Sunday, December 09, 2007

Toy Drawing 3 - Advanced -Knickerbocker toys - Jinks

Knickerbocker toys are more detailed than the cartoons they are based on. This is Jinks the cat. Draw him and reap the rewards of a better understanding of cartoon construction. you have already constructed Top Cat, you are now ready for a Knickerbocker toy.
The Knickerbocker toys have more elaborate forms than the Top Cat Toy we drew. The same general construction, but more complicated, so don't start with this exercise if you haven't done Top Cat yet.

I'm forcing myself to learn to draw in Flash. It's hard. The drawing tools suck. Yu can see how wiggly my lines are. Doing this in Flash though has its advantage. I can draw each level of construction on a separate layer, so that I can show them to you.
Work your way through each level, by drawing the biggest forms first. With each new level add the next biggest forms.
Note the perspective. The eyes curve around the round face and get smaller and thinner.

Each form, in turn has sub-forms-the muzzle is split into two balls in front and a wrinkle between the muzzle and eyes.

Here's the top layer of details, without the construction underneath. Sorry about the wiggly lines. Anyone have a secret to tell me how to get better lines in Flash?

Here are some more angles of Jinks for you to practice on.


Lucas Gonzaga said...

Hey! Good blog!

Almost all of my work is in flash, take a look its hard to adpt to flash, just practice and you´re gonna be great.

After all, if this one is your first drawing you are very good!


Chris said...

John do you have a Wacom tablet? I haven't used it in Flash but I draw with it in Photoshop and Illustrator and have found it to be an expensive but life-changing upgrade. I have a Cintiq21ux and like it so much that I am also buying a tablet PC that uses a Wacom pen for when I travel.

he said said...

In photoshop at least the way to get smooth lines is to use a resolution 4-5 times times more detailed than your monitor and zoom in while you draw. Then you zoom out and the wiggles aren't visible. I don't know anything about flash.

Andy J. Latham said...

I think it's a great idea to draw from toys. I have been doing it using figurines of Popeye, Bluto and Mickey Mouse. You can see them here and here if you are interested.

Bitter Animator said...

For Flash, there is a smoothing setting in the brush properties. On one end of the scale you get really wiggly lines, on the other Flash decides what it thinks you really should have drawn, even if it bears little resemblance to your intention. Somewhere in the middle you may get a happy medium, although much of it depends on how quickly you draw too.

It's possible to get real precision lines in Flash but it's more like constructing in Illustrator rather than actually drawing.

Someone may well have settings and tricks to get it to accurately represent what you're drawing.

carlo guillot said...

Hi John.
Well, I know a trick that may help you in Flash. When you work with the brush tool, on the properties panel you can change the smoothing value. It's 50 by default, but you can change it up to 100.
Sometimes it does things you didn't planned, but I hope it works for you.

Kyle said...

are you using a tablet, John? just curious.

Larry Rains said...

I just came across this and thought you should know. Some one is selling 3D models of Spumco Characters...

Type in Spumco in 3D model search.

Charlie J. said...

Great post, thanks for more great lessons!

I did the first one, take a look!

diego cumplido said...

"After all, if this one is your first drawing you are very good!"


ChristopherC said...


Wow all this time you've been scanning drawings, I always thought you were using Flash , it's discouraging to draw with, so much cleanup. The layer thing is probally the way to go with a very thin first layer drawings. If you go to, he has lessons via quicktime that are helpful. This guy basically uses the shape tool and pushes and pulls on a object to get it into the shape you want. then layers other shapes on top. It seems to be a lot of work either way. I am sure very soon you will be perfecting a method to make it simple.

Jenny said...

Never having used Flash to draw(or do anything else), I'm wondering: is it absolutely necessary to use Flash\ instead of Photoshop--or for that matter Alias Sketchbook--for this study?

Both of those programs also allow you to easily add layers(which you can make as transparent as you like via a slider control), ones for each part of the construction. And you can save out the drawing in stages as you've done here. FWIW between the two of them I've found Alias to be the better "drawing" tool while ol' PS(CS3)is tops for the file system; it's what we use for storyboarding now. I've been thrilled to kiss the xerox machine bye-bye, I'll tell you.

I'm sure there's a good reason you use Flash, but just an FYI that its annoying aspects might be much less so, or even easier, in Alias or PS.

I'm assuming you're on a Cintiq tablet?

And I just thought I'd add that as a kid I loved setting up Mr. Jinx and other hard toys(Cecil soaky, disneykins etc)and drawing them "from life" too. Young and dumb as I was it was clear that the life drawings were much better than any of my attempts to copy a 2D image of a character would be. The reason why are blatantly obvious now, but back then I thought it was pure magic. ; )

Anyway, I'm tickled to death to see you exhort the multitudes to do the same in the present day! it really is a fascinating exercise and a swell idear. Nice tutorials too. : )

David Nethery said...


Despite your disclaimer about your "wiggly lines" in Flash, I think that's a darn good drawing !

What a great lesson in cartoon construction.

I really struggle with drawing freehand in Flash. I know I'm supposed to learn Flash , because that's what most places still doing "2D" work use now, but I just can't warm up to it. I agree with you that the drawing tools suck . Flash does some things well, but I'm not convinced it's ideal for drawing "traditional" style cartoon frame-by-frame animation. (some people have adapted to the Flash drawing tools and they do it very well : Jessica Borutski, the crew at Copernicus, Jamie Gallant , Adam Phillips , all come to mind) . God bless 'em every one , but I still think there are better digital tools for frame-by-frame traditional cartoon animation than Flash. The one I keep telling everyone about is TVPaint Animation .

They have a free trial. Give it a try. I think the drawing tools in TVPaint feel way more natural and intuitive than Flash or ToonBoom Studio (in my opinion ; your mileage may vary). Unfortunately, TVPaint is a small software development company and doesn't have a huge advertising budget.

But you were asking about Flash ... so to get back on topic:

"Anyone have a secret to tell me how to get better lines in Flash ?"

To me, the best line quality in Flash I've seen is Jesscia Borutski's . She kills me . If I were you I'd ask her about what settings she uses , and other tips .

Josh Latta said...

Did you use the brush tool?
I find the brush particularly hard to use and unpredictable. The pencil tool is easier to draw with but the lines only have one weight and aren't easy to texture at all. So, in other words, i have no f'in clue how to make pretty lines in flash.

Adele K Thomas said...

hey john, after you have drawn a bunch of lines, try the line smoothing tool (its the wiggly line with an arrow...under the magnet icon, there is also a straightening one) OR if you want a little more control under your tablet pen, put a sheet of paper on the tablet and draw on that. It registers through to the tablet...this helps as it will feel like your still drawing on paper, then eventually, start taking the paper away...
Id like to see something of yours painted in flash to show the colouring you prefer, as this is an area i sometimes find hard to do in flash vector colours...avoiding bold bright colours.

Kristin F. said...

That looks really good John! The lines don't look wiggly at all.

I wish I had some old toys to construct with!!

stephanie said... guys need to go outside and play once in a while,and get some fresh air and stuff...
Nerd Alert! No,really i'm just kidding! I often wondered WHERE one could find and buy old cartoons? They have NOT all come out on DVD,sadly.And some are just plain politically incorrect,like the cartoons from the war years.So hard to find,with their weird characterizations of Hitler and Japanese(you know with buck teeth, and small round glasses,etc.)
Where does one find weird/old cartoons on DVD?

Raff said...

A Flash Inking tutorial by a decent artist:

click here

From my experience, long quick single sweeps come out smoothest in Flash. It's not like a pencil where you work over a line in several passes and carve your way into the line.

Anonymous said...

I think you should look at your Mr. Jinks drawing again, John. It doesn't really look wiggly to me. In fact, it looks kind of solid.

And oh, here's my stab at drawing Knickerbocker Jinks (yes, I drew it from all nine angles). Sorry about the blue pencil underdrawing not being dark enough.

A.M.Bush said...

Why does the cat have no fur on it's face?

P.S. I only draw on paper

Sean Worsham said...

Great lesson, but man is that toy scary! Looks like a typical Furry you see in a comic book convention!

Josh Latta said...

Oh, and if you use the brush tool to ink, how do you color the final image?

Gustavo Rodrigues said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pinkboi said...

The best way to get better lines in flash is to draw in illustrator first, then import.. Which version of flash are you using? If it's older than 8, this won't work right (since it won't import right).

The other advantage of this is you can import it as a single object, so the multiple layers are in your illustrator file, but not crowding up your .fla, which you probably need more layers in for cartoon action and stuff..

Are you using a wacom?

Gustavo said...

Hey John! I´m trying to adapt to flash, and I agree the tools really stinks. If u wanna test another animation stuff take this :
It´s a light program and very simple to use in my opinion. I think you´ll gonna like it.
C ya :)

gabriel valles said...

Under edit/preferencesDrawing. turn off Smooth curves, recognize lines, and recognize shapes, and under connect lines/must be close.

That will turn off most of the smoothing and snapping. it will still smooth a little, but will be better.

a Cintiq is really the only good way to draw in Flash. you can use a regular wacom but you will have to do a lot of clean-up on the lines.

On another note, Art Rage + a Cintiq is a great way to sketch on the computer, I forget i'm not drawing on paper. There is a free version and the full version with layers is only $25.

Anonymous said...

hiya John.

i'm gonna try this. i have a wacom but it would probably be a little easier drawing in flash if i had a cintiq like yours. your lines aren't wiggly at all, it's just flash's drawing tools are on the suck side.

is that a box of George Liquor pencil toppers in the background? drool...

Pete Emslie said...

I've been criticizing Flash for it's poorly controlled linework both on Cartoon Brew and on my own blog. Yet its defenders all claim it can do anything. As far as I'm concerned, if it takes as much tweaking of the settings as I'm hearing described here by others (with still no guarantee of satisfying results), it's still a poor alternative to drawing with the tried and true, old fashioned pencil on paper. Honestly, I personally think it's absurd to spend so much time and effort trying to wrestle with that silly software in order to get a simple line drawing. I don't understand why that fact is so difficult for the techies to acknowledge: Flash is just a glorified Etch-a-Sketch in its present form, that needs a lot of retooling if it's ever to become artist friendly. I'm with Kali - I'm sticking with my trusty pencil...

pinkboi said...

But once you get used to a wacom (be it the pad or an awesome cintiq), Illustrator or Photoshop is awesome for drawing! Just not for animation... Flash is awesome because it's low-bandwidth and can be interactive. You could make a really good looking cartoony game that loads quickly in a simple browser window (or even a cell phone)..

Technological (and other kinds of) restraints can be the greatest help for innovation - it forces you to find a different way to make something appealing. Drawings done in flash will never be as detailed.. so develop your own Flash style that at least looks good. Remember the first Super Mario Brothers? It looked good, even though it was so primitive!

Of course, Adobe (formerly Macromedia)'s swf format is an open standard, so anyone can whip up a program that generates flashes, so I think the way to go is a tool specialized for cartoonists that generate flashes, given that Adobe's program is getting more and more specialized for programmers and web designers.

the clownninja said...

foolong around with the smoothing setting aint going to get it done. turn thatdown to about forty. make sure you nail your roughs down, and then zoom in for clean up. 400-8oo percent.

chris said...

you said it, 40% smoothing and zoomed in to about 400 is about as good as it gets... at 400, i usually use the third smallest brush size as well.


Can you tell us what make and model and size tablet you use?
Many thanks

pumml said...

Hi John, people are right, there's no replacing pencil and paper and that Flash has its limitations. That said, it's simple necessity that we draw directly in Flash to save precious time scanning, saving and importing art (except when you need nice textures).

Here are a couple tips that might help. With the brush tool, I prefer it set with pressure and tilt turned on, and smoothing set to 60 (good with larger brush sizes). Yes, it may slightly alter your lines, but will keep you from having to do too much cleanup. Simply draw the line and 'command z' then draw it again until you get the one you want.

If you need to clean the line up, I use the selection tool (black arrow) and drag parts of the line around to quickly get nice thicks and thins if they need to be improved.

A time saving tip: Instead of drawing to a new layer each time, you can click the toggle auto-convert to shape (auto-group) button in the brush menu. This will group the line so it doesn't connect with the next one. When the line drawing is done, you can simply select all your shapes (which will be on the same layer) and go to Modify>Timeline>Distribute to Layers. This will send each line to its own layer. You can select all and break them apart, combine or move layers as desired. Quick and easy! Takes longer to explain it than to do it.

Hope this wordy reply helps!

Q109 said...

In Flash, I edit my Keyboard Shortcuts to map the 'Drawing Menu Commands>Shape>Smooth' command to my "`" key so it's pretty easy to hit.

Then I whack in rough lines, erase overlap to clean up, and for wiggly spots, I use the lasso tool to select *just small wiggly parts* and hit my 'smooth' shortcut key.

In practice, it's a lot of quick "L" key (for lasso), select a bit of a stroke, then tap tap on the "`" key to smooth to taste.

If you try to smooth too large of a stroke selection, Flash tries to average all of the points, and the result is usually awful. By limiting the number of points selected, you can get much better control of smoothing.

Gad said...

wow this is some great stuff you do
i have been looking at your blog for 2 years now, but that my first comment...

the trick about flash is using the different tools it got.
not only the brush tool
i use the brush mostly to do the sketch
for more accurate details i used the line tool, you use it a loot like the pen tool in photoshop, to create area you color later but unlike the pen tool it is easy to use. and the flash pen tool need allot of practice, that such a great work you did for a first drawing in flash.

have fun drawing in flash and don't give up

Bogosaurio < 3 said...

que tal mis bocetos? ;)

Mabelma said...

Hey John, I tried out this exercise as well and it would be a great honor if you could drop by my blog ( and leave some feedback on it. Great exercises by the way, tons of fun and helps a lot in this learning solo process, thanks for compiling all of this things and making such greats exercises for us aspiring artist.

TWill said...

Hey John,

Just finished this toy construction. I liked this one more than the Top Cat drawings.

I also posted some quick drawings from my head, to see if I remembered what I was drawing.

Jinks Knickerbocker Drawing

waldo said...

There are several ways to change the "wiggliness" of your lines but the simplest way is to tape a piece of paper to your tablet. This gives you a lot more grip and is closer to the feel of drawing on a regular piece of paper (but still not perfect). If you still dont like the results you can fiddle with the smoothing settings. To toggle smoothing simply click the pencil tool and go to the very bottom of the toolbar where you will see a wiggly or jagged line. When you click it, you are given three options for how flash processes your lines, it can smooth it, leave it as it is, or it can straighten it. To have further control over these settings you can go into the flash preferences under drawing and choose another option in the "smooth curves" drop down menu. If you are using the brush tool, there is a numeric value in the properties panel for the amount of smoothing. Hope this helps. These are awesome tutorials btw.

David said...

Hi John

Heres the drawings from this lesson

Comments & Feedback greatly appreciated

Jono Willis said...

Hi John,
here are my Jinx drawings as overlays for comparison.
Found here!