Vector editors are commonplace, but vector animation is a little more unusual – and VPaint combines both technologies in an open source package for Windows, Linux and Mac.
Right now the program is very much a beta (or “experimental” according to the developer), distinctly short on features, but don’t let that put you off – there’s more than enough here to give you a feel for how VPaint is going to work.
Ease of use is a strong point. You don’t have to worry about the complexities of Bezier curves, just draw freehand lines called “edges”. These are pressure-sensitive if you’re using a tablet, with customisable width if you’re not, and you’re able to “sculpt”, “smooth” and generally drag them around to suit your needs.
There’s a paint bucket, of course, which fills objects with your preferred colours. These painted regions, or “faces” in VPaint terminology, keep track of their boundaries and automatically update if you sculpt or smooth them later.
The Select tool is smarter than it looks. You could just use it to select a single object and move it around, but you’re also able to select objects within a rectangle, or – by holding down Shift – to select multiple objects from wherever you like.
Animation is handled via a simple timeline at the bottom of the screen. You might draw each frame individually, or copy and paste some objects from one frame to one or more others, then tweak them individually.
VPaint also supports “motion-pasting”, though, where essentially you create a start frame, an end, and the program automatically generates intermediate frames for you. This kind of interpolation isn’t suitable for everything, but it can save you a lot of time, and other technologies here – like onion skinning – will help you refine the results later.
Once you’ve finished, any project may be exported as a PNG or SVG file. Not much choice, but it’ll do for now, and you can always convert to something else later if necessary.
VPaint probably isn’t something you’d choose for serious vector editing work, then, but it’s fun and easy to use, and already has some interesting features. One to watch.