Make your own cartoon

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As a kid, I always wanted to make my own cartoons. Flip books were the only option for a kid with my resources and while the effect was neat, the process was painful. Create a series of still sketches and flip through them to play back the video.
The devices and apps that we have today are powerful enough to assemble photos into video essentially recreating a digital flip book.

These days we can easily make stop motion video using an app. Taking a sequence of snapshots is simple and easy. Instead of worrying about the mechanics of putting together a cartoon, we get to concentrate on the fun, creative process of storytelling. You can make your cartoon using almost any media: paper cutouts, play doh characters, figurines (legos, action figures), posable dolls or even people.

The Process.

Story Board Install App Setup Shoot Audio

 Story Board

Before filming you’ll need a plan, and in the world of film this is the storyboard. Your storyboard is simply a map of the film. Sketching the film out first gives your project definition and keeps you on track and is great tool for kids to work out the mechanics of their creative aspirations. Keep it simple, ask your kids to come up with a hero, an antagonist, a challenge and a resolution. This doesn’t need to be lengthy, keeping it short allows kids to stay motivated on the project.
In our project we created an Angry Birds short using a printed backdrop and homemade Play Doh Angry Bird characters. The plot was particularly easy since the birds always need to work towards defeating the pigs. We drew up a few scenes where the birds each try to knock down the pig, but only succeed when they work together.
See the rough storyboard:


The template used is a printable download found at printable Printable Storyboard Template.


Get the App

For this project we will use the iOS app Stop Motion Studio. There are plenty of other options an for Android as well. Stop Motion Studio is well designed, easy to use and available for free (with payed upgrade options). Download the app here.



Whether your shooting a diorama, paper cutouts, claymation, or figurines the most important thing to prepare for is a stationary scene and a stationary camera. This will insure your video is looks fluid and will make filming much easier. Fix your scenery to the floor or a table and find a place to fix the camera. I used a Joby gorillapod tripod wrapped around a small chair.

Using a small flexible tripod to secure the shots.

Using a small flexible tripod to secure the shots.


Start up the app and start snapping photos. In Stop Motion Pro you’ll need to start a new project be tapping the plus icon. You can start adding snapshots right away to film your cartoon. Make small changes from shot to shot to give a fluid video, less so if you have impatient artists ;). Snapshots appear as thumbnails in a timeline on the bottom of the screen. They can be rearranged, deleted or inserted out of sequence in case you need to make corrections. Repeating frames or a series of frames in an easy way to add to the video’s length without snapping every frame. Your video can be previewed at any time and can also be ‘scrubbed’ by dragging you finger forward or backward over the timeline.

screenshot of Stop Motion app taking a photo.

screenshot of Stop Motion app taking a photo.


Once the scene filming is complete you can add music or record dialog for you cartoon. Any music you have in your library can be added, you can add several tracks which is typical if you want background music and dialog. All tracks appear in the timeline and can be edit separately.


When you’re all done you can export your video to youtube or save it on your phone. Share your masterpiece here in the forum for this project or just stop by to talk about your cartoon project.

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3D printing without the 3D printer

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There’s so much buzz around 3d printing and with good reason. 3d printing opens up a new world of possibilities the way that standard home printers did for desktop publishing. Just as we marveled long ago at creating our own newsletters, labels and posters, now we marvel at the possibilities of printing our own gadgets, toys, tools and more. As if magic, 3D objects can teleport themselves from our desktops to our desk top.

Not all of us have access to one of these magic devices but that won’t stop us from creating a little teleportation magic of our own. In this project we’ll use software, an ordinary printer and some poster board to transform a 3D model into a real world model. Your child can choose a 3D model on the computer seeing a 360 degree view, print and cut out the plans, then watch it come to life as they assemble the pieces. Finally, they can paint and embellish the finished piece to really make it their own creation. They’ll have a blast putting together this project and have a treasure to keep and display at the end.

The Process

Install software Choose a model Print the plans Cut the pieces Assemble


Step 1 – Install the Software


Lets start by installing the software we will be using. 123DMake is a free program for Windows or Mac that can take a 3D computer model and print out plans for piecing together a model of that object. The plans can be printed on paper to be cut out manually, printed directly to a CirCut cutting machine or sent to a service with will laser cut the shapes a mail them to you for assembly. We’re going to print the plans on paper and cut them out of poster board since this is the most interactive choice and doesn’t require anything special. You may also choose to cut your shapes out of cardboard or other thick material so long as you are able to cut through the material.

Find something to build

Time for some 3D shopping. 123D Make has a searchable library of user submitted 3D models that can be used for free. Let your child select their favorite model and lets start printing!

Print out the plans


Once you select your model it will open up in the 123D Make application. You can look at the model from all side by clicking and dragging the model around. Now it’s time to print out the plans. Go to file->print and a window will open with some options. There are a number of different construction methods for putting together the model but here we are going to use the simpler stacked layers method.
Now for the tricky part. In order for model to be sized properly you have to tell 123D Make about the thickness for the material we are using. You can use corrugated cardboard, poster board or just about anything that has some thickness and can be cut easily. Measure the material and enter the number in the xxx field. Press print and get ready to cut!
eps warning…



cut out the shapes

Now that we have out printed plans cut out each piece. Trace each shape on your cardboard and cut the shapes out of the material. Each printed shape should have a number so be sure to write the number on the cardboard pieces.




Glue it together

Time to watch your object come to life! Stack the pieces in numbered order, gluing them together with elmer’s glue.

bird_built Here’s the almost finished bird… he’s just lacking the top feathers.

Paint and decorate

For the final touches break out the paint brushes and give your model some character.  Cardboard or poster board may not be the easiest material to paint but with a little effort and patients you’ll have a great looking final product!



There are other ways to use the 123Dmake app.  In addition to the stacked layers construction method, there’s also interlocking slices (much like those 3d tab-in-slot models you can buy at the toy store) and the complex Folded Slices approach.

folded interlocking

There’s also the option to send the plans to a company that will cut out the sheets from your material of choice.  Then you’d simply need to assemble them.  While this gives great results, it’s expensive and is sort of contrary to the DIY spirit of these projects.

I hope you have fun building your own model.  In an upcoming project I’ll go over scanning in your own real world object and sending it to 123DMake.

Please share your creation with us!  Head to the forum to discuss this project and upload pics of your own creation.

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