Course: Animating Traditionally with Toon Boom

Animating Traditionally with Toon Boom

  • Life Time Access
  • Certificate on Completion
  • Access on Android and iOS App
  • Self-Paced
About this Course

This course was originally created for students participating in Skills Ontario's Animation Challenge (similar to the 11 Second Club), as a way to quickly get them comfortable with both the fundamentals of traditional animation as well as practical knowledge of Toon Boom's software. To do this, the course is designed to walk through the completion of a scene starting from analyzing dialogue, to story-boarding, to creating actual animation, while being sure to emphasize the core principles of animation.

With this in mind, the course is best suited for animation students that are either new to the medium, or those looking to bring their traditional skills to the digital realm, using Toon Boom. While there are many videos available online that feature Toon Boom's software, most of them focus on cut-out style animation, or puppets, rather than traditional frame-by-frame style animation. After getting many remarks from even industry pros surprised that Toon Boom can actually not only support traditional animation, but do it amazingly well, I felt it high time for some video tutorials focussing on the basics.

This course features Toon Boom's Storyboard Pro, and Harmony 11, industry standards in animation software. Although, to keep up with all the version changes, I've made sure to focus on features that are also available in both older and newer versions of Harmony (including Harmony 17), as well Toon Boom's former Animate, Animate Pro, applications. And for those absolute beginners, there's still plenty of information that can be used, whether you're still drawing with a pencil, or deciding what type of software to pick up for your next animated project.

This course includes 19, densely-packed lessons, over the span of exactly an hour.

A great way to fast-track your working knowledge of both animation and Toon Boom basics!

Basic knowledge
  • This course features Toon Boom's Harmony and Storyboard Pro. While recommended, they're not required as the lessons focus on traditional animation fundamentals
  • Also compatible with Toon Boom's Animate, Animate Pro, and Harmony 17
  • As a digital animation course, a Wacom tablet is highly recommended for drawing in the software
  • No prior software knowledge required
What you will learn
  • Create an animated scene, from scratch, using traditional animation principles and workflow
  • Create a simple storyboard and animatic using Toon Boom's Storyboard Pro
  • Create frame-by-frame animation using Toon Boom's Harmony
Number of Lectures: 21
Total Duration: 01:01:50
Start Here
  • Introduction  

    Course Introduction

  • Project Files  

     Download the Project Files for the course. 

Analyzing Dialogue
  • Welcome  

    Let's listen to our audio clip. 

  • Dialogue  

    Before we can start drawing, we have to listen for clues that help describe our characters and scene. I'll be analyzing the provided dialogue, and you'll get to see what type of things to look for when listening to a dialogue clip for the first time.

  • Practice Exercise - Dialogue  

    Find an audio clip with dialogue a few seconds long (no more than 11 seconds). Preferably a clip from a movie or TV show, since you want to work with good acting. Likewise, don't use a clip from a song, as you want to focus on the dialogue.

    Without referring to the source material, analyze the audio clip for clues about the location and the characters.

Character Design
  • Chararacter Design  

    Starting with simple shapes, I'll be going through the process of designing a character for animation.

  • Practice Exercise - Character Design  

    Create a character that you'll be using to animate in your scene. You can use the template character provided, or design your own. Most importantly, keep it simple.

  • Welcome to Storyboard Pro  

    Introduction to Storyboard Pro, and starting a new project.

  • Storyboard Pro Basics - Part 1  

    Discover the interface, navigate workspaces, layers, vector vs bitmap basics, and the Select tool. 

  • Storyboard Pro Basics - Part 2  

    Working with Tool Properties, customize the Brush tool, working with Captions, and important hot-keys. 

  • Scene 1  

    I create our first storyboard scene, discussing staging, perspective, and adding tones. 

  • Scene 2  

    Here, I add a second scene, discussing more on staging/layout; as well as demonstrating the Cutter tool, and an alternative way to tone your drawings.

  • Scene 3  

    Create the last scene, using additional panels to depict a change of action in the scene, and the Onion Skin to see drawings between panels.

  • Creating an Animatic  

    Use Storyboard Pro to create an animatic from our drawings, adding our dialogue clip, and time out the images to the audio. Then, export the animatic for Harmony/Animate/Animate Pro.

  • Practice Exercises - Storyboarding  

    Create a storyboard (on paper or using Storyboard Pro), to plan out the action of your animation. For practice purposes, you may want to minimize the number of separate scenes. Though feel free to use as many panels in a scene as needed to choreograph your character's movements.

    If you're using Storyboard Pro, after completing your storyboards, add your audio clip and create an animatic. If you don't have Storyboard Pro, you can use After Effects (not discussed in these tutorials) to put your animatic together. Otherwise, simply use a stopwatch, to time out the duration of each action and note it with your images.


    Hotkeys featured in this section:

    1 = Zoom out

    2 = Zoom in

    Hold Space and drag = Pan the drawing area

    Ctrl+Alt and drag = Rotate the drawing area

    Shift+M = Reset the drawing area

    Hold O and drag = Resize the Brush/Pencil Tool

    Hold E = temporarily changes to the Eraser Tool

    Ctrl+S = Save the project

Acting for Animation
  • Acting  

    I revisit the dialogue clip listening for performance cues, and discuss acting for animation as reference, including live acting samples.

  • Practice Exercise - Acting  

    Analyze your dialogue again, this time taking note of how the character is feeling while talking, which words do they put the emphasis on, which words or phrases might have deeper context?

    Even if you're not comfortable or not able to film any acting reference, be sure to still act through the character's motions yourself. It will give you a much better sense of not only how the character feels, but also what movements feel natural.

  • Welcome to Harmony  

    Introduction to Harmony, and opening the animatic.

  • Importing and Layers  

    Import artwork into Harmony, and create and manipulate layers.

  • Drawing Tools Basics  

    Using the Brush vs the Pencil tools; and how to create and work with Harmony's unique Smart Colour System.

  • Animating - Part 1  

    Drawing our first key poses (pose-to-pose), working with drawing exposure and the Onion Skin.

  • Animating - Part 2  

    Inbetweening, arcs, S-curves, C-curves, and follow-though.

  • Lip Sync  

    Squash and Stretch, and animating the lip sync (without using the cut-out lip-sync feature).

  • Clean Up  

    With the rough animation complete, clean up the drawings using a consistent line weight, and finally, add colour.

  • Exporting  

    Now that the animation is done, remove or hide the unwanted layers, and export the finished animation to a QuickTime movie file.

  • Practice Exercises - Animation  

    Using your storyboards and acting as reference, create an animated scene.

    Starting with your roughs, nail down your key poses, then work in the in-betweens. This helps to make sure you stay on model and that your character size doesn't change from drawing to drawing.

    Do the same with your clean-up, cleaning up your keys first, then in-betweens.

    Be sure to leave any colouring for last.

    To assemble multiple scenes, you may need to use film editing software such as Adobe's Premiere, or Apple's Final Cut (neither featured in these tutorials).


    Hotkeys featured in this section:

    1 = Zoom out

    2 = Zoom in

    Hold Space and drag = Pan the drawing area

    Ctrl+Alt and drag = Rotate the drawing area

    Shift+M = Reset the drawing area

    Hold E = temporarily changes to the Eraser Tool

    Ctrl+S = Save the project

    + = Increase a drawing's exposure

    - = Decrease a drawing's exposure

    F = Go to previous drawing

    G = Go to next drawing

  • Additional Resources  

    Suggested Reading



    • Prepare to Board!, by Nancy Beiman.
    • Directing the Story, by Francis Glebas.


    • Acting for Animators, by Ed Hooks.


    • The Illusion of Life, by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston.
    • The Animator's Survival Kit, by Richard Williams.

    Toon Boom's Software

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