Testing the animation software „Pencil“

Bottle Opener Animation Test with „Pencil“ (Orig Size: 1024 x 768))

I was searching for an easy-to-use and cheap (or freeware) mac animation software. Especially I searched for features to capture (or import) camera shots and get full control over the single frames in the animation’s timeline.

My usual application for this is iStopMotion 2.
But I dislike the way it handles the single frames: You can’t drag a single frame in the timeline to expand it’s duration. You have to copy/paste it to get this result which makes it hard to keep the overview over the animation timeline.


I tested a lot of small applications and found „Pencil“, an animation (and drawing) software with the purpose to make traditional animation.
It’s pretty simple and as far as my first experience: it’s a really great and easy-to-use animation software that in fact provides the control over the single frames I wished to get . And besides it’s freeware!

I made this „Bottle Opener“ Animation Test with it:

  • imported my bottle opener shots (1024 x 768px) by simply dragging & dropping them on the canvas (the biggest movie test size that worked was about 1600 x 1000px – which only seems to depend on the canvas size the computer display allows)
  • adjusted the keyframes
  • and (just for fun) put in a sound layer


As you can see in the Screenshot it is possible to drag the key frames in the timeline and assign their duration (to show a long part of the timeline I downsized the „frame size in pixels“).
Also it’s easy to delete a keyframe and replace it with another key frame image.
It really worked fine.

The software is open source and yet will be developped further. So some bugs might still be found: like the „timeline size in frames“ where it is important to determine a sufficient movie’s frame length from the beginning on. It’s difficult to change that later…
Also the camera import seemed not to work. But the reason for this might also be due to my old digital camera (which means a plus factor for iStopmotion: it can read my camera!).
But instead the drag&drop of the images worked just perfect.
And the Movie Output is quite simple, too.

The version I worked with was 4.04. I read that for version 4.5 further improvements are planned – like copy & paste of multiple key frames, which I really missed…

Autor: Heidi Kull

Ich arbeite als freiberufliche Illustratorin und Animatorin in der Zeichnerei Kull, Berlin.

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