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How to Animate a Twirling Girl in Toon Boom

Final product image
What You’ll Be Creating

In this tutorial, we will walk through the steps in animating a twirling character using Toon Boom Stage 10. We will learn how to draw rough poses, how to polish them, and how to transform them into a smooth, seamless animation!

Although we will be using Toon Boom Stage 10 to walk through the process of creating the animation, you can still learn something from this tutorial even if you are a user of a different program.

Let’s get started!

1. How to Start a Document in Toon Boom

Step 1

Make a new scene in Toon Boom! Before we start animating, we want to make some personal modifications to our settings.

Go to the Scene tab on the program, and select Scene Settings.

For this animation, we want these specifications:

  • Resolution: 1080×1080 (you may adjust this if you like!)
  • Frames per seconds: 12
Specifications for the scene settings

Step 2

You want to take note of the following tools as we will be using them throughout the process!

  1. Drawing space (Camera view).
  2. Timeline: we will be inserting our drawing frames here.
  3. Brush: for drawing.
  4. Pencil: for drawing.
  5. Eraserfor erasing.
  6. Paint bucket: for coloring.
  7. Onion skin: use this to make the previous and next drawings visible.
  8. The number on the lower right of the screen: tells us what frame on the timeline is selected.
  9. The ‘+‘ sign: select this to add layers on our timeline.
  10. The ‘‘ sign: use this for deleting layers.
  11. Play button: plays the animation.
Tools in Toon Boom that are essential for animating

2. How to Sketch the Basic Animation

Step 1

First, we want to sketch the rough drawings for our four key poses, which will consist of the following:

  1. Front view
  2. Left side view
  3. Back view
  4. Right side view

It’s fine to keep your drawings rough. Right now, just loosen up! Use very basic shapes and
strokes while sketching the framework of our character.

Even though we are only at the rough stage, we still want to make
the drawings proportional to each other. So use guidelines to keep the size and volume
consistent. It doesn’t have to be perfect; we’ll save the
perfecting for later.

Side by side, they look like these:

Four key poses

Step 2

Let’s start getting a little technical here since we want to insert our drawings in the proper place and order.

So on our timeline:

  1. Sketch the front view on frame 1.
  2. Extend the drawing by selecting frame 17 and pressing F5.
  3. Delete the drawings on frames 9-16.
  4. Sketch the back view on frame 9.
  5. Delete the drawings on frames 5-8.
  6. Sketch the left side view on frame 5.
  7. Delete the drawings on frames 13-16.
  8. Sketch the right side view on frame 13.
  9. Delete the drawings on frames 3-4, 7-8, 11-12, 15-16.
  10. Insert the in-betweens (detailed in the next step!).

Note: enable the Onion Skin Tool so you can see the previous and next frames while drawing!

Setting up our drawings on the Timeline of our Toon Boom scene

Step 3

When our four key poses are complete, we want to insert
some in-betweens. Let’s call them IB for short.

Let’s try inserting an IB between the front view and side view of our
character. We want to imagine our character facing in a three-quarter view.

First, enable the onion skin so you can see the previous frame (1) and next frame (2).

Estimate the middle of the pathway, and sketch the pose
according to the feeling in your gut.

Start with the head (3), then the torso (4), the right arm (5), the left arm (6), and the skirt (7).

It takes a lot of practice, but be
reassured that trial and error is part of the animating process!

Adding a rough in-between

Step 4

You want to insert an IB
between the rest of the key poses until you have a total of eight drawings!

Review the drawings you have so far.

On your timeline, these are the drawings that should be present in the corresponding frame numbers:

  • 1: front view
  • 3: IB
  • 5: left side view
  • 7: IB
  • 9: back view
  • 11: IB
  • 13: right side view
  • 15: IB
  • 17: front view again
Four key poses and in-betweens

Step 5

Hit the play button on your program to assess your rough animation.

Now we have a rough animated turnaround of our character. Yay!

Rough character animation

3. How to Clean Up Your Animation

In this part, we are going to be polishing and perfecting
the poses of our character.

Notice that in our current animation, the drawings are very loose and basic. In
the next steps, we’re going to be stricter with the placement of each
stroke. We want to carefully retain a consistent volume in each drawing.

Overview of the Changes

Let’s start with an overview of the whole of Part 3:

  1. Create a new layer for our cleaned-up animation.
  2. On frame 1, draw the final look of the front view. We will heavily rely on this drawing for creating the rest of the poses in order to maintain consistency.
  3. Extend the drawing by selecting frame 17 and pressing F5.
  4. Delete frames 9-16.
  5. On frame 9, draw the back view. Use the rough drawing and the front view as references.
  6. Delete the drawings on frames 5-8.
  7. On frame 5, draw the left side view.
  8. Delete the drawings on 13-16.
  9. On frame 13, draw the right side view.
  10. Insert IBs in all the remaining odd-numbered frames (3, 7, 11, 15).
  11. Insert IBs in all the even-numbered frames (2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16).
Overview of the Clean-up and In-between stage

Let’s get a little deeper into the details of the steps!

Step 1

So the first thing you want to do is finalize your front view.

  • (Optional but recommended) Create guidelines for the eyes, torso, skirt, arms, etc. to help you in estimating the placement of each limb/part.
  • Draw the rest of the key poses using all the available drawings as references. You want to be able to see your guidelines, the rough drawing, and the finalized front view as references.
  • If you get confused by all the drawings visible at the same time, feel free to hide some of them now and then. Just keep in mind that the final drawings should be cohesive with each other in terms of volume, alignment, etc.

Note: Remember that you’re looking at multiple drawings for reference, right? The reference drawings you should prioritize are the final poses! It’s totally fine if your drawing does not follow the roughs very nicely.

Cleaning up your rough drawings

Step 2

Next is in-betweening again! This process is quite grueling,
since you need a total of 12 IBs after this step.

Let’s start by drawing the IB between the Front view and Side view.

You want to be able to see the following on your blank frame:

  1. Front view; previous drawing
  2. Side view; next drawing
  3. Rough in-between
  4. Guidelines for the body part sizes

You might get confused again since you’re looking at many drawings all at once. So feel free to hide any of the drawings from time to time.

Then draw the IB by estimating the placement of each stroke based on the visible reference drawings.

How to draw an in-between

Step 3

Now you want to insert IBs in the rest of the
poses until you have a total of 16 drawings! Remember, frame 17 is just a repeat of frame 1.

Adding in-betweens

Step 4

Hit the play button and assess your cleaned-up frames!

Finally! The body animation is finished!

Cleaned up character animation

4. How to Animate Hair

Step 1

In this step, we will study the concept behind a wave cycle in animation! This is important to achieve the fluid and smooth look we want for the hair.

Here is a very basic exercise of making a simple wave cycle:

The goal is simply to sway a strand in this direction and that. You want to imagine a ball pushing down on one side of the strand, making it curve. Then you want to imagine a second ball pushing down on the other side of the strand, making it curve again in the opposite direction.

Note: in the image below, the first drawing is the same as the last drawing

Frame breakdown of a basic wave cycle

Step 2

Practice making a wave cycle animation.

  • Make your first drawing of an ‘S’ curve. This is your first and fifth frame.
  • Make your second drawing of the same ‘S’ curve, but flipped in the other direction. This is your third frame.
  • Make an IB between frame 1 and 3.
  • Make another IB between 3 and 1.
  • Add as many IBs as you like to make the animation slower. (Note: more IBs = longer duration of your animation!)
How a basic wave cycle works

Step 3

Study this next sample of a wave cycle and try making it for yourself.

Here, you want to make the top end of the line the pivot point. The other end will be free to move around, so you can imagine that it has a wider range of movement towards the bottom.

Another sample of a wave cycle

Again, you can try imagining balls pushing down on either side of the strand.

You can add in-betweens when you are satisfied with the key frames and the general movement.

In the image below, you can see:

  1. the wave cycle with imaginary balls pushing the strand on either side 
  2. the wave cycle with added in-betweens
Sample of wave cycle with imaginary objects pressing on either side

Step 4

Now that we have grasped the concept of animating a wave cycle, let’s try animating the hair of or character!

So first, you want to animate a wave cycle in the form of one line. The pivot point on the upper end of the line should be fixed on the top of the girl’s head.

Then you want to draw a volumized shape based on the line movement.

Optional: You may add fluff and details to the hair once you have the basic framework done.

Note: The hair on this animation is done on a separate drawing layer on our timeline.

Wave cycle principle applied in animating the hair

5. How to Add Color to the Animation

Now this is the easier part of the process!

Step 1

The animation is done, so simply close all the gaps in your drawings using your pencil or brush tool and erase the loose ends.

Then use the Paint Bucket and color away!

This is where the Colour tab comes in. Create your color palette and fill in the shapes with the colors of your choice! You can edit the colors any time.

The numbers below indicate the tools you can find on your Toon Boom interface:

  1. Colour tab.
  2. Select the ‘+‘ sign to add a new color.
  3. Double click the color to edit it.
  4. Multiwheel Colour: this pops out after double-clicking the color. Use this to adjust your hue, saturation, and value.
Toon Boom features used for coloring your drawings

Step 2

Take note that the hair is on a separate layer below the character animation. On the front view of the animation (1), it looks fine! But on the back view (2), it’s wrong.

This is what the hair should currently look like in the front and back view

So what you want to do is create a new layer on top of the character animation. Then copy and paste the hair frames that should go on top of the character. Make the necessary tweaks here and there.

Hair overlay

6. How to Animate Sparkles

Step 1

Animating the sparkles is easy. You only need six drawings for this.

  • On the first, second, and third frames, draw a small diamond growing bigger.
  • On the fourth frame, cut the diamond into five small diamond shapes.
  • On the fifth and sixth frames, simply make the shapes smaller and smaller.

Observe the figure below to understand better!

Frame breakdown of sparkle animation

Step 2

Using the Paint Bucket, color the sparkle however you like!

We want the sparkles to appear in multiple areas and frequencies throughout the animation.

Observe the following steps based on the visual demonstration:

  1. Duplicate / copy and paste the sparkles layer and rearrange the frames on the timeline (it should look similar to the timeline in the visuals below).
  2. Long-click the Arrow Shaped Tool.
  3. Select the “Reposition All Drawings” tool—this allows you to simultaneously move all of the frames of your drawing layer.
  4. From the original position of your sparkle layer, drag the object to the spot of your choice.
  5. This is the new position of your sparkle layer.
Distributing multiple sparkles all over your animation

7. How to Export Your Animation

With your finished animation, you now want to export your video.

Go to File > Export > Movie. Select Browse to pick a folder where you want to save your output.

Make sure the frame range starts at 1 and ends at 16.

Click OK and you’re good to go!

You’ll have a .MOV file which you can convert into whatever format you like using the video editing software of your choice.

Exporting your animation on Toon Boom

That’s a Wrap! Great Job!

Animating a loop of a twirling girl takes about 16 drawings, but it sure is heavy work! You need to know the basics of human anatomy, particularly what a pose looks like from the front, back, sides, and everything in between. You also need to understand the principles behind a wave cycle in animation to create that flowy hair.

Just remember to start rough on your animation, and then gradually refine details as you go along! You don’t want to get burned out from focusing all your effort on drawing a single frame. In animation, all frames are important, so it’s best to equally distribute your effort in each of them through a systematic process.

Just keep practicing, keep learning, and keep having fun!

Final animation output