2D Animation: 3 Easy Ways To Use The Drop Shadow Effect In Toon Boom Studio

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Adding animated shadows can make your animation much more appealing and convincing to your audience. This post shows you 3 easy ways to add shadows in Toon Boom Studio.

Tree with shadows

First, have a look at the 3 different applications for the Drop Shadow Effect in the following video:

The examples shown in the above video are as follows:

  1. A static object with an attached static shadow (Very Easy).
  2. A horizontally moving object with an attached dynamic shadow (Very Easy).
  3. A static object with an attached moving shadow (Easy).

Now that you’ve seen the example applications of the Drop Shadow Effect, let’s go through the detailed steps for adding shadows to your 2D animation. These steps are done in Toon Boom Studio. If you don’t have a copy of the software, you can still follow along and see from the instructions whether this is what you’re looking for in a 2D animation software for beginners and hobbyists.

You can learn more about the software, along with the higher-end professional versions (Toon Boom Animate and Toon Boom Harmony) used by many animation studios and professional animators on their website.

3 Easy Ways to Use the Drop Shadow Effect In Your 2D Animation

Static Shadows

This is the easiest shadow casting technique, and can be applied to static objects in your scenes. For example, you can match the shadows on your objects (like props) with the shadows in your background image to get a consistent visual result for your scene.

You only need a few steps:

  1. Click the Drop Shadow Effect button. This will add the Drop Shadow Effect element to the Timeline.
  2. Select and drag the Drawing element(s) that you want to a shadows to into the Drop Shadow Effect element. The shadow(s) appear, but are most likely not aligned with the objects.
  3. Select the Drop Shadow Effect element, then use the Select Tool to reposition, resize, and reshape the shadow(s) as you wish. You even have the option to adjust the shadow’s Opacity and Color in the Drop Shadow Effect’s Properties tab.

Note that you can include multiple objects into the same Drop Shadow Effect element. Adjusting the drop shadow size, position, and skew/shape affects the shadows of ALL of the children objects, which makes it a lot easier to set up your scene. However, the objects must all be aligned on the same Y-offset. So in many cases, you will usually need to add separate Drop Shadow Effect elements for different objects in your scene.

Watch this next video to see the steps done with a real example:

Dynamic Shadow Following An Object Along a Horizontal Path

This shadow casting technique is useful when your animated object isn’t standing still, but moves across the scene in a straight horizontal motion path. One obvious example of when this happens is with your animated characters walking across the scene. Another example would be a moving vehicle.

  • To add a shadow to your moving animated object, you simply put it inside a Drop Shadow Effect element and adjust its position, size, and skew, just like in the first technique above (Static Shadow).
  • Then proceed with posing and animating your character. The character’s shadow will simply follow whatever the character does. Yes, it’s THAT easy!

The video below should help to further demonstrate how this technique is done.

Dynamic Shadow From a Moving Light Source

This third application can be used when you have a moving light source. In my example/demo video above, I created a moving shadow to create a time-lapse scene of a tree from morning to late afternoon. Another good place to use this effect is in an on-stage scene with a moving spotlight.

First, watch the following video for the step-by-step demo for creating the moving shadow.


As you can see in the video, the technique involves a couple of additional steps relative to those needed for the first example above:

  1. After setting up the Static Shadow (as described above), duplicate the Drawing element. The duplicated Drawing element will be added outside of the Drop Shadow element. This will be your actual visible object.
  2. The original Drawing element inside the Drop Shadow element will be posed and animated as the moving shadow.

Advanced Drop Shadow Techniques

As stated in the title, I have shared 3 easy ways to use the Drop Shadow Effect in the Toon Boom Studio animation software.

However, since you are wonderful creative types who like to push your creative boundaries, you will run into more complex situations that require some extra ingenuity to make your shadows stick to your animated characters/objects. Here are 2 more advanced shadow casting scenarios that you may be interested in:

  1. The character or object moves diagonally or in a vertical direction across the scene. In this case, the shadow will diverge from its object. If you reposition the shadow in one frame, it will just move away again in other frames. It simply WILL NOT STICK!
  2. The character or object casts a shadow on the ground as well as the wall. Look at the first picture below and you’ll see that the simple Drop Shadow setup techniques I described above won’t work. You want to be able to set up your shadows and accomplish the results in the second image. The second image is a WIN.

Screenshot - Shadow Error

Shadow on Floor & Wall

If you’re interested in my solutions for both scenarios above, I’ll send the FREE demo videos in a special e-mail. Just sign up to join my 2D Animation Mailing List and you’ll get the link to the free bonus videos. Yes, they are FREE! In addition, you’ll also get other exclusive and advanced Toon Boom Studio tricks in future e-mails. Here’s the sign-up form:

Learn Advanced Drop Shadow Solutions

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Until next time, HAPPY CREATING!


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