how to animate a bird flying

Animals are really fun to animate. In my early days as an animator, a flying bird was one of the first things that I learned how to animate!

This is our bird—cute little fella, right? Were going to make this little guy fly! I decided to make him a blue bird, but this is your special character, so you can totally customize the bird to your style. OK, lets go!

2. Add Detail

Our bird can’t smile without a beak, so let’s give him a face! Add facial detail!

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

Thats coming along nicely—thats a happy looking bird!

Neaten, sweeten and add feathers!

To demonstrate how I am adding detail and straightening the line, I chose to zoom in very close. My clean line is visible above my rough line, which is shown in light grey. I’m refining my persona and going for a loose, brush-line-like aesthetic. Observe how I’m adding feathers to the wings and tail as I refine my drawings. See how my rough wing’s overall shape is followed by the feathers? The same is true for the tail.

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

It’s looking good, so keep going! The handcrafted nature gives it a nice, loose quality, even though the line isn’t perfect.

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

Here is our bird at regular size. Weve almost finished cleaning up the animation!.

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

Looks great! That is a happy flying bird!

This kind of quick movement was previously accomplished in classic animation by smearing paint with a dry brush.

Many years ago I wrote an article how to achieve a similar effect in Flash/Animate, but it can be applied to Illustrator or Photoshop as well.

Nick, an animator and character designer who has been using Flash since 1998, is a member of the Flanimate Power Tools team, which creates extensions for character animation. Good luck!

You can import your AI file into Photoshop if you have properly completed the layers in Illustrator, or you can export the frame to PNG. After that, you could adjust the timeline to reveal and conceal the layers as necessary.

The effect of a hummingbird in flight can be achieved by separating the body and drawing some sort of blurry speed lines. A hummingbird’s wings are literally blur.

1. Draw the Bird Poses

The main poses are called the extremes. The term “in-betweens” refers to the drawings that moderate the action between the extremes.

Using circles and linear shapes, I work roughly, just blocking in the head, wings, and general body shape. The wings are essentially rectangle shapes with rough edges; feathers will be added later. Let’s not get bogged down worrying about details just now; we will add more later.

To create a lovely loop, I’m going to animate the bird that is flying in place on the screen.

Draw our first pose. The image that comes to mind first is of the bird with its wings spread wide. Because I’m moving quickly, I’m also figuring out what the back wing is doing and how its movement corresponds with the position of the wing that is closest to us. It’s acceptable to go over your sketch lines as you go along to figure out what the back wing is doing.

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

Lets draw our second extreme. The bird’s wings are flapping, causing the second extreme pair to be down.

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

Looks good! I’ve positioned the two extremes we currently have next to each other in this slide.

Observe that the bird is slightly higher up in the second extreme as the wings flap downward. If you were to only animate the wings while keeping the body and head stationary, it would look fine, but I prefer to demonstrate how the wings’ movement impacts the entire body. In the second extreme, the body swivels down slightly at the neck as the bird’s wings press downward.

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

I’ve included the two extremes on one slide now so you can see how the body shifts. To make them easier to see, I made extremes 1 and 2 green and red, respectively.

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

After we have our two extremes, 1 and 2, let’s add an in-between, a drawing that moderates the action between the two extremes. Work rough—dont worry about detail.

Since the wings of the bird have feathers at their tips, I like to depict how the tips of the wings have some flexibility and bend slightly when the bird descends from its flying position.

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

This is our intermediate, displayed in light grey with extremes 1 and 2. I prefer to favor the extreme that I am drawing towards when I add in-betweens. My wings are a little bit closer to extreme 2 because I am working toward that position.

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

The birds wings follow an arc. The bird appears to be looking at us from the side, so the wing is slightly foreshortened.

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

Draw our in-between between extreme 2 and extreme 1. The wings are rising back up from their lowered position. Our final drawing will loop back to our initial drawing because we are animating a loop.

Observe how the wing bottoms exhibit the flexibility of the wings, and how the bottoms curve slightly downward to exhibit the flexibility of the feathers as the wings ascend again. Although the back wing is nearly entirely hidden behind the bird’s head, you can still make out some of it.

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

Take a look at all of our drawings so far. You may have observed that I’ve left the front wing somewhat transparent during animation so you can see what happens to his legs when he soars. We can color it so that the wings are opaque. Its not necessary to show the legs through the wings.

Now that we have added the in-betweens, I have numbered each of our drawings appropriately.

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

Well done! Let’s see how it looks so far. Let’s add more in-betweens and sweeten the animation. That’s coming along nicely.

Let’s include a transition between our first and second drawings! You can see that I’m still not quite finished! Also dont forget about the back wing!.

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

Following drawing 2, add an in-between! We previously added one between drawings 1 and 2, and we’re doing the same now between drawings 2 and 3. After we’ve completed adding our in-betweens, we’ll renumber each drawing appropriately.

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

Let’s now add a transitional drawing between sketches 3 and 4 that is still rough, merely works in shapes, and does not concern itself with facial details.

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

Lastly, to finish the loop, let’s add one of our in-betweens between drawing numbers 4 and 1. The first drawing is in red, and the fourth drawing is in blue. Our in-between is in black. Notice how our last drawing is also our first drawing!.

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

how to animate a bird flying

Let’s take a look! That looks great! You did a great job smoothing out the animation and adding all those in-betweens to make it more enjoyable!

FAQ

What type of motion do birds fly in?

A bird flies in the sky in haphazard motion, including various motion types. The movement of the wings of the birds is an example of oscillatory motion. Due to this oscillatory motion, the birds can move in either rectilinear or curvilinear motion.