XP-Pen Artist 16 Review

Since recording my review of the Huion GT220 Pen Display, XP-Pen reached out to me about recording a review of their Artist 16 tablet. I think this is another great Cintiq alternative! Ahhhh, I just love market competition! Check out the review below:


Huion GT-220 v2 - A Viable Cintiq Alternative?

I spent years working on a Wacom Cintiq 24HD. Overall it was a great pen display, but it did have some issues. The thing was insanely heavy (I actually had to replace my old desk because it started to sag in the middle!) and it was also insanely expensive. Actually, all of Wacom's products are insanely expensive. It makes sens in a way, as Wacom products are absolutely the industry standard for pen-based input devices. However, it's about time other companies started trying to compete with Wacom - competition is a good thing for all of us! Enter the Huion line of pen display tablets. I recently purchased the Huion GT-220 v2, and I decided to record my initial impressions in a quick video. Here's the gist: This thing is great! As with any product, there are some pros and cons, but based on the performance, build quality and accuracy of this device, I feel like someone is finally starting to bring some competition to Wacom! Now let's get one thing straight - the Cintiq Pro tablets are still the absolute top-of-the-line "Bentley's" of the pen input market - but Huion's cost effective GT-220 is something that should definitely be considered if you're in the market. OK, video below. Check it out!

TOOLS: Duik 16 Crowdfunding Campaign!

If you've ever seriously looked into character animation in Adobe After Effects, you've no doubt already heard of Duik, a free toolset that was specifically designed to aid in the creation of character rigs and character animation. People that use Duik seem to swear by it, and I've recently begun to experiment with it myself (sorry Moho! You just need to stop crashing on me!). What you may not know is that there is currently a crowdfunding campaign underway with the goal of funding the development of a new version of Duik, which apparently is to include a redesigned interface, a new feature called "Animation Blender" which looks similar to non-linear animation (!), and a ton of other new features. Take a look at the crowdfunding campaign, and pitch in if it looks like a useful tool to you!

TOOLS: Tapered Stroke from Jake Bartlett

What's up! Today I wanted to share an After Effects preset that was created by Jake Bartlett for School of Motion. If you frequently work with shape layers and strokes in After Effects, you have undoubtedly at some point screamed at your computer monitor "WHY IS THERE NO OPTION TO TAPER THE STROKE ON THIS SHAPE LAYER!?!?" OK, maybe I'm projecting a bit - but the lack of a tapered stroke option in After Effects has been a sore spot for many motion designers for years.

Luckily, Jake Bartlett has come to the rescue with his new(ish) preset called, you guessed it, Tapered Stroke. This preset uses a clever work-around to overcome the lack of a built-in tapering option, and while it does require a little bit of set-up, it delivers great results. Check out Jake's tutorial video below, and head on over to School of Motion to download the preset!

INSPIRATION: All the Things

I'm back, and today I wanted to share a bit of inspiration I found on Vimeo. This video, "All the Things" is a collection of short 3D animations created by Chris Guyot and Paul McMahon. Check out the fantastic use of color and the on-point animation. Great stuff! You'll also find a link to a project breakdown on Behance below - check it out!

TIP: Online frame-by-frame scrubbing

What's up! So, in my last blog post just a couple days ago, I said this: "I think it's important to really examine the work that inspires you - tear it apart, figure out how it was done, scrub through it frame-by-frame." After I published that post, I realized that there is an insanely simple, stupid little trick to be able to examine work that is published to Youtube and Vimeo, and maybe I should throw it out there for anyone that isn't already aware of it.

First, a little history. I've been in the habit of scrubbing through motion design work frame-by-frame since probably 2006 when I got my first industry job at a rinky-dink little studio in Ohio. Back then, we had to find ways to download videos from the internet (through buggy little browser extensions), just so we could open them up in Quicktime or After Effects and step through the frames to really dissect the work and understand how it was done.

Fast-forward to today, and you can achieve frame-by-frame scrubbing right from within the Youtube and Vimeo web players. Now, for all I know this option has been available for the last 6 years, but if you're like me and didn't realize you can do this right in your web browser, then you'll find this tip extremely useful. So here's how it works...

Youtube: Pause the video and use the comma and period keys to frame step.

Vimeo: Pause the video and use shift+arrow left and right keys to frame step.

That's it. I know, it's insanely simple, but I've found using this method of examining other work (especially frame-by-frame or really fast-paced animation) is extremely helpful in learning how things are done, and may help you add some new tricks to your repertoire.

Try out frame stepping (shift + arrow keys) through this awesome animation from Fluor below, and you'll see how useful it can be!

INSPIRATION: Making of A Monster Calls (Animation Sequence)

So I've mentioned a few times already that I think it's important to really examine the work that inspires you - tear it apart, figure out how it was done, scrub through it frame-by-frame. Fortunately, the team at Glassworks Barcelona made this a simple task by posting a "making of/breakdown" of their work on an animation sequence for the movie "A Monster Calls." It is a fascinating look into the work that went into this animation sequence, and some of the setups are surprisingly simple, yet incredibly effective. I'm in love with the fusion of techniques and styles - 3D animation painted over frame-by-frame in some cases. Super cool! Check it out, I promise you'll be inspired!

INTERVIEW: Steve Savalle

Today I want to share the first in a series of interviews that I have planned for Motion Apprentice. The goal of these interviews is to gain insights and advice from artists who are well-established in the Motion Design industry. This first interview is with Steve Savalle, who I first met as my instructor at Mograph Mentor. Steve's ability to motivate, thoughtfully critique and encourage was inspiring to me from the get-go, so I knew he would be the perfect person to kick off this series. Read on, and check out the links to Steve's work at the bottom of the page!

Guest Name: Steve Savalle
Twitter: @SSavalle
Dribbble: https://dribbble.com/savalle

MOTION APPRENTICE: Where are you currently working? Are you doing any freelance?

STEVE SAVALLE: Currently I am fortunate enough to have a pretty stacked plate. I just recently moved into freelance full time to explore a few extra roads that I wanted to travel. At the moment I am wrapping up a TV show intro, a larger scale piece that will be web based, as well as a couple "Hey can we put you on hold for this awesome thing" in which of course I answer, "Yes? Yes." Then when I can find some extra milliseconds in the day I need to focus on a personal rebrand. 

If I remember correctly, you were a traditional artist before getting involved in motion design, correct? How did you come about transitioning into animation?

Yes, my heart is with a pencil and paper for so many reasons.

1. it is the utmost challenge because if you fall short you can only look within. That challenge was something I am always pulled towards.

2. and the most obvious of all reasons, I thought I was really good at it. Lets face it, anything you tend to feel confident about you want to keep driving forward with, I think that is human nature.

The transition was a difficult for me though, I was taking something I LOVED, and trading it for something I thought was being automated by a machine. Fast forward, obviously I was wrong, but I was young and was left with the choice, do I want to draw pictures, or pay bills? No grey area here, illustration is a tougher field to get established and consistent income than most. It is a skill that so many love and appreciate, but very few will pay for. So animation was my next path I decided to travel. 

Do you think that your background in traditional art was a big benefit when getting into motion design?

Yes, yes, yes, and did I mention yes? Teaching for Mograph Mentor lets me rant about this in great detail, but to keep it short and to the point I offer this. Understanding light, depth and perspective can take someone from novice to advanced on the clearest path imaginable. It is not an easy path by any means though. Imagine this, I show you a couple miles worth of distance you have to cover, and that seems great, even fun. Then I hand you a sandbag weighing your body weight and tell you "OK, now go." Now covering a few miles is easy, however, now you have the weight of yourself on your shoulders to think about. It will slow you down, feel unpleasant in ways you didn't know imaginable, and you start to question EVERYTHING along the way, most dangerously yourself. This leads folks to do one of two things, put the bag down after a X distance, looking around pointing fingers wondering why nobody is helping, making excuses. Or, you will look deep inside yourself and keep taking one step at a time. Knowing that you can't think about that finish line, but you are getting closer to it, closing that gap. That weight will never get lighter, but you grow stronger mentally. Some people can cover that distance faster than others and that is OK, just don't stop moving. 

From time to time I'll discover a new technique or a new aspect of motion design that I never really put much time into before, and totally geek out about it. For instance, right now I'm getting really into character rigging in Moho and having a lot of fun with it. Has there been any one aspect of motion design lately that's gotten you similarly excited? Any technique or style that you'd like to dive deeper into?

Expressions and Rigs! I LOVE and live in the graph editor, that is my baby and why I am able to make a living in this industry, but for me nothing is more rewarding than a rig that drives a handful of moving pieces, personally. 

I first met you when you were teaching a class I took at Mograph Mentor. How did you get involved in teaching with MM? Have you learned anything new or gained any new skills through the experience of teaching at MM?

I received an email from Mograph Mentor's founder, Michael Jones, back in July 2013 (I am actually reading it right now ha, nice flashback). He had told me about his vision, launching an online school that wasn't just tutorials or step by steps, but had a classroom personal touch to it. I was currently teaching an advanced animation course at a local college and was very familiar with what it took to create that type of dynamic. Fast forward to now, it is the most rewarding professional thing that I could be a part of. 

Teaching motion design is something I've been interested in as well - so I'm curious as to what kinds of challenges you encounter specific to teaching motion design to newcomers? What is the typical new student's biggest "hurdle" when entering the world of motion design?

I love this question because the answer changes for every student I've ever had. While some students may be very very similar, all of you are slightly different in a enough ways that my efficiency as a teacher is reliant on the ability to adapt to you. That is a part of it that is exciting, and why I think Mograph Mentor tends to bring the best out of students. So this, hands down, is the biggest challenge in my opinion, but understanding it is why I am a part of this community. 

The biggest hurdle, hands down, is themselves. If you have me/had me as a mentor, day 1, I preach "the wall." It is a real thing and you are going to walk right into it and it will suck. Knowing it is there though, learning how to get around or over it is where I come in. Everyone is looking for an easy button in the beginning, one sentence or a few plugins, and like magic, it makes sense and you are now great. Reality is though that isn't how it works yet, and clients will make sure your road stays forever changing. That hurdle moves further away in the rear view mirror the more they work through it. Minds sharpen knowing that it's just another thing, like stubbing your toe. 

For people just getting started who are looking to get hired, what do you suggest they do to make themselves marketable as a motion designer? What are studios looking for when they evaluate reels?

For me, personality is just as important as your work. I look to see are you humble, is the desire to learn there, and can you show me variety and dedication. If I get sent a reel, or a body of work, with only a handful of pieces I think to myself, "If you really care, and really want this, why aren't you creating more? If you aren't willing to work hard for yourself, why should I believe you are going to work hard with me on my team?"  This is why I recommend spending time on short, 5-10 second pieces. I love seeing the process too, show off your storyboards, sketching, mood boards. Show me you know the process and it is a huge win in your column.

Also know this, for anyone still reading this and saying, "Well I don't have all that yet and how am I going to do that and blah, blah, excuses, words, finger pointing, etc." What is stopping you from emailing a company and asking to stop in and meet the team? If you don't have a lot of work to show, then sell the hell out of yourself. Go in, shake hands, learn names, smile, bring donuts and coffee. I don't expect new people in the industry to know how to walk the path, but dedication to wanting to be a part of it is everything. I will walk you down that path as far as you need if you put the effort in. A studio will take a chance on someone willing to learn, putting themselves out there. 

What advice would you give to motion designers who want to improve their skills and take their work to the next level?

Stop hiding behind a monitor and put yourself out there. Create, learn, absorb, and listen! People like myself love to teach and help, but if you spend more time talking than learning it is going to be rough. Plus everything else I ranted about above. 

Where's the best place for people to follow you and your work?

You can check my site out at: www.stevensavalle.com 

Or you can follow me and see my dog and dumb endurance races on
twitter: @SSavalle
Dribbble: https://dribbble.com/savalle

2015 D Show award for Best Cinema Non Broadcast Great project brought to us by Tiny Toy Car. The design and story telling process started with Cub Studio and the animation and final design elements were created by us at Pluto. Client: Tiny Toy Car Design: Fraser Davidson, Steve Savalle, Mike Basilico, and Chris Naglik Animation: Steve Savalle, Mike Basilico, Fraser Davidson Audio: Pluto

MOTIVATION: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Artists

For many of you Blender users out there, you'll likely recognize the guy in the video below. Andrew Price (Blender Guru) hosted a very inspirational talk at Blender Conference 2016 in which he covered what he calls The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Artists, and how they applied to his own journey as he learned to draw and paint. It's a fascinating and motivational video for anyone interested in the process of improving their artistic skills in any medium - highly recommended!


A few weeks ago I was introduced to the "Black Holes" short film in a Lightwave 3D Facebook group. I was immediately blown away by the art style and overall quality of the animation and rendering. I'm sharing the short with you now because the creators are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund an entire first season of a Black Holes animated TV show. They have 7 days left to reach their goal, and I'm hoping they can do it! You can watch the short film below, and head on over to the Kickstarter page to read more about the story, see some cool character concept sketches and more!

TOOLS: Ray Dynamic Texture

Game changer. That's the best way I can describe Ray Dynamic Texture, the new script available from Sander van Dijk. If you've ever tried to overlay textures on your artwork in After Effects, such as shape layers or imported vectors, you've quickly realized how incredibly tedious it can be. Ray Dynamic Texture aims to greatly simplify that process, making texture overlays into a 1-click process. Don't just take my word for it, check out the video below, and then head on over to AE Scripts for a free trial.


Today I want to share a company whose work I find really inspiring: Motionlab, an animation and motion design firm from Sydney, Australia. These guys animate for TV, online video, music videos and more, and their work is always top notch. Embedded below is one of my favorite videos from Motionlab, but I highly recommend checking out their site for the rest of their portfolio. So. Awesome.

TOOLS: Affinity Designer

As motion designers we are frequently required to create vector assets for our animations. There are a number of tools available for doing this, including shape layers from right within After Effects, or Adobe's own vector application: Illustrator. However, if you're anything like me, you may find that Illustrator seems a bit clunky and complex to work with. It all comes down to personal taste, but Illustrator's way of doing things was just never the right fit for me. Luckily, a few months ago I stumbled on Affinity Designer from Serif, and jeez-oh-man, I immediately felt at home with this simplified application. Again, it all comes down to personal taste, but if you ever felt a bit perplexed by Illustrator, I'd suggest giving Affinity Designer a shot - there's a free trial available on their site, so you've got nothing to lose!

Click here to check out Affinity Designer!

Click here to check out Affinity Designer!

RESOURCE: Skillshare

One thing about motion design that often gets overlooked is the importance of being a skilled designer. Knowing the principles of what makes good design, understanding color theory, and becoming familiar with typography are all really critical for being able to create visually compelling animations. Personally, becoming better with the design principles and color theory is probably my biggest struggle as a motion designer, and one that I'm striving every day to improve on. To that end, I've found Skillshare to be a very valuable source for design courses in which industry pros teach everything from the four graphic design principles (C.R.A.P.) to specific techniques. I highly recommend checking it out!

P.S. There's also some great motion design courses on Skillshare from Jake Bartlett as well!

TUTORIAL: Introduction to Animation Composer Plugin (After Effects)

Let's face it, motion design is a deadline driven industry. As much as we'd all love to have unlimited time to dedicate to the animation process, the reality is that we often have to get projects animated and out the door much more quickly than we'd like. That being the case, I've found the Animation Composer plugin by Mister Horse to be an invaluable tool that enables me to create complex animations much more quickly than ever before. This plugin is perfect for building up vector objects, animating text and much more, because it streamlines repetitive tasks of setting basic scale and position keyframes. Take a look at my introduction tutorial for Animation Composer below, and check out the plugin at MisterHorse.tv (it's FREE) if you think it could help you!

Envato: Motion Graphics Trends in Design for 2017

What's up! Today I found this article by Brenda Stokes Barron that discusses the top motion graphics trends to keep your eye on in 2017. I always find it's interesting and helpful to keep an eye on where the industry is headed. Take a look at the article to get up to speed with current trends, and watch some of the videos as well, there's great inspiration to be found in there (the Buck example from the kinetic typography section is unreal).

Best Motion Graphics Trends in Design for 2017


When I'm in pre-production on a new project, as I've mentioned before, I generally start by scouring the internet for any type of visual inspiration I can find that will help me start to develop the look for my project. Recently I happened to stumble upon Johnson Ting's portfolio on Art Station, and it blew me away! Now, his work and style wasn't even in the same universe as the explainer project I was working on, but I found his art to be so incredible that I bookmarked it anyway for future reference, and now I'm sharing it with you! Click the image below to look at Johnson's Art Station portfolio, you'll be glad you did!

Motion Science: New Typography Techniques Course

Hi everyone! Today I want to share a new course that was just released from Motion Science: Typography Techniques. I've been looking forward to this course for a while and already bought my access. Learning the fundamentals of typography is a very important step in becoming a better designer. I've gone through typography courses in the past, but I'm anxious to see how Cameron presents the material within the context of motion design. Check out the course by clicking the link above or the picture below! See ya later!


Greetings! So right now I'm kicking off a new character animation project in which the client asked for a cartoony, flat style. One of my first steps when tackling a new project is to hop online and search for some visual inspiration. Sometimes I start with plain old Google, or Behance, or Art Station, but today I logged onto Youtube and searched for "flat character design." Lucky for me, I stumbled on this awesome Youtube channel that I wanted to share with all of you! Gigantic is Marke Rise's channel, where he has tons of videos showing his process in creating flat, geometric characters and illustrations in Adobe Illustrator. It's filled with super cool content, so check it out!

TUTORIAL: Animate Handwriting in Moho!

Well hello there! Today I thought I'd share this Moho Quick Tip on how to animate a writing pen in Moho. In a recent project I had to animate a contract being signed, which is super easy to do in Moho. Check it out, and don't forget to subscribe to the Youtube channel so you don't miss any tutorials!