Learn to Animate

OpenToonz Levels

Some levels have a different drawing in each frame:
Levels can have a single drawing that displays for a set amount of time and stretches out over a number of frames:
A level can be a single drawing that changes over time and stretches out over a number of frames:

Drawing Level Types

OpenToonz can create 3 image level types:

Best for:

  • cel shading
  • automatic animation features
  • precision drawing
  • characters and objects

Advantages:

  • resizes well
  • most editable
    • colors can be updated across the level at any time
    • colors can be animated
    • lines/shapes can adjusted at any time
    • objects in a drawing can be grouped or reordered
  • a variety of brushes and styles available
  • automatic animation features

Drawbacks:

  • complex sketch styles not compatible
  • color blending only available through compositing
  • no soft edges

Best for:

  • a combination of sketch/cel animation
  • digitizing scanned artwork
  • characters
  • foreground objects

Advantages:

  • colors can be updated across the level at any time
  • colors can be animated
  • customizable fill textures
  • additional paint brush tool can ignore lines or areas
  • hard or soft edges

Drawbacks:

  • minimal brush options/customization available
  • drawings only editable by erasing or painting over
  • only one layer in each drawing
  • color blending only available through compositing
  • only keyframe tweening available
  • pixel based levels do not scale up well

Best for:

  • a painterly animation style
  • expressive/sketchy lines or marks
  • layering colors
  • backgrounds

Advantages:

  • largest variety of expressive or textured brush types and effects
  • brushes are fully customizable
  • only brushes that allow for direct color blending
  • hard or soft edges

Drawbacks:

  • colors only editable by erasing or painting over
  • only one layer in each drawing
  • only solid color fill options
  • only keyframe tweening available
  • pixel based levels do not scale up well

Each level type has strengths and weaknesses - the type that works best in one circumstance may not be the best choice in another. Choose what makes sense for your aesthetic, workflow, and time constraints but don't limit yourself to just one level type.

Other Level Types

Sub-Xsheet Level

An entire scene's columns/layers can be loaded to make a sub-xsheet. Selected columns/layers can also be collapsed into a group.

Audio Level

Supported audio formats include .mp3, .aif, and .wav files. Wav files can be recorded directly in OT. Ffmpeg does need to be enabled.

Note Level

Note levels allow you to notate the position of your audio/dialog (or etc). directly in the Xsheet/Timeline. These levels are only visible in the Xsheet/Timeline.

Mesh Level

Mesh levels each connect to an image level. The image levels can be warped/distorted by the mesh. Mesh levels themselves are never visible in a render.

Creating Levels

There are multiple ways to create new drawing levels directly in OpenToonz. Creating levels with the Command Bar is often fastest.

The Command Bar can be added from the top menu under Window → Command Bar

The Xsheet Toolbar is a version of the Command Bar that can be automatically added to every Xsheet/Timeline window. It can be enabled under Preferences → Xsheet → Show Toolbar in the Xsheet

  1. In the Xsheet/Timeline, left-click an empty cell (where you want the first frame to start)
  2. Left-click on the new level button for your desired level type in the Command Bar (one of the 3 leftmost buttons)
  3. Make changes to the New Level Pop-up as necessary (most of the defaults are fine):
    1. Make sure to name the level very specifically (ie. Fred_head_profile), so that you can identify levels easily and quickly (do not use apostrophes ' in the level name)
    2. "From" and "to" refers to the range (number) of frames you would like to add to the level (this can be changed at any time)
    3. "Step" refers to the number of times a frame is repeated consecutively (2 is the standard for smoother animation with a better pace)
    4. "Increment" refers to the number of each frame (ie. a value of 1 would result in frames numbered 1, 2, 3… while a value of 2 would result in frames numbered 1, 3, 5…)
    5. "Resolution" (for non-vector levels only) - set the width, height, and dpi (number of pixels)
  4. When your settings are adjusted as desired, select “ok”
  1. In the Xsheet or Timeline, right-click on an empty cell (where you want the first frame to start)
  2. Select "New Level"
  3. Make changes to the New Level Pop-up as necessary and then press "ok"
  1. In the Xsheet/Timeline, left-click an empty cell (where you want the first frame to start)
  2. In the program menu, go to File → New Level
  3. Make changes to the New Level Pop-up as necessary and then press "ok"

Loading or Importing Levels

Existing files can be loaded or imported from outside of Opentoonz and from other Projects/Scenes inside of OpenToonz. Loading a level creates a link to the existing file. Importing a level brings it into the Project's Extras folder. Whether you load or import external files can be set/changed in Preferences.

You can drag & drop into the Viewer, Xsheet/Timeline, and File Browser in order to load or import files into your scene. The process is the same:

  1. In the Xsheet/Timeline, right-click an empty cell (where you want the first frame to start)
  2. Drag your file from it's location (in Finder, desktop or etc.) to either:
    1. the Viewer
    2. the Xsheet/Timeline
    3. The Scene Cast (in the Browser Room)
  3. Release your file
    1. If this is your first time loading a file, select "Import" or "Load"
    2. You can choose to always import or always load by checking "Always do this action" before making your choice
  4. Make any adjustments to the level location in the Xsheet/Timeline if necessary
  1. In the Xsheet/Timeline, left-click an empty cell (where you want the first frame to start)
  2. Select "Load Level"
  3. Use the File Browser to select your file and then click on "Load"
    1. Do not select the Volumes folder from the File Browser – it will result in a crash
  1. In the Xsheet/Timeline, left-click an empty cell (where you want the first frame to start)
  2. Use the File Browser to select your file
    1. Do not select the Volumes folder from the File Browser – it will result in a crash
  3. Right-click on the file and select "Load"
  1. In the Xsheet/Timeline, left-click an empty cell (where you want the first frame to start)
  2. File → "Load Level"
  3. Use the File Browser to select your file
    1. Do not select the Volumes folder from the File Browser – it will result in a crash
    2. Select "Load"

Moving Levels

Levels or portions of levels can be moved in the Xsheet/Timeline through dragging and dropping with the dragbar. You can also use standard copy and paste commands, either through the menu or with the shortcuts:

  1. Copy: Cmd-C
  2. Cut: Cmd-X
  3. Paste: Cmd-V
  4. Delete: Delete (or Backspace on mac laptops)
  1. In the Xsheet/Timeline, left-click and drag the drag bar (on the left or top edge of the column header) to a new location
  2. Release to drop the column into that new position
  1. In the Xsheet/Timeline, click and drag in the column header to select multiple columns
  2. Left-click and drag the drag bar of a selected column (on the left edge of the column header) to a new location
  3. Release to drop the column into that new position

Moving Part of a Level Without Keyframes

  1. In the Xsheet/Timeline, select the cells you would like to move (Left-click + drag)
  2. Click, hold and drag the drag bar (on the left edge of the cells) to a new location
  3. Release to drop the selected cells in that new position

Moving Part of a Level With Keyframes

  1. In the Xsheet/Timeline, select the cells you would like to move (CMD-Left-click + drag)
  2. Click, hold and drag the drag bar (on the left edge of the cells) to a new location
  3. Release to drop the selected cells in that new position

Deleting (or Unlinking) Columns/layers, Levels & Frames

Deleting resources from the Xsheet/Timeline or from the scene is actually unlinking instead of true deleting. The files remain available for the scene and project - even if they are not visible. To completely delete levels and frames they must be removed from the Xsheet/Timeline first, then the scene and lastly from the project.

Unlinking Frames

Entire Levels or just selected Frames can be unlinked from the scene.

  1. In the Xsheet/Timeline, click and drag to select the frames you want to remove
  2. Use the shortcut:
    1. Delete - to remove the frames while maintaining the existing placement of surrounding frames
    2. Cut (Cmd-X) - to remove the frames while leaving no empty space between surrounding frames

Deleting Columns/Layers

  1. In the Xsheet/Timeline either:
    1. Left-click on the Column/Layer Header:
      1. Use shortcuts:
        1. Delete
        2. Cut (Cmd-X)
    2. Right-click on the Column/Layer Header:
      1. Select Delete
  2. In the Stage Schematic:
    1. Left-click on the Column/Layer node
    2. Use shortcuts:
      1. Delete
      2. Cut (Cmd-X)

Once levels have been removed from the Xsheet/Timeline, they can be removed from the scene and from the entire project.

Removing Unwanted Levels from the Scene

  1. In the Browser room, right-click in the "Scene Cast" (bottom-right)
  2. Click on "Remove All Unused Levels"

Deleting Levels/Files from the Project

  1. In the Browser room, find your unwanted level in the "File Browser" (top-right)
    1. Vector and Toonz Raster levels will be located in the drawings folder
    2. Raster levels and imported files (.psd, video, audio & etc.) will be located in the extras folder
  2. Right-click on the unwanted level and select "Delete"

Saving Levels

Levels can be saved individually or altogether with all of the scene data. Be careful - if only the scene data is saved, you can lose a whole session of drawing.

Auto-save

Auto-save can save the scene and level data at the same time. If something goes wrong, auto-save can save the day.

  1. Turn on Auto-save in Preferences → General
  2. 7 minutes is often a good starting value.

Save-All Shortcut

  1. Use Cmd-S to save both the scene and the level at the same time

In the Menu

  1. File → “Save Level”

Save a copy of a level:

  1. File → “Save Level As”
  2. Name your level with a descriptive name(but no apostrophes) and select “Save”

Saving Levels

Levels can be saved individually or altogether with all of the scene data. Be careful - if only the scene data is saved, you can lose a whole session of drawing.

Auto-save

Auto-save can save the scene and level data at the same time. If something goes wrong, auto-save can save the day.

  1. Turn on Auto-save in Preferences → General
  2. 7 minutes is often a good starting value.

Save-All Shortcut

  1. Use Cmd-S to save both the scene and the level at the same time

In the Menu

  1. File → “Save Level”

Save a copy of a level:

  1. File → “Save Level As”
  2. Name your level with a descriptive name(but no apostrophes) and select “Save”

Converting Levels

Converting to Vector*

  1. In the Xsheet/Timeline, select the level (or frames) that you want to convert
    1. Click on the left edge of the frames to select the whole level
  2. In the top menu, go to Level → Convert to Vectors
  3. Adjust the conversion settings as desired
    1. Toggle on preview (the eye icon)
    2. Mode → Centerline
    3. If there are fills, make sure to check "Preserve Painted Areas"
    4. Other settings can be adjusted if necessary
  4. Click “Convert”
  1. For Raster levels drawn only with black:
    1. In the Xsheet/Timeline, select the level (or frames) that you want to convert
      1. Click on the left edge of the frames to select the whole level
    2. In the top menu, go to Level → Convert to Vectors
    3. Adjust the conversion settings as desired
      1. Toggle on preview (the eye icon)
      2. Mode → Centerline
      3. Other settings can be adjusted if necessary
    4. Click “Convert”
  2. For Raster levels that include colors:
    This does not give an exact copy of the drawings but instead creates outlines around the different strokes of each drawing
    1. In the Xsheet, select the level (or frames) that you want to convert
      1. Click on the left edge of the frames to select the whole level
    2. In the top menu, go to Level → Convert to Vectors
    3. Set mode to outline
    4. Toggle on preview (the eye icon should be yellow)
    5. Adjust the conversion settings as desired
    6. Click “Convert”
Converting to simplified vectors sometimes makes a vector level easier to fill.
  1. In the Xsheet/Timeline, left-click + drag to select the cells in the Vector level that you want to simplify
  2. In the top menu, go to Level → Replace Vectors with Simplified Vectors

* Converted Vector levels are not directly compatible with the Level Strip's Inbetweener functions

Converting to Toonz Raster

  1. In the Xsheet/Timeline, left-click + drag to select the cells in the Vector level that you want to convert
  2. In the top menu, go to Level → Vector to Toonz Raster
Follow the "Cleanup" directions to convert from Raster to Toonz Raster. More details coming soon.

Converting to Raster

At this point converting to Raster is possible but very time consuming. Each frame has to be converted individually.
  1. In the Xsheet/Timeline, select an individual frame from the vector or toonz raster level you would like to convert
    1. In the viewer, use the select tool to select the entire drawing
    2. Cmd-C to copy
  2. In the Xsheet/Timeline, select the corresponding frame in the raster level
    1. Cmd-V to paste
  3. Repeat for as many frames as you want/need to convert