What is a Peg Bar?

​ If you're interested in being a traditional animator (meaning hand drawn, paper and pencil animation) you have either come across or will come across the term "peg bar." But what exactly is a peg bar? And do you need one to be successful?

So a peg bar is a piece of plastic, or if you get fancy a piece of metal, that is meant to hold your papers in place when you draw and shoot your animation. Here's an example of one from ACME, yes the company name is ACME.

You punch your paper and stick it onto the peg bar as you draw.

A peg bar not only holds your papers in place when you're drawing them, but when you remove them from the peg bar and later place them back into it when you're shooting your hand drawn animation, it makes sure that the paper goes exactly where it did last time so your drawings stay in the correct place.

If you can see in the picture the peg bar has one circular stub in the middle and two rectangle stubs on either side. The rectangle stubs make sure it aligns itself up and down, and the circle makes sure it aligns itself left and right. It's some weird voodoo witch doctor stuff but it works amazingly.

So peg bars are incredibly helpful tools for traditional animation. You'll see in any behind the scene's footage of something for like a Disney movie you'll see everyone working on animation discs, which are basically a combination of a peg bar and a light box.

So what's the big draw back with peg bars? Well since you have to punch your papers for the peg bar, and since they have those weird square pegs on it you'll need a special whole punch to do it. Those hole punches? They're not cheap. The cheapest ones will run you around 500-600 dollars usually, and that's a lot of money for a paper puncher.

The good thing though is you can use it as a tax write off.

There are some work arounds you could do though, you could use a regular whole punch and get a peg bar that has three circle pegs rather than the fancy shmancy square ones. Those work well also but not quite as perfectly as the square ones, your pages will move around a little bit more with all circles.

Luckily for you though I am the cheapest of the cheap and have a pretty decent work around for you! Index cards! First off they're already pretty much a 16 by 9 aspect ratio which is super handy when you're laying out your scenes and stuff. Next they are cheap as dirt and you get a bazillion of them for next to nothing which when you have to draw a million images helps a lot. But how do you make it so they all line up?

Since they're smaller and you'll be using the whole index card rather than a portion of a paper page it actually becomes easier to line them up when you're shooting them because the chance that you've drawn one image farther away than it should be on the next card is smaller. So how can you line them up? By using some masking tape!

Put down your first index card and make a little stack of masking tape, maybe 3 or 4 layers of it in the corner of the index card so it slides snuggling up against the tape.

You're making a little corner wall out of the tape, so each following index card you can just slide into that corner and have it pretty much lined up with the previous card. Easy peasy!

I'm sure you can figure out other ways of doing some clever work arounds but the index cards is a nice simple one that I find works and doesn't take that much finicking to get it to what you want. It's not as exact as a peg bar, but it'll do.

So a peg bar is a tool that makes sure that your frames line up exactly as they did when you originally drew them the next time you put them on the peg bar. They're not super necessary and you can do without one, but they definitely help!