Z Depth

Hi - I have a question regarding cut out animation. . .

I am using Mac OS 10.4.11, Toon Boom Studio 4.0.

In the Tips & Tricks article on creating cut out characters it suggests using Z-Depth to make a child element appear in front of its parent. . . this doesn’t seem to be working for me. Using ALT + the arrow keys doesn’t seem to allow me to change the F/B value - is this new in 4.5?

Furthermore, I can manually enter a value for the child in the Properties to move it in front of the parent, but it does not work until the value is 0.16 F or higher. This changes the size of the child relative to the parent.

Is there any way to avoid these problems?

Also, I’m confused about the use of designating an element as Foreground/Background/Normal. . . how does this work when different pegs in a heirarchy are assigned different values?

The reason I ask these questions is to determine how you would solve a problem like this: if you have a character and the heirarchy is hand attached to forearm, forearm to upper arm, and upper arm to torso, how would you layer the elements so they appear in reverse order (ie, hand above forearm, forearm above upper arm, upper arm above torso).

Any help would be appreciated - I’m just getting started with cut out animation, and although I seem to understand all the other aspects of creating characters, this one still has me stumped (hiding joints, etc).



Try hold down option+command and the up and down arrows…

Switch to the Rotation-Tool, hold down option+command, when you see the double-arrow
drag up or down for backward or forward movement…
(watch the values in the Properties-Panel…)

I would rather prefer and enter the values manually for the “Z-depth”, using increments of “0.01 to 0.05, + or -” …

Those increments are very “minute”, so you might not see any change in your case until when you reach a higher value (0.16)…?

If you use Foreground or Background, this will overrule any position value of your element… it will appear in front or behind regardless…

Regarding your arm, e.g. torso: 0.00, upper arm: 0.01, forearm: 0.02, hand: 0.03…
(this puts the arm in front of the torso, use “-” will put the arm behind the torso…)
be aware, if the arm is in the hierarchy, everything below moves with it…

Please, have a look at JK’s excellent “Cut Out Character” tutorials:



Otherwise, here is a very simple video demonstration:


Hi Nolan,

Thanks very much for the advice. I skimmed through JK’s tutorial quickly after posting my message last night. . . the idea of changing Z-depth values manually makes sense and seems easy. . . but something weird seems to be happening when I try it. I have the parent set to 0.0, but the child doesn’t move in front of it until I set the child value to 0.16 or higher. If I set a value of 0.01 for the child, it’s still appearing behind the parent, even though it has a higher Z-depth.

I guess my main question is why something with a higher z-depth than another element still appears behind it until the difference is made greater. Is it a glitch? In JK’s tutorial he sets the wing to 0.01 and the body to 0.0 and it works. . .

Thanks for all your help, I really appreciate it.


Hi. Is very convenient to use the properties panel in the settings of the z position of each element. This position z will always be relative to their own hierarchy, then the z position of the group will be established, in turn, among the various groups. If a hierarchy, the elements are in higher layers will be in front of the lower layer. This can only make it look good without changing the position z in the group, which should only be changed if a child of that hierarchy should appear in front of its parent. It is not convenient to use z ranges using large (0.1) because there is a risk that gaps occur when the camera is close or narrow angle (3d effect separation of planes). Normal, Background and foreground element affects a global connection to the groups. If your group is more of a foreground element prevails on the higher hierarchy. The settings of the z axis should be progressive in the order of one hundredth (0.01) and can be checked by extending the top or side view. I hope it will be useful. Yoryo

Hi Yoryo,

Thanks for your help. . . the trouble I’m actually having is that a small value like 0.01 is for some reason not actually changing the layering order - when from what I understand, that small value should work.

I don’t know where I’m going wrong.


To use the keyboard keys to set the z direction display depth be sure that you click on the scene select tool in the tool palette and then click on the actual bounding box of your desired drawing object to give it focus before using the keyboard shortcut.

As to the display itself, be sure that you are not selected on any timeline track other than perhaps the camera track when checking the actual display order. TBS displays the currently selected track on top unless you have that feature turned off in preferences (V4.5 only) so that can fool you into thinking things are not displaying correctly. Let me know if I can be of additional help -JK

Make a test in a new scene composed only of three simple elements, drag the second layer within the first and third in the second. All layers in Normal. Now reverse the natural order of layers by changing the properties of the z axis. Assign at the lowest layer 0.02F, at the half layer 0.01F and top layer 0.00. Now look at the result. If the order is inverse, everything is normal, and should also be visible on top or side view. This is the normal result and should work. If not, may be any computer error. Good luck. Yoryo

Hi Yoryo. . .

That’s a perfect fix! It worked exactly as you said it would.

JK, thanks for your comment too. . . I originally was wondering why Yoriyo’s advice mysteriously worked for me in a new file, but perhaps I had one of the objects selected and that was what was throwing me off in my original file. Nice to have a possible explanation rather than not knowing what went wrong

Anyway, this clarifies the issue for me completely! Thanks Nolan, Yoryo, and JK.