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Animate a character using the timeline

Animate a character using the timeline

April 10, 2017

Let's learn how to create animations with SpriteKit's timeline. You are going to add a taunting animation to the polar bear that will sit behind the catapult:

Bear preview

Build a bear

The bear will need its own .sks file.

Create a new file called Bear.sks (File > New > File) in your project:

Creating the SKS File

You will need to combine two images to construct the bear, the body without an arm and a separate arm that will be animated with the timeline.

Select Bear.sks and Zoom Out the scene so you can see the scene border. Drag bearnoarms.png in from your Media Library to the scene, snap it to the bottom left corner of the scene.

Adding the bear asset

Add beararm.png to the scene, then set the Anchor Point to (0,1), position it somewhere that looks good. Next in the Scene Graph view on the left hand side of the scene. Drag the arm onto the bear so the arm is a child of the bear.

Adding the bear arm asset

You needed to set the anchor point of the arm because you are going to rotate it. When you apply a rotation to a SKNode it will rotate around the Anchor Point, the default is (0.5,0.5) this means it will rotate around the center point. Now for the arm, you want to rotate somewhere around the shoulder, which in this case is the Top-left corner of the arm.

Scene size

You may have noticed the large scene border around the bear, seems a bit of a waste? Let's resize this to reflect the size of the bear. It's important to set the scene size appropriately otherwise it can lead to unexpected placement issues. Let's correct this.

[action] Select Scene in the Scene Graph, in the Attributes inspector set the Size to Custom, W to 80 and H to 78. You may recall this is the same Size as the bear asset. If you resized and can't see the scene boundary, Zoom-Out.
You may also need to reposition the bear back into the scene boundary. Adjusting the beat scene size

Notice that when you drag the bear, the arm also moves along as it's a child node and any movement to the parent node (bear) will affect any child nodes.

Animation timeline

Now you are ready to animate the polar bear's arm. Let's take a look at the scene Timeline.

Ensure the Timeline is visible Toggle timeline

Add a new action

Click on + to add a new timeline set Name to ArmAnimation, you will notice by default it will add this new animation to Action.sks the SpriteKit Action File included by the default game project.

Adding the character action file

Open Actions.sks, you will notice there are two actions. The ArmAnimation you just added and one called Pulse. Don't delete it, you might use it later :]

Building the animation

You will be animating the arm using two Rotate Actions, the first one will rotate the arm by 90 degrees and the second will rotate it back again by 90 degrees, creating a nice loop.

Drag a Rotate Action from the Action Library into the ArmAnimation action timeline. The default attributes will work just fine. Drag a second Rotate Action into the timeline and set Degrees to -90.

Building the arm animation

Congratulations! Let's see this animation in action!

Applying actions

Open Bear.sks, take a look in the Object Library you should see your custom action ArmAnimation near the bottom of the list. Drag this action into the arm timeline.

Add custom arm animation action to timeline

Next let's ensure this animation loops forever, click on the Loop button in the bottom-left of the ArmAnimation action and check the infinity symbol.

Loop arm animation action

Great job, press Animate at the top of the timeline editor and your bear should hopefully look like this:

Bear arm animation


You've learnt to:

  • Create a new SpriteKit Scene for the bear
  • Create a custom ArmAnimation action in a SpriteKit Action file
  • Apply your custom action to the bear timeline

In the next chapter you will be creating more game objects, ready for use in the game.


If you have feedback on this tutorial or find any mistakes, please open issues on the GitHub Repository.

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