The Art of the Flipbook

Erica Fitch, Art Director

Ever wonder how your favorite cartoons were put to life before modern computer technology? Want to make your own animation without all of the fancy machines and details? Well, you’re in luck! With a few easy steps, you can make your own flip book and bring your cartoons to life!

What is a flip book? 

A flip book consists of a series of small, drawn cartoons, each portraying movement. When put together, the pages can be flipped quickly to make the cartoons appear to be in motion.

Even before the motion picture industry came to be in the 1890s, the flip book was in existence. Studies have shown that flip books may have been around in medieval times in the 1400s. The first official account of the flip book came around 1860, created by Pierre Hubert Desvignes. However, the first person to patent the flip book was British lithograph printer John Barnes Linnett. He patented the flip book as the “kineograph” and introduced it to the world in 1868. 

Over time, various people made their own additions to the flip book for their art. Photographer Eadweard Muybridge set up a camera rig and took multiple pictures at a fast speed. He then viewed his images in a sequence to create an animation. Walt Disney created the famous “Steamboat Willie” in 1928 with a flip book. The go-to tool for animation for artists was the flip book, even as they explored new technology. 

How to make your own flip book:

Making a flip book is extremely easy! To start off, you will need the basics: a stack of paper to draw on and something to draw with. This stack of paper could be anything, from sticky notes to notepad paper to even index cards. Either way, you’ll need to have enough paper to complete your animation which is dependent on how long you want your animation to last for. You could use a pencil, pen, or any other writing utensil to draw your cartoons. It could be useful to use a binder clip as well to hold the papers together while flipping the pages. 

For each page, you will want to have your drawing in the bottom right hand corner of the page. Each subsequent drawing should be in the same location with small movements. If you don’t use slight changes, the animation will not look fluid. For example, if you are drawing a stick figure waving, you will want to move the arm in small increments, rather than one picture with an arm up high and the next picture with the arm at the figure’s side. 

Continue to add drawings until you think your animation will be to your liking. After, you can enhance your artwork with markers or other drawing utensils and add a background. Flip books are simple yet bring about a world of imagination and life to all, regardless of age.