Object Onion Skinning For Blender
Your animation workflow is about to level up.
What's This About "Onions?"
You may be familiar with the term onion skinning, a traditional animation technique that enables the animator to see previous drawings through the page while drawing a frame. The effect is so essential to an efficient hand-drawn animation workflow that the majority of digital 2D and 2.5D animation packages include onion skinning features natively.
Which, you know, makes total sense. Having a visual reference for previous or later frames, the animator can make informed decisions while toiling away on the current frame. As Jim Gaffigan says, "It's so simple."
3D animation applications are often the exception. 3D applications generally forgo robust onion skinning features and animators are expected by their applications to animate 'in the blind.'
So What Does Onion Skin Tools Do?
Very simply, this:
Onion Skin Tools provides animators with object onion skinning in Blender’s viewport. Visualize the action of your animation instantly without even moving the timeline cursor! No more animating in the blind!
With Onion Skin Tools, you can
- Generate onion skinning for any mesh-able objects, even entire multiple-object characters or creatures, on arbitrary frames or over a user-defined frame range.
- Make informed posing decisions! Compare poses on previous and later frames side by side while you pose your character or creature rig on the current frame.
- Stop guessing! See at a glance the arcs of your action without even changing the current frame.
(Image courtesy of www.pintamonos.cl)
Whether you're animating characters, creatures, vehicles, text, motion graphics, or something else entirely -
It’s time to take the guess work / incessant timeline scrubbing / pose memorizing out of your animation workflow.
- Auto Updating - A primary feature of this release! When enabled, Auto Updating will watch for changes to an Updater object (e.g., a character rig armature) and automatically update the onion skinning according to the changes!
- Transparency Range control - An optional range control has been added to display onion skinning only on frames within a specified range around the current frame as you move through the timeline.
- Absolute Range mode - A new mode for setting the frame range has been added. Choose Relative (legacy, default) or Absolute. Absolute mode allows you to set specific start and end frames to generate onion skinning (e.g., frames 1 - 100).
- X-Ray Originals - Quick access toggle for enabling X-Ray draw mode on original objects has been added, which will draw original objects over onion skinning.
- Backend work - Onion Skin Tools now sports compiled Cython modules for slightly faster onion skinning (re)generation. Currently, compiled modules are only provided for 64-bit Windows / Linux. 32-bit and Mac systems are still supported with pure Python.
- Compatibility fixes for Blender 2.77 where addon wouldn’t display correctly.
- Pre-2.78 fix for broken onion skinning removal.
- Support for linked libraries.
- Optional frame number drawing over onion skinned frames.
- UI overhaul to reduce visual clutter.
You can install the addon one of two ways.
1) Extract the onion_skin_tools folder from the .zip file and move or copy the folder directly to your
<blender installation>/2.78/scripts/addons directory.
2) Alternatively, from within Blender:
• Go to File > User Preferences > Addons.
• At the bottom of the User Preferences window, click “Install From File...”
• Browse to the .zip file, select it, and click “Install From File.”
3) From the User Preferences window, navigate to the Addons tab, and select the Animation filter.
4) Click the checkbox next to “Animation: Onion Skin Tools” to enable the addon.
5) Click “Save User Settings.”
Features & Settings
This is the addon panel. After enabling the addon, you will find this panel in the 3D View > Tools Panel > Animation Tab. Familiarize yourself with the following settings.
A quick note: In this documentation, we’ll be verbing the phrase “onion skin” for the sake of convenience. Hope you’re okay with that.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the settings, using the addon should be fairly straightforward. Briefly, the steps are:
1) Add objects to the list of objects to onion skin.
2) Adjust frame range settings.
3) Click Run.
4) After animating, click Remove to remove onion skinning from the viewport.
To add objects to the list for onion skinning:
- Select one or more mesh objects.
- Click the '+' button to add the selected objects to the list.
- If the selected object is an Armature, the armature will not be added to the list. Instead, any mesh objects parented or deformed by the Armature will be added to the list. This way, you can quickly add a whole rigged character to the list for onion skinning.
- To add objects from a linked group (say, a linked character rig), select the group Empty and click the '+' button to add the linked objects to the list.
Click the '-' button to remove the selected list item.
Enable Current Frame Only to run onion skinning on only the current frame. Enabling this will remove several items from the user interface (specifically, the Include Current Frame, Direction, range Backward / Forward settings).
Keep Current Frame Only disabled to run onion skinning on a range of frames.
Enable Include Current Frame to include the current frame in the onion skinning.
Set the frame range direction.
Backward will only include frames earlier than the current frame. Forward will only include frames later than the current frame. Both will include frames earlier and frames later than the current frame.
Set the frame range. The Backward slider sets the number of frames earlier than the current frame to onion skin. The Forward slider sets the number of frames later than the current frame to onion skin. The Frame Step slider sets the number of frames to progress between onion skinned frames. A value of 1 will onion skin every frame. A value of 2 will onion skin every other frame, etc.
Now you can run the onion skinning process by clicking Run.
Settings That Update In the Viewport
The following settings will update the onion skinning objects in the viewport. Therefore it is not essential to set these before running the onion skinning operator.
The Earlier Color and Later Color properties determine the color of onion skinning objects earlier and later than the current frame. The Transparency Factor slider is a multiplier for onion skinning transparency.
Note: After running onion skinning, changing the current frame on the timeline will update the color and transparency of onion skinned frames relative to the new current frame. For example, frames earlier than the current frame will turn blue (or your custom color) and become more transparent as you move forward on the timeline.
Enabling or disabling X-Ray will enable or disable x-ray drawing on the onion skinning objects.
To hide onion skinning objects before the current frame on the timeline, enable Before. As the timeline cursor progresses forward, any onion skinned frames prior to the current frame will disappear from view.
Likewise, to hide onion skinning objects after the current frame on the timeline, enable After. The All checkbox is a convenience - you can use a single checkbox to hide all the onion skinned frames from view, but this is also accomplished by enabling both Before and After.
Removing Onion Skinning
To remove the onion skinning from the viewport, click the Remove button.
To remove onion skinning only on the current frame (assuming of course the current frame is onion skinned), check Current Frame Only and click Remove.
You can onion skin a single frame, then progress forward a few frames on the timeline, and onion skin another frame. Using the Current Frame Only setting, you can onion skin an arbitrary number of frames individually to maintain control over what you would like to see in the viewport while you animate.
There is already a sizable list of ideas for improvements, enhancements, and features that will each take at least a little time to implement. Some of these are small improvements, e.g. a checkbox added to the UI for quick toggling of a visualization feature. Some of these are large in scope, requiring significant additions to the onion skinning generation code and completely redesigning parts of the UI. So you can expect the improvements to continue for quite some time! :)
Onion Skin Tools may reach a place of stasis in the distant future, after many or all of these items have been worked into the addon, and most of the improvements being made are compatibility fixes for newer versions of Blender. But I'll listen to my users - as long as you keep asking for improvements, I'll keep looking into them!
Yes! Onion Skin Tools supports linked instanced groups (e.g., character rigs).
When you want to onion skin an instanced group linked from another .blend file, you'll simply need to select the group's Empty object, and click the button to add objects to the onion skinning list. This will add the linked meshes to the list, and then you can run the onion skinning operation.
The answer, of course, is a resounding "That depends!" :D Generally, though, the difference is altogether unnoticeable; when there is a difference, it's negligible.
Remember that viewport performance boils down to the density of the scene being displayed and to your particular graphics and computing hardware. If you're onion skinning a very dense character mesh over many frames, then you may experience a slowdown of viewport performance, playback, or navigation. Blender's viewport drawing code is redrawing a duplicate of your character multiple times. Use your best judgment! Only include what you need to see in the onion skinning, and leave out denser extraneous meshes.
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