Create Your Own Cartoon Character

Animating is far more enjoyable when the characters you’re working with have a strong personality, and the recorded voice audio is of high quality. Cheese is an amazingly funny character from Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, a great show on Cartoon Network. This Toon Boom tutorial will walk you through recreating this short commercial found on YouTube:

To complete this tutorial you will need to install Toon Boom, which is a trial you can download for free.

We will be using the five step plan to make your own cartoon:

  • Planning
  • Audio
  • Animate
  • Composite
  • Distribute

Planning

Cheese is a well designed character in that he (she?) has only a handful of moving parts, but the personality still shines through regardless of his simplistic nature. The plan for this animation is:

  • Prepare a custom color palette
  • Create Cheese in Toon Boom, along with all necessary body parts

To create a custom palette select the Properties window, then select Palette > New Palette from the icon just to the right of the Name field. This will create a blank palette for you to start with.

Situate your browser window with the YouTube video so that you have easy access between the two applications. Pause the video somewhere in the middle so that you can easily select colors from it. Click on the plus icon to create a new color, then select the eyedropper tool and use it to choose one of the colors from the YouTube video. Repeat until you have all of the colors.

Toon Boom tutorial to create Cheese from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends
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Notice that the background of the animation is not a static color, but is instead a radial gradient. To create a gradient in Toon Boom, check the gradient checkbox in the color property window. Use the guide arrows to choose the appropriate gradient color to change. Make sure that the radial direction option is chosen instead of the linear direction.

Create your own character with this Toon Boom tutorial
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Now we can start creating Cheese in layers. Mmmm, layered cheese…

I think I need dinner soon.

Bring up your Camera View and use the bottommost drawing layer to sketch out Cheese. We’re not trying to duplicate the character flawlessly, be loose and free and try to target the primary elements. This sketch will be a guide for the layers to come.

Use Toon Boom to make your own cartoon characters and upload them to Newgrounds
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Download the Toon Boom file that corresponds with this point in the tutorial.

Looking at the animation, we can determine that there needs to be 5 layers:

  • eyes
  • upper head
  • body (which includes the bottom part of the mouth)
  • arm
  • background

While it would be acceptable to simply include the eyes on the upper head layer, it is advisable to make any complex bits be on its own layer. That way you can edit the eyes with ease and not have to worry about correcting the head itself.

Add five layers by clicking on the plus icon in the Timeline window, choosing “Drawing” as the type of layer. Take the time to label the layers as well. Note the order of the layers, as those higher up will appear above the layers below.

We have also come across a common scenario, where we want one layer to be a child of another layer, but the child layer needs to appear in front of the parent layer. Toon Boom automatically places all child layers behind the parental layer. To properly attach Cheese’s eyes to the head you’ll need to first drag the eye layer in the Timeline window on top of the upper head layer. You’ll see it indented to indicate that it is now going to mimic its parent.

To pull the eyes in front of the head you’ll need the use of the Top View camera. Go to Window > Top View, and you’ll see a yellow field with green lines representing the individual layers. If you select the eyes layer in the Timeline window you should see the green line for it in the Top View window. Using the Top View, drag the green line for the eyes down a small amount to bring them closer to the camera and thus, in front of the head. The eyes will still continue to mimic the movement of the head, but will now appear in front of the head.

Toon Boom can be used to make cartoons for YouTube as well
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Download the Toon Boom file that corresponds with this point in the tutorial.

The next planning step is to make sure each moving part has its pivot point in the proper place. Only two parts will be moving in our animation, the upper head (and its child, the eyes), and the arm.

Select the arm layer from the Timeline window, then select the Rotate tool from the Scene Operation tools. Drag the central pivot point over to where his arm meets the shoulder. Now when we rotate the arm it will pivot at the shoulder properly.

Apply the same technique with the head layer, moving the pivot point to the back of Cheese’s head so that it will open and close like a can opener.

Download the Toon Boom file that corresponds with this point in the tutorial.

The final step is to draw the second eye we know we’ll need, which we see during the whispered “I’m pretty” line. It is acceptable to add this in the Animating step of this process, but since we know we’ll need it let’s simply add it now. Planning is all about making the Animating step as easy as possible.

Add a second frame on the eye layer and draw the second version of the eye, using a paused version of the YouTube video to draw from. You can then delete the frame from the Timeline window, without fear of deleting the drawing itself. The drawing still exists within the Cells panel of the Properties window, happily waiting until we need it.

Animation is all about planning
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At this point you can delete the initial sketch you did, to keep your project tidy.

Download the Toon Boom file that corresponds with this point in the tutorial.

Audio

Cheese is voiced by the crazy-talented Candi Milo. She is also the voice of Dexter from Dexter’s Laboratory. I don’t expect you to try to record yourself imitating Cheese (although that could be fun). I recorded the audio for you. It’s tough to get that final “I’m pretty” because he’s almost whispering it.

Download the MP3 file.

Add the sound file to your Toon Boom project by going to File > Import File, and then navigating to the MP3 you just downloaded. Toon Boom will automatically add the sound file to a new layer. Select View > Show Sound Waveforms to see the sound file’s modulations. This will make lip syncing easier. Also, go to Play > Turn Sound Playback On to make sure you can hear the audio.


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Download the Toon Boom file that corresponds with this point in the tutorial.

Animating

Yes! Finally! You’ve been so patient so far are itching to get to the fun part. Please take a moment to notice how much planning went into getting to this point. To do it properly, animation is not a jump-right-on-in kind of task. It is arduous, taxing and oh so rewarding when the day is done.

Since Cheese is performing a very simplistic lip sync (instead of using more human-like “TH”, “W” or “L” phonemes) we only need to flip his upper head as if it were on a hinge. Select the upper head layer on about frame 7. Select the Transform tool, and then set a keyframe (either by right-clicking on the frame and choosing “Add Keyframe” or by using the shortcut you’ve set).

Complete the rest of the mouth animation by listening to the audio, comparing it with the YouTube version and adding keyframes with the Transform tool.

Cheese also moves his arm upward on the whispered “I’m pretty” line. So select that layer and place a keyframe around frame 56. Then select frame 60 and rotate the arm upward. The transform tool will automatically place a keyframe for you this way.

The final animating step is to change his eyes for the “I’m pretty” line. Select the eyes layer on frame 58, then make sure you can see the Properties window. Select the Cells pane of the window, then move the cell slider to the right to see the second set of eyes you drew. The drawing of the eyes will change in the Timeline.

Learning to properly create keyframes in Toon Boom is a crucial skill
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Download the Toon Boom file that corresponds with this point in the tutorial.

Compositing

You can prepare the animation as it currently is as an AVI movie, to upload to sites like YouTube. Or you can import the movie into Flash to upload to sites like Newgrounds.

To export the cartoon to a Quicktime movie go to File > Export Movie. Set the Export Format to Quicktime Movie and choose a proper destination to save the final file. Click on the Options button and change the settings to the following:

  • Depth: Millions of Colors
  • Quality: Medium
  • Frame rate: 15
  • Key frame rate: 1

Only up the quality to its highest settings if the cartoon will be on TV. The resulting file size is ginormous.

Once exported, you should be able to upload your movie to YouTube. Here’s my final version (at a svelte 5.6 megs):

To prepare the cartoon for Flash you will first need the Toon Boom Studio Importer. Install this before you open Flash.

Open up Flash and select Create New Flash Document. Change the properties of the file to match our Toon Boom file:

  • Width: 425
  • Height: 350
  • Frame Rate: 15

Now go to File > Import > Import to Stage. Navigate to your Toon Boom file and double click on it to see its interior .tbp file. Select that and click on Import. A new window will come up with more options. Make sure “All Frames”, “Import sounds”, “Apply sound edits”, “Preserve layers” are all checked. Also make sure that “Create new scenes” is not checked, then select ok.

Flash will busy itself importing the file for a moment. We need to add two things:

  • Actionscript to make the animation stop at the beginning and the end
  • An invisible button to make the animation play when clicked.

If you add a keyframe (F6) on the final frame of the animation and then go to Window > Actions you will see a new window appear. Type in “stop();”, to make the animation stop on the final frame instead of looping infinitely.

Apply the same keyframe to the first frame of the animation, so that the cartoon does not start playing automatically.

To make the invisible button first create a new layer and call it “button”. Add a rectangle (of any color) over all of the animation, completely covering it. Select the rectangle then go to Modify > Convert to Symbol. Select Button as the symbol type and give it an appropriate name. Select the rectangle on the stage and in the properties window select Color > Alpha and then set the slider to 0%. This will make the button appear invisible.

Now we’re going to make the button start the animation. Click on it and then open the Actions window again. Add this code:

on(release){
gotoandplay(2);
}

You should now be able to publish the Flash file and get something like this (click anywhere to play):

Download the Flash file that corresponds with this point in the tutorial.

Conclusion

And that’s it gentle readers. Normally you should distribute your cartoon so all the world can see it, but that step will be skipped since this is merely a tutorial. If you’re interested in something a bit more basic, please try the introductory Toon Boom tutorial.

The 5 step animation process can serve you well. Follow it and internet glory is sure to follow.

47 Responses to “Create Your Own Cartoon Character”

  1. jama Says:

    i wanna make a character please im very good in drawing please im dying for this

  2. jama Says:

    hello

  3. Kathleen Says:

    I LOOOOVE Chocolate Milk!

  4. jordan Says:

    hello puppet

  5. george Says:

    lol i like choco milk aswell

  6. Carolina Says:

    necesito crear un personaje de caricatura rĂ¡pido, ya que estoy armando un comic nuevo

  7. Tea Says:

    Thanks for this tutorial, I am super new to this…but I am having some issues. I did everything up to the animation point, but don’t really understand keyframes…in flash (which I sort of know) when I add a keyframe I can change the content within it without all the other frames changing, but this is not so with toon boom. I can’t rotate the upper head in frame 7 without all of the frames for the head rotating. Also, the eyes are child to the head, but do not rotate when I rotate the head. This is really frustrating since I want to finish what I’ve started! Any help would be greatly appreciated!!! :)

    ps Foster’s home for imaginary friends is the best show ever!!!

  8. ajay Says:

    In TBS Keyframes are there, but u need to put a different peg for each and every part of your charcter . I know cause I’m an animation student .

  9. Will Says:

    @Tea, It’s good that you’re comparing what you’re doing to the Flash version. It is similar, and gives you an advantage since you’ve dealt with the concepts before.

    The main problem you’re having is that there is more than one select tool in Toon Boom. The select tool you’re using is meant to change the entire drawing, thus affecting all other frames.

    To rotate the upper head (and its children), use the Transform tool (“7″ is the default shortcut key for this). With the Transform tool you should see control points appear on the drawing that will allow you to rotate and resize the keyframe, but not the drawing itself.

    It’s an important distinction, and one of the reasons Toon Boom is so powerful.

  10. Tea Says:

    Thanks Will, I actually managed to discover this by doing the walk cycle tutorial and then reattempting cheese lol. My walk cycle kind of looks like that character is dancing, but it’s still a good first try lol, and cheese is pretty good, except it’s not perfectly in sync. I really do like toon boom better than flash so far because tweening is automatic and I’m sure that I will find more reasons soon.

    @ajay, thanks for the advice, but I really haven’t gotten as far as pegs yet lol, this was my very first tutorial.

  11. Will Says:

    @Tea, Excellent, I’m glad it worked! If you end up posting your final result anywhere online (YouTube, for example), feel free to embed it here, we’d all love to see it.

  12. Tea Says:

    Hi, I might post the toon for this tutorial, but I thought this would be more interesting. It’s short, but I plan on setting it to music and syncing it up. All the correct pegs are in place (yes I know what they are now lol). It took about 20 min to make and I am really proud seeing how am a total beginner. Anyways enjoy, it’s just an emo teen playing the guitar lol (most likely I will use a tegan and sara song and add another character). Feedback is welcome!!!

    (I’m not sure if I’m embedding it properly so if it doesn’t work here is the host link)

    http://tinypic.com/player.php?v=2wlu9kx&s=4

    ps Will sorry to disappoint but Tea is only my nickname lol

  13. Will Says:

    @Tea, it’s ok if it’s just your nickname, it’s still a cool nickname!

    Welcome to the world of pegs! They can be both life-saving and frustrating at the same time. Such is the nature of Toon Boom!

    Your animation looks awesome! I truly can’t wait to see the final cartoon. I love the colors you’ve chosen, and the character moves well. You can actually embed the cartoon right in the comments here, which I’ve done below. Thank you again for sharing!

  14. kelly Says:

    i really wanna make a character and i lovee choco milk babeeessssssss!!! xxx

  15. hadi Says:

    I love fosters thing for imaginary stuff

  16. Richard Says:

    I think creating a cartoon charcter is going to be really cool.

  17. joshua Says:

    i like animating

  18. MbV93 Says:

    how do i get toon boom studio separated like that i have all in one window and another question why do my drawings look rough in toon boom studio

  19. Bobby Says:

    i love cartoon characters i have been drawing them since i was 6 i have been drawing my family in cartoon and my own cartoon characters and i can draw anything not just cartoons i have been drawing and creating house plus in side them.

  20. cooldudes Says:

    I think creating my own cartoon will be so awsome i cant whate so be quick

  21. Jamie Says:

    You are so stupid! Where is create your own Character?!?! Huh!

  22. anichick Says:

    hi. i got toonboom studio 4 a while ago, and haven’t been able to figure it out! See, every time i copy something into a different “cell”, or whatever, the previous or later cell changes itself on me! it gets really frustrating!!! what am i doing wrong???

  23. hannah Says:

    i don’t get how to make my own cartoon

  24. Chaz Says:

    I like to draw cartoons, but I want to draw them online. I drew a cartoon from a white sheet of paper who is a hero named Heroic Dragon. I want to know if there is a way to draw my creation online for free.

  25. EBONY-ROSE Says:

    i dont get how to make my cartoon either

  26. dennisha Says:

    omg i wana make my own character so badly

  27. azaeli Says:

    i like to draw but my mum wont let me make a cartoon

  28. Dee Says:

    I would love to make my own character i this tutorial as well as others but i love choco milk to much so please resond to the other people that have said the same thing as me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!LOL

  29. kishmish Says:

    I think …………. ” IT’S NOT SO BAD, BUT NOT BEST ALSO……………….
    IT JUST A GOOD…………!!!! “

  30. mishti Says:

    these tips r really useful 4 guys like me who likes cartoons & animation alot actually i also want 2 make a cartoon

  31. akeemel Says:

    so it mite be called bonspo it mite be a good idea its going to be good

  32. aimee Says:

    cool n fun get workin will we go n join in the fun

  33. nw Says:

    Is there a “create drawing from drawing” selection in toon boom studio like in toonboom animate. I am breaking a character down and was also wondering if there was an option for “get artwork from source” which i can enable/disable when needed
    Thanks

  34. hotttie Says:

    hey every one how do you make an account on tihs web site . you all are cool . really wanna be friends :) :) peace

  35. lilj Says:

    hey how do u make a character

  36. make your own cartoon pictures Says:

    [...] Create Your Own Cartoon Character Mar 12, 2011 … Use Toon Boom to make your own cartoon characters and upload them to Newgrounds … [...]

  37. kayla Says:

    love

  38. revathi Says:

    love it cool awesom mindblowinggggg

  39. ashley guy Says:

    this site is amazing lol :)

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  46. Ash Says:

    OMG THIS IS SO AMAZING YOUR REAL OWN CARTOON CHARTER

  47. liam sampson Says:

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