Reviewing and using Krita -A free art program with animation capabilities

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Krita is an art program with animation capabilities. While not their focus: with some setup it can function as an animation tool. With some caveats. While Krita is useful: it does lack some of the features of flash due to it being an art program, and not an animation program. Consider this review an in depth guide to both setting up, the pros, and the cons of using Krita as your animation program of choice.

The above is a project I finished while learning the inns and outs of Krita. In total I spent about 3-5 hours getting it set up for animation. With how much Krita can do: it can be hard troubleshooting when something goes wrong. So let’s start with that.

Setting Krita up for Animation

Tablet setup

If you’re not planning on using a tablet: you may skip this section.

Setting up a tablet with Krita is a bit of an adventure. Depending on your tablet: it will either be easy or difficult. I can only point you to the places to check, and explain what I did. If my settings don’t give you pen pressure: you will at least know where to look to fix it.

Under Settings > Configure Krita you can find the first menu: Tablet settings
Under Settings > Configure Krita you can find the first menu: Tablet settings

The first menu is as above. This is where you configure between wintab, and windows ink. It has a tablet tester that confirms if your tablet is being picked up. If it works on there: your sensitivity is likely not due to this menu.

Your tablet settings. If you don't have this program: either your tablet doesn't have one: or you need to download it.
Your tablet settings. If you don’t have this program: either your tablet doesn’t have one: or you need to download it.

The second place to check is your tablet settings. You will notice the checkbox in the bottom left called windows ink. This should be turned off. But it may need to be turned on.

One of the toolbars that is related to pen pressure.
One of the toolbars that is related to pen pressure.

The toolbar above houses the pen icon to the top left. This controls weather you have pen pressure or not. If it has a small x on it then click it to turn it back on. (Note: you have to have a file open to do so. Even if it’s just a blank file.)

The docker 'tool options' controls your stabilizer.
The docker ‘tool options’ controls your stabilizer.

To get to the stabiliser: you need to go into settings > dockers > and then make sure that ‘tool options’ is active. If it is it should appear on the left or right tab menu beside your brushes.

If none of this solves your issue: I’m afraid you’ll have to use google like I did.

Animation setup

These steps are key if you don’t want to make a project crash constantly. Additionally: I greatly recommend saving your project every so often as a new file. Krita has a habit of working fine until you close it. And then being unable to reopen the file. (At least: not without a lot of elbow grease) Krita has tools to save incremental backups. As an example: I had to split the above project into two files to prevent it from crashing. It also made it take less than 5 minutes to load. (Side note: Krita will take a while to load your animation project. Enough time to get a coffee. Be patient. Clicking on it is scientifically proven to make it take longer.) I’m sure anyone familiar with flash will know the struggles.

I have 16 gb. So I have it set to just under that as the memory limit. (I play on the edge)
I have 16 gb. So I have it set to just under that as the memory limit. (I play on the edge)

The first thing is to set up your memory limits for Krita. This both prevents your pc from crashing: and Krita.

In memory = more resource intensive: but faster
In memory = more resource intensive: but faster

This is the second setting. By limiting the cache. And changing it from ‘in memory’ to ‘on disk’: you might make it slower to render out when clicking play in the program: but your crashes will become very infrequent.

When you’re doing your final render: you can raise the amount of pixels being rendered out. But you’re unlikely to need all the pixels while rendering out test files.

This was the point in my file when I decided to split it into two. But with lower end pc's you'll likely want to split before it gets to 10gb's of ram.
This was the point in my file when I decided to split it into two. But with lower end pc’s you’ll likely want to split before it gets to 10gb’s of ram.

Something to always keep an eye on while working is this little bar in the bottom right of Krita. This tracks your resources. If it turns orange or red: it is likely time to split the file if you don’t want crashes.

How to swap to the animation layout.

All that’s left is to set your krita to animation and get to work. If you’re like me: you’re used to f5 and f6 being the new frame buttons. You can configure it back to that to the keybinds quite easily.

Quirks and bugs

Krita, like flash, has a few quirks to it’s systems. Like the fact making a new frame when it’s saving can cause it to crash. (I’ve lost so much work to that…autosaves are rip) So let’s get into them.

Krita crashing upon autosave: Because Krita can lag a bit when it’s saving: there a small time when you could input buttons and cause it to crash. The only cure for this is turning off autosave, or saving right after you make the new frame every so often to avoid the autosave.

Sound issues. E.g: getting de-synced when rendering: but not in timeline. This happened to me. and sadly there is not much you can do. Sound while animating is not supported by Krita. It’s merely left there as something you can use. So if sound issues happen to your project: you’re on your own. for example: I found that if I don’t have the audio file at the highest quality when compiling from audacity: it comes out crackly in Krita.

Krita and vectors: Anyone familiar with flash knows what a Vector is. Simply put: it’s a shape that isn’t drawn: and is instead generated by computer algorithms. Thus making it lossless. Plus: you can edit the shape without affecting any of the other parts. That’s why they’re often called puppets.

However: Vectors are not supported with animation. To use vectors: you would have to move the vector: convert it to a still image by merging it with a layer below, create a duplicate frame on the timeline, and then remove the very first frame that is also generated when you turn a layer into an animation layer. Krita is made for hand drawn animation. But it is possible to animate with vectors: it’s just three times the work.

The good

Krita’s massive open resources and tutorial base

The thing about Krita is there is so much documentation. There might even be too much. With so many brushes, and tutorials on how to do things there is a ton of tools to use. For example: the background on this video here was made using Krita’s brushes alone.

This was me both experimenting with blurs, and with krita’s brushes. I like to use my projects to try and learn something. This was uploaded to too.

If you want a tree brush: they have 20. Grass? About 5 last I checked. Clouds: What way would you like them? (I use the cloud blur brush to blur my frames when making air being moved.) There is a dozen brushes: all supported by the program for animation. It feels like cheating with how easy it is.

3d rotation for 2d art.

You can see how this would come in handy. All you have to do is hold ctrl. You can bend and twist it too.
You can see how this would come in handy. All you have to do is hold ctrl. You can bend and twist it too.

Unlike most free art programs that only have the x and y axis: Krita has the Z as well. This allows you to rotate objects in all directions with ease. And then save them in that new rotation. This is extremely useful. For example: making a grid for the ground to tell distances.

Other small things that Krita has(That most animation programs have)

  • Scrubbing through your timeline plays sound, and can be muted.
  • Krita allows you to shift and move frames by clicking and dragging on the timeline.
  • You can play the animation in the program
  • You can make frames
  • You can change your layout around to suit your needs.
  • Pen, line, circle tools. Gradient tools. You name an art tool: Krita has it.
  • Dark and light color themes
  • Over 30 ‘dockers’ (Side bars)
  • Brush stabilisers.
  • Text tools (though you will have to transfer the text to a layer to add it to the timeline. Like with Vectors)
  • Wrap around (Aka, make a repeating pattern)
  • Onion skins
  • Layer management
  • Python scripting supported
  • Show multiple layers in the timeline at once.
  • Have multiple files open at once. (Resource intensive)

The bad

Resource intensive

With the steps I suggested: the program should be fine for most mid range gaming rigs, and most low end rigs. But Krita is still a resource intensive animation program. It can take a while to load things, and has systems such as the ‘memory limit reached’ functions that will limit rendering to 1 frame per save. The lower your pc is on the end: the more separate files you will need to make to prevent crashing.

The lack of Vector support (For animation)

This is the one main drawback of Krita when compared to flash. With vectors: if you need to make a quick edit to one part of a whole: it’s fairly simple. But with Krita you may end up taking a little longer: as you often have to redraw that section. Krita’s biggest weaknesses as an animation program are it’s lack of specific features in the end.

Other small issues

  • The bugs and quirks can lose you progress.
  • The more layers and drawing you do: the larger the file becomes. Merging them into one layer makes this worse: not better.
  • Remembering the exact brush you used can be a challenge when Krita changes the brushes on the wheel on you.
  • Lack of support for tweens/Vectors means you cannot blur between two frames. The only tweens supported is the opacity between two frames. Click here for more info.

Closing thoughts

If you can’t afford flash, and want a robust and sturdy program that will allow you to grow as a traditional animator: Krita is a solid choice. But if you’re looking for learning to work with Vectors or a less complex program: you’re better off with other programs.

But for a completely free program: you cannot go wrong with Krita.

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