The Etsy Blog

The Flipbooks of Etsy: Motion Picture Objects handmade and vintage goods

Going to the movies is wonderful, but it is a temporary experience. When the movie is done, all you are left with is a ticket stub. However, with flipbooks you can keep the memories forever, or at least until you spill coffee on them. Until that imminent coffee disaster, a flipbook is an object you can keep as a thing of beauty to watch over and over again.

Besides being fantastic art objects to make and treasure, flipbooks are also a great project for kids.  When I was a school teacher, making flipbooks was one of my favorite things to teach. While sequential art may seem simple, making a flipbook  entertaining and stylish is a serious process with lots of planning, consideration, and playfulness. Something about having to draw pictures over and over with subtle changes makes for a mesmerizing and creative project. When I taught my students, we did it with notecards and a binder clip, but there are lots of ways to make flipbooks and the possibilities are endless.  Etsy has awesome flipbook makers so I email-interviewed them and asked them to describe their process of flipbook making and wax philosophic about flipbooks in general. 



lookability makes super sweet flipbooks! Besides listing them for sale in her store, she also posts videos on YouTube.

“I do a lot of thinking beforehand deciding on my theme or topic. Most of the planning is in process as I think through the ‘motions’ of the characters page by page. I assemble them myself, which I like doing, although it’s turning out to be very time consuming.

Usually I come up with an idea, often by adapting a previous piece of art or characters. Most recently I have been putting body parts/pieces of the characters into a template page of 24 book ‘pages’ I made in InDesign or Illustrator. Then I individually rotate each part for each page to make the animation. Then I print out the 8.5 in x 11 in paper, cut out the pages (previously with x-acto blade, now I have a rotary cutter), add in the title page, cover, end page, back cover. Then I drill tiny holes in the spine of the book (previously with a thick needle — dangerous; now I bought some tiny bits I will try out). Then I bind it by sewing with dental floss. I put a layer of glue on the spine and let it dry, then I dry mount the spine cover onto the book with rubber cement. Finished! Unless I put the book together backwards, which I have done a couple of times.

Flipbooks in general never cease to entertain me. Somehow I feel like I might not ‘know what’s going to happen’ even if I’ve already flipped a book twenty times. I hope my flipbooks are the kind people just want to flip over and over again.”

Hine has been doing stop-motion animation and has been experimenting with using the photos from her animations to make flipbooks!

“I have been making some stop-motion animations since last year, so I already have lots of continuous photographs. I use them with iStopMotion 2. It’s a software for making stop-motion animations for Mac ( I just purchased it a few weeks ago, so I haven’t actually used it for stop-motions yet). There is a fun feature called ‘Print Flipbook‘ in it. I just import my photos to iStopMotion, and choose the size of flipbook, then print them and cut them. And I assemble the flipbook with glue. For the squid ones, I just found the flipbook feature and I already had the photos, so I didn’t have any plans, just started to make them for fun! 

If you really like to make flipbooks, and you want to use your photographs or digital illustrations for them, getting the iStopMotion 2 software would be one of the easiest and fastest way to make flipbooks and it costs $49.”

PenFelt makes flipbooks and describes her process and inspiration. 

Flipbooks were the one thing I collected when I traveled in Europe, so I have flipbooks from all over the world. My favorite shows the pattern of the stone labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral.

I love Etsy’s flipbooks — I have at least one from each seller who sells them.

My process: I am usually inspired by found objects or images. ‘Good By’ (the flipbook in my shop) has drawings inspired by kid art, and the text is from a note I found on the ground. I cut and pasted these items and shrunk them on the copier, then manually moved the images to make the animation. I prefer to make flipbooks zine style like this. I decide the first and last image, and the rest I just let happen.

The book in my shop is assembled by me. I cut the pages, assembled, hand-stamped the color and bound each one by hand — phew! I am working on some that will be a sent away job. Look forward to seeing them in my shop soon.

If you’re getting started, get a flipbook and go through the pages slowly. This way you can see how much movement takes place between the pages to create an animation.”

Joe Freedman, aka sarabandepress makes all sorts of contraptions. I recently fell in love with the Retroscope! It’s a technically advanced and mechanized flipbook!  

“Technically what I’m making is a tabletop Mutoscope. Precursors were the Kinora and the Midgette viewer. My biggest ‘improvement’ was to lift the cards out of the box and make them visible. In the old days the cards were put into a box to hide the magic and make the box more mysterious. Now we just assume that boxes will do magical things and we take them for granted. Seeing the cards as they flip by makes it more amazing, I think.  My Retroscope has only 36 flips so the stories aren’t about a linear plot line. Flipbooks give you a lot of flips but since it is linear, the viewer only does it a few times. With the Retroscope, the viewer isn’t really sure where the beginning or end is. I like that it goes around and around. Retroscopes are like a slice of life. 
Some of them are just instantaneous events. Just prior to WWI there was a company called Biopix that had small studios in Paris and London to make flipbook portraits of customers. Pascal has the actual flipbook of Guillaume Apollinaire, the surrealist poet. Apollinaire has a description of the process of sitting for the portrait. I love the idea that we have an actual document showing Apollinaire moving and reacting to the viewing camera. I’m going to be trying a similar project of making Retroscopes on the spot of people. Probably at a flea market or something like that. 

I had the black cardboard box commercially made. All the rest of it I make myself. The laser lets me do short runs with super accuracy. The Retroscope seems like a very simple thing but it works because of the precision laser cutting. The cards are just slipped into the reel. One key aspect is the diagonal slit at the bottom of the card. This relieves the stress and lets the cards flip well. At the bottom of the slit there is a .004 inch circle that stops the cards from ripping. I’ve run them in an electric drill for hours and the tiny circle prevented any ripping. The precision of the laser makes the simplicity possible.

Mostly I’m interested in the overlap between digital and analog. I love taking a digital file and producing an antiquated analog device. Of course the analog version will probably last longer and be more archival than the digital original. 

I’m not an animator so that limits some of what I explore in my Retroscopes. I have a ‘make your own’ kit that lets animators do their own reels that play in the Retroscopes.
Pell Osborne does wonderful workshops with students doing hand drawn flipbooks. After they draw them, he has a device which digitizes them really quickly so everyone can view it on a big screen at the end of the seminar. Very cool work.”

If you love flipbooks and want to tell us about the ones you have found, post in the comments below!

Update: since I wrote this article, two more flipbook makers showed up on Etsy. Check out jamiralaquaglia and greenchairpress‘s shop!

Please join our Handmade Video Group if you are making videos or animation. If you get a bee in your bonnet and want to get started in video, check out our Getting Started in Video series.


  • hellofacey

    hellofacey says:

    Flip books make me think of the quarter machines when I was a kid at the grocery store. Me and my brother would fight over them in Papaw and Grandmas yellow station wagon like they were the be all end all of toys! Good memories. I like the Retroscope, it rawks my sawks off!

    6 years ago

  • hellofacey

    hellofacey says:

    Thanks for helping me find memories, sometimes I forget to remember my brother.

    6 years ago

  • NiftyKidstuff

    NiftyKidstuff says:

    I've done a flipbook before...see it here I made a flash movie out of the pages because my professor decided to keep it.

    6 years ago

  • PortButtonsViNtAgE

    PortButtonsViNtAgE says:

    I love flipbooks! I have a Keith Haring one that I still flip through every once and a while! They have always been one of the objects that I treasure

    6 years ago

  • brepettis

    brepettis says:

    Hellofacey - I know what you mean about the quarter machines. NiftyKidstuff - That flipbook is amazing!!! PortButtonsViNtAgE - Sounds cool, I like how Keith Haring makes simple and special designs.

    6 years ago

  • crankbunny

    crankbunny says:

    the Retroscope rules! (hehe i play with mine ALOT).

    6 years ago

  • jamiralaquaglia

    jamiralaquaglia says:

    i love animation and stop motion frame by frame are too cool to describe a funny way!!! love flip book ^_^

    6 years ago

  • CourtneyWatson

    CourtneyWatson says:

    The Meat Sport flipbook is by far my favorite! We are making flipbooks for wedding favors. Love it!

    6 years ago

  • EyePopArt

    EyePopArt says:

    PenFelt rocks! Be sure to check out her wonderful felted accessories!

    6 years ago

  • FernandaFrick

    FernandaFrick says:

    Hm...this article is a little old but just wanted to say that I just opened a shop that only sells flipbooks xD

    6 years ago