Krita 3.0 turns into a 2D animation tool

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Brijith Vijayan,

Brijith Vijayan,


The Krita graphics editor is gradually turning into a digital painting tool for painters and illustrators. Krita 3.0 now expands its palette of functions with an animation tool.

Krita [1] was originally developed as a universal image editor for Linux and came as part of the Calligra [2] office suite. Over the course of time, the developers concentrated more and more on the painting and illustrator functions in the application. As a result, Krita has begun to target mostly comic book illustrators and illustrators in general rather than photographers.

The release of Krita 3.0 at the end of May marked the beginning of an another important chapter in the application's history. This release comes with an animation function, as well as an improved layer dock. In addition, the grid tool and the alignment function have been redone. This has opened Krita up to a wider circle of creatives including cartoonists and game developers.

What's New

Krita 3.0 contains a multitude of smaller and larger improvements. In order to quicken the pace of work on the project, the developers sought funding through a Kickstarter campaign [3] (see also the "Krita 2016 Kickstarter" box). The team set two goals for itself. The first was to reduce the compute time for drawing operations, thereby accelerating the rate of display. The second goal was to address the wish list of the crowd-funding supporters and create animations. The developers achieved both goals and then went even further and created other improvements.

Krita 2016 Kickstarter

The Kickstarter campaign for 2016 [4] brought in EUR$38,579 (~$42,000) for the project coffers. The developers want to stick the money into improvements on the text tools and the vector illustration functions. Given the many donations, the project also plans to implement the import of audio files into animation, as well as a Python scripting plugin.

Users of previous versions complained about the slow editing speed for actions that affect larger image areas. The new Krita rendering engine, Instant Preview [5], has proved to be a reliable helper. It works as follows. In painting mode, the program displays only a preview, which corresponds to the current zoom level. Krita will calculate a complete resolution of the brush stroke in the image once the action is closed. The further the user zooms out from the image, the faster the preview will work. This feature has an especially positive effect for larger projects. Krita uses the accelerated preview with the freehand brush, for moving contents and for filtering and animation. Therefore, Instant Preview is a significant addition to the entire application.

The layer dialog has also been improved (Figure 1). Here, the user can set up layer groups via Ctrl+G and then ungroup the layers via Ctrl+Alt+G. Colored tags keep track of multiple layers in a project and also make it possible to filter out layers. Unlike the previous version, most actions are now only performed on layer groups or a selection of several layers.

Figure 1: In Krita 3.0's newly designed layer dialog, layers can be grouped and then organized with tags.

The developers have also worked hard on a function trio, which includes grids, guide lines, and snapping. The grid dock is called via Settings | Docking Dialog | Grid and Guides . It replaces the old grid tool. The grid dock makes it possible to create guide lines. The paint tools can either automatically snap onto the lines or use the lines solely as a visual anchor.

Krita 3.0 supports docking for vector points, paths, the cover surface of a free form, guide lines, and grids. Additionally, docking is supported for border and middle lines in a document. The snap function shows its strengths especially when combined with vector tools. The function provides a solid basis for the upcoming work that is to be done next year on the text and vector functions. Krita saves settings directly in the document or in the template so that layouts can be reused.

Additional smaller changes are apparent throughout the program. These include a completely new process implementation called "gradient mapping" and the possibility of making selections via key combinations. The integration process for graphics tablets has been completely overhauled, and the program supports a large selection of tablets. Under the hood, the developers ported the code for Krita 3.0 to Qt 5 and KDE Frameworks 5. This makes it easier to program, maintain the source code, and implement new functions.

However, the centerpiece of the innovations completed for the first release of Krita 3.0 consists of the program's animation capabilities. Other new functions build out existing drawing tools. The animation tools open up an entirely new pool of Krita users. These include illustrators in animation such as Manga or Comic clips. Although Krita supports animation for the first time with the 3.0 version, the program offers a large palette of functions that both enthusiasts and professional illustrators are able to appreciate.

Tools for Animation

Currently the animation tool primarily targets illustrators who use the traditional method of creating an animation, that is to say image by image. This means that a few limitations exist in the program. Tweening, a process whereby intermediate images are automatically interpolated between two key frames, is not yet supported by Krita. Also, Krita does not import audio files into the timeline. However, the functions are already on the developer's to-do list for the next version.

The familiar tools are still there for creating individual frames. Selection and transformation tools plus filters are also there. The user can even work with expanded options like Alpha Inheritance [6] in order to make indestructible shadows for figures. Alternatively, the user can add filter layers for creating a layer-based compositing. However, vector layers cannot be animated.

Krita offers three new docks under Settings | Docking Dialog for designing animations. The user shows the docks with a right mouse click on the scroll-down menu that is underneath the icon at the upper right of the application window (Figure 2). The three docks will then queue up below in the sidebar.

Figure 2: The best way to open the new animation docks is via the work area manager, which sits at the upper far right of the application window.

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