Create cartoons and anime with OpenToonz

Defining Levels

By default, the stage schematic window contains the table node and a camera node. Column or layer nodes appear automatically as soon as the content is loaded or created. Pegbars, cameras, and object nodes can be added at any time, and the program automatically links pegbars to the animation table. After selecting an object, you can arrange the object nodes or apply operations, such as cut, copy, and delete. It is also possible to group multiple nodes to create a single node.

OpenToonz offers three types of levels, each appearing in a different color on the X-Sheet. Toonz Vector Levels, which appear in a yellowish tone, are the best option if you wish to draw directly in OpenToonz. Toonz Raster Levels, marked in green, are usually used when drawings have been scanned and there is a need to fill in areas with a predetermined color scheme. Raster Levels, which appear in the cells of the X-Sheet in a bluish tone, are used, for example, for colored backgrounds.

The color scheme of an animated film production is usually defined at the beginning of the production and is mandatory in order to have an exact reference for all character drawings. Figure 6 shows the color scheme defined for Dwanko the dog.

Figure 6: Dwanko's color scheme. A clearly defined scheme makes it easier to draw the different poses.

The OpenToonz toolbar appears on the left edge of the screen in Figure 7. Some of the tools can only be applied to Toonz vector levels: in particular, the Control Point Editor, Pinch Tool, Pump Tool, Magnet Tool, Bender Tool, Iron Tool, and Cutter Tool.

Figure 7: Use the start screen to set up your first project. The toolbar appears at the left edge of the window.

Start Your Own Project

Now that you are familiar with the OpenToonz interface, it is time to create your first animation. If you haven't already done so, install and start OpenToonz; a welcome dialog appears first (Figure 7). OpenToonz manages the scenes of your movie productions and the files used in them as projects. By default, the project name is sandbox. See the OpenToonz manual for more information on starting a project [5].

The first step is to create a scene in the Sandbox project. If you want to share your creations with other collaborators later, the browser room in OpenToonz is very useful, regardless of the operating system. In the scene subfolder, click on a scene file (.tnz suffix), and then export it via the Export Scene context menu.

On the start screen, in the Create a New Scene frame, enter a scene name of your choice in the Scene Name field and confirm it by pressing the Create Scene button. For your first custom animation, first create three layers: a Toonz Vector level for the horizon and the sky, which needs to contain a gradient, a Toonz Raster level for the clouds, and a Toonz Vector level for the buildings and streets.

For the horizon and sky layers, select the Basics room and then Level | New | New Vector Level. You will want to give the levels meaningful names, such as sky. In the Level Palette window, click on the plus sign to add a sky color, and set the color picker to a bluish color for the new color_2.

Drawing Backgrounds

To draw a background, select the Geometric Tool (or press G) on the far left. Make sure that you select Rectangle in the upper section of Shape. Then use the mouse pointer to draw a rectangle that covers the entire viewer window. Activate the Fill Tool (F) in the toolbox. In the Level Palette window, select Vector, and then Linear Gradient (to the right of the green stripe pattern). The rectangle you have just drawn will then become invisible, but this will change as soon as you click on its center, when it will be filled with a simple gradient from left to right.

The green-blue gradient is not yet fit for the purpose of displaying the horizon. In the Level Palette window, you will see the two colors at the bottom. Use the color picker to change them to your liking. You can correct the direction of the gradient using the Angle parameter; in the example, I needed a 90-degree rotation. The Y Position parameter shifts the position of the horizon.

For the cloud layer, select Level | New | New Toonz Raster Level and enter cloud as the name of the level. Then, in the Level palette, use the color picker to change color_1 to white. Then activate the Brush Tool (B), and in the Level Palette, open the Raster tab. In the upper area of the Raster tab, you will find a Clouds brush type, which you can use to paint some beautiful clouds in the sky with the mouse.

Finally, create a third layer of the Vector level type named street. Draw the skyline of a city made of rectangles and triangles here (Shape type Polygon with three Polygon Sides). Now select the Camera Stand View (white rectangle in a circle) in the upper part of the viewer window and zoom out a bit with the mouse wheel. The viewer window should look something like Figure 8.

Figure 8: The viewer window and the adjacent areas with sky, clouds, street, and skyline.

At the moment – to compare it with the analog world, all I have is several slides sitting on top of each other on a table under a camera. What is still missing is the actual animation. To see the animation, switch to the Animation room, where you will see a picture like Figure 9.

Figure 9: The X-Sheet window with the Level Strip window after completing the sky, clouds, street, and skyline.

An animation usually contains several frames. Whereas Figure 9 only defines a single frame, six frames are combined in Figure 10. However, combining frames alone does not create an animation because the individual levels/slides do not change their content or their positions on the table. It makes sense to start by increasing the number of frames with the Smart Fill Handle.

Figure 10: The X-Sheet with the repetition of frames after using the Smart Fill Handle.

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