pencil2d FAQ_rough

Insert Pretty Artwork Here!


NOTE: We’ve suffered from hacker attacks in the past so in case the website goes down again, here’s a secure mirror for this page : http://pencil2d.github.io/doc/faq/

Since people seem to be asking the same things over and over, we’ll provide everyone with a much needed FAQ, please bear in mind we are working hard on solving stuff. If you’d like to point out other “frequently asked questions” please do it in the following thread:


Understanding Pencil Save Files  ALL
Auto-Save Feature ALL
Always RED Color (Vector) ALL
Video Export ALL
Video Import NONE
Sound Import  WIN ONLY
GIF Export  ALL
Copy & Paste in Place  ALL
Development Help  ALL
Slow Drawing / Stroke Lag (WIP)  ALL
Corrupt Files (WIP) ALL / PREVENTIVE
Problem Prevention Tips (WIP) NONE


*Where’s the [Insert OS here] version? Why isn’t my [OS] version updated?

Right now it’s rather difficult to get Pencil2D working on every OS side by side, particularly since the devs don’t have exclusive access to machines with different Operating Systems.

So far there are Windows, Mac and Linux versions that work, but for Pencil2D to grow we need developers that have access to these machines in order to contribute. If you’d like, please consider donating some of your time to improve this wonderful tool!

*Understanding Pencil2D Save files

When you save your animation file in Pencil2D there are several things that you’ll get.

  1. Pencil2D saves a .PCL file (or a PCLX for bleeding edge versions) that is exclusive to the software. It is not an image or a video file, that means it does NOT hold inside of it any image or sound you imported or created. It’s more like an address book, which locates all those resources you’ve created or imported!
  2. A New folder is automatically created in the same location next to your .PCL file. It’s name should be like something like this [MyFileName.pcl.data]This folder contains all of your actual drawn keyframes saved as numbered .PNG images! as well as Your current colour palette info plus your “vector shapesinformation are included there as .xml and .vec files respectively. If you import sound for example (import is now possible with 2017 versions), you’ll also see a copy of the actual sound file in this folder. All of the resources in the folder are absolutely necessary for Pencil2D to understand how your animation is going to be displayed when you preview it inside the program.
  3. The .PCLX file on the other hand is basically a container. It’s a compressed ZIP file that holds both the .PCL file and it’s associated DATA folder. You can extract it’s contents effortlessly if you rename the .PCLX extention to .ZIP (e.g myAnimation.PCLX -> myAnimation.ZIP)

I was drawing on a vector layer, but when I tried to color my drawing it only colored red…

NOTE: This particular bug and workaround only applies to the current 0.5.4b version. This issue has already been addressed already in newer versions of the program.

Workaround: The red coloring only happens when you draw on a VECTOR layer (unless you tell us otherwise). It is indeed a simple bug, but it’s easy to counter.

  1. Fill the shape you’ve drawn with the bucket tool, as usual
  2. THEN select the red vector fill with the black arrow (move tool: Q)
  3. When the fill is selected go to the color palette and pick a new color from it.
  4. Your shape has been colored differently.

Good luck.

Pencil keeps crashing (/sob) / Something happened and I couldn’t save my work!

Fortunately Pencil2D has an autosave feature for those moments when you forget to save!

On every version you can access it like this:

EDIT > PREFERENCES> FILES (Icon) > Enable Autosave [] (click checkbox)

The “Number of modifications before autosaving” is pretty self-explanatory. After 15 strokes you’ll get your file auto-saved. You can obviously change that number.

Also when you activate that without having saved, ever, after 15 changes you’ll be prompted to save for the first time your file.

View post on imgur.com

NOTE: Most of the following solutions will work only with version 0.5.4b for Windows 7 SP1

So it seems I can’t import videos, what’s up?

Update July 21st 2017: Although it’s still not possible to import videos directly Pencil2D developers have implemented GIF import. You can convert videos to GIF files using a third-party software you fancy, or simply import image sequences exported from your video editor of choice. This behavior will be discussed for implementation in the future as part of our feature request development meetings.

(Legacy Workaround: v0.5.4 and below) Let’s take a look at the extremely useful console window. Apparently, a necessary plugin is missing. What you have to do is go HERE and download FFmpeg git-3bedc99 32bit Static. Extract, and go to the bin folder. There you will find ffmpeg.exe. Copy it. Then, inside the Pencil2D folder, create a new folder named “plugins“. Paste ffmpeg.exe there, and voilà: You can now import videos for study, rotoscoping, or any other use you want.

Caution: You absolutely need to have a bitmap or vector layer selected before you import the video, or bad stuff will happen.

When I import sounds, I can see it on the layer, but I can’t hear anything?!

Update July 21st 2017: Pencil2D developers have already implemented sound import among many other fixes, if you are using a legacy version of pencil (v0.44b) or Pencil2D (0.5.4) we URGE you to download one of the latest versions on displayed on our front page.

The following solutions will be kept for legacy users but we can no longer provide support for these solutions or workarounds.

—Solution for veteran PC users—

Now this one is a little bit more complicated. Let’s take another look at the console and oh boy what is going on here?

WARNING: bool _thiscall Phonon::FactoryPrivate::createBackend(void) phonon backend plugin could not be loaded




Yup. Another plugin is missing. Let’s get back to work.

What you have to do is go HERE. Download qt-win-opensource-4.8.5-vs2010.exeand install it. It’s 235 Mb, so it may take a minute. Now that you installed it, you have the plugin you need. But we’re not done yet! If you try to import sound once more, you will see that nothing has changed and you still can’t hear anything.

Let’s follow the directory the console gives us. C:\Qt\… A-ha! That’s the problem right there! The console looks for C:\Qt\4.8.5-VC2010\, but the folder is namedC:\Qt\4.8.5\! Rename it appropriately, and voilà once more: You can now import and enjoy your sound clips, in both .wav and .mp3 format!

—Shorthand solution for average users—

Well the thing is, right now Pencil is incapable of importing sound as it is, unless you tinker with the program itself. Since it’s annoying to download the whole 260 mb Qt Package just for a few plugins I managed to trim it down to the essentials (a.k.a the needed plugins)

Here’s a link to a zip file containing all the files.


1) Go to your C:\ drive and create a folder named “Qt” (without the quotes)
2) Inside the Qt folder, extract the downloaded zip file
3) Afterwards it should look something like this C:\Qt\4.8.5-VC2010

After doing the previous steps, launch pencil again and do the following:
1) Create a new “sound layer”
2) With the layer selected import a .wav sound file for testing purposes.
3) On your bitmap layer create a new keyframe on a faraway frame. Let’s say if your sound has a duration of 2 seconds, you have to make your new keyframe on frame 48, while using 24fps play rate.
4) Click the play button, and see if it works!

Hope this helps, cheers! 

*Hey, but I can’t export videos either!?


Update July 21st 2017: Pencil2D developers have already implemented video export among many other fixes, if you are using a legacy version of pencil (v0.44b) or Pencil2D (0.5.4) we URGE you to download one of the latest versions on displayed on our front page.

…Yeah, I still haven’t figured this one out. The program either looks like it exports the video perfectly, but when I look, there’s no file anywhere to be found, or it just crashes. I usually export in image sequences to further edit them in other programs, but the option to export directly to video file would be really nice to have.

What I found out so far: Part of the problem seems to be, again, with the sound layer. If I remove the sound, it exports the video perfectly. BUT, another part of the problem seems to be with the framerate! If I export a video in anything else than 24 FPS in the editor and 25 FPS in the export options, it crashes.

—Suggested workflow—

Aside from limitations from a compositing & editorial perspective it is ALWAYS recommended to work with image sequences in a professional environment, just in case anything goes wrong your rendered piece wont go to waste, and you’ll be able to pick up where it was left off (if there’s a black out you won’t lose several hours of rendering but a few frames).

I’d recommend working your pencil files PER SHOT (as in Camera shots or cuts e.g. Close-up, long-shot, etc). And not work the entire animation on a single file.

This is how usually studio pipeline works, sometimes they go with entire scenes, but in here it is also the best route just to work camera-shot-by-file because of the software predisposition to crash. Besides when you import too many images on a timeline Pencil will eat RAMemory like crazy.

During my test I only imported 95 images and it’s eating a little short of 1 gig of RAM. So I assume one could handle at most 6 to 10 second shots depending on your computer and on your needs.

After you export your png image sequences by shot (remember to save on separate folders for better organization, inside a common scene folder) you can easily import them in your trusted video editor, and then render your finished animation in a video you can upload on youtube or send to your employer.

So, Indeed you can’t export a movie just yet, just png image sequences right now with the stable version (and possibly the bleeding edge ver).

Here’s our preferred tutorial on how to create a video from your Pencil2D-made animation using Blender’s Video Sequencer Editor & Pencil2D

Here’s another quick video to learn how to export images from Pencil2D and import them in the open source video editor Shotcut which is really easy to use, and there are versions for almost every operative system you can get at their website. (Warning: The creator was a bit tired when recording this video)

Man what the hell, -sigh- at least it imports / exports to GIF, right?

Update July 21st 2017: Pencil2D developers have already implemented GIF import AND export among many other fixes, if you are using a legacy version of pencil (v0.44b) or Pencil2D (0.5.4) we URGE you to download one of the latest versions on displayed on our front page.

Entry Added on (04-FEB-2016) (Workaround for Legacy versions)

Well..now that you mention it…right now we’re looking into adding this type of functionality.

In version 0.5.4b you can’t import or export animated GIF files properly. What I mean is that you can only import  only one (1) frame from an animated GIF, and you can export an image sequence with a GIF extension, but not an animated GIF.

In the newest developmental version (a.k.a Nightly Builds) you can now import every frame of your animated GIF’s into pencil, but we are still looking for the export solution.

To learn more about Nightly Builds you can go to this thread:

(25-FEB-2016) We now have a tutorial to churn Animated GIF’s with minimum effort using Pencil2D & Free third-party software.

GifAnimation App is an open-source (free), lightweight and portable software that can run on Windows & Linux. Download it here: https://sourceforge.net/projects/gifapp/files/GifApp-1.3/

For our MAC users we recommend searching the Apple Store, although an anonymous user has pointed out that GifFun https://www.stone.com/GIFfun/ might do the trick, but you’ll have to use it at your own risk.

Can I copy and paste in place specific content from one frame to another inside Pencil2D?

Yes, to COPY a portion of your drawing, you can use the selection tool (dotted marquee) select a partial section of your drawing and press CTRL+C. You’ll know you did it correctly because the selection box will dissappear. Go to a new frame you have already created or create one now, then pres CTRL + V, and your selection will be pasted in place.

Update 21-JUL-2017 If you need to CUT something from one frame to another, it will now work correctly. The CUT content will now go to the application clipboard. You can now cut and paste your content from and to any frame you require as long as the cut content stays on the clipboard. Obviously if you cut something else the new content will then become the available source for pasting.

Update 21-JUL-2017 The following video tutorial explains how to copy and paste from older versions, however the flipping or mirroring “hack” is no longer needed as a “selection flipping” has now been implemented inside Pencil2D.

To “flip” a selected element you can select your desired drawing or area with the Marquee tool go to Edit > Selection > Flip X or Flip Y

Here’s a video tutorial that explains this plus a bonus (hackish) method to mirror your drawing inside Pencil2D (This video tutorial will be replaced in the future with an improved version to better reflect the newer capabilities of the software)

I like Pencil2D but… it is a bit buggy :'( , what can i do?

We feel you, but every great piece of software you might know began in a humble way. Right now Pencil is in need of developers experienced or willing to learn QT framework and C++ as well as proactive users that want to help however they can.

Pencil2D won’t get hot just by looking at it, in fact there’s more chances that you’ll hate it the more you look at it. We need YOU for miracles to happen! Consider donating your time to report bugs, create art or just hang out with us at the forum while we wait for the next release.

Visit our Github for more information on how to contribute to Pencil2D’s code: https://github.com/pencil2d/pencil#pencil2d-animation

In newer versions drawing is just too slow, what happened?

Update 21-JUL-2017 This issue has been minimized greatly, but it’s still not optimal, so the following workaround is still valid.

Stroke latency: Basically every drawn stroke lags behind the cursor or pointer.

This issue is a bug that is being currently addressed but we have a small workaround if your experience is really awful with it, especially in later versions.

1) Open Pencil2D
2) Select a drawing tool (i.e Pencil)
3) Select either a Vector or a Bitmap Layer
4) Try to draw as “fast” as a normal stroke with pencil and paper would feel like
5) Notice both the stroke lagging behind the cursor and the poor interpolation
6) Reduce the Pencil2D Window Layout to Half it’s size (make it to occupy half the screen)
7) Try the same kind of strokes as in step 5.
8) Notice the reduced latency and interpolation problems (vector).

This is not the preferred solution, is just a workaround if you can literally not draw with Pencil2D, at all.

OMG Pencil Crashed and/or my files are unusable / corrupted!!!11!1! /cry!!!

This situation is perhaps the most complex and rage-inducing bug to date in Pencil2D, there are several case-scenarios that have been discovered and NEED to be addressed, but we believe they all relate to a memory management problem within Pencil2D. We will address a few ways to prevent this from happening to you before it’s too late, meanwhile we perform an investigation and find the culprit (in the code).

This will be more of a preventive guide to avoid getting your pencil files dragged to hell, because usually it’s near impossible to recover them once this happens.

CASE A: Pencil2D Save & Silent File Wipe:

ISSUE: Several reports indicate that people have been saving their files “normally” in different OS, however when they reopen the files everything inside the file has been erased without a clear error warning.

CASE B: Pencil2D Crash & File Wipe / Corruption

ISSUE: In this case Pencil distinctively crashes while the software is being used and completely corrupts the PCL file, as well as the [.data] folder and every other file inside of it.

CASE C: Pencil2D Crashed on a heavy working File, Crashes when Opened.

ISSUE: In this case, Pencil2D crashes, most likely due to a memory leak when the file is huge, and afterwards when people try to open the file it just won’t open and Pencil crashes again. However the file might still potentially work, a.k.a not corrupted. This has been said to happen with the new .PCLX file, as well as with older .PCL files, so exercise caution when having large files with many frames, drawings or imported source material.

CASE D: Pencil2D Crashed while working on a simple File, Crashes when Opened.

ISSUE: A similar behavior variant to CASE C was caused by having too few layers (less than 3) when you saved the file. Once you re-opened the saved file it would crash without fail. This occurred if you used 2016 Nightly Builds with PCLX files.

CASE E: Pencil2D saved the file properly, but won’t Open .PCLX Files, and it doesn’t crash.

ISSUE: This happens when you try to open a previously saved file and there’s an error that reads:  “Pencil cannot read this file. If you want to import images, use the command import.” 

This has happened so far because people imported footage, particularly sounds, with filenames that weren’t encoded properly, can’t be read by UTF-8 character encoding or had ASCII symbols.

  • CASE A is very hard to reproduce, we have yet to find a pattern for it to happen.
  • CASE B seems to happen often when the user has more than approx. ~100 frames, but we’ve heard stories of users having as many as 300 frames before the program crashed and corrupted their files.
  • CASE C on the other hand is the only Case we can consistently reproduce in my computer.
  • CASE C-1 This was a special variant of Case C, which was reported once and thanks to that it could be investigated fixed.
  • CASE D appeared with the introduction of sound import on 2017. It’s caused by the inability of Pencil2D to read non encoded files when using the zlib library. This issue has already been fixed on 2017’s versions starting July

Creash-Wipe PREVENTION TIPS & Other Problems

—This answer is a work In progress. This will be a list of do’s & dont’s to avoid crashing the program considering there are some tools that are still in the works.

  1. Do NOT force Pencil2D to work with more than 100+ frames unless your prepared for any eventuality, we understand this seems rather strict of a limitation, it’s the safe boundary limit before things go out of control. Remember the more frames and layers you have, the more memory Pencil2D WILL use, and the chances of crashing WILL increase.
  2. We recommend that you work with CUTS of your animation instead of a full length video, that is to say that you shouldn’t attempt to draw and animate the full length of your animation video inside ONE file, but rather separate your animation into smaller chunks or several files that contain only ONE scene or cut each. Do this according to your storyboard / beatboard, so you can keep track of each scene requirements.If your CUT is longer than 10 seconds (240 frames at 24 fps) create a TEMPLATE for your CUT, and divide it into ACTION parts. i.e CUT10 Template: Create layers for Character(s), BG, FX. Animate up to 100 frames or so of your major actions > SAVE a new copy with a related name e.g. CUT10B_001 to indicate this is a new beginning file> delete everything but the last frames and then continue animating for the next major set of actions to continue with your CUT until you hit the next 100+ frames. Rinse and Repeat.
  3. Along with #2, Professional digital artists and animators use a numbered nomenclature to name their files. Usually each saved file name is suffixed by a double, triple or even quad digit number. i.e my_pencil_file_001.Each time you save, you should attempt to make habit of saving your progress with the next number in sequence. This way you can prevent to lose all of your work in case Pencil2D crashes and wipes your save. In the future we will attempt to automate this process, since it’s good practice to save it that way regardless of stability issues of any given software. (Applicable to ALL CASES)
  4. Along with point #1 if you’re using the old .PCL file format, make SURE that you are also saving a copy of the .DATA folder with the new numbered name. This should be done automatically, however please check that it is the case. (Applicable to ALL CASES)
  5. To avoid CASE B corruption particularly, make sure you are making a backup of both your .PCL file and your .DATA folder in a different part of your hard drive, it can be a different folder altogether, just make sure to group the .PCL file and .DATA folder in the same place (however don’t put the pencil file inside the .DATA folder).
  6. In the past the minimum RAM requirements for Pencil was 512 mbs, but in light of the current situations that have happened we’re going to change that claim and say that the MINIMUM REQUIRED RAM SIZE is 4GBs, just to get to the 100+ frame safe zone to avoid crashes.It seems like the following suggestion is bad thing to say at first, considering, but if you can get more memory for your computer, DO IT. Particularly if you’re trying to work semi-professionally with Pencil2D. In the future we will be looking for ways to optimize this behaviour, but getting more RAM never hurts, and this is true for any graphics program out there, not just this one.
  7. To recover from CASE C, CASE D & CASE E, if you were using .PCLX file as your default pencil2d save file, it’s possible that you can re-open the file intact with one of the latest Pencil2D Nightly Builds from 2017 onwards as most of CASE C variant issues have been fixed or contained.

    For CASE E you specifically have to use any version from August 2017 onwards as these versions will contain the required fix. Saving and opening will no longer cause issues. However if you try to open a file that has this problem here’s a step by step procedure you can follow to attempt recovery:

    This is what the main developer says: “I’m fairly certain it’s a filename issue. […] Files which have non-ASCII filename in the PCLX. Obviously zlib doesn’t handle it properly on Windows. It results in a sudden interruption of unzip process before the most important file main.xml is unzipped.”

    So if you have the PCLX filetype, you can open that with a compression software as it is basically a ZIP file read on-the-fly. Inside there will be a lot of files contained. If used sound files that had names with symbols or signs, you’ll have to do the following:

    A) Make a Copy of the problem PCLX file
    B) On the copy file, change the extension filetype from PCLX to ZIP (this process can be different on the supported operating systems, pelase refer to your system administrator, operating manual or reference knowledgebase to learn how to do this on your computer)
    C) Use either WinZIP, 7-ZIP, IZARC, or PeaZIP (MAC) to extract the contents to a folder of your choice.
    D) Browse for the sounds or any other element with strange names inside the .DATA folder and change their names to any string or letters or numbers without whitespace. e.g. lalilulelo.mp3 or 0001.mp3
    E) locate the main.XML file outside of the DATA folder (all of this should have been extracted form the original PCLX file) now use your notepad to open the XML file.
    F) On the XML file you should see the original names of the sounds, so change them according to the numbered name you gave them. IF you don’t see any names then close the file without saving and jump to the step G.

    Note: The file “main.xml” with XML extension serves the same purpose of being an “address book” for the images, sounds, vector and palette files, however due to the codification issue, sounds (and possibly other files: pending investigation) are not written in the main.xml files that have the encoding  problem. Otherwise they are written correctly on it.

    G) Take all the contents (both main.xml and data folder) and re-pack them into a new ZIP file with the same name as the previous PCLX file you made the copy from. Please note that the only folder that must be inside the ZIP file is the DATA folder.
    H) Change the new ZIP file extension to PCLX. e.g myAnimation.ZIP >>> myAnimation.PCLX
    I) Attempt to open the new PCLX file in a NEWER version of Pencil2D

Some of the original FAQ solutions were contributed by user Piggy and user morr