As we’re the only company in Ireland using Toon Boom Harmony for full production we thought we’d give a behind the scenes look at the process.

Meet one of our riggers, Conor Clery who kindly filled us in on his experience working with Toon Boom Harmony.


I had no previous experience with either Toon Boom, or rigging a character for 2D animation software. So I went from no experience whatsoever, to being trusted to rig complete characters that would be used in the final production, in a relatively short amount of time. I’m not going to lie, initially I found the software confusing and intimidating, but after a bit of guidance from the guys in the studio and a lot of experimentation I actually find rigging in Toon Boom to be a fun but challenging process. I want to briefly outline that process from sketch to screen and talk about the parts that I found most challenging or interesting.

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This wonderful character is a creation of Frank Montagna, a renowned Disney artist who collaborated with Magpie 6 as a Key Artist. This initial sketch is the foundation of the entire rigging process. The artwork is scanned and the jpeg file is simply imported into an open Stage window. The first challenge is determining how to break down the character into individual moveable parts. In general, this is obvious enough, separate arms, legs, torso and head, etc. However more complex character designs require a bit of imagination to figure out how the character will work. I usually decide how the character will be broken down, and create empty drawing files named after the body part for me to draw later.
What happens next is essentially a tracing of the original artwork in Harmony, making sure I draw the element in the file I prepared for it. I prefer to use a Polyline tool, because it allows me to get natural looking curves in my linework. Make sure your line is complete and has no gaps (like any drawing software) to make colouring later easier. Simple. The result should look something like this.

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It is helpful to tidy up the network into elements that have a relationship, so the animator can tell at a glance what is affecting what. All the elements of the face should have their own their own composite for example, the left arm with the left hand, the right foot with the right leg etc.

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The next step in the rigging process is something we call ‘pegging up’, and it is probably the most important phase, as animators never animate on the drawings themselves, but rather by moving the peg around. This crosses over from the idea in traditional animation of animating a character by moving the pegbar the drawing is actually on! The pegging up process also determines the heirarchy of the elements. This basically means that you can have a broad to specific range of motion through ‘pegging up’ element. For example with facial features, you may want to move one particular element like a nose or a mouth, but you can also have those pegged up to a master peg that controls all of the elements, allowing you to move all of the face at once. Pegs need drawings that have pivot points in them to maintain the intended pivot.

This process is repeated throughout the network in such a way as to allow the animator the most practical control over the character, from any individual element, right up through the hierarchy to the whole body.

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There are infinite options on how you can rig a character in Toon Boom Harmony and incredible levels of complexity that I don’t have time to write about here. If I get a chance I will write more in depth blogs about how other elements like drawing instances, deformers, shadows, cutters and more can be used in Harmony. But I wanted to show the basic process as I understand it from an initial sketch to a workable rig, so I hope this is interesting or helpful for someone!

Thanks Conor! Hope you liked this post, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook!