If you're looking to create awesome 2D animations then Toon Boom Animate Pro has all the tools and features you'll need to achieve stunning results. In this article we'll focus on Animate Pro's Brush and Pencil drawing tools and how they function. These are essential tools for creating characters, backgrounds, or any other elements you might have in your animation project.
Two of the primary drawing tools that you'll find yourself using the most will more than likely be the Brush and Pencil tools. You can achieve similar results with each of these tools, but each allow for the editing and manipulation of vector line work in different ways.
Toon Boom Animate Pro's drawing tools are vector based, meaning that you can manipulate line work infinitely without a loss of quality occurring. If you've ever worked in Flash or Illustrator then this concept will be very familiar to you. Both the Brush and Pencil tools apply vector lines when drawing strokes in the Drawing or Camera Views.
If you select a brush stroke using the Select Tool you'll see a contour vector line that encompasses the outer parameter of the stroke. This contour vector line can be manipulated in various ways to adjust the shape of the brush stroke by using the Contour Editor Tool. The Contour Editor Tool allows you to position vector lines by move points along the line in addition to manipulating the point's bezier handles. So if you wanted to vary the thickness of the line work around a character or some object you can easily do this using Contour Editor Tool on brush strokes.
If you use the Select Tool to select a pencil stroke you'll see that it contains a central vector line that runs through the center of the stroke. This central vector line can be manipulated using the Contour Editor Tool to dictate the path of the pencil stroke but not it's shape or thickness. Again you are moving points and adjusting their respective bezier handles to do this. Pencil lines are great if you are wanting consistency in your line work and wish to edit their direction with ease.
Another key difference between contour and central vector lines is what line work will look like when it has been scaled. If you use your Select Tool to scale up the size of a brush stroke then the physical size of that brush stroke will increase in width and length. By scaling up or down a brush stroke you are manipulating the contour vector lines that outline the parameter of the stroke which inherently affect the overall shape. However, if you scale up the size of pencil stroke only the length of that stroke will be increased but not it's thickness.
Again, this is because of the central vector line that is applied when using the Pencil Tool. It only allows you to edit its path and not the shape of the stroke. It should also be noted that you can use a the Pencil Editor Tool, which is a sub tool of the Contour Editor, to adjust the actual thickness of a pencil stroke. The same rule would still apply though if you were to then scale that pencil stroke where it's thickness would still be consistent in accordance to how you initially manipulated it with the Pencil Editor Tool.
Both the Brush and Pencil tools come with a variety of default brushes to choose from in the Tool Properties View in Animate Pro. In this view you can also adjust the maximum and minimum size of the stroke in addition to the level of smoothing that occurs when drawing with either tool. You can also create new custom brushes if you choose or delete ones you no longer want.
There are also other useful options in the Tool Properties View that can be implemented with either tool such as Auto Flatten and Draw Behind. Auto Flatten automatically flattens all of your strokes so that you end up with a flat shape. The Draw Behind option allows you to apply a stroke behind any strokes that you have already applied. One set of options that you will find in the Tool Properties View applies only to the Pencil Tool where you can dictate the shape of the start and end points of a pencil stroke choosing either flat or curved. You can also choose how you want points to join for pencil strokes such as Round, Bevel and Mitre.
While both of these tools are great, you might find yourself wanting to convert pencil strokes to brush strokes depending on the situation. Perhaps you want to have more control over the manipulation of the stroke's shape. You can easily do this by selecting your line work with the Select Tool and then click on the "Pencil to Brush" button in the Tool Properties View for the Select tool. Your pencil strokes containing central vector lines will be converted to brush strokes containing contour vector lines.
As you begin to explore each of these tools and get a feel for how they work you'll begin to think of different situations where one will work over another. It really depends on the project your working on. They both offer a lot of freedom when it comes to drawing in Animate Pro.