Drawing in Anime Studio

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(For more resources related to this topic, see here.)

Mouse versus tablet drawing

If you’re accustomed to drawing traditionally with a pen or pencil, you will discover quite quickly that drawing with a mouse requires a different skillset. The way a mouse moves, the difference in control, and the lack of intimacy can really take some time getting used to. While initially overwhelming, it is possible to map your mind towards mouse drawing.

A graphic tablet is like a digital drawing pad that allows you to sketch on screen using a utensil that resembles a pen or pencil. What’s nice is that Anime Studio was built to work with certain graphic tablets, thus making Plug and Play easy.

We will be creating cartoon assets with a mouse. This is the most universal way as most users have this accessory for their computer. In addition, we cover both freehand and point drawing styles. We will be majorly using point drawing.

Learning about Wacom tablets

Wacom is a very well-known brand of graphic tablets which work well with Anime Studio. This is because Smith Micro Software teamed up with Wacom while building Anime Studio to deliver seamless compatibility. What’s great about Wacom tablets is that they correspond to the amount of pressure you apply to your lines. For instance, if you apply a lot of pressure at the start of a line and then end the line with light pressure, you will see a difference in width just as you would with a real pen or pencil. This option can be turned off in Anime Studio, but most artists welcome it. If you’re interested in tablet drawing, Wacom has many different tablets varying in size and features. You can visit www.wacom.com for more details. The following is the image of a Wacom tablet:

Understanding the basics of vector and raster graphics

Before we begin drawing in Anime Studio, it’s important to understand the differences between vector and raster graphics. Anime Studio allows you to output both types of graphics, and each has its strengths and weaknesses.

Vector drawings are created whenever you use a drawing tool in Anime Studio. This is also the main format for Adobe Flash, Toon Boom, and Adobe Illustrator. Vector format is a popular choice and has been dominating the Internet cartoon scene for several years.

The following image is an example of a vector image. Notice how all the lines retain a sharp quality.

Vector graphics tend to have smaller file sizes compared to equivalent raster graphics. This not only makes streaming embedded Shockwave Flash (SWF) easier, but also keeps your project files lower in size, thus freeing up more space on your hard drive and cutting down on load times.

Raster or bitmap images are made up of pixels. Common file types include JPEG, BMP, PNG, and GIF. Basically, images you take with your camera, found on the Internet (at least the majority of them), or created in Adobe Photoshop are raster graphics. Raster graphics can be imported into Anime Studio and used for different functions. While they can contain great detail, raster graphics have many disadvantages when it comes to animation. As they are pixel-based, if you enlarge or zoom into a raster graphic past its original size, you will lose the image’s quality. They also tend to bloat project file sizes up; this is due to the pixels needing more information to display the image.

Many artists do find raster images worthwhile; additionally, you have the ability to convert raster images into vector graphics if desired. This method is called tracing, and while it can be useful, it’s definitely not 100 percent effective, especially when trying to make the image work with animation. The following image is an example of a raster graphic. Compare it to the previous vector image. Note how the raster graphic appears blurry or pixelated in comparison.

Now, you must be wondering which image type is the best. There is really no right or wrong answer to this question. It all comes down to personal preference and what you plan to do with your cartoon. We will explore a few uses of bitmap images, but the primary focus will be on creating vector art through the drawing tools.

Exploring the Draw and Fill tools

As we start working with the drawing tools in this article, it would be best for you to have a new document loaded up so that we have room to play around. In order to do that, navigate to File | New.

New documents always open with a vector layer on the right-hand side Layers Panel, labeled Layer 1. This is perfect for us as all of the drawing tools require a vector layer to be used.

Some drawing tools have features that can be adjusted at the top of the Anime Studio window. We will refer to this area as the top bar.

The drawing tools are located on the left-hand side of your screen by default. The tools we will be looking at are divided into two panels: Draw and Fill. If you go in order while learning these tools, it may make sense, but we’re simply too free-spirited for that. We will be going back and forth between these tools as some of them directly benefit the usage of others.

Drawing shapes and lines with the Add Point tool

The Add Point tool allows us to create lines and shapes using a series of points. All of Anime Studio’s tools work with a point system, but this tool arguably gives you the most control in this regard. Points can then be moved or deleted depending on your needs. The following screenshot shows the location of the Add Point tool on the toolbar. As you can see, it looks like a curved line with a point at the end. You can also press the A key on your keyboard to select the tool.

To get started, perform the following steps:

  1. Go to the top of your toolbar and click on the Add Point tool. Next, you will find a few options just below your File menu at the top of the Anime Studio program window. This is your top bar area. Please make sure Auto-Weld and Auto-Fill are both selected (this will be indicated by a check mark next to the corresponding option).

    Autowelding ensures that the two points we are joining will snap or weld together. Autofilling ensures that once two points are joined together to complete an enclosed object, the drawing will fill in with the colors from your Style palette. Try deselecting these options and redoing this exercise later on, to see what happens!

  2. On the right-hand side of your screen is the Style palette. Right below the title, you will see two colors, each labeled with Fill and Stroke. Click on the Fill color swatch and select a color of your choice from the options given. With the Color Picker window, you have the ability to click on a color, adjust the color range, modify transparency, as well as adjust your colors numerically for precise control.
  3. Once you have selected your color, click on the OK button.
  4. Now, select the Stroke color swatch and repeat the preceding steps. Try to pick a different color than that of the fill. The following screenshot shows the Style palette and Color Picker:

  5. Move your cursor somewhere on the blank canvas. Click and hold down the left button of your mouse, drag in any direction, and release. You should now see two points connected with a link. Now, we are simply seeing an outline, or reference for this object. No physical line has been created yet.
  6. Place your cursor on one of the two points. When correctly placed, your Add Point drawing tool will be highlighted in green.
  7. Now, click and hold down the left button of the mouse and drag anywhere to add to your line. If you keep the left button of the mouse pressed and move the point around, you should notice that the placement of this point affects the line curvature from the other two points. If you don’t like this effect, you can always select the Sharp Corners option on the top of your window to create perfectly straight lines from point to point. Release the left button of the mouse once you’ve found a spot for your point.
  8. By repeating the preceding steps, you can continue to add interconnecting points to create an object; complex or simple, the choice is yours. If you desire, you can add points in between other established points by simply clicking on the line that interconnects them.
  9. To complete your object, you must overlap one point over another. Click the left button of your mouse, hold it, and drag the mouse to your first point.
  10. Once the area is highlighted in green, release the mouse button and notice how the object fills in with the colors you have selected from the Style palette. Have a look at the image in the following screenshot for an example:

The Add Point tool offers a lot of control and is popular with mouse users. It may take some time to get used to, but if you prefer precision, practice will definitely pay off. This tool will be used quite a bit when we start drawing our assets. However, there are other tools that can get the job done, which we will be exploring momentarily.

Freestyle drawing with the Freehand tool

The Freehand tool allows us to draw in Anime Studio as if we were using a pen or pencil. This tool is a favorite amongst tablet users as it allows for absolute freedom of movement. It offers benefits for mouse users as well, especially if they plan to create a sense of stroke width variation. Just keep in mind, even though you can draw freely with this tool, you will still be creating points to make up your lines and objects, just like the Add Point tool. Just note that since Version 10, points will be hidden when using freehand drawing tools, to make the workspace less cluttered. In order to view and edit the points, you will need to select the Transform Points tool. The Freehand tool is the first tool in the second row (it looks like a pencil). You can also use the F key on your keyboard to select this tool. For your reference, you can see the location of this tool in the following screenshot:

For this exercise, you can keep the document you created for the Add Point tool open. If you need more room to draw, feel free to create a new document. If you would like to save the current document to work on later, go to File and click on Save before creating a new document. Now, let’s start drawing!

The following steps will guide you on freestyle drawing with the Freehand tool:

  1. Click on the Freehand tool. At the top, where you have your tool options, be sure that Auto-Weld, Auto-Fill, and Auto-Stroke are checked. Before trying this tool out, let’s check out some of the other options we can adjust with the Freehand tool.
  2. At the top, to the left-hand side of the Auto-Fill and Auto-Stroke settings, is a button labeled Freehand Options. Click on the button and a new panel will appear, as shown in the following screenshot:

  3. The Variable line width options allow you to change how the Freehand tool acts according to the pressure from your graphic tablet utensil. You can choose None, which will create a line with a consistent width; Use pen pressure, which detects how hard you are pressing on your tablet when drawing and adjusts the width accordingly (hard for thick, soft for light); or Random, which will randomize the line width as you place the points down. These options will work with a mouse, with the exception of the Use pen pressure setting.
  4. In the same panel, you can also adjust the percentage of variation of line width. The higher the percentage, the more dramatic a shift you will have for your line widths. Finally, you can dictate if you want your freehand lines to taper at the start and end. This can be useful, especially if you’re using a mouse and want to simulate the freehand pressure-sensitive look.
  5. Once you have picked the appropriate options, let’s start drawing! Place your cursor on the canvas, preferably outside of the other object you drew with the Add Point tool, hold down your left mouse button, and drag to create a line. You will notice that whichever settings you picked in the Freehand Options panel will be reflected in your line.
  6. Since we have selected Auto-Weld and Auto-Fill, we can automatically create closed objects. Try drawing an oval with the Freehand tool. Your beginning and end points should snap together, creating an enclosed and filled-in object. You can view an example of a line and shape with the Freehand tool in the following screenshot:

If you are drawing with a tablet or are familiar with traditional drawing methods, the Freehand tool may be a better choice over the Add Point tool. As we start to draw characters and props, the Add Point tool will be referred to a lot. However, don’t be afraid to use the Freehand tool in its place if that’s what you’re more comfortable with. You can always combine these tools too. The more options you have, the better!

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