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Animation using Synfig Studio

 An Introduction to using Synfig Studio for Animation

What is Synfig Studio?

Synfig is a much more complex beast than Pencil. It is also, as a result, much more daunting to use and less intuitive to learn. If you have the time to master it's facilities, then it will handle most projects for you. Our advice is that if you are serious about animation, then Synfig is a definite contender - but if you only produce the occasional animation, then the steep learning curve may outweigh the benefits.

That said, if you are prepared to invest some time working through some of the Synfig tutorials (-see our "Further Reading" suggestions at the end of this article), then Synfig can deliver superb results - both in terms of smoothness and in terms of time saving: if you are serious about 2D animation, then Synfig should be near the top of your list.

Installing Synfig Studio

Synfig is available for most Linux distros - as well as Windows and Mac. If you are running Fedora, then Synfig is available to install from it's Software Centre

Installing Synfig from the Fedora Software Centre

Users of other distros can download Synfig from and open the package in their respective Software Centres.

Running Synfig Studio

Once Synfig is installed, it can be started just like any other Linux application. For example, in Fedora, you can search for it in the Applications Area:

Running Synfig in Fedora

Just click on it's icon to invoke it: four separated windows will open up, as shown in the screenshot below:

The Synfig Windows at Startup Time

A Quick Tour of the Synfig Studio

Upon first encountering it, the Synfig user interface is, frankly, rather intimidating. The author's first impression was similar to that experienced when first starting Cinelerra, which was not exactly favourable! However, the main thing to realise is that, although all these windows, tabs and icons have their purposes, you actually need only a very small subset of them to actually produce an animation: over time - as you add to your knowledge - you can start to take advantage of these extra facilities.

The trick is not to try and take it all in at once: grasp the basics (-as we will present them in the following articles) and then expand your knowledge over time, using the documentation out on the web and the active Synfig community if you find yourself needing more.

Next, let's take a brief look at each of the four windows. On the left hand side (-by default, anyway) is the Toolbox. This holds all the drawing tools (-plus a few common file functions and the like) and looks a bit like the corresponding window in GIMP. However, don't let this fool you: Synfig is no GIMP when it comes to drawing - and we would advocate creating your images in GIMP and using the Import option to pull them in to Synfig to begin with.

The Synfig Toolbox Window

The second window - and perhaps the most important - is the Canvas: this is where you images will be displayed - and where you will do most of your manipulation of them:

The Synfig Canvas Window

One of the most important parts of Synfig which is almost hidden away, is the main menu. This can be accessed from the Canvas by left-clicking the caret icon (The Synfig Caret Icon) which is located at the junction between the two axes rulers (-top left corner):

The Synfig Caret Icon Location

Click on this icon to gain access to the menu of functions - such as new/open/save/import/set canvas properties, etc:

The Synfig Caret Menu

The other two windows contain a jumble of what are known as Panels - and cover a whole host of different functions. One of the most used portions of right hand window is the Layers Panel: this shows you the different images/shapes that make up your image - and allows you to group/ungroup them, apply transformations to them, etc:

The Synfig Navigator/Layers Window

The bottom window again contains a number of different Panels - the main ones being the keyframes display (-significant points in your animation) and the properties display for the select object:

The Synfig Parameters/Keyframes Window

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