Learn to Animate

Tweening in OpenToonz

Tweening is the process of setting keyframes (the beginning/endpoints of an action) and allowing the computer to automatically generate the transition. This process is often much faster than cel animation but can be less realistic when used improperly.
Keyframe animation involves having a single drawing stretched out across many frames. The scale, position, rotation and/or skew can all be changed multiple times from the first cell to the last. Vector and Toonz Raster levels can also change color from keyframe to keyframe.
Tweens can be set to change a single property (ie. changing from smaller to larger) or to change multiple properties at the same time (ie. changing from smaller on the left to larger and rotated on the right).
  1. In a practice scene, create a level (of any kind) with a single drawing and a step of 50
  2. Draw an object that will change during the animation
  3. Select the Animate tool (A)
    1. Make sure that the correct column/layer is selected - Col1 if this is the only level in your scene
    2. Set the animate type from "Position" to "Center"
  4. Move the center of the image to the center of your drawing by clicking and dragging the pink circle into the correct position
    From this to this →
  5. To change the position of your drawing:
    1. Change the mode of the Animate tool back to "Position"
    2. Select the first cell for the drawing in the Xsheet/Timeline (or the cell where you want the transition to start)
    3. Add a keyframe (click on the key icon in the Viewer)
    4. Select the last cell in your column/layer (or the cell where you want the transition to end)
    5. In the Viewer, click and drag to move your drawing into it's ending position
      1. You can type the E/W and/or N/W values to be more precise
      2. You can lock the E/W value to restrict movement to the vertical axis
      3. You can lock the N/S value to restrict movement to the horizontal axis
  6. To change the size, rotation, or shear(skew) of your drawing:
    1. Change the Animate tool to the applicable mode
    2. On the right of the tool option bar, select "Global Key" (this creates a keyframe automatically for all of the Animate values whenever you make changes with the Animate tool)
    3. Set a keyframe for the starting scale/rotation/shear
    4. Select the ending cell and change the scale/rotation/shear for the drawing as desired
      1. With scale selected, click and drag to resize your drawing (or type the percentage into the tool option bar)
      2. With rotation selected, click and drag to rotate (or type the number of degrees into the tool option bar)
      3. With shear selected, click and drag to skew the drawing (or type the horizontal/vertical degrees into the tool option bar)
    5. Play your animation and make adjustments as necessary
The process for making a tween with multiple keyframes (multiple points of change) is exactly the same as when you have only 2 keyframes.
  1. Change the Animate tool to the applicable mode
  2. On the right of the tool option bar, make sure "Global Key" is checked whenever you will be changing multiple values (ie. scale and rotation or skew and position)
  3. Set a keyframe for the starting position/scale/rotation/shear
  4. Change the position/scale/rotation/shear in as many middle cells as desired (the more space between keyframes, the longer the transition will take - if there is not enough room between transitions, the transition may be sudden or unequal)
  5. Change the position/scale/rotation/shear in the ending cell
  6. Play the animation in the Viewer and make changes or additions as necessary
Vector shapes can only be filled if they are closed shapes.
  1. Enable fill/gap checks:
    1. Gap Check shows gaps between vector endpoints
      1. View → Gap Check
      2. The gap distance is set in the "Tape" tool (T)
    2. Fill Check displays all fillable spaces as grey
      1. View → Fill Check
  2. Use the Tape tool (T):
    1. Set the type to "Normal"
    2. Join vectors should be checked
    3. Change the mode depending on what type of gap you are changing:
      1. Endpoint to endpoint
      2. Endpoint to line
      3. Line to line
  3. Use the control point editor (C):
    1. Click and drag on the control points (the white/blue squares) to reposition
    2. Click and drag on the handles (purple squares) to adjust the curve of the line
  4. Convert to Simplified Vectors:
    Simplified vectors normally resolve stubborn fill issues with closed shapes. This is often incompatible with automated animation features with the Inbetweener.
    1. In the top menu go to: Level → "Replace Vectors with Simplified Vectors"
  1. In the Xsheet/Timeline, click on the cell where you want the color transition to start
  2. In the Level Palette, click on the color you will be changing
  3. Click on the Level Palette's key icon (top right)
  4. In the Xsheet/Timeline, click on the cell where you want the color transition to end
  5. In the Level Palette, click back on the color you will be changing
  6. Click on the Level Palette's key icon (top right)
  7. In the Style Editor, change the color/style as desired (as long as auto-apply is on, the change should update automatically)
  8. Play your animation to see the gradual change from one color to the next and change or add more color keys as desired
    1. Use the arrows next to the key icon to quickly toggle from key to key in the Level Palette
    2. With a key selected, changing that color/style in the Style Editor should update the key

Moving Keyframes

  1. In the Xsheet/Timeline, click directly on the keyframe you want to reposition
  2. Drag the keyframe to the desired new position

Removing Keyframes

  1. In the Xsheet/Timeline, click on the cell with the keyframe you want to remove
  2. Click on the key icon in the Viewer (it should turn grey when there is no longer a keyframe)
  3. For color keyframes, with the cell selected, click on the key icon in the Level Palette
Create a short animation that contains the following):
  • A basic position tween where an object enters and exits from view (objects without obvious moving parts may work best); it could be helpful to lock either the E/W or N/S axis
  • A tween that creates the illusion that an object is getting closer (or farther away) by adding keyframes for both scale and position
  • A color tween where a color style that is part (or all) of a vector or toonz raster object/character has at least 3 color keys during the course of the animation
Remember that you can use this as part of your larger story or treat it as a standalone exercise. It could work well as part of a title sequence or credits for your animation...

Motion Paths allow you to use a drawn guide/path to control the motion of an object. Keep in mind that they can be combined with Keyframe Tweens but not with Automatic Tweening (ie. they work with a single stretched drawing with keyframes).

  1. Create a level of any type with a single drawing stretched out across a large number of cells
  2. Draw your moving object in the very center (where the x is located)
    1. or use the Select tool to move the object to the center
  3. In the Schematic Window:
    1. Select the column
    2. Select "new motion path"
    3. Left-click on the green motion path node to select it
    4. If you try to change the position of your drawing with the Animate tool, you'll notice that the range of motion is locked to a short path
  4. Replace the short path with the desired path of your choice
    1. Use the Brush tool (B) to draw the path you want your object to follow
    2. Select "Replace Motion Path" when you are satified with the line
    3. Use the Control Point Editor tool (C) to adjust the anchor points if necessary
  5. Use keyframes to set the position of your drawing along the path at the desired frames
    1. With the the Animate tool set to "Position", select the first cell
    2. Move the object to the desired starting position and add a keyframe
    3. In the cell where the transition should end, move the object to the ending position
    4. Repeat for as many transitions as necessary
Speed can be controlled by the position of the keyframes:
  • A small change in visual distance between 2 keyframes would create slower movement
  • A large change in position between the same 2 keyframes would create faster movement
Interpolation can also impact the speed:

In the XSheet/Timeline, between 2 keyframes there are often 2 black arrows. Click and dragging the arrows closer or further from the keyframes adjusts the speed of transition to the keyframe.

  1. Create your columns/layers with any level type
  2. If you want to have your drawings follow the same path simulataniously with a set distance between:
    1. Create your drawings on their own columns - close to the center but at the distance the objects should be set apart
    2. In the Stage Schematic, add a pegboard:
      1. Drag from the blue sockets of each desired column to the red socket of the pegboard
      2. Select the pegboard
      3. Select "new motion path"
      4. With the motion path selected, customize the path and set keyframes (with the pegboard selected) as normal
      5. Interesting effects can be made by keyframing a couple different positions for one or both columns separately from the pegboard (make sure the Animate tool has the desired column selected instead of the pegboard)
  3. If you want the drawings to follow the same path exactly but with different paces or start/stop times:
    1. In each column/layer, draw your object - directly over the center X (they should overlap)
    2. In the Stage Schematic, select one column
    3. Select "new motion path"
    4. Drag from the green socket of the other column/layer(s) that should follow the same motion path and connect to the green socket of the motion path
    5. With the motion path selected, customize the path as desired
    6. Individually set position keyframes for each column/layer
Create an original, short animation that includes:
  • A motion path with a single object
  • A motion path with at least 2 columns/layers attached to a pegboard (where the 2 objects are moving at a different pace)
  • A motion path that is connected to at least 2 columns/layers without a pegboard
  • A change in speed for at least one object on a motion path
This can either be part of your larger story, or a standalone exercise.

The Inbetweener

On Vector levels, you can use the Level Strip to automatically create the drawings inbetween a starting and ending frame (automatic tweening). When using this technique, you must keep track of your stroke order and stroke direction so having a system can be helpful (ie. drawing from the top to the bottom & from left to right).
  1. Create a Vector level with the number of frames you would like the animation to last with a step of 2 (you can add additional frames later if necessary)
  2. Draw your beginning object in the first frame of the new level
  3. Draw the ending object with Vector Guided Drawing enabled
    (or copy and paste your vector drawing from the starting frame into the ending frame and make adjustments with the vector tools)
Vector Guided Drawing works with onionskin to display the line order and direction of drawings in a single vector level (keep in mind Vector Guided Drawing is disabled while frame range is enabled for the vector brush).
  1. Turn on Onionskin
    1. Right-click in the viewer and select "Activate Onionskin" or
    2. Double-click on the onionskin marker (in the Xsheet or Level Strip)
  2. Set onionskin to display the first drawing
    1. In Level Strip, hover on left edge of the first drawing
    2. Click the yellow dot
  3. Enable "Vector Guided Drawing"
    1. Right-click in the Viewer
    2. Under Vector Guided Drawing choose "All Drawings"
  4. Begin drawing your object in its ending position in the ending frame using the vector guide to draw in the same order and direction
  5. Every few strokes use the Inbetweener function and then return to Guided Drawing
    1. Correct strokes as necessary after Inbetweening - using the Inbetweener again overwrites the old drawings
    2. When making corrections, be careful to maintain stroke order
    3. When ready, draw the next few strokes and keep repeating the process

Tip: use the Inbetweener function every few strokes, in order to make corrections more easily.

  1. In the Level Strip, select the 2 keyframes and all the frames between by either:
    1. Shift-click to select multiple frames
    2. Cmd-A to select all
  2. Click on "Inbetween" on the right of any frame
  3. Choose the interpolation style and then select "Inbetween"
  4. Scrub or play through the animation
  5. Make adjustments as necessary
Create a brief, original animation where:
  • There is at least one transition from one position or view to another
  • No background
For this animation keep in mind we will be adding secondary motion to this animated object/character later on. It could be part of your longer animation or part 1 of a standalone exercise

Brush and Fill Range

On Vector levels, the brush has a special additional function called "Range". This allows you to create a drawing in a starting frame and a drawing in the end frame and OpenToonz will automatically create the drawings for the frames inbetween. Instead of having to draw the completed drawings all at once, you toggle back and forth between the starting and ending frame as you add each new part of the drawing. Stroke direction still matters, but there are visual cues to remind you of the direction.
  1. Create a Vector level with the number of frames you would like the animation to last with a step of 2 (you can add additional frames later if necessary)
  2. Select the brush tool and next to "Range", select the interpolation type (the kind of transition)
    1. Linear - steady transition
    2. Ease in - starts slow
    3. Ease out - ends slow
    4. Ease In/Ease Out - starts and ends slower than the middle

  3. Make sure the first frame of your drawing is selected in the X-sheet/Timeline
  4. Draw your first line then switch to the ending frame (for this movement)
  5. Enable onionskin, so that you can see the first frame (while there already is an onionskin like guide, it only shows the last stroke, not your entire drawing so onionskin is still very helpful)
  6. Paying attention to the line direction in the provided guide, draw the ending position of your line (after drawing the line you are automatically returned to the beginning frame)
  7. Repeat as necessary to create your desired movement
Like the brush tool, you can use the fill bucket (on both Vector and Toonz Raster levels to fill a color/style in a closed shape across a range of frames (assuming the closed shapes are in close proximity from frame to frame).
  1. Select the Fill tool (F)
  2. Check "Frame Range" in the Tool Option Bar
  3. and make sure your fill color is created/selected in the Level Palette
  4. In the first drawing, click in the closed shape you want to fill
  5. In the last drawing, click on the closed shape you want to fill
  6. Play your animation to see if there are any frames that still need to be filled
  7. If necessary, use the Tape tool to close any gaps in unfilled shapes
    1. Make sure "Join Vectors" is checked
    2. If the type is set to "Normal":
      1. Choose the mode that applies best then click and drag to tape the gap closed
        1. "Endpoint to Endpoint" is best for connecting the ends of lines together
        2. "Endpoint to Line" can connect the end of a line to any point along a line
        3. Line to Line can connect any 2 points on a line or lines together
    3. If the type is set to rectangular:
      1. Click and drag around the gap to connect the 2 points
      2. If the connection is not perfect, try using CMD-Z to undo and try changing the "Distance" value before trying again
  8. With "Frame Range" off, use the fill tool on the now closed shapes
  1. To erase the same area across multiple frames:
    1. Use the "Eraser" tool (A) with the type set to rectangular (DO NOT use polyline or freehand) and check "Frame Range"
    2. On the first frame that you want to erase from, click and drag to select the area you want to erase
    3. On the last frame that you want to erase from, click and drag to select the area you want to erase
  2. In order to redraw your entire frame range animation:
    1. Select the frames in the Level Strip (CMD-A selects all)
    2. Press the delete key to remove the drawings (or right-click → Delete)
    3. Draw your animation again, following the earlier directions
  3. To add additional frames (if the transition was too short)
    1. Right-click in the Level Strip
    2. Select "Add Frames"
    3. Specify where you want the new frames to begin and end
    4. In the Xsheet, double-click on each cell and type in the frame number so that the drawings will display when you are ready
    5. If necessary, click and drag to select the new frames and set the step to 2 by clicking on "2's" in the Command Bar.
Create an original, short animation that includes:
  • An original character that turns from one side/perspective to another
  • The character should have:
    • A sense of dimensionality - no stick figures
    • Could include full body or upper torso
This could be part of your longer animation, or a standalone exercise.
Sub-Xsheets work in conjuction with both cel animation and tweening techniques to create a more organized Xsheet/Timeline. A sub-xsheet is a scene or group of columns/layers that has been loaded into the Xsheet/Timeline as a single column/layer. A sub-xsheet can be tweened just like any other level.

Loading a Different Scene as a Sub-Xsheet

  1. In an empty column, right-click in the first cell (or wherever you want the Sub-Xsheet to load)
  2. Select "Load Level"
  3. In the "Scene" folder, select the scene you would like to load
  4. Click on "Load" (if the scene is in another project, import the scene)

Creating a Sub-Xsheet from Levels in the Active Scene

  1. Select the columns/layers for the sub-xsheet by clicking and dragging across the column/layer headers
  2. In the Command Bar, click on the collapse button
Sub-Xsheets can be manipulated like any other level type in the Xsheet. Frames can be moved, stretched, keyframed, repeated, copied, cut, pasted, and deleted. These changes impact the display of all of the columns/layers inside of the Sub-Xsheet.

Entering a Sub-Xsheet

Entering the Sub-Xsheets allow you to access and manipulate the columns/layers of the Sub-Xsheet without the distraction of the parent scene.
  1. Select the Sub-Xsheet column/layer (click in the header or the left edge of the column/layer in the Xsheet/Timeline)
  2. Press the "enter" button in the Command Bar (or right-click and select "Enter Sub-Xsheet")

Exiting a Sub-Xsheet

  1. Select the Sub-Xsheet column/layer (click in the header or the left edge of the column/layer in the Xsheet/Timeline)
  2. Press the "Exit" button in the Command Bar (or right-click and select "Exit Sub-Xsheet")

Edit in Place

Edit in Place allows you to edit the columns/layers of the sub-xsheet while the rest of the scene is still visible.
  1. Select the Sub-Xsheet column/layer (click in the header or the left edge of the column in the Xsheet/Timeline)
  2. Press the "Edit in Place" button in the Command Bar (or right-click and select "Edit in Place")
  3. Make changes to the drawings, levels, and layers/columns as desired
  4. Press the "Edit in Place" button again to exit
In a new scene, create an animation reel that combines all of your tween animations:
  • Load your basic tween, motion path, frame range, and inbetweener scenes as Sub-Xsheets
  • Organize your Sub-Xsheets into your desired order
  • Add at least 1 position keyframe tween to the "Inbetweener" level to add secondary motion
This could be used as part of your longer animation or just part 2 of a stand-alone animation.