Traditional Paperless Animation with Essentials

Out of curiosity, could one be able to make paperless frame by frame animation with Toon Boom Essentials? (Some people have suggested that Advanced is a better choice for animation.)

I’ll might just get an annual subscription, just to be on the safe side. Though I want to ask about the “Bitmap Brushes” and "Pressure Sensitivity’ things you mentioned. Would those things have any importance to making frame by frame animation? (I’m still new to this whole thing.)

Could bitmap brushes be used to create, say for example, a rough version of a sketch or animation?

As for pencil pressure sensitivity, I don’t really know what you mean. Would that mean I wouldn’t be able to make custom pencil strokes? Or is that have something to do with using a graphics tablet?

You could but there are a number of features facilitating the process which are not included in Essentials. If you can swing it get at least Advanced.

I might, but at the time of writing this I don’t really have the funds for the software yet. Plus I am still at a crossroads with how I should purchase it. (Either annual or permanent license.)

To be honest, I just want to have the best strategy before I dive in head first into this software. I don’t know if I should go with the basics or the middle child on this one. (Not going ANYWHERE near Premium in any capacity.)

My idea was that I’ll get a permanent license and just go with that. What do you think?

With Essentials, you don’t have bitmap brushes, only vector, and the pencil has no pressure sensitivity, only the brush. You also miss advanced tools, such as shift and trace, so you’ll get only the basic onion skin features. But then, it’s quite cheap by comparison with the other editions.
This comparison chart is plainer and less detailed with each version, it gives you a general idea: https://www.toonboom.com/products/harmony/try

As for a perpetual license, note that if you don’t have support attached to it you’ll have to pay for upgrades which are not cheap (more than 50% the price of the software, around 60%, probably, for Premium). In some cases - if you’re trying for a while or don’t work full time or permanently - a subscription might be a good option: you only pay the time in which you use the software, you can use it, say, 4 months a year only, and you’ll always have the most recent version.

A permanent license can be suitable if you are absolutely certain you are going to invest the time and energy using the software. There is a substantial investment of money up front to consider and definitely invest in at least the Silver Support plan so future version upgrades are less costly (they are included in the plan).

If you went with the subscription instead of a permanent license you could use Premium or Advanced and skip random months. During the off months you could read and watch tutorials. You may save a few dollars paying up front for an annual subscription if you know you will be using the software consistently. However if there are months like the holiday season or vacations or you just know you could get away with managing your time skipping months you could go with a monthly subscription and come out ahead as well.

Pressure sensitivity is where the thickness of the line varies depending on how much pressure you put on the tip as you draw. It adds expression to the linework but you might not like the result anyway. A lot of animation has even thickness in the line quality. But if you are going after the traditional look of hand drawn frame by frame varying line thickness is an inherent quality achieved with traditional pencils and pens. You would need a graphics tablet and stylus to utilize pressure sensitivity. You need one anyway to draw frame by frame animation unless you plan on drawing everything on paper and scanning it into the software after.

Bitmap brushes lend to a natural/traditional to even extremely stylized art style depending on what you would like to achieve.

One other feature missing in Essentials is art layers. There are 4 layers to a frame. These are very useful for a variety of applications.

Alright, thanks!

I might just try to invest in the money for an annual licensing for Advanced. I already have a graphics tablet and doing well with what I have learned. Although I would like to try a few more things with the brush tool. Mostly trying to have a more sharper edge for certain parts of the scene. Is there a way to tweak the brush strokes for sharper edges? Or would that require more strokes for that?

I am not sure what you mean by sharper edge. There is antialiasing which smooths the edge of its pixeled roughness. Can you elaborate/describe in more words what you are looking for?

Some brushes are designed to look a certain way, some intentionally have feathery softened qualities.

Basically adding custom brush strokes for a more sharper look. Rather than simply ending with rounded edged. (Unless that would mean I would have to use pressure sensitivity.)

Anything other than uniformity would require pressure sensitivity. Without it there would be no message going to the stroke telling it anything unique.

Okay. How do I set that up? And does it affect the brush tool or the pencil tool?

Do you mean set up pressure sensitivity?

If so, you just select a preset that supports it. Most brushes support pressure sensitivity and the exceptions are titled “fixed thickness” (for pencils) or “fixed width” (for brushes). You can then use the Maximum Size slider to dial in the maximum size that can be produced when the most pressure is applied.

To add to what o0Ampy0o said, you can use an available preset or configure your own based on an existing one. The maximum size, as the name suggests, sets the maximum size of your brush, and the minimum size (you have to click on the triangle to access advanced configuration) will define the pressure range, that is, the difference between the thinner and the thicker line. The results will change depending on the settings of your tablet, if the slider is more to the Soft or to the Firm side. You should try the setting that feels more natural to you. The last version of Harmony also allows to make advanced configurations related to the way pressure works. Note that Toon Boom only supports officially Wacom, but many people seem to use others brands with good results (but, judging by the forums, there’s also a number of issues).

As for the vector/bitmap issue, since a couple of versions ago, you can also use bitmap textures in vector lines with the brush tool. There should be no perceptible difference between a line drawn with a bitmap brush and a line drawn with a textured vector brush configured exactly the same way, but drawing might feel different. In general, bitmap is better to sketch and draw freely, while vector is better to drawn well-defined clean lines. Using a vector line will allow you to adjust the curves with the Centreline Editor and the colour used can be changed on-the-fly just by editing the colour pot used. Bitmap is plain pixels so you can only draw and erase. Also, vector can be zoomed if necessary (though using bitmap textures you will be limited to its resolution). If you want to zoom a bitmap you’ll have to plan ahead and create it with the necessary proportional resolution, but you can also adjust the pixel density proportionally - if you set it to 200% you will be able to zoom 2x before the pixels start to show aliasing.

Ok. I currently have a Intuos Wacom tablet. Am I able to get pressure sensitivity with this?

Yes.

Ok.