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Animation for Beginners: How to Animate a Bouncing Ball!

This post is part of a series called Animation for Beginners.
Animation for Beginners: Animate Shape and Weight in Falling Objects
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial I will take you through the steps to create an animated bouncing ball that you will be proud of!

We are going to create a ball that bounces up and down. Our bouncing ball will be a cycle, which means is that the first frame of our animation is also the last frame of our animation. We can repeat the same bit of animation over and over again, and it can play infinitely.

1. Draw the Ball Poses

In the case of our bouncing ball, the first frame will be pose 1, and the last frame we will call pose 2. When we complete our animation, it will loop when played back.

Pose 1 and pose 2

Step 1

Start by drawing a floor line about an inch from the bottom of the page. This will ground our ball.

Draw a floor line

Step 2

Sketch in your ball—it doesn't have to be a perfect circle. I like to work sketchy and rough when I animate. Let's draw our ball about a centimeter from the top of the page. This is pose 1. The ball is above the floor, ready to fall and bounce!

Draw first image of ball

Step 3

Now let's draw our ball in the second position. This is pose 2. The ball is on the floor ready to bounce back to pose 1! You can see the light image of the previous frame so you will get a sense of placement in relation to the previous frame.

Draw our second pose of the ball

Step 4

Let's go back and add an in-between between pose 1 and pose 2. In-betweens are the animation frames in-between our poses. In-betweens give the illusion that one pose smoothly transitions into the next pose. 

The in-between that we are drawing in this step is for the action between pose 1 and pose 2. When I animate, I like to favor the frame that I am drawing toward. So the animation drawing of our ball is not exactly in the middle, but rather a little closer to pose 2 than pose 1.

In-between between pose1 and pose 2

Step 5

Next, add an in-between between pose 2 and pose 1 to give the appearance that the ball is bouncing back up to its original pose!

In-between between pose 2 and pose 1

Let's take a look at our animation so far. It looks good, but something is missing. It feels flat.

Our animation so far

Step 6

To give our bouncy ball a bit of elasticity, we can add a slightly squashed ball frame right after our pose 2 frame. I left in a light image of pose 2 so you can see the squashed frame in relation to pose 2. Make sure you keep the mass of the ball the same—as the ball squashes down slightly it gets a little fatter on the sides, thus keeping the mass of the ball the same.

Add a squashed frame

That's much better! Adding the squashed ball frame gives the ball more bounce. 

Now lets see our animation

Step 7

Our ball is looking good, but it's still missing something. Let's add a stretched ball after our squashed ball. In the slide you can see how the stretched ball is positioned in relation to our last drawing. Notice how the mass is kept the same by stretching our ball and making it more elongated, and the ball is thinner on the sides. 

Add a stretched ball frame

Now our ball is looking bouncy and more like an elastic rubber ball. Very good!

Our animation so far

Here's a look at our progress. I have labeled pose 1 and pose 2 and highlighted the in-betweens in green. 

All of our frames

Step 8

Let's add another in-between to smooth out the action as the ball bounces back up to pose 1. The more in-betweens an animation has, the slower and smoother the action.

Add another in-between

Step 9

As the ball nears the top position, add one more in-between to slow and ease out the action. This will make the motion more realistic. As a bouncing ball bounces up and reaches its highest point, it will slow slightly as it fights gravity before the ball starts its fall back to the ground.

Add one more in-between

I have labeled pose 1 and pose 2 and highlighted the in-betweens in green and our last two in-betweens in blue.

All of our frames

And now let's look at our animation. That is a great-looking bouncing ball! I think we are just about done! But first…

Lets look at our animation

2. Clean Up and Color Our Ball Animation 

Step 1

It's time to sweeten our animation and clean it up! I like to work rough when I animate. Now that we are happy with how our animation is looking, let's ink over the top of our rough line and give it a nice, clean black outline.

Lets clean up our ball

Nice! Look at all of our frames together. Now that's a nice-looking bunch of cleaned-up frames!

All of our cleaned up frames

Here's our animation. That looks great! Good job! Only one thing left to do...

Our cleaned up animation

Step 2

Let's color our ball! Color all of your ball images. Blue is my favorite color, but you can make your ball any color you want. Go for it! 

Lets color our ball
Very good! Keep going until all the ball frames are colored.

Good job!! Nice Animating!

That's a great bouncing ball! This looks awesome! In just a short time you have created an animated bouncing ball that has weight and mass. A bouncy ball that you can be proud of. Keep animating—the sky's the limit!

Our finished animation
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