Draco: Bringing Illustration to Life with Kinetic Textures

When you think of the word “illustration” your mind conjures up a flat still life drawing or it may even give movement to that image in the form of an animation. Historically animations have been created by creating series of images by hand and then ordering them in such a manner that when the images are shown in succession at high speeds they create a moving picture. Technology has advanced significantly since the days of Émile Cohl’s first animated motion pictures but there is still a uniquely complicated method for creating animations. However a new project from Autodesk Research is re-imagining the way the world animation works by bring illustrations to life with kinetic textures with Draco. At first glance the image below appears to be your typical run of the mill gif, however, it is anything but.


The image above was created using Draco, a revolutionary new way to bring illustrations to life in a user-friendly, intuitive manner. Draco was pioneered by Rubaiat Habib, Fanny Chevalier, Tovi Grossman, Shengdong Zhao  and George Fitzmaurice as means to revolutionize the way illustrators and animators work as the demand for static illustrations falls and the demand for moving images increases.

For years the very nature of illustration has lent itself to pen and paper and there has been no means for animators and illustrators to brainstorm ideas outside of their sketchbook and virtually no way for them to quickly conceptualize animated scenes. Unsatisfied with this proposition the researchers Autodesk teamed up with artists to create a unique drawing experience and user interface that allows you to not only draw your images but bring them to life in a few easy steps.


The image above shows how easy it is to manipulate your “static” image and to create an animation effect using Draco’s kinetic textures. To begin the user simply draws the sample objects (a), then directly sketches the motion path (b). An “emitting texture” is automatically created with a default (blue) emitter, perpendicular to the motion path (c). The user then sketches additional motion paths in order to spread out the bubbles (d). Finally, she uses the motion profile widget (e) to adjust the scale (f) and the velocity profiles (g), so that the bubbles grow and decelerate as they move away from the emitter.

ezgif-save_skyOne of team Draco’s favorite parts of creating this project was the variety of ways in which artists used Draco to create unique motion paths that were outside of what they even initially considered when working on this project.

Tovi Grossman, one of Draco’s project leads, expressed that the most exciting thing to him was to watch the artists use Draco and how quickly they picked up the processes behind working with Draco without extensive training and the the art they were creating like the lightning filled sky above brought forth a bevy of new ideas for how to continue expanding Draco’s capabilities.

In the pipeline for Draco are a number of potential improvements including the manipulation single objects instead of groups, enhanced work flows, and even an iPad app for illustrating with kinetic textures on the go! This is one technology you are going to want to keep your eye on! Check out the video below to see Draco in action and if you’re in Toronto for ACM’s CHI 2014 Conference be sure to check out Team Draco’s official unveiling and presentation of Draco!

Currently Draco is a fully functioning conceptual idea for bringing static images to life using kinetic textures. The researchers and designers behind Draco have been awarded a prestigious CHI Honorable Mention for their paper chronicling the development and design of Draco.


HOW Design LiveFor more great ways to improve your work and learn about other products in the design industry check out Matthew Richmond’s talk “Tools of the Trade” at HOW Design Live May 12-16 in Boston!