2D Animation: Basic Toon Eye Rigs

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My previous two posts (Character Rigging and Basic Walk & Run Cycles) provided sufficient info for creating simple characters in Toon Boom Studio.

Now let’s create highly customizable and easy-to-animate toon eyes for your characters. Although it’s very easy to create and animate eyes using the simple cell swapping technique (usually with 3 eye poses, namely OPEN, PARTIALLY CLOSED, and FULLY CLOSED), I wanted to add flexibility and be able to create more complex eye poses and expressions, especially for close-up character shots. Let’s go over the details of how you can create the eye rig for your characters.

Building And Rigging Your Toon Eye

The video below demonstrates the detailed steps in creating and using the toon eyes:

To recap from the video, you need to create the eye parts (sclera, iris, pupil, and eyelids) in separate drawing layers. Then add a Clipping Layer to mask off the portions of the eyelids that are outside of the eye shape. Finally, set the hierarchy of the eye parts such that the layers that need to be masked off are placed under the Clipping Layer.

Here is a screenshot of the Side View of the eye rig in Toon Boom Studio (the camera is on the left):

Screenshot - TBS Side View

Once you have your basic eye design completed, save it to your Global Library so you can reuse it on your characters.

I also show in the video how to modify the eye’s shape and color. If you want, you can even add more details like highlights, eyelashes, and eyebrows. Near the end of the video, you can see a couple of examples of how I use modified versions of the eye.

Examples Of My Characters That Use The Same Toon Eye Rig

For my own exercise, I started using my eye rig on characters in my animations. Among my characters with the eye rig were the kitten (in Those Eyes), Critter (in Critter’s Bedtime), the Mandolin Bunny (in The Mandolin Bunny), and the oval thingy (in Simple Head Turn). With a simple paint fill step, I gave the kitten blue eyes, and Critter orange eyes. Pretty cool!

The poor Little Owl, however, was given a pair of very crude cell substitution based eye design. I made that video before I designed my eye rig.

Using the same design and rigging concepts described above, I created a second eye rig design for my Toon Baby. Here’s the video (Hello Toon Baby!):

This design is simpler in that it doesn’t have the white of the eye (sclera) and iris. Only the pupil remains. I added an eyebrow to the design to help create expressions for my characters. The following video shows the construction of this newer eye rig:

As you can see, the eye rigs are not overly complicated to build. The rigs are highly reusable and very easy to modify, pose, and animate. Once you’ve built your eye rig in your favorite 2D animation program, it should be easy to reapply the design in making other variants.


Coming Soon

  • 2D Animation Mouth Rig In Toon Boom Studio
  • 2D Animation Character Building Speed Demos

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