When I first started trying to animate and make my cartoons I had no clue how to do it. I knew they needed animation and sound. But what steps should I do first? When should I add dialouge. As I’ve been working on my cartoon series in Flash, I’ve figured out a few things that work best for me. This might not work best for everyone, but to me it seems like the most logical sequence of events. Of course no plan is fool proof. And even at the end you might have to go back to the beginning because you forgot something or just want to add something.
So I’ve put together the stages/steps that I follow to Create a cartoon:
Step 1: The Idea
The idea is the most important part of the cartoon. What is the idea/purpose of your cartoon. Is it funny, scarey, sarcastic, serious? Who do you want it to target? Why are you even making the cartoon? Do you want it to be part of a series or a one time deal? All of these are questions that you need to ask yourself.
Step 2: Characters
Who is your cartoon about? Before you expect your audiance to know your characters, you have to know them yourself. Who are they? What are they? What type of personallity do they have? What is their background? Usually when thinking of a main idea for your cartoon you automatically think of a character and what he looks like. I’m more visual, so I usually draw a character before I establish his characteristics. Some might think of a personality before they think of what the character looks like.
Step 3: Develop a Setting
Where is your Cartoon taking place? If it is a series will it always be in the same location? Will there be a house? Will the house have different rooms? Questions like these need to be thought of as well. Take for instance the hit cartoon The Simpsons. In this show, the creaters have developed an intire city to place their characters in: Springfield. In most of my cartoons I place my characters in the same setting. This saves on design time. Eventually I might add different settings.
Step 4: Story
Now it’s time to write your story. Think of the main idea, any morals involved, the main conflict, the solution, ect. The story for me, is the hardest part. I’m not much of a writer so I have to work harder on this part and ask friends for suggestions. If you are doing a series than you might want to write several stories at once and pick your favorites to produce first.
Step 5: Storyboard
After you get you story written make a storyboard. A storyboard is kindof like a comic book of your cartoon. It helps you direct your cartoon. Draw your characters and decide what you want them to do in a particular scene. Mark arrows on the drawing to illustrate what animation will be taken place. Write yourself notes as to how you plan on accomplishing the animation. My storyboards are usually simple sketches. I usually make one story board per scene in my cartoons.
Step 6: Record Dialogue
When I first started making my cartoons I did this part after i animated. Now I have realized that it’s much easier to do this part before I even start animating. That way I know where I want to add my Dialogue and I don’t have to revise my animation later.
Step 7: Design Art
For me it is much easier to figure out what elements I need in the entire cartoon and to go ahead and draw them. I draw each element (an element being ANYTHING appearing in your animation) seperately on a white piece of paper. Later I will scan these items and either trace them with a drawing tool in Flash or I’ll use the Trace Bitmap command. Design everthing in the setting in each scene. If you design it all at first then you won’t have to worry about going back to this process later. The only fall back is I seem to always forget at least one item that i need to draw. Some people might not want to hand draw their elements. You can also simply use the tools in your software to draw. I, personally, find it easier to hand draw and then trace them in my program.
Step 8: Layout your Scenes (in Flash)
I’m not sure how it works in other animation programs but in Flash you can preplan your scenes and add names to each one. So this is what I do. I add a scene and name it accordingly. I always add an extra scene for my intro, and opening and/or closing credits. The good thing about doing this is that you can copy frames from one scene into any scene that looks similar. That way you already have all of your layers there for you. Just add frames and animate.
Step 9: Scan/Import Images and Audio
For me it is easiest to go ahead and scan any image files or Audio files into my Flash document before i start animating. When I scan them, I save them all into one folder so i can just import the intire folder. I do the same with the Audio.
Step 10: Add Audio
Now that you have your audio imported and your scenes laid out, go ahead and place your audio where you need it. Listen to each scene as you add audio to make sure it flows good. Make sure the audio isn’t overlapping, unless it is supposed to be. This sets the pace for your animation and your scenes.
Step 11: Start Animating
This doesn’t need much explaining. Just remember to not over work yourself. Use the same scenes when ever you can. If the scenes look the same just copy them.
Step 12: Head Movements
After the basic animation is complete I want to sync my characters up with their dialogue. Before I start doing the lip syncs I look through each scene to see if the dialogue would require my character to move their head. (You can also do this for body movements and gestures from the character if you haven’t done so already.) For example: If a character coughs, you want him to move his head either back or forward.
Step 13: Lip Sync
This is the fun part. This is where you can really see your character take life. At this point the voice recordings are no longer your voice, but the characters voice. Go through the cartoon and sync up the characters mouth with what they are saying. Hint: Use symbols for each mouth position and create a new keyframe and just swap symbols for each sound.
Step 14: Sound FX
Now it’s time to add your sound effects. Wheather you created them on your own, bought them, or use free sound FX from online, add them in the appropriate places into your cartoon. Make sure to time them just right. Edit the sounds or overlap different sounds if you have to. I’ve found that for softer speaking characters, in Flash, I just overlap their dialogue several times to make it louder.
Step 15: Edit and Publish
Now watch your cartoon. Hopefully you’ve been doing this step all along, out of joy of seeing your work and to find changes that you need to make. Look for anything that might need to be changed, added or deleted. Sometimes this calls for more artwork, more animation, or more dialogue. Add what needs to be added, you want this to be perfect. When you see that the final product is to your liking. Publish it! Congradulations, you have made your first cartoon!