How to Make Birthday GIFs in Procreate

design team - kelley procreate Jun 13, 2021
How to make a birthday cake animation

Today we’re creating a fun and easy animated birthday greeting using the Procreate app. This GIF tutorial is beginner-friendly and we'll be using several of Procreate’s tools to get great results: color harmony tool to pick colors and the QuickShape tool to make perfect shapes. 

I’m Kelley Bren Burke, a member of The Pigeon Letters Design Team. I’ll be sharing new blog tutorials about creating digital art every month. Here's what you'll need for this one...



  • iPad
  • Procreate
  • Apple Pencil 
  • I’m using the MonoPigeon Procreate Brush from the TPL Brush Lettering Pack
  • I’m also using TPL’s super cute font, Bulbul. You can use any font, or hand letter your birthday message. 




Grab your iPad and let’s get started!


Pssst...If you rather watch the tutorial, check out the video below.



Step 1: Create Canvas

I’m using a canvas that’s 2000 x 2000 pixels with an sRGB color profile. 

Generally I like the P3 color profile on Procreate because it offers the widest variety of colors. However, when you export your animation as a GIF, the colors will be reduced to an sRGB color profile. So if you don’t want to be surprised by the colors when you export, start with an sRGB color palette. 


Step 2: Choose Color Palette 

Procreate has awesome Color Harmony tools. To use it, tap the color dot in the upper right hand corner. At the bottom of your color palettes, you’ll see different options: Disc, Classic, Harmony, Value or Palettes. Click on Harmony and at the top of that screen, you’ll see Colors. If you tap there, you will have five different options, including Split Complementary, which is the one you want for this tutorial!



Pick any color you really like as your main color and Procreate will show you two colors that are opposite (also known as split complementary).

Using a split complementary color palette is an easy way to get a limited color palette that works perfectly. If you’re not in love with your colors yet, don’t worry! We’ll tweak them later. 



Step 3: Draw a Cake 

Procreate’s QuickShape Tool makes this easy. Draw a rectangle, tap Edit Shape at the top of the screen and pull the little blue dots until you have a cake-like shape you're happy with. I’m going with a cake that’s slightly wider at the top.  





Step 4: Draw a Cake Stand

Feel free to use QuickShape again to make your lines and arcs nice and smooth.




Step 5:  Draw Candles 

I’m drawing seven blue candles but you can pick any color and any amount you want. Note that the flames will be on a different layer since they will be animated later. Tip: if the candles are skinnier than the flames. the flickering flame animation will be more noticeable. 



Step 6: Draw Flames

I’m using yellow for my flames and drawing teardrop shapes on a layer above the candles.  



Step 7: Add a Birthday Message

I’m using a font by The Pigeon Letters called Bulbul. Isn’t is cute? It’s available in a regular or heavy style, I’m going with heavy for this one. 

Feel free to use any font you’d like, or hand letter instead if that’s your thing. 




Step 8: Tweak Colors

To tweak your colors, simply go to Magic Wand > Hue, Saturation, Brightness > Layer. Use the Saturation and Brightness sliders at the bottom of the screen to adjust the colors to your liking. You could change the hue - that’s totally up to you - but that would be taking you out of the little color harmony color trio we have going on.  




Step 9: Copy Canvas 

To copy your canvas, swipe left on the original canvas within the gallery and choose Duplicate. That way you retain an unflattened version of the canvas while flattening another for animation. An unflattened version allows you flexibility for tweaking the illustration in the future. 



Step 10: Begin Animating 

In your new canvas, navigate to Wrench > Canvas > Animation Assist. Toggle Animation Assist on. This will make it easier for you to see what's going on with your GIF as you progress with the animation.



Step 11: Merge Layers 

You’ll want the flame layer grouped with the layer that has the birthday greeting. To do that, swipe right on both the of those layers and tap Group at the top. Name that group “Animation” for easy reference.

Everything else - cake, cake stand, frosting swirls, candles - can be merged together for the background layer. To do that, pinch the layers together. Easy right?



Step 12: Animate the Birthday Message

We’ll animate the birthday greeting before we animate the flickering flames. To create the illusion that the birthday message is being hand-lettered before our eyes, we’ll erase one letter at a time in each group, starting with the last letter. In this case, the “Y” in birthday, and ending by erasing the “H” in happy. 

The uppermost layer group is in the final frame in the animation, and the lowermost layer group is the first frame in the animation. It can get a bit confusing at first, but you'll get used to it.




Step 13: Liquify the Flames

Next, let’s use Procreate’s liquify tool to make the flames flicker. Navigate to Magic Wand > Liquify > Push. In case you want to copy my settings, they are:

Size: 20% Pressure: 40% Distortion: None and Momentum: 9% 



On each flame layer, subtly move the flames around in a different way. You can push the flames up, down, to the left, to the right, make them thinner and make them fatter. This will cause the flickering effect. 



Step 14: Export Your Animation 

To export your animation, navigate to Wrench > Share > Animated GIF > Export > Save Image. I always save my GIFs to my camera role but you can choose the location that works best for you.


Thanks for joining me today! If you’d like to know more about creating fun and easy animations, please check out my other Skillshare classes. All of them are about creating GIFs with Procreate. 


Kelley is a self-taught illustrator, animator, doodler and educator. She creates art on her iPad with Procreate and is excited to share her love of the illustration app with artists of all levels. Check out more of Kelley's tutorials here


Want to try this tutorial out later? Just pin it!