Which one is mostly for traditional animation?

I’ve known about Toon Boom for a very long time, and now I feel that I’m ready to consider it for my animation. I want to discuss the different features so I can understand which product best fits my needs. My main goal is to create traditional animation; not so much modern animation. This is a general discussion of what I think fits for me, but I’m mostly looking for feedback based off of users’ experience to help me decide.

I’ve been watching a lot of tutorial videos, and the first one that jumps out at me is Storyboard. Sure, its main purpose is storyboarding, but I like the way the layers are set up on the side in a thumbnail view. The interface is most familiar to me; I’m very use to working in drawing software that use uses large layer thumbnails. And I like that the frames each have a changeable duration. I want to know if it’s possible to set each frame to such a small duration, so the entire video runs through like a flipbook. However, something that I don’t think Storyboard has, and correct me if I’m wrong, is bone rigging. I know that bone rigging isn’t necessarily used in traditional animation, but I like to use it to get an idea of how the next frame should appear. In PhotoShop, for example, I would use the “puppet warp” to bend a selection or layer to better interpret a pose. Then I would draw over it in another layer and add that as my second frame. I see Harmony can do that, but I’m unsure if Storyboard has something like that. Or is there perhaps a transform tool that can bend segments of a layer? My last concern is working with effects. It’s not a priority, but it work great to have things like glows and shadows available. Does Storyboard have this?

So I’m trying to figure out which program would be for me. Storyboard has the layer structure I like and stopframe panels, but Harmony has puppet control and effects. Please let me know which one would be better for these tasks. Thank you.

Reading your requirements, you may also want to investigate OpenTOonz, which was used by Studio Ghibli for its feature-length films, and is now available for free as an open source application.

Arguably it is better suited to more traditional animation, but it also includes a puppet warp comparable tool (mesh warp), and supports bone rigging (although not on the same level as Harmony Premium).

It offers great compositing tools, cleanup tools, excellent bitmap to vector conversion, and is very much aimed at traditional animation. I prefer the overall animation experience in OT more than in TB - but it is a very personal experience, of course.

Mind, I am NOT scoffing at ToonBoom: TB has better drawing tools, for example, as well is more suited towards modern animation. And it IS the industry standard in the West.
Still, OT might be of interest to you. I mean: OpenTOonz is free to download and use. Can’t hurt to investigate it for your work. The Mac version is not as stable as the Windows version.

If you do, download the latest build, which has the great onion skinning tools restored (from the commercial Harlequin version). Since its public release a little over a month ago, it has seen many improvements and bugs squashed.

Webpage: https://opentoonz.github.io/e/index.html
Manual: http://www.toonz.com/cgi-shl/download/71H/Toonz%20Harlequin%2071%20User%20Guide.pdf
Forum: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/opentoonz_en

Thank you for your feedback. I actually have heard about OpenToonz very recently, and I was impressed to hear that it was used to create some Studio Ghibli films. I was looking at OpenToonz, TVPaint, Cacani, and many others. Cacani also has many impressive features, but the trial limitations threw away my interest. I do see a lot of positive notes with OpenToonz, but it looks like a very complicated program to use, and the UI doesn’t look very polished. But I can’t really judge since I haven’t used it. I do see that it has the bend tool just like Toonz Harlequin. That can definitely come in handy.

Before I started searching for animation software, Illustrator was my most used program, so vector is surely my passion. Though, I hate Illustrator’s control. Continuing a line from an end anchor point changes the shape on the segment that was already drawn. I want to draw vector more precise but still be able to go back and edit line widths, weight variation, and create flood fills without grouping all paths.

You say TB has better drawing tools than OT. May I ask how?

TB offers many more brush options, simple gradient and texture editors, art layers (layer your art), etc. to name a few. However, OT does have pretty good vector editing tools as well, but I feel the vector drawing tools are a bit too limited in terms of control.

Then again, Toonboom makes a difference between brushes and pencil, which can be inconvenient at times. A brush is a vector outline, while a pencil stroke works from one single centered curve. The two can be converted, btw (with some caveats).

I switched to ClipStudio EX two years ago for my vector inking: outstanding drawing feel, and great editing tools. In Illustrator one thing I DO like is the option to redraw segments of an existing curve. That function is also part of ClipStudio. The vector inking, editing, and refinement tools in CS are really great.

The newest versions of ClipStudio EX support frame-by-frame animation, which simplifies the process for me. I regard OpenTOonz as an “InDesign for animation” equivalent, and prepare my drawings and seqiences in ClipStudio, then import those as high-resolution inks into OT, convert to vector (unfortunately CS cannot export directly to vector) which results in really nice inks with only one centered curve, and use the paint tools in OT to colour the art. The multi-frame painting tools are excellent in OT. Palette control is really good too. For background work I make use of Krita and Blender.

TB, although its drawing tools cannot compete with ClipStudio or Krita in my opinion, are still more than up to the task for most inking and painting jobs. I feel with OT you may find drawing from scratch to be somewhat limiting.

So, if you are not interested in potentially dividing your work between applications, TB may be a better fit. Depends on your workflow and application preferences. I prefer to divide jobs between applications of which I think have the best tool set.

PS Krita also supports frame-by-frame animation now :slight_smile:

Storyboard Pro can’t be comparable to Harmony in terms of animation. It’s not just “mainly” a storyboarding tool, that’s its focus, even though, in theory, you can animate traditionally, adding the necessary panels. It’s just not practical to do full animation since it’s not meant to. As far as I know, it has nothing similar to rigging tools - you would achieve some movements, such as an arm rotating, by putting the arm on a different layer with the pivot on the adequate place, but it’s meant to make storyboards and editing animatics efficiently. You do have transform tools to move, scale, skew and rotate, and you can move or transform layers on the 3D space, but there are no proper “effects”, as far as I know (I haven’t checked version 5). You can use it also for more detailed pre-production doing layouts and even key animation, instead of having it done on different software.

As for what you mention liking on the interface, namely the icons, Harmony can also show them, not by default, on the Xsheet view, on top of the columns, and if you’re doing traditional animation by sending your drawings to the “desk” on the drawing view. It’s part of the flexibility in terms of what you can do with the interface, but it’s not obviously the software’s biggest selling point. To me this is being very complete in a way that even if you have other sw that does some things better - I image that TVPaint might be better in terms of bitmap painting since it’s specialised on bitmap tools, for instance -, but Harmony allows you to scan traditional animation on paper, draw directly, in vector or bitmap, make cut-out animation and add effects. Within certain limits, you can make everything inside the software, all art and backgrounds, composite and export. Naturally you can do more sophisticated things in terms of backgrounds using Photoshop and on effects using After Effects, but, as I said, within certain limits, you can do all that inside Harmony, without the need to import and export assets.

Luis Canau

Oh believe me, I’ve been looking into drawing software for a very long time. I’ve used the latest version of Krita, Clip Studio, Paint Tool SAI, CorelDraw, Serif DrawPlus, and many others. Out of all of those, I would say that Clip Studio has the best vector or “vexel” drawing tools. I love the segment eraser tool, being able to redraw the lines, and other features, but there is no way to create a selection bounding box to select multiple paths at once. The erased regions on the lines are not sharp and crisp, and I’m not sure how to change the weight variations.

I appreciate the help, and I don’t mean to ignore what you said. From my experience, I’m finding that program that are actually made for advanced animation have the most precise drawing tools; with the exception of the awesome Affinity Designer. When I switch to a Mac, I’m getting it.

Thank you for your feedback as well. So it seems that Harmony might be a better choice for me. Although, it is great to hear that Storyboard can be used for traditional animation as long as the frames are set accordingly. I imagine it’s not practical as you mentioned, but then again, very old animation was sort of done that way.

If I understand you correctly, are you saying it’s possible to get the layer interface as in Storyboard into Harmony?

The “operation” tool is used to create a selection bounding box in order to select multiple paths at once, and perform transformations on all the selected paths or to change the brush type and/or colour.

To control local stroke weight variations, two options are available: 1) use the Correct Line Width subtool of the Correct Line tool (and draw over segments to correct them) or use the Control Point subtool, and set it to correct line width. Then click on a point, and drag left and right to change the line width. Transparency for each control point can also be controlled this way.

As for erased line ends not being sharp/scrisp: first, it depends on the type of brush used, of course. Second, when deleting segments in CS, the ends of the paths are not connected, and this may result in small overshoots. To remedy this, one option is to use the connect tool to join the paths, and it is also possible to use the control point tool to move and/or delete these overshoots.

ClipStudio really allows for a lot of precise control.

OpenTOonz also offers a number of interesting vector editing tools. Affinity Designer is nice. It is coming out for Windows soon.

And I would not be so eager to switch to Mac at this point - Apple’s desktop line is rather lackluster, and Apple’s latest OS incarnation is somewhat troublesome. Apple’s OpenGL drivers are wreaking havoc with existing applications.

From the Krita developers:

End of last year, we decided to really go for it and got ourselves a 15" Macbook Pro Retina. The performance difference is amazing, but we still ran into real problems, especially when it came to OpenGL support. We’re not the only ones: Photoshop users also report that a lot of OpenGL-dependent functionality is broken with the latest versions of OSX.

The problem is, in a nutshell, that Apple wants you to port your code to their Metal API. That code would of course never run on Windows or Linux, and Krita is a cross-platform application, so we can’t do that. In order to encourage developers to use Metal, they stripped an important layer from their OpenGL drivers: all the legacy and deprecated functions. As it happens, that’s what Qt uses to draw on OpenGL windows, and we’re using that to draw things like the brush cursor.

Things will hopefully improve soon.

I forgot about those line correcting tool to fix the line width, but the operation tool still doesn’t work me. I can still only select one path at a time. When I click and drag, nothing happens.

That’s unusual to hear about that about the Mac. I have a cousin who works in that field. Well I’ll at least talk to him about it, and I’ll put what you said into consideration. Thanks for the tip. I’ve just been having “horrible” luck with Windows for years.

And yes, I heard that a beta of Affinity is coming to Windows. That’s cool. They deserve to be noticed.

Not the same layer interface exactly. SBP, as a storyboarding tool, allows you to plan the whole project, short, episode, etc., so each panel with its layer stacking is a scene or shot. On the other hand, in Harmony you would (or should) work with a single scene per project. So it’s like expanding something that you have planned/simplified for each scene on SBP. You cannot, for instance, adjust the timing of each layer in relation to the others in SBP as you would in Harmony. Also, while in SBP you can adjust timing defining the number of frames (you can insert the exact number on the panel properties), mostly you would drag the panel to adjust duration. In Harmony your timeline and Xsheet are divided in frames - you can change the timing of the drawings to be on 2s, 3s, etc.

The icons can be used in Harmony but not in the same way of for the same purpose as in SBP, since on the latter you have a general view of the project, while on Harmony you’re basically seeing the whole elements of the scene on the camera view. You can choose to see icons on the top of your Xsheet view or if you use the Desk feature on the Drawing view (selecting a number of drawings, a whole layer, etc., and send them to the “Desk”), which allow to use some specific animation tools like the virtual move or rotation of a drawing - as you would do with a peg bar - or its scaling, to trace over without changing the original drawing.

On the Xsheet you’ll have layer stacking, but on the desk view the icons would be of sequential drawings (in theory you can add drawing from different layers, but in most cases you would work with a single layer to do in-betweening.

Luis Canau