Cartoon Animator makes creating 2D animation fast and easy. However there are many other applications for Cartoon Animator including the creation of comic strips, graphic novels and motion comics.
Many motion comic artists rely on simple camera pans and sliding images across the screen, resulting in basic, flat images. But with Cartoon Animator you can create explosive motion comic panels with multiple layers, dynamic movement and camera depth.
Instead of having to draw every panel of your motion comic by hand, you can use actors from Cartoon Animator as the characters for your story. You can pose them just the way you want, including facial expressions, set up your actors in a scene and then animate that scene as a panel of your motion comic.
Motion comics are a popular source of entertainment because they help bring our stories to life in a much more engaging way than just relying on static images. Cartoon Animator provides a fast and easy way to do this.
PLANNING LAYOUT & POSING ACTORS
Once you have your rough storyboard sketched out and planned, you can use actors from Cartoon Animator and pose them to match your storyboards.
Actors in Cartoon Animator are rigged with bones so posing them any way you want is easy. You can use premade actors or create your own from scratch, and even have total control over their facial expressions thanks to the detail face settings.
BREAKING ACTOR UP INTO MOVABLE PARTS
Once your actor is posed correctly for your motion comic panel, you’ll want to break the actor up into multiple parts to prepare for layering and motion. Using actors from Cartoon Animator makes this process very easy because you can isolate individual body parts and export them as large scale PNG files with transparent backgrounds.
SETTING UP BACKGROUND & ACTOR LAYERS
In your preferred art software, create your background, making sure to break up all the elements that will be required to move separately in your motion comic panel, including background layers, props and effects.
Bring your individual character parts into the scene and assemble them, keeping each on its own layer. Use your art software to enhance your character art by adding texture, colour and lighting to match the scene.
Once your motion comic panel is set up, save the scene as a PSD file. Now simply drag and drop your PSD direct to Stage Mode in Cartoon Animator and select Scene to have your motion comic panel background import with all your layers in their correct order, ready to apply motion to.
Save your actor as a separate PSD file and in the same way, drag and drop him to Stage Mode on top of your layered background, opening him as an actor file.
When you import your actor PSD, you will immediately be taken into Composer mode of Cartoon Animator which is the behind the scenes workshop. Here you can build, rig and adjust your characters. Since we are in here already, let’s start work now on adding some bones to our actor so we can animate him in our motion comic panel.
RIGGING ACTOR BONES
The first thing you’ll notice are the little red dots on top of your actor. These are the bone pivot points for each individual body part we have imported. So each body part will rotate around its pivot point. Open the Bone Editor menu, select a pivot point and line it up to its corresponding body part. Simply do this for each pivot point of your character to have your body parts stay connected and rotate in place.
To begin with, make sure the bone pivot point at the actor’s hip is selected and then from the Bone Editor menu, select Add Bone. Add an extra bone from the hip to the mid section of the torso. This gives you a point to be able to bend the character in the middle for more flexibility later. Starting from the outermost bone pivot points, now select each point and choose Connect from the Bone Editor menu. Then select the pivot point you want to connect to. You’ll want to connect each of the points for the arms and legs so they all connect like a skeleton.
You’ll see that for a motion comic we are only adding in a basic bone structure to our actor so that for speed and efficiency only the parts we need to animate will move. However, with Cartoon Animator you can rig a complete 2D actor for total animation control.
Now you have all the parts of your actor connected, you can add as many additional bones as required to allow for movement and bending of each body part. The more bones you add, the more flexible each body part will be and the more you’ll be able to control it. In the Subdivision panel of the Bone Editor menu, you can also expand the wireframe and increase its density to break up your part into more polygons for even more distortion.
When you’ve finished adding all your bones to your actor, select the Create Custom Rig GUI icon and you’ll be able to capture a thumbnail of your actor, complete with bones setup, to help you move him about later.
Now that you have all the elements of your motion comic panel imported and your actor rigged for movement, it’s time to set up the scene for camera depth and movement.
In Cartoon Animator you have three different axes for moving actors and objects. The X-axis moves objects horizontally. The Y-axis moves objects vertically. And the Z-axis moves objects closer to or further away from the camera. It is the Z-axis that will give your scene a sense of depth when you move your camera about and allows your characters to interact within the scene by moving between objects.
You can switch to Cartoon Animator’s 3D view at any time to see where all your layers sit in relation to each other and even move them about within this view for more control.
The greater the distance between the z-axis value of objects in relation to each other, the further apart they will appear and the more noticeable the 3D feeling of your motion comic panel will be when you pan or zoom your camera.
Set up each of your layers, including their z-axis value and then set the opacity for layers that need to be translucent like smoke. Then you are ready to work on the camera movement of your scene.
ANIMATING MOTION COMIC ELEMENTS
Now that your scene is all set up and layered, it’s time to animate your motion comic panel. There is no right or wrong way to do this, but ultimately, what you’re trying to do is to add a sense of drama to your scene and hold the attention of your audience and drive the story forward.
First of all, let’s animate our camera to establish the motion of the entire scene, and then we’ll animate each individual element within the scene using different tools included with CTA.
Starting at frame one of your project, open the Timeline and from the Track List select Project and then Camera. Your Camera timeline opens and it is here that you control all its movement. Make sure you are in Camera Mode so you see the frame as it will be recorded. Now because our actor is being pushed back by the explosion, let’s pan the camera horizontally and later we will animate the explosion pushing out towards him as he gets pushed backwards.
At frame one we have the camera set to its initial position.To create a dramatic sense of slow motion, let’s pan the camera horizontally across about 150 frames. If we move to frame 150 and then reposition our camera, and then play back the video, we see that the camera now pans horizontally as it plays from frame one to frame 150. As you can see, thanks to the way we set up the different z-axis values when we set the shot up, your scene appears to have a realistic sense of camera depth.
If some of the elements don’t end where you want them to, then you can even work backwards, setting them up at the final frame and then repositioning them at frame one to move between positions.
Let’s return now to frame one and do this for each element in the scene. At this point, it is simply a matter of working with each individual element within your motion comic panel and changing its position, depth or rotation from frame one to frame 150. One of the great features of Cartoon Animator is that when creating a 2D animation, you can scroll back and forth through your timeline at any time and make as many adjustments as you like to get the shot you want. We’ll rotate the actor slightly to give him a sense of being pushed back by the explosion, and make changes in the scale of the explosion so it appears to spread out.
Thanks to Cartoon Animator’s bone system, you can do so much more than just have your static actor slide across the screen. Because we already set up our bone structure inside our actor, we can now move those bones to give movement to his limbs, head and even bend his torso. Select your actor and open your Keyframe Editor and you’ll see an Image View showing all the bones. At frame one we already have the actor where we want him, so let’s move to frame 150 and give him some additional movement to make our comic panel more dynamic. Grab any bone and reposition it to where you want. Then as your animation plays, the bones will change position between keyframes and bring your cartoon to life. Cartoon Animator does all the hard work of the inbetween frames for you here, making animating your scene easy so you can just focus on being creative instead of being slowed down by having to work frame by frame.
So now we have a nice dramatic shot of our actor being pushed back in slow motion by the explosion.
SPRING BONES & FREE FORM DEFORMATION
Let’s use some of the other clever tools in Cartoon Animator to add some finishing touches to a few elements, like spring bones and free form deformation.
When animating, spring bones give automatic, dynamic motion to props and parts of actors, so you don’t have to worry about tedious keyframing. In our motion comic panel, we can keyframe the movement of the spring bones to give the canvas sack a more realistic sense of squash and stretch.
To add spring bones to any prop, select it and open it in Composer Mode. Reposition your pivot point for the object and then open the Bone Editor menu. From here, add any bones you feel will help your prop move correctly and increase your subdivision to add more polygons for a smoother bend.
You can manually keyframe your bones movement using the Prop Key Editor, which gives total control when creating a shot like our motion comic panel, or you can turn some of your bones into spring bones so Cartoon Animator moves them automatically when animating.
Exaggerated squash and stretch can also be achieved using another Cartoon Animator tool called Free Form Deformation. We can use this to expand our explosion props in a way that suggests they are exploding outwardly. There are plenty of presets for free form deformation, or you can keyframe the animation yourself by moving the points of the lattice from one frame to another for instant, smooth results.
Finally, go through your motion comic panel one last time and tweak details. Once you are happy with the scene, we can add speech bubbles and sound.
ADDING SPEECH BUBBLES
Even though our motion comic panel is complete, we can still bring in additional props, like speech bubbles. Having created them in your favourite art software as SVG files, you can just drag and drop them directly to Stage Mode and open them as props. From there, we simply rescale them, use the Transform track to change their position in the panel to match any animation already applied, and using the visibility timeline track we can determine when they appear and disappear.
ADDING VOICEOVER TRACKS
Cartoon Animator has two Sound FX tracks so you can bring in your voice track or other audio files. I always bring in my voice clips so I can perfect the timing, but I generally add other sounds like music and effects in post production.
RENDERING MOTION COMIC PANEL
Now that your motion comic panel is complete and you’ve added your voices, you can render your scene and export your file. Choose Render and then under the Video menu, select the format you want to export as, and the output screen size. Select only the range that includes your animation and then export.
EDITING AND ADDING SOUND IN POST-PRODUCTION
There are any number of websites for adding sound effects and music in post production, as well as plenty of software choices when it comes to editing all your scenes together.
For sound effects and music, I subscribe to a site called https://www.storyblocks.com/audio which has thousands of professionally recorded sound effects and music tracks. You will find everything you need in a quick search.
For editing all my clips together, I use Pinnacle Studio editing software, which gives me plenty of audio tracks so all my sound can be manually adjusted to produce my final motion comic panel. I even used Pinnacle to put this entire tutorial together.
Aside from being amazing 2D animation software that is fast, fun and easy to use, Cartoon Animator is also the perfect software for creating comic strips, graphic novels and motion comic panels. Whether you are new to 2D animation or a seasoned animator, Cartoon Animator works to your skill level. For beginners, the software is easy to pick up and be animating within hours, thanks to its easy to use interface and wealth of content provided. As your skills as an animator grow, you will make use of many of the varied professional tools and features Cartoon Animator has to offer.
I hope this video has helped inspire you when making your own Cartoon Animator projects. If you have any questions about this tutorial or CTA, feel free to email me.
1. Watchmen motion comic chapter 1 – Kyle Endl
2. The Accountant Motion Comic – Warner Bros. Pictures
3. inFamous – djmpup for PS3 – Link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WplrwsW0UzE
Additional props by –
- Declan Walsh (Dex Art) https://marketplace.reallusion.com/cartoon-animator/author/DexArt
Garry Pye content – https://bit.ly/3Tt3zxh
Garry Pye Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/garrypyeanimations
Cartoon Animator Users Facebook Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/CartoonAnimatorUsers
Cartoon Animator – https://bit.ly/3NxoFJO