The Story Behind Animation Desk – More than Software Development

by | Oct 29, 2021 | Creative

Animation Desk made a breakthrough innovation as it was the first animation app on mobile devices in the market.

At the time the animation market was very focused on animation software that users could only use on their PC or Mac. While this worked well in the early 2000s, another trend started to emerge at the end of the decade: smartphones. The rise of smartphones allowed any tasks that were meant to be done at a stationary desk in your home or office to be taken with you anywhere you go.

In 2009, as the first iPhone launched worldwide, the leaders at Kdan Mobile asked the question, 

Is it possible that animation could become more accessible?

As it turns out, this was one of the biggest issues that artists were facing with their animation software. Most software is built for professional users, and this software often requires high computer specifications. The entry barrier was too high for average users.

That is when one of the team’s designers used his extensive experience in animation to propose the idea of Animation Desk. With this play, they were able to layout a blueprint of how to give artists a great animation experience while still keeping things simple enough so that they can be used on a mobile device.

As the roadmap for this revolutionary animation app developed, the team quickly ran into some daunting challenges. They had no references to base how the app would work. They had very little software development experience. And most importantly, they had no idea how they would be able to fit all of the features necessary for a great animation platform on such a small screen.

While the team knew that there would be a lot of challenging work ahead, they all understood that this would be a problem worth solving.


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Naming & Origins

An animation desk is the grandfather of animation and is what started it all. The original artists at Disney all used this tool to bring many famous characters to life, including Mickey Mouse, Dumbo, and Snow White.

An animation desk is a large wooden desk with a lightbox inside, where artists can then place papers on the lightbox to sketch the drawing’s frame by frame. Before computers, this was the best method of creating animations.

Source: Heritage Auctions

The Animation Desk team wanted to preserve this nostalgic method for creating such timeless art which is what sparked the name of the app, Animation Desk. The goal was to give the authentic animation experience to artists of the digital age while making the experience as seamless and easy to use as possible.

Swipe to see the between the old and the new interface of Animation Desk

Building an Animation Software for Beginners and Professionals 

When planning out the user experience (UX) of the app the team wanted to keep things authentic, transferring the real-life animation experiences to the mobile and desktop applications. The little details were very important, including the lightbox symbol in the interface, and the pegboard to see all of your past animations.

The original icon of Animation Desk even had a wooden design and realistic texture to fit this style.

The old logo of Animation Desk, an Animation maker by Kdan Mobile

After the app’s launch, and observing new technologies available, and soliciting feedback from users, we have continuously updated the software to give the artist a better experience. This includes features such as video import, Rotoscope, the flexibility to manage layers and frames, and then copy and paste functions.

Animation Desk is not only a tool for animation, but it also represents the overall experience that an artist goes through from the original idea until the finished product. We believe that the greater purpose of the app is to give an amazing experience to artists of all backgrounds and skill levels.

Logo of Animation Desk, animation maker by Kdan Mobile

In 2018, Animation Desk underwent an update to better represent the goal of the application. The team referred to a lot of cartoons and discussed the color theme for the new icon, and ultimately decided on the logo you recognize today.

Advanced Editing Features

An artist’s most important tool is their imagination; the second is their paintbrush. The team understood how important it is to provide the best animation tools so that each artist could accurately create their vision. This not only means providing enough brush styles, but also the right ones.

Over the years, the team has received many requests from users on which brushes they prefer, and we have narrowed it down to the ones that seem to work best for most artists, regardless of skill level. If some of those brushes are not what you are looking for, we have taken the extra step to provide Brush customizer and Effect brushes in Animation Desk Windows.

Overall, the team wanted to provide the best tools while still keeping the UX simple and sleek. With a lot of frames, some projects can get messy and it becomes difficult to keep track of each frame. This is why Animation Desk has added the functions to View All Frames at once, as well as being able to simply drag and drop to rearrange frames.

Spray in Animation Desk Windows
Screentone in Animation Desk Windows
Burn and Dodge in Animation Desk Windows

Bridging different work phases, from storyboard to animating

The best way to keep animations looking clean is with consistency, especially when dealing with colors. Keeping a consistent color palette makes it easier to design the theme colors for your characters or scene. In the app, you can select the best color palette for your animation and have easy access to the color changes when necessary.

Once the animation is finished, there are multiple options to export based on your workflow. The file forms are as follows:

  • PDF: Export frames into sharable and printable PDF documents, allowing you to view all frames at once
  • PSD (Photoshop Document Files: Animation Desk iOS supports PSD, where users can do further editing on a more advanced software platform
  • Animatic storyboard: streamline sequences into an animatic storyboard, which is ideal for creating pencil tests

One of the best parts of having your animations on your mobile device is that it is easily shareable. Once it’s saved, you can immediately upload your work to your social media or Anizone accounts and share it with the world.

Lastly, because the app is available for all mobile devices, this will allow you to seamlessly switch between your tablet and your smartphone and continue editing your animation without missing a beat.

The vision for Animation Desk is to allow people to express themselves through animation and help bring their imagination to life. In order to do this, we have created great tools that allow artists of all skill levels to easily create beautiful art without being constrained to a computer or desk.

With the help of our users’ feedback, we are constantly building to provide the best tools that each artist needs. We are so thankful for the support of all the artists in the Animation Desk community, and we will continue to serve as best we can.


If you haven’t used the latest version, download Animation Desk today!


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