How to animate faces
As promised to those who enjoy the animated pieces of me in the bubbles featured on both sides of this blog, I shall now try to teach you how to do it. Although it's a relatively simple operation, it isn't for absolute beginners as it requires a certain level of mastery and dexterity. But with a little bit of practice, you can accomplish just about anything. I have used Paint Shop Pro X, but equivalent image editing software such as GIMP or Photoshop should also have similar tools — under different names maybe. For the animated part, if you have a compatible OS, you may use Animation Shop as introduced previously (see Related articles).
- a portrait (human or animal) large enough to work at ease
Animation Shop (installation required)
1. Open a copy of your desired picture in Paint Shop Pro. Duplicate layer.
2. Activate duplicated layer and select Mesh Warp tool. As show on capture, move the points around eyebrows to create the movement. Since it all depends on your source picture and your desired movement, you'll have to carry many trials before getting the proper warping.
A FEW TIPS:
- Set a tight mesh by increasing the values in tool settings for greater precision.
- Make sure you have a mirror at hand to observe how your own face moves so as to reproduce the movement on your picture.
- Hide/unhide your top layer to preview movement so you'll know immediatley whether or not you're doing it right.
3. Once you're happy with your warping, don't forget to click OK and save your picture as a PSP file for Animation Shop (or the warped output as a JPG file).
4. Launch Animation Shop and load your two-layer picture (or your original picture to which you'll import the output after existing frame).
5. Now you need to set duration (ALT+Enter) for each frame. In this example, I chose 75 for the first frame (original) and 25 for the second frame (warped).
6. Launch the Optimisation Wizard (via File menu) and choose “Animated GIF File” then click Next. Choose “Best Quality” then click Customise.
- Number of colours: 255
- Optimised Octree
- Error diffusion
- All options checked
Click OK then Next to start optimisation. Now you can save your animation as GIF file via the File menu.
For the above example, I chose to animate both mouth and brows but used the Warp Brush instead of the Mesh Warp tool as it's more accurate and offers a greater range of settings and possibilities. I used the Pull mode which can also be used to push up. You may vary step and strength as well as hardness but only experimentation will tell you what's best. For frame duration I chose 50 (original) and 15 (warping).
This final example also required the use of the Warp Brush in Contract mode. Once warped, I duplicated the layer of the output and used the Smudge Brush to make the baby's tongue disappear into his mouth. I thus got three frames and chose the following durations: 100 (original), 7 (warping) and 20 (warping + smudging).
Don't expect to get result on first try, but be persistent and audacious and you'll eventually come out with a cool picture. Next time, I shall teach you how to blink an eye.
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