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Toon Boom Studio FAQ Pages - Misc. Tips

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Setting Up Individual Color Guide Palettes

One great feature in TBS is the color management system. And one of the really useful things you can do in planning a production is to create individual color guide palettes for each of your characters. It is easy to go to the properties panel on the color tab and create a new palette. Then you will want to rename the new palette to something meaningful. Like "Professor" if that is the name of your character. Then you can begin to populate the "Professor" color guide with the colors you need for this character. With the (+) plus icon you can add a new color swatch and then name that swatch. For example "coat" or "trousers" or "hair". Then to set the actual color for the swatch you can use the color picker panel to select the color you want. Perhaps you want to duplicate a color from a different swatch on another palette. You can pick up any existing swatch color from any drawing and assign it to your new swatch by using the dropper that is on the color picker panel. Just drag the dropper over the desired color on an existing drawing and click on that color. Be sure you use the dropper that is on the color picker panel and not the dropper that is on the tool selection panel as they function differently. If you don't have the colors you want on an existing drawing then just create a temporary drawing and paint a stroke for each color you want to copy from your other palettes. Now when you are building your new palettes you can pick up these colors and assign them to your new swatches with the method described above. Learning to build color guide palettes is simple and very useful and you will be glad you took the time because it makes the painting of your characters much faster and easier later on.  Don't be lazy, take the time to name your color guide palettes meaningful names and name each swatch a meaningful name also. You will be glad you did.

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Viewing the Drawings in an Element

Each element in Toon Boom Studio can contain one or more drawings. The term cell is interchangeable with the term drawing. Each cell or drawing has a title. For example if an element is identified as “c” then one of the drawings in element “c” might be c-12. In classical cel-animation drawing layers were often given alphabetical letter designations such as “a”, “b” and “c” and drawing assigned to that layer were numbered so the titling scheme was layer + drawing number, hence layer “C” and drawing number 12 becomes drawing c-12.

You can think of the collection of drawings contained in an element as that element’s stack of drawings. Again, in classical animation, physical drawings were often organized into stacks of drawings and kept in protective folders. Each column on an exposure sheet represents a cell layer for presentation beneath an animation camera to be photographed.  Several cell layers were combined to produce a composed picture. The order of photography was sequenced by assigning a frame number for each composed picture. So in setting up animation art for photography a drawing would be assigned to a cell layer (an element) and to a shooting frame sequence number, a frame. In TBS sometimes a drawing is assigned to an element on the exposure sheet and then that drawing is deleted from the exposure sheet for some reason. The drawing is not really deleted from the animation set; it just no longer has any current frame assignments. The drawing is still kept in the folder for that element to which it belongs and it is available for reassignment to a frame for that element some time in the future.

You might want to view the stack of drawings for an element. To do this you can go to the library panel [Window>Show Library] and find the appropriate scene for this animation set that contains the element you want to review. In the display area of the library panel for the selected element you will see a list of the drawing titles contained in that element. You can <right click> and choose View Thumbnails to see thumbnail pictures of the drawings. These are all the drawings assigned to this element even if they currently are not visible on the exposure sheet. 

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Deleting a Drawing from the Animation Set

As previously discussed, when you delete a drawing from an element column on the exposure sheet you aren’t really deleting that drawing from the animation set but just un-assigning the drawing from a frame. The drawing still is part of that element’s stack of drawings in the element’s folder. If you want to actually delete the drawing from the animation set, then you go to the library panel to view the drawings for the desired element as described above: and select the drawing and <right click> and choose Delete Drawing. This actually removes the drawing completely from the animation set and it is gone forever.

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Element and Cell Notes

Here are a couple of tips on using two simple but very useful features of Toon Boom Studio. These features are element notes and cell notes. You can attach a text note to any element and you also can attach an individual text note to any cell. As a long time Flash user I always wanted to be able to have features like these so they come as exciting additions. There are plenty of uses for cell notes. Just to name a few, they are great for planning and layout notes to record places in a sequence where you want to include special actions (overlaps, antics, follow through, drag etc.), body language or facial expressions to match lip sync. Cell notes are also a great place to put timing notes and special effects notes and sound effects notes. You can put an individual note on any cell on any frame in your exposure sheet. To read the note all you have to do is mouse over that frame cell location and it shows as a “hint”.

This next tip is a real screen space saver and also a great organizational technique. When we create a scene we often have a significant number of elements both static elements like drawing and image elements and dynamic elements like pegs and effects. It can become quite confusing if things aren’t labeled. Now viewing thumbnails is a helpful practice but it takes up too much screen real-estate. So as an old Flash user I learned to label my levels with descriptive labels. You can name your elements descriptively too, but there is a drawback. Descriptive names take up space both for your time line tracks and particularly on the exposure sheet. You need to be descriptive so that you can quickly find the desired element when you are working. But even in a dual display environment there just never is “enough” screen space. So here’s a great tip. Label your elements as simply as possible with just one or two letters and/or numbers. I use numbers (1, 2... 10, 11, 12, etc.) You could also add a letter for the element type if you choose (D,I,S,M) But when I create a new element the first thing I do after assigning it a short simple name is to create an attached element note that is very descriptive of that element. These notes show as an icon next to the track name in the time line and the element name in the exposure sheet. And just the same as cell notes, when you mouse over the element name its element note shows as a “hint”. You can have very descriptive notes and at the same time save tons of precious screen space. And don’t neglect to use this technique for those pegs and effects tracks too. It helps you stay very organized and will save you time as you work.

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