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Tim Frost: ‘Peppa Pig has opened a lot of doors for me’

UK-based animator Tim Frost has worked on an array of BAFTA and EMMY award winning children’s series and games including Peppa Pig, Hey Duggee! and Moshi Monsters. He is also co-creator of mobile games Foxtrot! and Pixelgrams.

After we heard that Tim uses Affinity, we were keen to get in touch to find out more about his work.

What made you want to become an animator and an artist? Were you creative growing up?

When I was a kid all I really wanted was to draw Judge Dredd for the comic 2000AD, but I was better at drawing funny characters rather than futuristic anti-heroes. I never thought about animation. Childhood was all about comics, riding my bike and making Airfix kits. I only got interested in animation when I bought a Mac computer late last century and started playing with digital tools.

How did you get started in your animation career?

I was doing a lot Flash animation for interactive projects and websites and I wanted to get better at character animation. I did a Master of Arts degree at London Metropolitan University in Digital Film Making. I made a couple of (bad) short films and sent them to a pair of animators I admired, Mark Baker and Neville Astley. They obviously liked enough of what they saw to give me a job on their new project, which happened to be the thing that became Peppa Pig. I learned more in the first month of that job than I did in a year of study. But without the study I wouldn’t have got the gig.

Scene from children’s animated series Peppa Pig
What led you to go freelance?

I like to be as independent as possible and work on a variety of projects. Freelancing is tough because of the lack of financial security but it does mean that you get to set your own hours and take a day off every two months or so.

You have worked on an impressive list of award-winning animated series including Peppa Pig, Hey Duggee! and Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom. Do you have a favourite and what would you say has been your biggest professional achievement so far?

Peppa Pig has opened a lot of doors for me, and I still work on it from time-to-time. When we started no one could have predicted its success. My favourite is Hey Duggee! It looks great and it is very funny. I had a blast working on it. Being part of BAFTA and EMMY award winning projects is always great and getting featured in the App Store for Foxtrot! was a real highlight. Hopefully there are more of these moments to come.

Scene from Hey Duggee!
What inspired you to get into mobile game creation?

Making animation is quite technical and I enjoy that nature of the work. Making games for mobile phones is even more technically demanding and so I fancied the challenge. I was incredibly proud of Foxtrot! as it was my and my co-creator Owen’s first mobile game and we put a lot of love into it. Pixelgrams was even more successful. Hopefully I’ll make another in the future.

Foxtrot! mobile game
We were delighted to discover that you use Affinity Designer, Photo and Publisher. How did you first hear about Affinity apps and what inspired you to give them a try?

I like to be independent and work on my own projects when I can. The financial reality of that stance is that I need to keep an eye on my production costs and not throw money away on expensive tools or subscriptions. I became aware of Affinity tools a couple of years ago and have been using Affinity Designer and Photo on all my own projects for the last year or so. I really like Designer’s ability to switch between vector and pixel artwork. I was a beta tester on Publisher, and since the official release and its excellent integration with Designer and Photo I want to get on with a book project. The main reason why I use Affinity tools is that they work great and they are subscription free. They’re the best alternative to Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop I can think of.

“The main reason why I use Affinity tools is that they work great and they are subscription free. They’re the best alternative to Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop I can think of.”

How do they fit into your workflow and what tools/features do you use the most?

I use Designer every day on all my projects, whether it’s for print projects, game prototypes or making artwork for 2D and 3D animation. I rely on Designer’s vector tools. The assets I create in Designer end up as PDF files for print, PNG and JSON files for Spine2D animations, PNG files for Blender texture maps or layered PSD files for specialised 2D animation tools like CelAction. I use Affinity Photo for cleaning up my scanned pen, ink and watercolour work.

Animation artwork created in Affinity Designer
What does a typical working day look like for you?

I’ll have a coffee then walk the dog once the kids have gone to school. Then I head to the shed and get cracking. I’ll stop at teatime and have a break, but if I have deadlines I’ll work for a couple of hours after the children have gone to bed. I used to work incredibly long hours, but I’ve managed to become more disciplined and waste less time looking at Twitter. My wife would probably disagree.

How is your workspace set up? What technology/equipment wouldn’t you be without?

I work at the bottom of my garden in a shed. My main work machine is a desktop PC with a Huion GT-220 drawing monitor which has been great. I wasn’t convinced I needed a drawing monitor and so I didn’t want to go all out for a Cintiq, but after some time getting used to it, I really like the Huion. I also have an old-fashioned drawing board set up for my pen and ink work. And notebooks; lots and lots of notebooks. I really fancy one of those Microsoft Surface tablet computers.

1 Million AD illustration
You seem to draw A LOT. Do you carry a pencil and pad with you everywhere you go?

Yes, drawing every day keeps me sane and grounded. I always have a notebook on me along with a Lamy Safari fountain pen. I generally draw and doodle in stolen moments. That’s where the gold is, in stolen moments.

“I generally draw and doodle in stolen moments. That’s where the gold is, in stolen moments.”

Do you always prefer to get your ideas down on paper before turning to the computer?

It’s often the case, but not always. I tend to base my finished character designs on inky doodles but sometimes I like to play around with simple vector shapes and typography on the computer. It just depends, I don’t have a set method.

You also sell prints of some of your illustrations. Is this something you are planning to do more of in the future?

Yes, I have several planned. I just need to finish them!

The Rambler illustration
What are you working on right now?

I’m making animation for various clients which I can’t share due to the usual Non-Disclosure Agreements I have to sign. I’m developing a children’s colouring set called My Little World with an old school friend and it is starting to gain some momentum. I’ve just finished working on a game prototype and I’m looking to do more illustration and animation projects of my own.

My Little World colouring set
What do you like to do in your spare time?

I don’t have much spare time. I like to see my kids when they can fit me in to their busy schedules. I walk the dog. I play games on the XBox. When I’ve been a very good boy, I go out on my bike early on a Sunday morning.

Lastly, what advice would you give to somebody wanting to start a career in animation?

All I can suggest is to make good work and keep doing it. There are countless routes into the industry and if you’re any good you’ll find the way that suits you. Also try to be nice, because animators are nice people.

To find out more about Tim check out his website, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.