Everything in one layer or multiple layers?

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Everything in one layer or multiple layers?

Post by Nimphaea » Fri Mar 06, 2009 1:38 pm


While examining the file of the beautiful animation provided in this thread:


I found that everything in this file was drawn on one single layer. I've seen this in more examples from other AS animators, but I wonder what the advantages are of this method?

It seems to me that the use of multiple layers would provide al lot of advantages. For example, you can animate parts of your drawing from behind to front (by animating the layer order). Besides that, I think it's much easier to select and manipulate detailed parts of the drawing. You can name your layers and find your different parts easily by the layer name. You can give every layer it's own keyframes and easing, etcetera.

But I'm afraid I'm overlooking the advantages of drawing everything into one single layer. I can not think of any advantage of this method, except for the part "it looks clean to have your complete character in one single layer". That doesn't make sense to me. One other advantage could be that you can use the "magnet tool" to manipulate the whole drawing at once. But how important could that be...?

Please, can somebody here tell me (a beginner) about the "big secret", and tell me about the advantages and disadvantages of both methods, and maybe explain to me why so many professionals prefer to use the "one single layer" method?

Thank you very much in advance!
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Post by heyvern » Fri Mar 06, 2009 2:17 pm

There isn't really any big secret. You covered all the advantages of using multiple layers. In my case I keep as much as possible on one layer but use multiple layers as needed for layer reordering etc. For instance if I create a character that has shading using multiple shapes, I might draw those shapes initially on a separate layer and then later copy and paste all onto one layer but keep arms, legs, head etc on separate layers.

Since there is no way to animate shape order on one layer using multiple layers is really the only way to get that effect.

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Post by Mark Bremmer » Fri Mar 06, 2009 4:40 pm

The decision of using layers or not is really project specific for me. Having everything on a single layer is nice and fast and doesn't require any layer management.

However, sometimes there are simply requirements of a character or scene where layers really do it better - especially in 3D animations where I'll have fore, mid and background things going on.
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Post by tonym » Fri Mar 06, 2009 4:42 pm

Sometimes I feel annoyed at all the layers showing in the layer window. I tend to have a layer for everything: a layer for the right hand, a layer for the eyebrows, a layer for this, a layer for that. And I sometimes feel like I'm being slowed down by having to scroll through a long list of layers to select the layer I need.

So, yeh, I can appreciate the elegance and simplicity of having an entire character on a single layer.

I imagine which approach you use--one layer or many--depends a lot on how simple or complicated your character looks and how you plan on animating it. If your character is simple, like the elephant in the link you provided, creating it on a single vector layer seems like an efficient and sensible choice.

But what if the elephant had 2000 points and 50 shapes? In that case, busting it up into a few layers might be more effecient in the long run.

I suppose that's my answer in a nutshell: choose whichever method you think would save you the most time in the long run.
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Post by synthsin75 » Fri Mar 06, 2009 11:09 pm

I usually do all of my initial 'setup' drawing, coloring, bone binding and offset on a single layer then I duplicate it and delete the parts I don't need from each. Perhaps a little overkill, but I really like doing the setup on one layer.

Overall though, it depends on how you plan to animate it. A single layer character works really well if you plan to use switch layers for the views (or just one view), since you can change the shape order when switching. A single layer is especially needed if you plan on controlling the character with bones on the switch layer so you can still use interpolate sub-layers to switch views.

But even then, stuff like lip-sync needs some separate layers.

These are the only reasons I can think that one layer may be useful. Anything else usually needs layer sorting, at a minimum. (Man, that feature's become absolutely necessary.)

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