Working with layers and vector objects to construct frames for animated tutorials

Layers are a powerful tool for constructed the individual frames of your animation. You can create all the elements of your animation, and then unveil them in any combination for export as a GIF image, later to be a frame of your animation.

Getting Started

First we need to create our image.

Next, make sure that the "Layers Palette" is visible. If it is not, choose "View > Toolbars" and be sure the "Layers Palette" box is checked. While you are here, also check the "Tool Options Palette" box.

What are layers and objects?

Layers are one of the most powerful features of Paint Shop Pro. There are three kinds:

  1. Raster layers are the most obvious kind. When you draw, paint, or paste an image as a new layer, you are working with raster layers. These layers are pixel based. The background layer is always a raster layer.
  2. Control layers are not visible themselves; they just control the appearance of other layers. We are not going to use control layers in this lesson.
  3. Vector layers hold scalable vector objects. If you draw a circle on a raster layer, you are pretty much stuck with it as you have drawn it. However, if you draw a circle on a vector layer, it is a vector object. At any time in the future, you can change its size, position, and colors. Vector objects are lines, shapes, and other figures that are saved in a way that is not tied to fixed pixels. When adding arrows, lines, shapes, etc., always think first of vector objects, because they give you the most future flexibility.

Any layer can be made invisible, or even partly transparent. Using layers, we can build a complex drawing, and unveil its elements a few at a time and in any combination to achieve the animation we desire.

A simple example

Let's build a simple animated tutorial showing how a light switch works.

First create a 200x120 image. The blank white square is shown to the right, believe it or not.

Next, change the background to a light tan:

  • Choose the "Flood Fill" tool from the tool palette on the left of the screen.
  • Check the Tool Options Palette to make sure they match the values shown at right.
  • Double click on the Foreground color from the color pallette, usually found on the right of the screen.
  • This brings up a color editing window as shown on the right. Pick light tan or a color of your choice by clicking on it. Then click OK. You have now defined your flood color as light tan.
  • Left click on your background, and it will change to light tan.

Now add a vector layer.

  • Choose "Layer > New vector Layer."
  • This brings up the window at right. Change the layer name to "LightOff" and make sure the other options are as shown.
  • Click OK.
We will now build our lights.  
  • Add a small circle by selecting the shapes tool from the Tool Palette
  • Change the Foreground color to black.
  • In the Tool Options Palette, choose Ellipse.
  • Set the other options as shown.
  • Double click the "foreground color" and choose black. This will be the outline color of our object. Choose the "fill color" rectangle and choose a dark grey.
  • Click and drag to put a small circle to denote the light on the image.

Now we will create a layer with the same light shape, denoting the light on.

  • Slide the mouse over the Layers Pallette. Right click, and select "Duplicate". The image will look the same, but now there are two identical layers with lights.
  • Choose the Object Selector from the Tool Pallette.
  • Left click on the grey circle to select it, right click to bring up the context menu, and then choose Properties.
  • Double click on "Fill" and change to bright yellow.
  • Click OK.
  • Go to the Layers Palette, right click on the current layer, "Copy of LightOff", select "Rename", and then enter "LightOn" as the name.

Clicking on the spectacles next to any layer's name toggles its visibility off and on. Play with it.

Now lets add the wires and terminals.

  • Create a new vector layer (Layers > New Vector Layer) and change the name to "Wires."
  • Choose the Preset Shapes tool again, set foreground to black, and set fill to none.
  • Add a few small circles for our wire terminations.
  • Click on the Draw tool.
  • Set the Foreground and fill colors to black.
  • Under the Tool Options Pallette, check "Create as vector."
  • Add wires.
Finally, we add a layer each for Switch On and Switch Off.  
  • Choose "Layers > New Vector Layer."
  • Name the layer "SwitchOff".
  • Draw a line for an open switch.
  • Repeat for a closed switch. Rename the Layer "SwitchOn".
Now it is time to export our frames.  
  • Make the "SwitchOn" and "LightOn" layers invisible by toggling the spectacles on each layer.
  • Export as GIF. (File > Export > Export as GIF). This is your first frame. Name it Frame1.gif
  • Repeat with the switch and light off. Name this GIF Frame2.gif.

That's it! Your frames are created.

If you want to add art, photos, or other raster images to your animation, see Adding raster images to animated tutorials .

Now click here to learn how to animate them.

or, return to the main page, Animated Tutorials with Paint Shop Pro.