Animation Recommendation


This is my personal recommendation. I just want to mention that this is my personal opinion from my own experiences.

As a hobbyist animator I have tried almost every single animation program out there. I’ve always wanted to do classic frame by frame animation but doing it traditionally can be very expensive and I switched to digital animation. Besides being eco friendly you only have to pay for your tools once. I love the advantages of digital animation.

The only program I haven’t tried was CelAction simply because it didn’t have anything I needed and it was far too expensive for a hobbyist like myself.

If you are into classic animation like me and do frame by frame animation I highly recommend theses 6 programs. I will however be giving honorable mentions of other programs that you can animate with or use to prepare to create great animations. (I only use the first 4, specifically I only own ToonBoom Animate Pro and studio. I can’t afford TVPaint but I hope to one day.)

  1. Sketchbook Pro 7
  2. ToonBoom Studio, Animate, Animate Pro, Harmony (any of these suites are great for animation but I highly recommend Animate or higher)
  3. CACANi
  4. Adobe After Effects
  5. TVPaint
  6. Celtx

Reasons:

Sketchbook Pro has always been an excellent program for doing concept work but with the added feature of flipbook, it can make creating keyframes very enjoyable. It loads and runs fast and has very basic animation. One of the more notable features is the perspective rulers, this is particularly useful when creating background art for animation since most animation programs do not offer perspective rulers and you have to draw them manually. Taking advantage of these rulers can really help you excel in creating high quality animation and various graphics. This is excellent if you’re new and can help ease you into 2D frame by frame animation. You can then export and import into ToonBoom to take it further and create amazing things. Sketchbook Pro is also excellent for doing storyboarding and various concept work as well making it a very important tool during the early stages of design and creating model references.

ToonBoom has a wide range of software specifically for animation but each suite is aimed at specific types of animation but it can do it all. I recommend any of the Toon Boom products from Studio to Harmony. They are all capable of symbol animation, morph/tween, cut out, bone/puppet animation, stop motion and frame by frame. I also like the onion skin options and settings. I’ve found it to be very efficient. However I do recommend that you check the specs and use a trial before committing. There are still some compatibility issues. The only other con I can think of is the learning curve. Some say it is intuitive to learn while others don’t. I did not find it very intuitive but I did find it fairly easy to navigate through the tools. It was difficult at first to remember where everything was but fortunately ToonBoom allows you to fully customize your workspace. I would also like to add that unless you have Harmony you can only create vector art. If you want bitmap or raster based painted backgrounds or assets you have to import them. Fortunately ToonBoom offers an excellent library that you can customize and save your items for reuse later.

CACANi is excellent for a lot of reasons. The main one being that it can automate inbetweens and it’s stroke steadying settings. If you have shaky hands or an over sensitive tablet you will find this extremely useful. It’s not flawless with auto inbetweening and you still have to inbetween complex animation but it can be a great time saver and still produces quality animation. It basically does advanced vector morphing. It’s also all vector based. Some that are use to raster animation may not enjoy it and find it a disadvantage, but it is worth learning and using. Once you get use to vector animation you can really take full advantage of it and create some incredible things. Particularly if you’re a professional with limited time to get things finished. You can draw in it frame by frame by hand as well and you may find you only need Cacani and Sketchbook Pro for most of your work. CACANi is especially good for a more classic cel animation with cel shading. Anyone that has used ToonBoom or flash and tried to animate cel shading will know the difficulties it can involve. With it’s unique colour line separation pen and quickflip preview ,it makes the flow of animating cel animation much easier smoother and get it done in a much shorter amount of time.

Adobe After effects is a compositing program. I recommend it for filters and basic particles. It’s extremely useful to use the particles to make snow or falling feathers, leaves blowing in the wind or anything else you can think of. It’s especially good for glowing and various lighting or shading effects. I recommend it mostly because subscribing is cheaper than trying to buy Harmony. If you have ToonBoom Harmony, it’s unlikely that you would need After Effects. After Effects is also capable of puppet animation and does a really good job of it. In short it’s like photoshop for animation. I highly recommend it for it’s filters to edit your animations and push them further in design, effects and quality.

TVPaint has a lot of tools. If you have it, it’s unlikely that you will need any other program. It is mostly raster based. Recently it was upgraded with a lot of amazing new tools. If you are into puppet or bone animation I don’t recommend TVPaint. It’s mostly a frame by frame animation program. It has advanced and customizable lightbox options that make inbetweening and onion skin easy to use. With TVPaint you can do storyboarding as well which is a big pro including adding audio to your storyboards. The only Con is unless you have a Cintiq or dual monitors, it can get very cramped very quickly. It is professional grade software and has a fairly steep learning curve. However if you have some experience in animation with other programs you might find it fairly intuitive. I highly recommend trying the demo. Unlike other programs there is no time limit to test the software. You can’t save and it uses a watermark. Unlike ToonBoom animate family where you have to import raster images from photoshop for backgrounds, you can paint within TVPaint lessening the need for any other program.

Celtx is not animation software but it is a necessary program to have and use. It’s replaced word and OneNote for me. Celtx has online cloud storage and offers a range of writing formats from script writing to storyboards for film and comics. It’s most unique feature is the character database. You can create and story a database for all of your characters with indepth information plot ties and image reference. It’s freeware and well worth downloading and using. If you decide to get into serious animation I highly recommend using it and taking advantage of the character database to use alongside your script and storyboards. I personally use to use this for my comics in combination with Sketchbook Pro and it certainly has been a great help in the past.

Honorable Mentions:

Other programs that can be either used for animation or are extremely helpful during the animation process and concepting stages are listed below:

  • OneNote (Organising, scripting, concepts, storyboarding, mindmaps (very  important), ability to share with team members)
  • Clip Studio Paint Pro and EX (Perspective rulers, paint, raster drawing, background, concept, storyboards and assets with transparency)
  • GIMP (animation and concept)
  • Photoshop (animation and concept, transparent image assets)
  • MyPaint (unlimited canvas, fast loading, variety of natural feeling brushes)
  • ArtRage (Beautiful backgrounds, program imitates natural media very well. Personally I think it does it better than Corel)
  • Corel Painter (animation and concept, natural media feel)
  • Paint Tool Sai (for raster images, backgrounds, concepts, storyboards and ease of use)
  • OpenCanvas (perspective rulers, painting, concept, storyboarding)
  • Audacity (for audio recording)
  • FL Studio (Unless you’re a composer I only recommend basic FL for creating your own sound effects and music. It is professional grade software and has a very steep learning curve. However it is well worth learning.)
  • Pencil (Free frame by frame animation. Still buggy and has been known to crash. Save frequently)
  • Blender (now has frame by frame animation. Done with grease pencil)
  • Tab (various suits, mostly all vector and I think cut out animation)
  • Digicel Flipbook (a lot of people still use and recommend this program. I personally did not take to it)
  • Anime Studio (vector bone morph animation)
  • Retas Studio (I don’t think it’s sold outside of Japan in english any more but I have seen some artists purchase it so I’m not totally sure.)
  • GraphicsGale (gif animation)
  • Synfig (free, mostly vector. Very steep learning curve, lots of issues for windows. Best used on Linux)
  • Tupi
  • Toufee
  • Toonz (same company that makes Tab, but to my understanding this one is more advanced)
  • CelAction
  • Flash (animation, symbols, tweening, frame by frame)

If you feel I have forgotten any 2D programs you think should be mentioned please leave a comment. This was very quickly written.

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Frustrated Plus Some Blender Hotkeys


[UPDATED Hotkeys added]

[Warning: Frustrated rambling. Skip to the pink heading to find the helpful info below]

It’s love hate with Blender for me. I really want max but it’s literally impossible. With how much it costs AUD, it’s never going to happen. I’ve been doing 3D solo with no schooling on and off for a couple of years, seriously in the last 2yrs. If I had to sum up all the time I’ve spent and read, I have about a year of work under my belt and that makes me sad because well imagine if I had the opportunity to go to school right. But I learned a lot. Most of it the hard way.

However before the last version came out, I was using a version of Blender that was before tabs were introduced. I personally hate the tabs and I wish there was a revert to old UI (if there is please tell me), but what annoys me most is some subtle changes in hotkeys that I use frequently and no real warning about these changes until about a week later, however some people close with development have been releasing detailed info on the changes but sometimes it would be nice if there was a constantly updated newsletter to subscribe to about such changes in stead of blog after blog that usually gives up on posting (sorry for the random rant).

To anyone knew to Blender, a new version pops up literally every year sometimes 2-3 times a year. The development team are always working hard so if you find a version you like, don’t worry because that version is always available to download despite it’s age if you upgrade and change your mind and want to go back. That’s one of the real beauties of blender. Also, I highly recommend going on youtube and searching “What’s new in Blender “whatever version you’re using” to find out the latest changes and new features. Main reason I recommend it is because not only are the videos short and sweet but they usually mention in them any major features that were dropped or added.

This is what I mean by love hate. It’s powerful, fast and relatively easy to learn, especially in comparison to certain Autodesk products. As far as performance, Max use to lag for me even on min specs doing low poly but Blender rarely lags even for some pretty high poly and intense work, and I can push my work to levels I can’t in other professional apps. But at the same time, trying to find the updated hotkeys list and other such info on the latest version can sometimes be like trying to find a needle in a hay stack. But what really kills it is the high and mighty attitude of the community towards newcomers. I do not recommend going to forums for Blender help if you are new, they can be quite rude and all things opposite of helpful. I do however recommend going to youtube before anywhere else. Don’t even bother with a Google search, just go to youtube first and you’ll likely find your answers there.

I highly, highly recommend anything by Johnathan Williamson. And I also recommend joining Blender Cookie. There’s some incredible tutorials on there.

It’s like I said though, sometimes I love Blender and everything about it and other times it just frustrated the heck out of me. But that’s enough complaining. I decided for my own personal use and to help out others that I’d list some Blender Hotkeys that I know for certain work. A lot of these I found by mistake.

Hotkeys!!

So below are some of the hotkeys and tools I frequently use in Blender and how to use them:

All of these are in Edit Mode with the exception on Spacebar and alt+C

ctrl + R and hover the area. A pink line will appear looping the area. This is good to if you screw up your edge loops and you want to check it. Left click to OK it, then move and position it and left click again. If you want it in the centre instead of positioning it, right click and it will insert in the centre.

Screenshot 2015-02-09 21.15.13

ctrl + E to bring up a pop up menu for other various things to do with edgesScreenshot 2015-02-09 21.15.48

Hold SHIFT while selecting which mode to select multiple modes. Example: Face select mode and vertex mode are both enabled in the lower picture after holding select and clicking both icons. I can now edit my model by each vertex or face instead of changing modes one at a time. (Love this feature)

Snap 2015-02-09 at 21.19.02

E to Extrude (no picture for this one)

Shift + E to make an edge crease. This one took me forever to find because I could only find the hotkey for old blender not new and I found this one by mistake while I was using ctrl + R.

Snap 2015-02-09 at 21.23.19

Spacebar for quick search. You can find almost all the commands you need if you can’t find them in the menus.

Snap 2015-02-09 at 21.24.42

A select all and A again to deselect all. C for brush select, right click to get out of selection brush mode and keep selection or enter. B for Marquee select. Lastly L. L selects a whole object. Say for example you have a sphere inside an eye socket and for whatever reason you want to remove it or move it from your joined mesh. Selecting a vert and then pressing L should select the sphere. You can then use P to separate by selection.

Snap 2015-02-09 at 21.26.32

W for some of the most used and important features. Most people only use it for sub D and Smooth (also known as Relax in other programs).

Snap 2015-02-09 at 21.28.11

crtl + B + drag I’m not sure what it’s called but it’s useful especially when making eyes.

Snap 2015-02-09 at 21.30.33

S to scale, R to rotate, G to grab/move. It’s sometimes ideal to turn on proportional editing when using grab while SubD is on. If you enable proportional editing, use the mouse wheel to expand the area of effect. Below is where to find proportional editing and when it’s turned on. Also, when using any of these if you follow straight after with X, Y or Z before you move your mouse you can snap it to the specified axis. For example press G then Z to move along on the Z axis only.

Snap 2015-02-09 at 21.33.06Snap 2015-02-09 at 21.33.31

H too hide and Alt+ H to unhide. The number of times I have hidden something and didn’t know as a newbie, is astonishing. Finding out about alt H was a life saver. (No image for this one. No point because it would be invisible.)

K to cut and Enter when you are satisfied with your cuts otherwise, right click to cancel. Now this one is tricky as well to describe. The knife tool goes in an un-breaking line much like the slice tool in Max, except you can break the knife path by pressing E. Below are to examples of using knife and then using knife after pressing E.

Snap 2015-02-09 at 21.37.50Snap 2015-02-09 at 21.39.02

P to separate by selection. I use this one a lot. Usually I make the head whole then I select the scalp area and separate it. It turns it into a separate object which I usually use for a base for hair and then later delete it to keep it low poly. It’s really useful to use.

Snap 2015-02-09 at 21.40.45

If you’re constantly setting the pivot in weird places press Shift+ C to recenter the pivot. For anything else such as placing the cursor yourself and snapping the object to it, the easiest way is just to hit Spacebar and type the word “cursor” and navigate from there. But if you’re new to Blender you will be constantly misplacing the 3D cursor or pivot. (no image for this one)

Alt+C to convert too. Very useful if you use grease pencil a lot or nurbs. (no image for this shortcut)

Alt + M to merge selection.

Snap 2015-02-09 at 21.48.08

F to fill face. If you’re super new, you need to have at least 2 verts selected. You can make an edge, a tri or a quad with this shortcut. (No image for this one.)

Click middle mouse button to rotate object view. (No image for this one.)

Shift+ clicking middle mouse button to pan view. (No image for this one.)

Middle mouse button scroll to zoom. (No image for this one.)

ctrl+ G to assign Vertex groups.

Snap 2015-02-09 at 21.51.51

USEFUL ADDONS! MUST have for saving time:

LoopTools: Go to file>> User Preferences>> Addons and type in the word “Loop” in the quick search bar. As shown below. Make sure to hit Save user settings then close and enjoy this amazing addon.

Snap 2015-02-09 at 21.29.21

Snap 2015-02-09 at 21.51.51

Now press W in edit mode and there will be the new LoopTools at the top of the menu. This is excellent for neatening up topology among many other uses. Below shows the new menu and the use of make circle in use. Great tools, I highly recommend using them. Of course it’s not perfect but it can be an incredible time saver.

Snap 2015-02-09 at 21.54.06 Snap 2015-02-09 at 21.56.03

I also recommend, but only if you have the specs to run them  becuase having too many addons can slow down Blender’s performance, IvyGen, Sapling, Simplify Curves, Bsurfaces (if you can figure out how to use it), F2, Import image as plane, Mesh Relax and Freestyle SVG exporter.

But that’s all I know so far as far as hotkeys that work in current Blender. Which, as of writing this is 2.73

If you have any hotkeys that you think I’ve missed and would like added please do leave them in a comment below for others to find and use.

RPG maker VX: Bigger Sprites Tutorial


RPG Maker VX

Image via Wikipedia

Please go here for a visual tutorial. Today this one is words only.

  1. For bigger sprites in RPG Maker VX you will need to export one of the sprite sets provided as a sizing guide and in order for it to work properly when you import your own set.
  2. After you export, take it to photoshop or GIMP.
  3. Set up some guides based on the position of the original set to give you a size to work within without errors later when you import
  4. Change to RBG mode to use layers. Either make a new layer and discard the sprites so you can make your own or edit the current ones if you can’t draw very well though I recommend trying to make your own.
  5. Keeping constraint proportions ON resize the sprites.
  6. Save as PNG!!
  7. Import your larger sprites
  8. Change your character sprite to the larger one you imported
  9. In the editor preview the head will appear squished but don’t worry it is working.
  10. Test run the game to see your larger sprite in action.
  11. make sure to run up, down, left and right to make sure you did align it properly. If not then you will have little extras like the hair under the feet when it runs and you may have to go back and forth etc
  12. Enjoy!
And that’s all. Very brief I know but I don’t want to over explain it. Take it slow, you will get use to it. Have fun making new sized sprites and enemies of all heights.

Photoshop Tip: Pencil Tool


This is just a random thing I thought to mention. Pencil tool isn’t really for sketching. It’s set to basic brushes for a reason. It’s more for making lines. If you hold shift while dragging up or down you get a perfect line but it you click then click a point in another direction all while holding down shift you get a diagonal line. If you do this with the pressure brushes even with a mouse you WON’T get a diagonal line, at least not one that’s very visible. I use to think that feature was excluded from photoshop elements until I actually found the pencil tool.

I watch some youtube videos on drawing now and then and a lot of people seem to use the line shape instead of simple click+shift+drag or shift+click+click with the pencil tool. The disadvantage with the shape tool is rasterizing and merging all of those lines and cutting and pasting. If you go to window>> guide you can then see a ruler along the top and left side. Combine that with using shift instead and you can measure out your lines like you would with a real pen and ruler.

This method also works with GIMP and a few other digital art programs.

How To Outline Text In GIMP


GIMP Icon

Image via Wikipedia

I found this link that some may find helpful. It’s how to outline text in GIMP. The reason I am sharing this is because some of us don’t and can’t afford photoshop for that feature and if you make comic’s or manga, it’s something the becomes necessary when you need to put black text over a black background.

http://gimpology.com/submission/view/how_to_outline_text

Enjoy and happy drawing guys!

Screentoning with Pattern Stamp Tool PS7


Ok so quite sometime ago someone asked me how I was able to tone so nicely in photoshop. My first answer is usually the worst because I don’t think it through even though it was true. I went through Deviant Art and found some great tutorials on it but without thinking that was really only half of the details. Now a few days ago I wrote a blog update about installing these patterns because I had planned to make a video about toning with the pattern stamp tool in photoshop. I know a lot of people prefer bucket fill. But to be honest, you limit yourself if you don’t at least try the various brush shapes in pattern stamp set to a nice tone… if any of that made sense. So, as always, watch the video first, then read on ^w^

Firstly, find and install some screentones that you have made or found and make sure they are PAT. files. Go HERE for a breif tutoiral on how to install and make them. Or go find a better tutorial on installing PAT files. Select the pattern stamp tool! Not the clone tool, it must be Pattern Stamp tool! This is very important. After you have done that select a hard edge brush and set the size to something nice to work with. Then select the patterns you’ve made or installed. Test them out and see how they are. Now, before I go on there is one issue I’d like to address before anyone asks.

If your tones aren’t coming out at the size you thought they would, it’s probably because your resolution and paper size is too small. I work at either A5,A4 or B4 and have a resolution of either 300 or 600 and in some cases 1200. The resolution effects the size of the dots and if you’ve ever used Manga Studio or Deleter Comic Works then you probably already know a bit about this already. I won’t go into a big explanation because frankly there’s tonnes of tutorials and explanations on this already. Everywhere from wiki to Deviant Art. Usually though working from 300 res or 600 would do for most of us. The picture in the video is A5 at 300 res or dpi.

For most of you, testing out the stamp tool like this, it’s probably all the information you need. I bet you can happily tone now as well as make hundreds of new tones and textures to use. There’s nothing extra I have to say about screentoning this way. Except to try out other brush shapes while toning and check out the amazing backgrounds you can make in a matter of seconds. This video is only double speed. This took me under 10 minutes to tone using the Pattern Stamp Tool. All I really want to say is play with adding white dots and highlights and using light tones for light shadows, over lapping tones and experimenting with the layer blend modes and the tones. You can make some amazing new tones with layer blend mode colour dodge and colour burn.

I know this is a terrible not-quite-a-tutorial, but it really is that simple. After you install the PAT file the hard part is over. All you have to do is carry on toning like you normally would and remember to use them where you want either shadow or emotion displayed and that’s it. Screentoning is only as complicated as you want to make it. I usually like to keep it simple because I like to focus on mood and emotion more than I do lighting so usually I just shade the eyes and under the nose and under the lip but that’s my personal preference. The main reason for this video was to show that it is possible to tone in photoshop and to get it to look nice. I’ve seen some of the WORST tutorials with the wrong tones used in photoshop and that’s where all the negatives on the stamp tool come from. Because people do judge the end results on these tutorials made by very beginner artists. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to help but if you don’t fully know the in’s and out’s then you really shouldn’t be making a tutorial. I’ve seen bad drawings in some tutorials but the explanations and examples were amazing, it sort of cancelled out the presentation factor so I guess what I am trying to say is, read thoroughly and try it yourself before deeming it a bad way to make art.

Anyway, if you want in depth tutorials on toning and where and what’s effective and what not then search youtube and deviant art and you will turn up hundreds of results. You can try google but turning up a good tutorial is pretty hard because of page ranks etc.

Here’s my list of favourite screentoning, colour and other art tutorials. These are way more helpful than anything I could ever write up:

  1. Prisma Marker tutorial
  2. Toning in GIMP
  3. Screentoning
  4. One of the best screentoning Tutorials
  5. Screentone/Halftone
  6. Colouring skin/noses
  7. Digital Painting Tutorial
  8. Bitmap Comic+Manga Halftoning
  9. Drawing Realistic lace
  10. Hair tutorial
  11. Sky Tutorial
  12. Nifty Digital Painting Tutorial
  13. Mini Tutorial About Everything
  14. Pen Tool Tutorial
  15. IFX- Strike A Pose
  16. A heap of manga tutorials
  17. Anatomy

GIMP: Pen Tool


GIMP Icon

Image via Wikipedia

So through my daily deviantart rumaging I came across some tutorials. I need to get some inking done but I don’t have all the supplies yet. I am considering using the pen or path tool in GIMP. Usually I am opposed to using it but frankly, it hurts my hand after a while and it is quicker and the more flawless the lines the better the presentation. Unfortunately I wish to ink traditionally meaning good ol’ fashioned pen and paper or calligraphy pen and ink well in my case. Anyway, I found this great tutorial for it and I remembered to share it here with you guys ^^

GIMP Path Tool (aka Pentool) Tutorial