Stop-motion animation is a great analogue visual medium. We at A+C love the fact that it’s so tactile, and as animators and artists, there’s nothing quite like being able to work with your hands and bring characters and scenes to life on a physical set.

With that said, there’s no getting away from the fact that in the modern world you’re going to need to use some digital tools to help you out too. We recently put out a blog about the best software for creating stop-motion – this is well worth a read, as there’s something to suit every budget and skill level.

But what about before you start shooting? You’ll probably want to put together some storyboards. And what about after you’ve shot your stop-motion animation? You’ll probably want to cut your shots together in the right order at the very least. You might also want to add sound, music, titles and maybe even a little magic in the way of special effects, right?

When you’re starting out in stop-frame animation, or indeed with other animation techniques and video work too, you will probably hear the name Adobe thrown around. This company’s digital programs form the basis for many editors, post-production artists and animators’ digital arsenals. From the outset, Adobe software may seem daunting, but we wanted to cover the five main Adobe applications that may benefit you when making an animation production, be it stop-motion or 2D, and how each one can be used to help your animation!

1: Photoshop

Probably the most famous of the Adobe programs is the image editing software Photoshop. So well known in fact, that the word ‘Photoshopped’ has become an almost universally recognised adjective. You may have used this software before but even if you haven’t you probably know that if a picture has been Photoshopped, it’s been changed or manipulated in some way. Adobe Photoshop allows for intense image manipulation ranging from cutting out elements of an image to completely changing the colours and lighting of a photograph. For stop motion, this is very useful when creating storyboards or mood boards before you start shooting. Photoshop also has a large capability for drawn art, with many brush types and styles built into the program as well as many more that can be found for free online with a quick internet search. This is perfect when creating stop-motion character designs or background art either for concept art or in post-production.

2: Illustrator 

The main difference between Illustrator and Photoshop is that Photoshop works with pixels, whereas Illustrator works with vectors. What this means is images created in Illustrator can be scaled up infinitely without fear of losing resolution and quality, unlike when pixel-based media, where you’ll start to see the little pixel squares when you scale an image up. This makes Illustrator great for creating props and characters to be used in After Effects animations as they can be scaled up to any size you want. The programme is also well equipped to create and work with shapes, a feature that is very useful when creating elements for animation.

3: After Effects 

One of the main tools in an animator’s Adobe arsenal is After Effects – a hugely versatile tool. This program covers a lot, from post-production effects to motion graphics animation directly within the software. The program’s main use is for video compositing and post-production – we think of it as ‘Photoshop for video’. In terms of stop-motion animation, this would be applied to things such as removing rigging, combining different animated elements into the same shot, or adding visual effects like rain or backgrounds. When applied to 2D animation, the software can manipulate various shapes, images and effects to create complex animations. These shapes can range from pre-made characters and objects from other Adobe programmes such as Illustrator to simple photographs. When used correctly, After Effects is the perfect tool to complete the final stages of any production you are working on, giving it that last layer of polish. Some people even put their final edits together in After Effects, which is fine – but we prefer to use Adobe’s editing software.

4: Premiere Pro

This is the main video editing software within the Adobe suite. It is used by a lot of studios including ours here in Margate as it is a powerful, intuitive and works well with other Adobe programs. As mentioned, the main use for this software within animation is to compile and edit together your finished shots. On top of this, its the Adobe software you should use to add sound to your production and take the time to synchronise it up accordingly. It is also useful during the animatic phase of pre-production as it can be used to easily string together storyboard shots when you’re planning your animation, allowing them to be spaced and timed ready for production to begin.

5. Audition

Adobe Audition is a sound editing tool, which can really help bring to life stop-motion animation. It has the capability for recording and importing sound, layering sound, as well as editing volumes, blending sounds and pretty much helping you to create any sound effects you might need. Great sound is a crucial element to animation and it is so often overlooked. By using Audition, you can work to create the perfect soundscape for your animated film. This could range from vocals for characters to simply sound effects for each necessary element of your animated film. Playing around with how sound works with your animation is a great way to bring new life and ideas to your films.

These are five Adobe programs that we use at the studio daily. From pre-production to final delivery, each step is essential in creating a well-rounded animation. Aside from working well on their own, the thing we love about Adobe programs is that they all integrate really well together. Adobe provides each software individually or as packages depending on what you need, all on a monthly subscription basis. It can be quite expensive but they do offer huge discounts for those studying or teaching.

Whatever style of animation you choose to make, we think this Adobe software is essential to the production process. If you are struggling to get started, there are plenty of free tutorials and forums available online that cover every aspect of each.

But with all this talk of what to do once the animation is done; you may be wondering what goes into making stop-motion animation itself. Check out our blog on Getting started in stop-motion to find out the best software for shooting it.