Tool Review: DoInk

Thursday, April 21, 2011 at 9:48 am
Jennifer Dick's picture

What is it about animation that is so engaging? Moving objects catch the eye and the viewer’s attention, it’s true, but there’s more to our fascination with cartoons than the involuntary reaction of our brain to dynamic stimuli. Something about the combination of motion and illustration engages our imaginations in a completely different manner than still images or film footage.

Children have been creating flipbooks for years < >, spending hours drawing a series of pictures with slight differences to approximate a moving picture when the pages are flipped. I remember making impromptu flipbooks in my school notebooks by drawing in the bottom-right corner of the pages. The drawings were necessarily simple, and the animations were limited by how thick the notebook was.

Like so much in our culture lately, the digital revolution has changed how we work. And while there are incredibly sophisticated computer animation applications available, simple free programs are accessible for ordinary folks who don’t need all the bells and whistles of a full-fledged digital art studio. DoInk is one such web app that makes creating Flash animation with vector graphics very easy.

DoInk is the MS Paint of animation applications. Use the paintbrush tool to draw a line by hand (which auto-corrects into a smoother line), fill shapes using the paint bucket, move and rotate objects using a select box—all of this will seem very standard to users of basic graphics programs. Once you’ve done your first drawing, clone the frame in the animation timeline that runs along the bottom of the window. You have the choice of redrawing or simply repositioning elements from your first drawing to create movement in the final animation (the select tool makes this very simple). A handy “ghosting” feature allows you to see a shadow of anything that’s changed position from the previous slides, making it very easy to create subtle animations if desired.

While it’s possible to create a short animated film using the DoInk interface, it’s best suited to creating stand-alone animated pictures (see the examples below). These pictures can be shared through Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, and YouTube. You can also share via email or auto-generated embed code for use in blogs and websites.

Deep Thoughts by jdick17, made at

Sample Classroom & Youth Program Applications


  • English Language Arts: Students create animated plot lines to track the most important events in a story they are reading, from exposition to climax.
  • Geometry: Students create animations of simple geometric proofs. Create a class webpage to share this new library with students to come.
  • History: Timelines were never so fun! While the small canvas will require some creative workarounds, students can plot a dynamic timeline sharing dates, times, and images.
  • Science: Have students create an animation of a process or cycle. For example, in an earth sciences class, students could create a short animated film illustrating the different types of fault movement while studying plate tectonics.
  • Visual Art: Because DoInk animations tend to be very short, it can be a great tool for having students learn how to tell a very, very short story in pictures—the art class equivalent of Hemingway’s famous six word story.


    • Price Structure: Free & premium. “Coins” buy you new editing tools, backgrounds, and the ability to download animations as .AVIs or mp4s.
    • Pros:
      • Drawing tool provides some auto-correction, making drawings look more polished
      • Fairly simple user interface allows for relatively quick builds of animated drawings
      • Weekly contests and active user forums encourage use
      • Pictures can be marked private
      • Users can control what actions will trigger an email notification, such as if someone comments on an animation or sends a message to the user on his/her profile page.


  • Cons:
    • Interface is sometimes laggy, especially on Firefox for Mac (DoInk recommends Safari for Mac users, which we found to be a smoother experience)
    • Uses PC keyboard shortcuts, even if you’re on a Mac (a good chance to get used to using the Control key again!)


Do you use DoInk with your youth? Do you have any activity suggestions, tips, or tricks to share? Comment below or contact us!