Sunday, August 05, 2012

Usesthis - article about what tools and technology I use

Here's an article about what tools I use to make cartoons.
The Setup / John Kricfalusi

I thought it might help to see images of some of the stuff I was talking about:
Here's an old story outline I did on a typewriter. Before computers you had to get everything right in one shot, or you'd have to start over again.
Also if you had new ideas you wanted to add or wanted to edit, you again had to retype everything from scratch.
After an outline is written, I'd start to sketch up the ideas like this - just quick doodles that try to capture the guts of what is going on.

Here's the kind of outlines I do now. I use Microsoft's outline mode (under the "view" menu.)
You can see that there are headings and sub headings. This makes the story really easy to change, edit, add, modify.
And again...some idea and story sketches to fill out the story...

After the storyboard is done, we start doing layouts.
I used to do them in pencil

John K Stuff: Storyboard To Layout

Here are some pencils to inks. The inks done in Illustrator (which I have since stopped using) I think:
These were inked by Mitch Leeuwe (did I spell that right?)
Here's one I inked in Illustrator and then exported to Photoshop to color (I turned off the anti-aliasing when exporting so I could use the paint bucket to fill it.
Now we can do all this much simpler using Toonboom's Animate Program:

And I've started to do the layouts in Toonboom too:

The layout and animation stages are starting to become blurred because it is so much easier to do all this in one program now.

The whole production system is changing and evolving as technology becomes easier to use and eliminates old time-consuming non creative tasks- like xeroxing, painting cels, shipping artwork etc...

There still doesn't seem to be a way to make digital backgrounds look as good as real ones and that's a shame because all the BG artists have pretty much switched over to digital now.


Brett W. McCoy said...

"There still doesn't seem to be a way to make digital backgrounds look as good as real ones"

You can with TVPaint, it has support for natural media styles, but's a purely bitmapped environment.

Elana Pritchard said...

I was thinking yesterday as I bought some water color paints, that if there is one part of the production process that you could cost effectively keep analog it would be the bg paintings, since the amount you make is relatively small compared to the rest of the cartoon.
When I do digital bgs I spend half the time trying to make them look like they weren't done on a computer anyways, and I'm getting frustrated by the limited amount of natural looking textures you can get on even a good painting program like Corel (that's why I keep using the my precious chalk over and over, because it one of the only textures that looks organic to me). I want to drip things and wad up paper towels and dip them in paint! I'm absolutely going to invest some time into learning how to paint for real.
I think one of the things that's been holding me back (and from conversations I've had with people this is a common issue) is space. Doing freelance you usually end up in some situation where you are working out of your room or tiny apt and you don't really have a good studio space where you can bust out the paints and have a free and open working situation. Before rents went through the roof artists used to be able to afford studios where they could get messy and not be sent to jail if they spill paint on the floor. As it is now I'm working in a cramped room right next to my bed on a computer and I'm living in someone else's suburban home so if I mess things up I will be in hot water (that's why I got the watercolors, they come in a neat, easy to clean up, self-contained package).
That being said, where there's a will there's a way, and I think actual painted bgs are worth the effort. And besides, how will a digital file ever hang in the Louvre?

Mitch Leeuwe said...

Hee John,

Yeah you spelled it right. Great post again and good luck with the kickstarter project!

Carmine said...


So John, what program do you paint your backgrounds in? Corel Painter? Is toonboom good for painting (is there any vector program that's ideal for painting?).

Alex said...

This guy's a really good painter with vector colors and his live stream videos are pretty informative. Toon Boom bgs can look great

Alex said...

This guy is proof that vector BG's can look amazing if you utilize the gradients as perameters and paint in between those color extremes. Using the repaint brush and protecting certain colors and you can
build up some interesting pieces.

Scott Cardona said...

Since all these new progams like toonboom and flash are here now, and make it alot simpler to create a cartoon/animation. Do you feel that you wont be going back to traditional animation with paper and cels?

Carmine said...

Thanks Alex! It is interesting watching him, but what program is he using?

kurtwil said...

Thanks for sharing info about your tools, JK.
What specifically don't you like about digital backgrounds? Colors too harsh/CGI'ish? Outlines too sharp and defined?
Corel PAINTER has been around for many years and strives to be a "natural media" tool.

JohnK said...

Because they look fake. Very cold and clinical no matter who does them

Daz said...

There's already a cartoon featuring "My little donkeys" on it, dunno what that means or your "my little asses" idea, but I like the animation in this either way
Just giving you the heads up!

Phil Reitz said...

Hey John,

I've always been a fan. I'm not sure how to get a hold of you, but I have an interesting premise for a show.

Background-My father started a diner when I was born, and I took it over about 6 years ago. He's a very well known guy, and he's a real life cartoon character. He FLIPS OUT at the drop of a hat, tells customers dirty jokes, knows too many people to count, and chats just about anyone up no matter where he is. His hearing has always been notoriously bad, so he pretends like he hears what people are saying a lot, even when he can't hear. He swears like a trucker in front of anyone and smokes in the place even though it's against health code. No one blows him in because everyone loves him (it's a really busy diner btw).

He flips out at the help and expects them to improve without actually showing them how to improve. He makes idle threats, over and over and over, but rarely follows through. It's hilarious and sad at the same time. He has never stuck to a schedule in his life.

Even at 76 he's antsy. He likes to say embarrassing things and mess with people. He's the type of person that wants to rile up people. Even in a quiet doctor's office lobby he'll joke around and say wacky stuff to get people going. He lights up everywhere he goes. He can't stay still no matter what. He doesn't follow through with anything. And with all these qualities he helps people out and gives more than he gets, for sure.

Without having real insight into his daily life it's easy to dismiss this as a decent thing to animate, but when he flips out I just picture Ren & Stimpy. It's perfect.

Anyway, the premise would involve my father in all his insanity in the context of running a diner. I saw the kickstarter about how you animated your father, and I think this would be an amazing show. There's a lot of content not only in his character, but the diner itself. He sustained business "his way" all these years by being insane and knowing a lot of people, which is a feat in and of itself. It has always done well enough to make up for the horrible inefficiencies that were apparent by its mismanagement. Seriously, there's endless material here.

This is obviously never going to happen, but I wanted to throw this out there. If you are curious, I'd be willing to talk more. Just respond to this post and I'll leave my e-mail.

Phil Reitz said...

Regarding that last comment... I kind of rushed it but there are so many supremely odd, quirky things he does. It's just gold.

For example, he's about 5'2" and he looms around the dishwasher only inches away, invading his space, staring at him wide-eyed, making sure he sweeps perfectly. If the dishwasher shows a lack of confidence or pep, he abruptly rips the broom out of his hands and shows him how to do it properly, all while condescending the kid. Then he'll mumble under his breath about how he's an idiot.

I'm sure you get requests all of the time, but I'm sure after talking to me for more than a minute you would realize I have good insight. This would be truly great.

Darkhawk said...

Cool snippet on how it is all put to put together. And your right about original BG artistry.

I agree with that point because even with all the technology there is today, it is not a replacement for talent. The tools are just tools, it is how you use them that matters. There is some wild stuff out there that uses the cutting edge of technology. But it ends up being only mediocre in content because they relied too much on the technology and not enough on the artists that created it. The programs make life easier, but they still cannot draw the whole picture for you, or it's content. I think a lot of people miss that sometimes. They get too wrapped up in the glittery technology.

Every illustration I make is made on paper, with a real pencil before it goes into the computer. I'm just old fashioned that way.

Alex said...

I love the work done with TVpaint, but i wish that the interface wasn't so impossible to understand

Steven M. said...

You can probably have the backgrounds done by painters and then maybe try to put them in the computer.

m__a++r**K said...

Hi John,

As this seems like the best way of contacting you I would like to show you my illustration work to see if I had any possible chance on working with you on future projects. My website can be viewed here.


MyAngryCat said...

Dear John.K, the 3rd, 4th and 5th seasons of Ren and Stimpy came in the mail after me only having the 1st and 2nd seasons for like 5 years.

While I enjoy every era of the show I find your comments about Games Animation to be highly thought provoking and insightful. There aren't much words at this point but I can finally see why you are the person you are.

Thanks for creating such a great cartoon.

~James Sutton

kurtwil said...

"Because they look fake."

Perhaps because typical "digitally painted" BG's are dead flat, lacking vertical textures and light scattering abilities oils or acrylics and their underlying paper add to a "live" BG?

Disney tried a special BG process called Deep Paint for TARZAN and POCAHONTAS.

Steve M, like most studios converting to digital, our '90's outfit scanned hand painted backgrounds, using computer paint tools only to embellish or make sure the BG's (if needed) could loop seamlessly ((that old, old, __old__ HB endlessly cycling BG trick. )).

MonstruoDibujos said...

Hey. First of all, thank you for this blog is very interesting. I'm from Argentina, I'm not good with English but I hope you understand. I have 29 years and since childhood I love to draw but I never felt to have talent, because I went to a drawing school as a teenager and learned nothing. My dream is to become an animator. Last year I started to study drawing self-taught with Betty Edwards method and that helped a lot. Now I am copying all models of Preston Blair's book, following your advice, since I love the style of Tex Avery and Hanna-Barbera cartoons. I do everything in pencil, because I find it hard to draw with the tablet. Could you give me some advice on this? I have no enough money to buy a Cintiq to draw directly on the screen ... Consequently, I use a genius, like the basic wacom, but I find it hard to draw looking at the monitor. Greetings and thanks. Charlie Martínez

David Nethery said...

Alex said...
I love the work done with TVpaint, but i wish that the interface wasn't so impossible to understand

Alex, TVPaint's interface is no more difficult to understand than ToonBoom or Flash or any other digital animation app. They are all difficult to get the hang of until you've worked with them for a week or two and be willing to invest some real time working through the user manual. Many people seem to have this fantasy that the program should automatically do everything for you , but I've never found any animation program that's worth using to be so simple . They all have a learning curve.