Originally posted on 13 June 2015. Scroll down for news of VPaint 1.7 and its successors.
University of British Columbia PhD student and Pixar intern Boris Dalstein has announced VPaint 1.5, an intriguing open-source 2D animation package, based on his research into vector graphics.
As part of Dalstein’s Siggraph 2014 presentation, co-authored with Michiel van de Panne and Rémi Ronfard, the tool went through a few beta builds as VPaint 1.0, but was bumped up to 1.5 when animation was added.
Create vector animations that mimic moving 3D objects
We don’t normally write about 2D animation tools, but VPaint’s underlying tech seemed too cool not to cover.
Its ‘topological keyframing’ methodology allows key vertices of a vector shape to split or merge over time, enabling the software to interpolate between frames in ways that would otherwise be impossible.
The result is a vector animation that can mimic an object moving in 3D space, with different parts of the form being obscured or revealed behind others.
Draw or ‘sculpt’ vector strokes, then have them inbetweened automatically
In terms of specific features, VPaint provides an infinite canvas on which to draw, with the software automatically smoothing and snapping freehand strokes. It supports Wacom tablets, so stroke width is pressure-sensitive.
As well as drawing new strokes, users can ‘sculpt’ existing ones – a workflow described by Dalstein as being ‘à la ZBrush’.
The animation toolset supports automatic inbetweening, motion pasting and retiming; while display options include side-by-side views of different frames, onion-skinning, and the novel ‘3D view’ shown in the video.
The software saves projects in an XML-based vector format, but you can export frames as a series of SVG or PNG files – as yet, there’s no option to export SVG or bitmap animation directly.
Still quite a few important features to come
The VPaint website doesn’t include a feature list, but Boris Dalstein has sent us a list of what will and won’t be included in version 1.5, which you can read here.
Key features missing from the initial release include clipping, layers, grouping, and support for anything other than flat colour fills – though Dalstein says that these are all planned for future versions.
Updated 14 September 2021: Since we originally wrote about the software, Boris Dalstein has released VPaint 1.7, although it is still officially considered an experimental prototype.
According to the online documentation, “it lacks plenty of useful features commonly found in other editors, and you should expect glitches and crashes once in a while”.
VPaint is now no longer being developed actively, and Dalstein has now founded a company, VGC Software, to develop VPaint’s successors.
The new applications are now expected to be released in 2022 and 2023 respectively, and VGC Software has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund development of VGC Illustrator.
At the time of writing, it has already exceeded its funding target with over three weeks to go, but if you back it, you get access to early builds and a free licence or subscription once it is released.
Pricing and system requirements
VPaint 1.7 is available for Windows 7+, macOS 10.12+ and 64-bit Linux. It’s a free beta.
VGC Illustration is expected to ship in 2022, and is expected to cost around $100 for a perpetual licence, or $5/month or $50/year for a subscription.
VGC Animation is expected to ship in 2023, and is expected to cost around $200 for a perpetual licence, or $10/month or $100/year for a subscription.
Source code for both new applications will also remain free on GitHub under an Apache 2.0 licence.
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