Get A Painterly Look For Your Animation Using Bitmaps

This article shows you how to easily import bitmap artwork and backgrounds to Toon Boom Studio and blend them seamlessly with your vector animation.

Working with vector artwork in Toon Boom Studio has many great advantages, especially when it comes to file size. But what if you are looking for a more organic, painterly look for your animation? The fine detail found in a painted brush stroke on canvas is difficult to achieve in a vector drawing. The best solution for this is to import bitmap art into Toon Boom Studio. Once you have imported your bitmap artwork into Toon Boom Studio, you can combine it with vector art to produce almost any style of animation.

Here are some vector clouds that were created within Toon Boom Studio:

Vector Sky

Below are some bitmap clouds that were painted using a simulated art brush to give them a soft and fluffy appearance:

Bitmap Sky

There are a few options for achieving a more painterly look in Toon Boom Studio. First of all, you can create a painting on paper or canvas and then scan it (when it is dry of course). If you save your artwork to a bitmap format compatible with Toon Boom Studio, you will be able to import it directly into your project.

You can also use one of the many digital painting applications that exist and create your artwork using a digital tablet and pen. Some of these applications will allow you to use different types of media brushes, such as oil paint or crayon. When your artwork is complete, save it as one of the many bitmap formats that are supported by Toon Boom Studio.

Importing Bitmaps into Toon Boom Studio

Create an Image element within Toon Boom Studio and import your bitmap artwork into your scene:

Import Dialogue Box

Some of the most commonly used bitmap formats supported by Toon Boom Studio are:

  • PSD (Photoshop file)
  • TGA
  • PNG
  • JPEG

Of the ones listed, only the JPEG format will not support transparency.

Resolution Settings

Keep in mind that when dealing with bitmap artwork in Toon Boom Studio, you will not have the benefit of resolution independence as you do when working with vector art. Planning your project is important to ensure that you maintain the quality you need while keeping file size as low as possible. The best way to know if your bitmap will have a high enough resolution is to first determine your output format. Then, depending on camera moves, you can determine the minimum resolution your image has to be in order to retain the correct amount of detail without becoming pixilated.

apply model sheet changes to your currrent project

Transparency and Alpha Channels

Another important aspect of using bitmaps in Toon Boom Studio is the benefit of retaining transparency and alpha channel information. An alpha channel is an additional image channel used to store transparency information for compositing. An alpha channel is like a sophisticated stencil and works much like the clipping effect in Toon Boom Studio. It is used to isolate specific elements in an image, blocking out the rest .Alpha channels are usually used to combine a foreground image, such as actors on a set, with a background image.

When you import a bitmap image that contains transparency or an alpha channel, Toon Boom Studio will detect it automatically. This makes it possible to have bitmap overlays and underlays in your scenes.

dialog box

An alpha channel was then created so that only the lamp would be visible; the area shown in white. The black zones are the areas that we want to leave out of the composition.

dialog box

When this bitmap image (this particular one is in PSD format) is imported into Toon Boom Studio, complete with alpha channel, this is what you see in the Drawing View:

dialog box

If you are using a digital painting application, you could paint your elements on separate layers and export them individually to retain the transparency. Then you will be able to blend your bitmap elements with the rest of your scene. An image with transparency might look like this in your digital painting software:

dialog box

Working with your bitmap images in Toon Boom Studio

Once in your scene, you can animate bitmap image elements using keyframes. You cannot edit the bitmap itself in Drawing View, but if you switch over to the Camera View, you will be able to resize it with the Select tool. If you want to make changes to the bitmap element over time, use the other scene-planning tools to create keyframes in the Timeline.

Having many high-resolution bitmaps in your scene may increase the size of your project. To help avoid this, try to clone your bitmap elements so that you are manipulating an instance of the bitmap instead of importing it a second time.

dialog box

In this example, the first cloud was cloned and then changes were made to the size and positioning of the clone to offset it from the original. Each one was then animated individually.

Tip: When animating bitmaps in Toon Boom Studio, you may notice that rendering a SWF (Flash) file will produce unexpected results. This is due to limitations with the SWF format and how it deals with bitmap images. To resolve this issue, render your animation to a QuickTime or AVI format that better supports bitmaps and you will get it to look exactly the way you want it to. To preview your QuickTime movie in Toon Boom Studio before you export, use the Preview Scene option instead of the Flash Quick Preview.