thereís no magic formula to inbetweening. It might
be nice if there was, but then again it would be boring. Each inbetween
requires problem solving on your part in order to get that drawing
in the middle of the two keys. For my sample inbetween of the leaf
Iíll show you some principle techniques that apply to all inbetweens
and some that Iím using for this specific inbetween test. Again,
each inbetween calls for a different solution and you have to figure
out which solution will help you the most in your drawing.
One last reminder before we start. You should be constantly
flipping your three drawings during these exercises. After every
mark you make with your red pencil, flip the drawings to see if
everything is working. Your drawing will get very crinkly on the
side you flip. Thatís ok. It should.
Figure out your major arcs
One very important principle in animation is that everything moves
on an arcóeverything. Wave your hand in front of you. Your fingers
are moving in an arc like motion. Some arcs arenít as obvious as
this, but everything does move on arcs. There are Ďuí shaped arcs,
Ďní shaped arcs, there are very large arcs, and there are very subtle
arcs. It all depends on the action. A pitcher whoís throwing a baseball
would have a very large arc with his arm, while someone turning
their head would have a more subtle arc movement. Therefore if you
are handed two drawings to inbetween, your inbetween must follow
an arc. If the action just moved on a straight line, it would look
robotic and unnatural.†
Start by arcing and inbetweening points:
To draw the arc, pick a point on one of the keys and make a red
dot there (draw this on your inbetween drawing, not your key drawing).
Then go to the next key and find that corresponding point and make
a second dot on your inbetween drawing. At this point you should
have two red dots on your inbetween paper. Next, figure out how
these two points are arcing by flipping your key drawings and looking
at how the "points" are arcing. Then connect the two dots of your
inbetween by drawing that arc. Finally draw a third dot in the middle
of that arc.†
For example, I chose the top of the stem as an arcing
point. I made a point there for the first drawing, then looked at
the next key, found the top of the stem, and made a second point
on my inbetween sheet. Then I flipped the two keys and looked at
how the top of the stem was arcing. I then drew in that arc between
the two points, found the center or inbetween point on that arc,
and drew in my third dot. When Iím inbetweening points, it also
helps me a great deal to put a line through both of my key points
in order to better see the inbetween point. See Figures 2.1 and
How many points should you arc? Well it depends. For
the leaf drawing, I chose these points: the point where the stem
meets the leaf, the top of the stem, and the tip of the stem. I
arced all of these points. See Figures 3.1 and 3.2. Notice in this
drawing that since I had inbetweened the top and bottom of the stem,
I was able to lightly rough it in in the drawing. I chose these
points because they were distinct points of reference for the two
keys. It was also obvious for me to see how they those points were
arcing. You donít have to put million of points all over your drawing
and start arcing them.†
Arcing and inbetweening shapes:
Another excellent technique for figuring out your arcs is to start
breaking the key drawings up into shapes and seeing the shape's
movement. For this example, I broke up the broad part of the stem
into a large oval with a small triangle left over at the top. I
then drew an oval and triangle for both keys on my inbetween drawing,
arced the two ovals, and then drew in the inbetween oval. So I basically
had three ovals on my inbetween drawing. To find the exact inbetween
of the oval, I drew points at the top and bottom of the oval and
then found there inbetween using the first technique I talked about.
The triangle simply fit on top of this oval, so I didnít really
need to make points for it. One thing youíll notice is that when
you get the really large shapes down accurately, the smaller details
and shapes, like the triangle, can just be eyed in. With the inbetween
points and shapes my drawing is starting to take shape. See Figures
4.1 and 4.2.
Extend lines off of points to inbetween major landmarks.
Earlier in the tutorial I was mentioning how it is helpful to put
a line through your key points to better see the inbetween. Well,
making lines or slashes at key areas is also extremely helpful in
inbetweening other landmarks. For instance on each side of the leaf
there are a few jagged edges. At the tip of each jagged edge I extended
a line off of it, one for each of the keys, and then simply drew
a line in the middle. You could use the point technique, but at
this point youíve already got most of the drawing fleshed out, and
getting exact points will just be too confusing, tedious, and time
consuming. Look at Figure 5.1 and 5.2 to see how I used simple slash
lines to see where the inbetweens fit in. I used various numbers
and letters to illustrate where I put the slashes. For instance
A, B, and C. ĎAí represents a line extended from one of the main
jagged edges on one of the keys. ĎCí represents that same jagged
edge on the other key drawing. I extended these lines out pretty
far and I was simply able to eye the line inbetween these two extended
lines, which was ĎBí. I drew in that jagged edge there. I did the
same with the other numbers represented on the sample drawing.
Iíve also drawn in the middle vein line of the leaf
since I knew where the top of it started and I knew where it ended
from the earlier inbetweening, so I simply eyed the two key drawings
to see how the vein was moving and then tried to approximate the
placement of the middle vein in the inbetween drawing. Later on,
as Iíll show in this tutorial, Iíll clarify this line, by checking
and rechecking distances, but for now, it just helps me to get a
rough estimate of the major parts of the inbetween.
At this point my rough drawing is really coming along.
Iíve figured out how the leaf is arcing, Iíve got the major shape
of the leaf, the placement of the stem, the inner vein line and
a couple of the jagged edges.
Clarifying and checking your drawing
Diffusing the light: At this stage, I like
to diffuse the light somewhat. To do this, take your animation drawings
off your peg bar and place two or three blank sheets of animation
paper on the peg bar. Now take your drawings and place them on top
of the blank sheets of paper. This will diffuse the light from the
light table a bit.
Checking angles and distances: The stem as
you saw was pretty much figured out using the inbetween points of
the top and bottom of the stem from the key drawings. However a
good way to check it, is to look at the first key drawing and see
at what angle the stem is pointing, and then see how the angle has
changed in the next key drawing. I usually like to think about it
like a hand on a clock. For instance, in the first drawing, the
stem is slightly past 12:00 and in the next key, the stem is around
the 3:00 mark, so my inbetween should be at around 1:30. Also, look
at the middle vein in the leaf. At what angle (or time) is that
running along one key and how is that changing in the next key?
Draw in the distance in your inbetween.
Look at how the leaf is angling away from the stem
on the left side (viewerís left side). On the first drawing, the
line is steeper than it is in the second key drawing. Draw the difference
in the steepness in your inbetween. The same with the other side
of the stem.
The middle vein in the drawing breaks up the leaf
into two nice shapes. Notice how in the first drawing, the left
side from the vein is narrower than in the second key drawing. You
have to draw in the distance. Notice how the middle vein itself
goes from being fairly steep, to flattening out. Inbetween the difference
in your drawing.
To get the inbetween of how the leaf curls up at the
end, I simply guess that it would be about half the volume of the
final key and then using the end point of the leaf that we inbetweened
earlier, I drew it in.
I could go on and on,about the infinite minute differences
in the key drawings--the different angles, distances, shapes, where
parts line up, but you get the general idea from some of the above
examples. The more ways you reference your two keys, the more accurate
the inbetween will be.
Getting the small veins, other jagged edges and
the rest of the details.
As youíve been noticing, Iíve always been going from
general to specific. Iíve been getting the major shapes down and
carefully inbetweening the key points. The rest of the inbetween
can be drawn by just using these established points.
Check and recheck the inbetween drawing: Make
sure that you have everything thatís included in the key drawings,
every little vein. Make sure you drew in that small hole in the
leaf. Notice how the hole is slightly closer to the middle vein
in the second key than it is in the first. This was a slight error
on my part when drawing the keys, but these incongruities happen
all the time in key drawings and you are still responsible for inbetweening
the changes. So if on one drawing the hole is 1 mm from the middle
vein and on the next it is .4 mm, it is your responsibility to put
the inbetween .7 mm from the middle vein. Notice how the edges on
the leaf changed somewhat. You have to reconcile these changes in
Make sure your volumes havenít changed: One
of the biggest mistakes that beginners make is that parts of their
drawing start to either shrink or grow. In other words the volumes
are changing. Keeping your volumes consistent, particularly your
major volumes, is very important. One good way to check your volumes
and your inbetween as a whole, is to take all of your drawings off
the peg bar, take the two key drawings and align them as best as
possible (neither one should be on the peg bar at this point), then
place your inbetween on top and align it with the two keys. You
can check your stem to see if it is the same size as the stem in
the other keys, you can check the basic volume of the leaf, and
so on and so forth.
Helpful tip: To test out your drawing, it many
times helps to turn the two key drawings and the inbetween drawing
over so that you are see the back side of them and then flip the
drawings. It helps you see mistakes you otherwise wouldnít see if
you flipped with the drawings facing you. Itís the same theory with
drawing. Many times holding your drawing up to a mirror or turning
it upside down and holding it up to the light will show errors in
the drawing which you otherwise wouldnít detect.
Your final red drawing should looking something like
Figures 6.1 and 6.2.
Remember when your drawing goes to be photographed,
none of the red pencil marks will show up, so use the red to your
advantage to help you. Donít try to make a perfectly clean drawing,
just to try to impress your supervisor. Theyíll be more impressed
if they see you thinking, if they see lots of marks, arcs, etc.
Drawing the Inbetween, Step 2: Pushing Back the
Youíve completed the most important part in red. The
graphite line obviously is important because it will be the line
that shows up on the big screen, but it is more of the icing on
the cake of the drawing. If you ask any animator, theyíd rather
work with a cleanup artist who can do a really excellent inbetween
line and a so-so cleanup line, as opposed to someone who can do
a so-so inbetween line and an excellent cleanup line.
Turn your light table off: Generally speaking,
the red col-erase portion should be done with the light on and the
cleanup portion should be done with the light off.
Push back the red: Take your kneaded eraser
and roll it into a hot dog like shape. Then take it and put it on
top of your drawing and roll it up and down on top of your drawing
like a rolling pin rolls out dough. This technique is better than
just erasing normally as it will keep you from erasing too much
of the red pencil marks and it will erase everything evenly.
You want the heaviness of the red to be lightened
a bit, but not so much that you can no longer see it. See Figure
7 for what the pushed back red drawing should look like.
Drawing the inbetween - Part 3: Drawing the Graphite
The thickness of the line: You want your graphite
line to be the same thickness as the two key drawings. Look at your
two key drawings and see how thick they are and try to emulate that
in your inbetween line. If you were working on a cartoon like the
t.v. show 101 Dalmatians where the style is very thick lines, you
would want to make your inbetweens thick too, but if you are working
on a Disney film, where generally the lines are pretty thin, then
you want your cleanup line to be thin as well. Otherwise, when the
line is projected many times bigger on a movie screen, the difference
in line will become very evident.
When drawing the cleanup line, click on your mechanical
pencil two or three times; a tip much longer than this will cause
the lead to keep breaking since .3 is very thin and fragile.
Technique of drawing the line Go over the underlying
red drawing with your mechanical pencil. Do not draw the graphite
line with one continuous long line. You will just end up with a
sloppy, wobbly and inconsistent line. What you should do is go through
the line making small ďscrubbingĒ strokes, flexing your thumb and
index finger and moving your hand slowly over the page. Also when
thereís shifts in the movement of the line, turn your animation
disc so that you can draw the line in a comfortable and competent
way with your hand. If youíve ever watched a professional doing
cleanup, they are constantly moving their disc around. Keep your
pencil on the paper until you have to move the disc. Donít make
a single stroke, pick up your pencil and then make another stroke.
Your line should have a uniform thickness and weight.
Make sure that your line doesnít have thick areas and then thin
areas right next to each other. Also, make sure that the line isnít
too light in an area and then darker in another area. Your line
should have a consistent thickness and value. Erase away any little
thread marks on the side of the line so that the line is clean.
Remember, your line will be magnified many times over when it is
seen on a movie screen, so really strive for a quality line.
Make sure all shapes are closed off. When your
drawing is done, it is sent off into ink and paint, and if all of
your shapes are not closed off, the paint will bleed out of the
shape. So double and triple check to make sure everything is closed
off and there are no openings where paint could bleed out.
Make sure you havenít missed anything. When
you get really detailed drawings to inbetween, itís a common error
to forget little small things to inbetween, like the light in someoneís
eye, or the squiggle in their ear, or any number of other things.
Make sure youíve inbetweened everything.
Your final cleanup/inbetween should look something
like what I have drawn in Figure 8.1 and 8.2
Keep practicing: Like any skill, the more frequently
you do something, the better you get at it. With practice, your
drawings will improve and you will get faster. Create your own key
drawings and inbetween them. There are also numerous examples of
key drawings in ďart ofĒ books which you can copy and practice on.
Time yourself: Needless to say, the faster
you can inbetween the better. The studios would rather have someone
who can do a good inbetween in one hour than someone who can do
an absolutely incredible inbetween in four hours. This is particularly
true when it comes down to "crunch time" and everyone is under the
gun to get the film completed. If you are unable to pump those inbetweens
out, once production is done, you might be looking for a job somewhere
else. Hey itís a ruthless business. You can either accept that or
deny it and see what happens. So when you are practicing inbetweening,
write at the bottom of your paper when youíve started the inbetween
and then write down the time when youíve finished. Try to get faster
and faster. The ideal time on a fairly complicated inbetween is
an hour. On this leaf inbetween, which is much easier, an experience
inbetweener could do it a lot quicker than that.
During your first few inbetween tests, however, just
concern yourself with technique and not speed. It could take you
several hours per inbetween with your first few attempts. Believe
it or not, thatís actually pretty average for a beginner. First
focus on your competence with the basics of inbetweening and then
worry about speed.
You probably werenít expecting such an involved process
for something called inbetweening. Iíve written a lot, because there
in fact is a lot involved in the process, but after awhile everything
Iíve mentioned will be second nature to you. Iíve discussed the
broad approach to inbetweening/cleanup using an example of a leaf
to illustrate the points; however unless you are working on an animated
musical about floating leaves, you will do very different inbetweens
than the one I showed. Iíve provided you with the basic tools for
inbetweening, but itís your job as an artist to figure out when
and how to use those tools for each individual inbetween.
to Inside Animation Page
Return to Animation
Artist Magazine Home Page