The Animator's Toolkit

compiled and updated by Anthony Scott

What's inside a stop motion animator's toolbox? It's anyone's guess really, but I'll try to identify the essentials. Every Animator uses various tools while animating their puppet. These can consist of sculpting tools, adhesives, paints, hardware, and now, software. Here is a list of some of the basic tools used in Stop-Motion Animation.

Surface Gage

Starrett makes great Surface Gages for keeping track of your puppet. But you can find used gages on Ebay all the time. To learn why a Surface Gage is important, read this chapter.


Stop Motion Software / Frame Grabbers

There is an abundance of stop motion software for PCs and Macs, and nowadays, it's essential. The software will assist you during the animation process tremendously. The digital age has given animators the ability to playback their animation, saving many from the headaches of the olden days of film. See the chapter on Stop-Motion Software (Framegrabbers) for more information on grabbers for your computer. There are many options listed at Links: Animation Resources. Dragonframe is extremely popular with animation studios, students and independent filmmakers.  


Drill

For drilling tie-down holes in order to anchor your puppet to the set. Cordless is best. A small vacuum or DustBuster comes in handy for removing any debris. A Dremel Tool is helpful for drilling tiny holes.
 

Fun Tak / White Tak

DAP Products makes a blue, reusable, sticky substance that you will use constantly. It'll keep props in place, plastic eyelids attached to your puppet's face, and will even keep your notes stuck up on the wall. There are other similar products out there as well, usually white in color.


Stikki Wax/ Pyrawax

You don't want anything moving on your set that isn't supposed to. This is another great product that keeps things in place. It is a harder substance than Fun-Tak and works great to keep props in place. Just pinch off a piece, roll it in your hands to warm it up and stick it to something. When it cools down it hardens. You can mix it with clay to make a sticky wax/ clay compound that some animators call 'Superclay'.


Tweezers

Important tool for placing small parts. Tweezerman makes some good ones.

Hot Glue Gun

If you're working on a cement floor and you don't care what happens to it, glue everything down.  This means your tripod, set, lights etc. You can scrape it off when you're done. CAUTION! Don't ever touch the glue when its hot. I've seen many badly burned fingers and arms from accidents with hot glue. Be warned!
 

Clay

Bits of different colored clay come in handy for filling up tie-down holes on your set and for making eyelids. See the chapter on The Properties of Different Clay for more information.
 

Berkey System

Berkey is a Modular system useful for building rigs for puppet support. 

Thin Fishing Line/ Transparent Thread

Used for flying your puppet or object if not using rod support.
 

Allen Wrenches/ Screwdrivers

Handy for tightening your Machined Armature

 
Bug Pins (Ento Pins)

These are made to mount insects but they are useful to the animator for supporting lightweight objects.
 

T-Pins

Use these for making small gages. Pinning clay puppets to pinnable set floors. Many other uses.


Stopwatch

Helpful when you are working out your timings for your shot

 
Mirror

Use your own face to get facial expression and lip sync reference

 
Dental Tools/ Sculpture Tools

These come in handy all the time for sculpting and moving small parts. Go to Sculpture House and check out their modeling tools.
 

Assorted Tools

Measuring tape, needle nose pliers, X-Acto knives

Thin Dry Erase Markers/ China Markers/ Grease Pencils

These are good for gaging on your monitor

Foam Core Board

Use this to make flying rigs with an X-Acto and hot glue. Many other uses.


Tools and Supplies

Harbor Freight
America's Favorite Tool Store

McMaster/Carr
Over 510,000 items to choose from. Many useful items for stop-motion from tools to rig-building materials.

Small Parts, Inc
Now available for purchase thru Amazon.com

More discussion on the Animation Tools & Equipment forum.

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