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I'm trying to use Blender as a 2D animation tool. Hard to do this if layers don't work the same way they do in Photoshop, or Adobe Animate.

Can't seem to add a plane background (and lock it), or add an object on a layer that goes on top of it.

Anyway around this? Or should I just give it up and use Adobe Animate?

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  • $\begingroup$ Well, blender isn't really designed for this kind of thing. But the grease pencil tool has recently been given a host of new features which make it somewhat practical to use for this purpose. A quick search found this tutorial, perhaps it'll help you start off $\endgroup$
    – gandalf3
    Mar 9 '16 at 2:23
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks a lot. I'll look at the video and give 2D in Blender another shot. $\endgroup$
    – Jose B
    Mar 10 '16 at 0:10
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Since blender is a 3D modeling and animation program, with a three-dimensional scene you can't get that kind of layer workflow with Z ordering, "background" and "foreground" objects, or layer locking. That is simply not how a 3D scene works.

That being said Blender is fully capable of doing 2D animations, you simply physically stack your objects one above the other, in Z direction (or any other axis that is convenient to you) and you can use the outliner to lock whichever objects you don't want to select or want fixed in the scene. You can also lock their individual transforms if you want them selectable but unmovable.

You can use regular objects and constrains or rigging or whatever 3D method of animation is most comfortable to you, but "constrained" to a 2D plane, which should even simplify things. You can then easily render everything from an orthographic camera placed directly above all objects.

I have never used Adobe Animate but layers in blender work a bit differently, you can either use groups and the outliner to control object visibility and selectability en-mass, or you can get some cad-like layer management with third party addons like VTools Object Layer Manager

As of Blender 2.8#, the already existing Grease Pencil feature has been substantially improved, and includes a lot of new features and functionality. Grease Pencil objects are capable of being animated, rigged and work very close to bi dimensional objects, with brushes, fills and a digital painting workflow.

You can also add modifiers and effects to them, and use the new 2.8 collection system to organize and manage them.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the quick response and thorough explanation. I really like what I've seen in Blender, but the learning curve is killing me. I'm on day 14 or something like that in trying to figure out how to do a simple 2D animation. Even "exporting" the animation seems to be a convoluted process. I'll give it a few more days, and see if I can get this thing down. $\endgroup$
    – Jose B
    Mar 10 '16 at 0:09
  • $\begingroup$ Initial learning curve is indeed infamously steep, but once you overcome the initial difficulty it is very rewarding and worth your time, and in my opinion Blender workflow can be superior to other applications in some ways, if you get used to it. Exporting your animation should not be necessary, unless you want to tweak it in some other program or game engine, you just render it to video or image frames $\endgroup$ Mar 10 '16 at 0:22
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe this can help youtube.com/watch?v=6vY7waCP0aA $\endgroup$ Mar 10 '16 at 0:28
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks Duarte. I've been messing around with it all evening so far. I've probably watched 3 hours of tutorials so far. Some tutorials I've watched 3-4 times. There seems to be a LOT of potential with it. I'll definitely keep trying. $\endgroup$
    – Jose B
    Mar 11 '16 at 1:40
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I've never used Adobe Animate, but if I had to do just 2d animation one valid option now is to use grease pencil. It support layers, animation keyframe (no tween interpolation), additive drawing (very useful) and the possibility to convert it to a mesh and many more feature. The new sculpt stroke mode is great to do simple animation and "in between frames" movements take a look at this video.

Edit:

Today news on blendernation made me aware of a new addon called Cut-out Animation Tools to address exactly what you are looking for!

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  • $\begingroup$ Seems to be a lot of potential in Blender for cool animations. I plan on making simple animations using vector characters made out of shapes. Don't really, intend to draw with Blender (but hey, you never know). Thanks for the video. $\endgroup$
    – Jose B
    Mar 10 '16 at 0:15
  • $\begingroup$ ok so a basic rigging with IK it's the way to go! look for tutorial on Inverse Kinematics there are tons, just use a simple chain of bones. But this really depends on how refined you want the billboard movement to be $\endgroup$ Mar 11 '16 at 8:34
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As of Blender 2.8, the grease pencil system has been revamped into a full 2D animation tool. See the following links for more about how the new system works:

An open movie called Hero was made tot test it all out: https://cloud.blender.org/p/hero/

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