About Nathan Smith
Greetings my fellow animators! I’m Nathan—an esteemed member of Studio Ghibletz. Today, I’ll be your guide as we explore Cartoon Animator 5’s latest features. We’ll learn how to use the vector character launcher, how to create props in Photoshop and Illustrator, and how to add GIF animations to your next cartoon.
Using Adobe Illustrator to Edit Vector Characters
Cartoon Animator 5 ushered in a new generation of vector characters. Vector assets enable you to produce characters and props which can be enlarged without a loss of quality. In the past, however, CTA5 lacked the ability to launch vector characters to an external image editor, but Cartoon Animator 5.1 remedies this issue.
You can now launch vector characters to Adobe Illustrator. To make edits to an SVG asset, bring it into the character composer. From here, select the SVG launcher, which is conveniently located beneath the PSD option. Seasoned CTA5 users will notice this follows the same pipeline as the Photoshop launcher.
CTA5 will then export your prop or character to Adobe Illustrator. For now, Illustrator is the only supported vector editing software, but this could change in the future. After bringing your character into Illustrator, make your desired changes, save, and then exit. Your character will automatically update in CTA5.1.
Certain types of 2D animation, like water, fire, and smoke, can’t be rigged with a bone structure like characters. They require a hand-drawn, frame-by-frame sequence. To make use of these assets, you must create a prop. In the past, you had to import your prop’s sprites one by one. This was time-consuming, especially if you had a ten-frame sequence for something like this flame. CTA5.1 now offers an alternative.
With CTA5.1, you can import multiple sprites at once. The pipeline begins in Photoshop. To import a prop with multiple sprites, you must correctly format it in Photoshop. If the file is not correctly formatted, your prop will fail to generate. You can format your prop in Photoshop by following these four steps:
Step 1: Create a folder named sequence. This tells CTA5.1 that you want to play the following sprites in a loop.
Step 2: Create a second folder with the name of your action sequence, then place it inside the folder named sequence. For example, the folder in the screenshot below is called flame.
Step 3: Load all of your sprites into the action folder. Here, you can also create multiple actions by using additional subfolders. For example, I added a second action sequence image called blue flame.
Please note: In Photoshop, the sprites will play from the top down. In Illustrator, however, the sprites will play from the bottom up.
Step 4: save your document as a .psd file, then drag it into CTA5.1. Your prop will automatically generate. From there, you will then find the sprite sequences under the action menu.
Sequence Images – SVG Prop Pipeline
If you want to make an SVG prop, Adobe Illustrator employs a similar pipeline. Again, it all comes down to correctly formatting the file. To make your first vector prop, follow these five steps:
Step 1: The first layer should bear the name of your prop. In the picture below, the prop’s name is “bread”.
Step 2: Add another layer. Name this one “sequence:” Don’t forget to add the colon. This is very important because without the colon the prop will not generate correctly when you import your file into CTA 5.1.
Step 3: Create another layer and name your action sequence. In the example below, the layer is named “bread_falling.”
Step 4: Place your sprites in the next layer. Remember, in Adobe Illustrator the sprites will play from bottom to top, which is why these five sprites are ordered in reverse. You can also create multiple sequences in the same prop, just like in Photoshop by creating another layer under “sequence:”
Step 5: Save your prop as a .svg file. Other formats, like .ai, won’t work. Finally, drag this .svg file into CTA5.1 to generate your new animated prop. As with traditional props, you’ll find the sequence image you created under the action menu.
A Quick Q&A about GIF and APNG Compatibility
The next exciting feature to grace CTA5.1 is GIF and APNG compatibility. You can now import animated GIFs directly into Cartoon Animator 5 with ease. This feature requires no elaborate set of instructions. Simply drag your GIF or APNG directly into CTA5.1. You’ll then be prompted to set the number of times you’d like the gif to play, then presto — you have a fancy new prop.
To make the most of GIFs, use them for props that require a constant loop — things like water, fire, and smoke. Additionally, you could consider using them for blinking lights or static computer screens. For Floppy’s Obstacle Course, I imported several butterfly GIFs to add flourish.
What is the difference between GIF and APNG?
GIFs and APNGs perform the same role. They create short, looped animation sequences. The primary difference, as Cody explains, is: “ GIFs and APNGs are both types of animated image files, but the main difference is that APNGs can have more colors and be better quality than GIFs.”
Where can I get free GIFs?
You can find animated GIFs all across the internet. The gifs used in Floppy’s Obstacle Course came from Envato. These butterflies were originally video files which I converted into GIFs to add into CTA5. Another great place to find GIFs is giphy.com. Here, you’ll find all the GIFs your heart desires, any of which are sure to boost the production value of your cartoon.
How can I create a GIF?
Funny you should ask! The butterflies used in Floppy’s Obstacle Course were originally video files. You can convert .mp4 files to GIFs using software like Premiere Pro, or a free GIF converter online.
Raise Production Value with CTA5.1
I hope these new features help you produce excellent cartoons. If you have any questions, I’ll be hanging out in the comments section and in the Cartoon Animator Users group on Facebook. The CTA community is large and supportive. Never hesitate to reach out if you’re curious about 2D animation. Farewell brethren!
Studio Ghibletz: https://www.youtube.com/@StudioGhibletz
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