Tips and Tricks


Using Pegs as Timeline Folders

For anyone who has to deal with a large number of tracks in their timeline, I am sure you appreciate the addition of animated elements in TBS V3.5. With the addition of animated elements, which are drawing or image elements that contain their own embedded peg track, you can now greatly reduce the number of element tracks displayed in your timelines because you no longer have to include separate peg tracks for these elements. This is a great improvement in reducing timeline clutter.

But even with this improvement it can still be quite a challenge to manage all the tracks that can end up populating a scene’s timeline for a complex animation. So one of the tricks of timeline clutter management is to use a concept similar to timeline folders. Timeline folders are an organizational device available in Flash to assist in grouping and hiding multiple timeline tracks. “That’s great”, you say, “but this is TBS and not Flash and we don’t have timeline folders”. Well you are correct, we don’t have timeline folders, but we do have those wonderful multipurpose things called pegs. Now pegs are quite useful as containers for keyframe values and you also can use pegs to group elements together to create templates, but there is even an additional way to utilize pegs as timeline folders. When you have a large number of element tracks in your timeline and you want to reduce your clutter just add a peg track. Rename it to some meaningful name like “Peg Folder_1” or whatever makes sense in your scene. Then move this peg to a desired position in your timeline track label listing and attach those tracks to this “peg folder” that you want collected together. You aren’t going to do any keyframing on this “peg folder” but you can expand or collapse it as needed to expose or hide the attached tracks and therefore you have tamed the clutter of track elements in your timeline label listing. A few well thought out and placed “peg folders” can make working with a large number of tracks in your timeline much easier and faster and reduce the constant scrolling through all those tracks. Hope you find this a helpful tip. -JK

Sequential Numbering of Drawings in an Element

When I am doing an animation sequence, I like to have all my drawings sequentially numbered. But one of the problems that I have with TBS is that if I am drawing the animation directly into TBS and I don’t know exactly how many drawings or inbetween drawings I will need, then just letting TBS automatically number the drawings as I make them will cause my cells to be numbered in the actual order of creation which is non-linear as opposed to sequentially numbering them.

When I animate I typically work from a series of key pose drawings and then, as I refine the timing, I go back and fill in the appropriate breakdown drawings and inbetween drawings. This is an iterative process and highly non-sequential. So as an example my exposure sheet column for an element “A” might end up looking something like:

A1, A10, A6, A11, A2, A12, A7, A13, A3, A14, A8, A15, A4, A9, A16, A5.

Ideally I would prefer it to look like:

A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, A6, A7, A8, A9, A10, A11, A12, A13, A14, A15, and A16.

Now technically the numbering isn’t critical because the location of the cells in the exposure sheet controls their position in the viewing of the sequence, but organizationally, for me as the animator, I find it easier to work with my drawings in the exposure sheet when they are numbered sequentially like I would number them if I were doing this as hand drawn animation on paper.

So here is a tip from my personal work flow style which resolves this issue, at least to suit my personal way of working.

When I create a new drawing element, for example element “A”, I make an educated guess as to the maximum number of cells I will need for this element for this scene. So again, for this example, I decide I might need as many as 100 drawings.

My first step is to go to the first cell position of the element A’s column and “right click” and select Insert Cell… from the context menu. In the number box, I enter 100 making sure that Named Cells is checked and Before is selected and click on OK. This causes the element to be populated with 100 cells sequentially numbered from 1 to 100.

Next, I select the first cell in the range and holding the shift key down, I select the rest of the 100 cell range of cells and right click and select Delete Cell from the context menu. You might be wondering why I just deleted the cells I just created but they aren’t really deleted they just no longer show in the exposure sheet.

Now as I animate, I can select the desired numbered cell I want for a drawing by using the Cell tab in the Properties panel. This gives me complete control of my sequential numbering and even if I choose to work on 2’s for example (that’s two exposures for each cell) I can just use the odd numbered drawings and save the even numbers for 1’s when I need to have them. For example:

A1, A3, A5, A7, A9, A11, A13, A15, A17, A19 …

Any unused numbers aren’t a problem as they aren’t included in the published animation. For traditionally trained animators like me, this is a nice way to keep things familiar. I hope you find this tip useful in your work too. -JK

Using Elements Notes and Cell Notes

There is never enough desktop space in TBS when you are working, even if you are lucky enough to have a duel display setup. So there is always a need to use some useful workflow tricks to save space and still have good work organization. One such trick is in naming elements and then utilizing element notes and cell notes for more detailed information.

When I use to do mostly hand drawn animation on paper, I always found ways to abbreviate things and also to write little notes in the margins of my drawings or exposure sheets. So for me, some of those methods just naturally carried over into my TBS work flow. I normally name my elements by single letters of the alphabet. (A, B, C, D,E,F,G ……) and my backgrounds BG with a number, like BG1,BG2. If I later need to add an additional element in between two existing elements, I just add a number to the element name, like A1. This use of alphabet letters just helps me to be more organized and it also makes finding things in a large timeline label list really easy.

Of course, the major drawback to using a single letter for a name is that it doesn’t tell me what the element contains. So to solve that, I add an element note to each element when I create it. I can put as much detail about the element in that note as I need. The note doesn’t clutter up my screen space, but it is there for me to refer to just by “rolling” over the element’s name label in the timeline or the exposure sheet. So if element “B” is “crazy rabbit character”, I will put that in my element note for element “B”.

Now cell notes are also very useful when working. I use them whenever I want to remind myself of some action or detail that I want to add to a drawing at a later time. I tend to animate in an iterative multi-pass approach, which means I may revisit a drawing many times before it is completed. So I use an attached cell note to keep up with things left to be done or to be considered. For example “add additional action with crazy rabbit’s ears starting at this drawing”.

These are just a few tricks I use to save desktop space and stay better organized, I hope you find them useful. -JK

Understanding Pegs and How to Utilize Them in Our Animation Work

As promised here is a sort of tutorial that hopefully will give you some additional information about pegs in TBS. -JK

Thanks a lot JK !!!

It is always a pleasure to know that someone got some value from my work , so thanks. I’d love to reply in French if I could, I’m a big fan of French animation too.

Here is another TBS usage tip:

Help in your personal browser

I absolutely love the TBS help system, it is easily one of the best implementations of a help system ever. The keyword search is outstanding and if you aren’t using it, you are cheating yourself out of a great resource.

Now one complaint I use to have about the TBS help system was that it works in my web browser which used to be Internet Explorer and it was a pain in the neck to have to answer that stupid IE question about allowing the display of an “Active x Object” or whatever. When IE 7.0 came out, I really hated it. So I switched to Firefox which I really like. But I didn’t know how to tell TBS to use Firefox instead of IE for displaying the help system. Actually it is super easy. You just set Firefox up as your default browser for your system and guess what? TBS help is always displayed in the default system browser. Problem solved -JK

Inking in Thick and Thin Lines

One of the often asked questions in forums about 2D animation pertains to line quality in drawings. Now it is important to distinguish between the lines in your initial animation work and the “inked lines” of your cleaned up finals. You shouldn’t be overly focused on line quality (thicks and thins) when you are roughing out your animations, line quality presentation is part of the inking phase not the drawing phase.

Once you have your animation drawn the way you want it, then you can do the clean up and inking usually on a separate cell in a separate drawing element in TBS. If line quality, thick and thin lines to add depth and show volume and weight are important to you, then you want to ink with the brush tool, using a tablet with pressure and tilt sensitivity turned on. In TBS you also want to set up your selected pen in the properties panel to have a range of maximum to minimum of at least 8-12 pixels. I usually work with my “inking” pen at 1 minimum and 12 maximum and smoothing at 3.

But here is the often missed trick to doing great thick and thin inked lines in the digital world. Don’t expect to make the line in a single pass or stroke of the brush tool. Line thickness is built up by making multiple passes and letting the brush tool build thickness on top of your previous strokes. In TBS, when you are in Draw Top Layer mode, each brush stroke of the same color merges into the same color strokes below as they touch each other, which allows you to build up your strokes and make great thicks and thins. This technique is fast and with a bit of practice you will swear it is like using real ink. In TBS you want to be sure you have the Tools>Draw Top Layer toggled on for inking. When you ink your clean ups, focus on your Wacom pen as if you were applying real liquid ink with a fine brush and paint on the thicks and thins with several passes over the line. I hope this “turns on some light bulbs” for some of you guys and gals. -JK

Thanks for that, JK. I knew it was possible, but I love being able to select a sinlge strand of a line. You’ve given me a reason to work the other way, because it is much smoother and easier, and more painterly (not that I’m a painter at all) to get the line as one fluid piece. Also, it’s easier to clean up and fine tune the line this way.

Sometimes It Just Isn’t Working

Using keyed frames to animate in TBS is a great way to get the illusion of motion using fewer individual drawings. A few drawing when properly manipulated along with the camera can produce some very entertaining things. But sometimes after you have been working on making and adjusting a whole series of keyed frame action you just aren’t happy with the results because it just isn’t working like you wanted it to move or the shot is just not right. We all have been there. Unfortunately by that time using the undo command is no longer a good option. Now one tip and a most useful command is to right click on that keyframe you just don’t like, being sure you have selected the appropriate scene planning tool to target the type of attribute you want to change, and from the context menu select remove keyframe. But sometimes you just get to the point where the more you change things the worse it gets. That’s when you want to use a different approach and select remove all keyframes. Yes, it seems a bit drastic but sometimes starting over clean is faster then trying to “patch up” a mess of keyed frames out of control. Hope this helps you in your own work flow. -JK

Instructional Links

I thought it might be useful to post these links in this thread just to be sure that new readers can find them easily. -JK

TBS FAQ Pages at TallGrassRadio Studios

TBS FAQ Behind the Scenes Tips # 1

Cell Selecting, Swapping, and Reuse

Toon Boom Studio has an excellent cell swapping function. For any drawing element you can use the Cells tab on the Properties panel to select and swap cells. You can use a slider to scan through all the cells of that element until you find the desired cell or you can enter a cell’s name in the text box to select your cell. The selected cell is swapped in place of the current cell for the selected frame or range of frames in the time line.

As stated above the Properties panel Cells tab is great for doing cell swapping but, it has a couple of drawbacks that need to be observed. First, when you are on a specific frame and you scan through your existing element’s cells, it automatically swaps the current cell in that frame for the cell that is visible in the Cells tab preview window. That’s good and bad. Good because it is fast and bad because it loses track of the cell that was previously there and if you change your mind, you have to go and find that previous cell. If you have a large number of cells in your element the search process can be slow. Also if you created your cells using a fairly random numbering scheme then knowing where to look in the list, which is numerically ordered, is more difficult. But the swapping capabilities are excellent otherwise.

Here is a trick we use. Open the Library panel and navigate to Animation>Scene for your current scene and select the element you want to utilize. Then in the Library display window you can view all the cells for that element at once. Turn on the View>Thumbnails and you have a fast easy visual way to pick your desired cell. Then when you go to the Cells tab of the Properties window you just type in the cell number of that cell to place it on your desired frame or frame range in the time line. This works extremely well for elements which contain more than a few cells.

Or an even easier way is to use the copy to current frame context menu command directly from the Library display window. Select the desired frame in the time line, select the desired cell in the Library display window, right clicking to open that context menu and select copy to current frame.

So for things like swapping mouth positions you can use the Cells tab on the Properties panel, but for general selecting and placing of cells for reuse the Library panel may be even easier. Hope this is helpful -JK

Some Tips Regarding Element Layers

Pictures are composed of multiple picture elements

The individual pictures also referred to as the frames of a sequence in your animated movie can be composed of a single picture element or a combination of many picture elements. In most animations, the frames are constructed as compositions of many layered picture elements. These picture elements are arranged in an overlapping layered stack. The stacking order of the elements creates the visual effect of depth by allowing some picture elements to overlap other picture elements producing perspective in a 2D picture. In order to position each picture element relative to other elements of that composite picture, there is the need for some means of layer ordering.

Exposure Sheet & Time Line Track List Ordering

Each element on the exposure sheet represents a specific layer in the composite stacking order of each frame. The individual picture elements that are contained in each individual exposure sheet element are called cells. So reading across the exposure sheet, horizontally we can view the stack of cells that make up a single frame, and their relative positions correspond to their overlapping from the top to the bottom of the composite stack of cells. The top of the stack is to the reader’s far left and the bottom of the stack is to the reader’s far right in the TBS exposure sheet. With the exposure sheet, we can describe which cells belong to which elements and we can show how those elements will be ordered in the layered stack. To rearrange this stacking order of elements in the exposure sheet, we select the Toggle Elements List icon at the top of the exposure sheet to display the vertical elements list. The elements are displayed in stacking order from top to bottom in this list where the top of the list is closest to the viewer and the bottom of the list is farthest away. We can select and drag any element to a new position in this list as desired to change its layer position. We can also arrange the layering order of elements in the time line track list. The track list layers are read from top to bottom of the list where the top of the list is closest to the viewer and the bottom of the list is farthest away. We can select and drag any element to a new position in this list as desired to change its layer position. As we will see later there are other factors that affect the order of elements such as 3D space, peg hierarchies and element types.

3D Space

Don’t forget about the use of 3D space in Toon Boom. There is another degree of layering available in Toon Boom beyond ordering in the exposure sheet or the time line track list and it involves using the “z” direction of 3D space also referred to as the Front/ Back position of the element. Elements in the exposure sheet or time line track list all start out with the same Front/Back position in 3D space. Essentially they are all on the same picture plane even though they are in a stack. So their relative layering order can be adjusted by positioning an element forward or backward by a fractional amount.

The Front/Back position of an element can be changed by using the scene planning “Select” tool (6). Select your object. Go to the Properties panel under the Drawing tab change the offset for the Z-direction which is the last Offset input box to the viewer’s right. Just a slight change of a .01 units either F (front) or B (back) is all that is required.

You can also move elements back and forth along the Z axis while in Camera View. Useful keyboard shortcuts are [Alt] + [Down Arrow] to bring the element one increment closer to the camera, and [Alt] + [Up Arrow] to push the element one increment back away from the camera. Using these shortcuts in Camera View will move elements in .01 increments. Again, you need to use the scene planning “Select” tool to select the desired element in the Camera view panel before trying to adjust its Front/Back position.

The Impact of Peg Hierarchies on Layering

Elements can be grouped in hierarchies using parent child and sibling relationships using pegs. (To learn more about pegs read this article: Understanding Pegs.) When elements are arranged in a pegged hierarchy they can not be moved above their parent element in the exposure sheet or the time line track list. But they can have their layering order adjusted within the constraints of the hierarchy to which they are a member. Sometimes this is not enough to get an element to the desired layer for presentation in which case just apply the technique described above for adjusting an element’s Front/Back position in 3D space.

Element Types

To make an element appear in front of or behind all the elements in your scene, you can set the type of that element as either a Foreground or Background element. For example, if you have a background image, you can set the type of the element as a Background element and Toon Boom Studio will always place it behind all the other elements, even if another element’s Front/Back position places it behind the background element.

There are three possible element types: Normal (default): the layer order is determined by the order of the elements in the exposure sheet or the time line and its Front/Back position in 3D space. Foreground: this type of element will always appear in front of other elements no matter what their Front/Back position is in 3D space. Background: this type of element will always appear behind other elements no matter what their Front/Back position is in 3D space. When you have two or more Foreground/Background elements, their order in the time line track list determines their final layering order relative to the other Foreground or Background type elements.

I hope you found these tips helpful. -JK

Using Libraries in Toon Boom Studio

In TBS, libraries are a great tool but they are often not intuitively obvious in how they are utilized. Libraries are storehouses for animation materials also referred to as assets. An asset can be a single cell or a sequence of cells or an entire element of cells, or a sequence of frames containing multiple elements, or even an entire animated scene including all its various types of elements even sound.

Let’s begin with a conceptual understanding of how TBS organizes and provides access to assets in a project. Each time you create a new scene, it is just like you created and labeled an artwork folder to hold that scene’s assets. Then each time you create an element for your scene it is just like you created and labeled an element folder to hold your element’s assets and placed that element folder inside your scene folder. And each time you create a cell in an element it is just like you created and labeled a picture on a sheet of paper and placed it inside your labeled element folder. So ignoring the exposure sheet and the time line for just a minute, all of these assets exist and are accessible in the library in the animation catalog. You can go into the library and view your catalogs of assets and access those assets directly. Even if you remove cells from the exposure sheet those cells are still there and accessible in your animation catalog.

So the library is subdivided into catalogs. There are basically two types of catalogs available, local catalogs and global catalogs. The terms local and global are derived from computer programming terminology so they may be unfamiliar to most people . Local assets are only available in the specific scene or project in which they exist. The local assets in one project aren’t accessible when you are working in a different project. Global assets are universally accessible to all scenes and all projects.

When you deposit an asset into the library you create a template. It is referred to as a template because, like its name suggests, you can use it to be the pattern for new animation assets. Now you are automatically creating animation catalog assets in your library store just by creating them while you are working on your scenes. But suppose you want to share assets among other scenes in your project. All you have to do to make an asset easily accessible for other scenes in the same project is to drag the asset into a catalog inside your libraries local catalog. It is as simple as drag and drop. And if you want to share an asset among more than one project you drag and drop the asset in to a catalog inside your global library catalog.

Now that you understand storage and access of library assets, let’s talk about ways to use these assets. You can use library assets as patterns to create new animation assets or they can effectively be the animation asset itself. What’s the difference? When you drag or copy a library asset into the time line and exposure sheet you are using the library asset as a pattern to create a new and independent animation asset. Notice that it is uniquely named different from the source pattern template’s name. You can modify that new asset and there is no effect on the template from which you patterned it. If you go to the library asset itself it is unchanged. And if after you use a library asset as a pattern for other animation assets and then you go in and edit the library asset itself, it has no effect on the previously patterned copies, those changes only will show up in new patterned copies. But if you want the library asset to act as the animation asset itself so that you can edit it centrally in one place in the library and effect all occurrences of that asset in your project or projects, then you don’t want to copy the library asset as a pattern, but you instead apply the asset as a “linked” resource. Linked assets must be placed in “media” elements only, where as copied assets can be moved to drawing or image elements and modified independently.

One last tip on how to view and use your library assets, these assets can be thought of as “permanent” or as “temporary”. You can drag animation assets into global or local catalogs with the intention of keeping them for a long time or just as a convenient place to temporarily place them for quick and easy access as patterns as you work. Once you have finished using these temporary assets you can delete them from your catalogs so you don’t have to deal with a bunch of unneeded clutter. The patterned copies aren’t effected. Just don’t delete “linked” resources because that can have disastrous effects.

Addendum Notes on "how to save a cut out character as a template"

1. Create elements for your character’s cut out parts

2. Arrange these cut out part elements in a hierarchy of parent-child relationships (independent or integrated pegs as you choose) This is often called rigging.

3. Attach the rigged character to a top level parent peg, usually an independent peg element as opposed to an integrated peg in a drawing element.

4. Collapse the character’s hierarchy by collapsing the top parent peg (this is done using the triangle next to the parent peg’s track label in the timeline to hide all the attached tracks in its hierarchy.)

5. Open the library panel and navigate to the catalog of your choice for the destination of the template you want to save.

6. Go back to the timeline and click on & drag your character’s collapsed parent peg to your chosen library catalog. You will see the drag icon turn to a plus when the drag reaches the catalog and is accepted then release your mouse button and your rigged character is now saved as a reusable template.

7. To reuse the character just find it in the library catalog where you stored it and click on & drag the character to the timeline. If you only want to reuse it in a different scene of the same project you can use a local library catalog but if you want it for reuse in other projects use a global library catalog.

Hopefully this has given you some insight into library usage and its value, there are more aspects to utilizing library assets effectively but these are the basics. -JK

:slight_smile: thanks, JK - TGRS ! great Job !

Do you mind if I translate your “Tips & Tricks” in french, for a french forum ?

thanks :wink:

Hello Manelle, la forme? :wink:

Bonne idée que tu as là, et je pense que Jk se fera un plaisir


Thierry “Digicod”

Je suis honoré que vous voudriez pour traduire mon écriture et j’approuve pleinement votre souhait pour faire ainsi. Merci

Translated in English:
I am honored that you would want to translate my writing and I fully support your wish to do so. Thanks

Je ne parle pas français mais heureusement il y a de logiciel de traduction pour la langue altérée.

I don’t speak French but fortunately there is translation software for the language impaired. -JK

Hello Digicod :slight_smile:

La forme, oui, et toi ?

Ce topic est une vraie mine d’or :slight_smile:

EDIT : ah… thanks a lot, JK - TGRS :slight_smile:

So I m gonna start working on it… I’ll mention you, of course :wink:

thanks again :slight_smile:

Effectivement cela serait super.


C’est sur, Monsieur JK est vraiment sympa et aide énormement
de personne sur ce forum. Encore merci à toi JK!!! :wink:

Merci à toi également pour tes traductions! j’avais demandé à
Mathieu s’il pouvait traduire également les articles, mais je
crois qu’il n’a pas trop le temps malheureusement.
Je te conseil également d’aller sur le site de JK.

Mr JK is really sympathetic and helps enormously of anybody
on this forum. Still thank you with you JK!!! :wink:

Thank you with you also for your translations! I had asked
Mathieu if it could also translate the articles, but I believe that
it unfortunately does not have too time.

Sorry for my bad english… :-<br />
Thierry “Digicod”

Great replies, but we really should use a different thread because this one is best reserved for Tips and Tricks posts. The forum admin has kindly “Thumb Tacked” it to keep it at the top of this section and easy to locate.

As to translations I use BABELFISH which is free and available to access on the internet. -JK