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The Importance of Symbols in Adobe Animate

By Taylor Jon Peters and Ryan Plummer

Learn the how to master symbols in Adobe Animate with Taylor Jon Peters.

The principles of animation are way more important than the software. However, sometimes you may find yourself wasting too much time in your workflow if you'd not aware of the tools at your disposal. Adobe Animate is one of those tools. Adobe Animate is an incredible tool for doing hand-drawn style animation and it's used in some of the biggest Motion Design studios in the world.
Now if only there was a world-class animator to show us this tool...
In an incredible stroke of good luck, Taylor Jon Peters is here to bring us an in-depth tutorial showing how to work smarter in Adobe Animate. In the vid, Taylor breaks down the various types of symbol options available in Adobe Animate and when to use each specific one.
Got you thinking cap on? This is going to be a very useful lesson! Let's get started...

Download the Adobe Animate Project Files

You can download the Adobe Animate project file by clicking the download button below.

Download the Adobe Animate Symbols Project File

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Use Cases for Adobe Animate Symbols

Here's a quick breakdown of the importance of using symbols in your Adobe Animate workflow

1. Looping Animations

Imagine if you need to create a flag on a windy day. You're not going to want it to ripple once and then stop. No, you're going to want it to loop until it's out of frame, or until you've decided there is no more wind.
Looping flag.gif
Looped Symbol in Adobe Animate
In Adobe Animate you can set your symbols to loop! This is amazingly useful if you're needing a lot of little things, like swaying grass, to keep repeating over and over again. This can also be useful if you don't want to animate the end and beginning of each cycle.

2. Single Frame Playback

What do you use if you don't want a loop? Well, if you need an animation to play and then stop when all the frames have been shown, use the Single Frame playback option. For example, if you have an explosion or dust flying away you'll only need it to play through once.
Single Frame Playback.gif
Single Frame Playback in Adobe Animate

3. Single Frame

Need to set specific mouth movements for vowels or a closed mouth smirk? Use the Frame Picker panel as you're scrubbing through your timeline. Just choose which frame you want by clicking the representative graphic. Once clicked it will automatically create a keyframe on your layer so that you mouth state changes.

How to make symbols in Adobe Animate

To convert an animation to symbol in Adobe Animate simply click Modify > Convert to Symbol. Once clicked you'll have an opportunity to name your symbol and choose from various setting. For this tutorial go ahead and set it to graphic and not movie.
When you're creating your symbols try to add them to folder of groups that pair well together. Try to use good logic when creating symbols, for example create a 'head' folder for symbols related to the head, and if you're creating elements for the arms, well... make an arms folder. This will save you a lot of trouble once you've built up several different animated symbols for your library.
Frame Picker.gif

Advantages of Using Symbols

Symbols are like compositions in After Effects. Symbols are super dynamic and can save a lot of time with nuanced animations. Not only that, but you don't want to have to redraw certain assets if you can just duplicate them using Symbols. They're especially helpful if you're looking to get better at character animation.
Why would you want to do this instead of straight ahead drawing every frame? Well, here are some benefits of using symbols in Adobe Animate:
  • Easily duplicate pre-built animations
  • Symbols have transform properties on pre-built animations
  • Symbols can loop animations
  • Symbols can create a library of poses
  • Symbols can replace poses for a frame using frame picker
  • Symbols can reduce the need to redraw common elements
  • Symbols change the starting frame
Head turn.gif

Looking to learn more?

That's all for this lesson. Taylor will be back with a follow-up tutorial very soon!
In the meantime, check out our courses to find your next learning adventure. The world of animation is exciting, but learning it doesn't have to be frustrating. If you're ready to really up your animation skills check out Animation Bootcamp or Advanced Motion Methods. See ya next time!