updated 12:05 am EDT, Thu June 5, 2008
It is a common fact the Mac is great for creating and working with graphics, but for too many people, the idea of drawing anything, especially on the computer, is too intimidating. Even worse, most graphics programs for the Mac assume you're already an experienced graphics artist who won't mind spending $400 or more for a high-end program loaded with every possible feature. Fortunately for aspiring artists, Toon Boom Studios has teamed up with artist Peter H. Reynolds (author of the books "The Dot" and the "Judy Moody" series) to create Animation-ish.
This new graphics program teaches animation from Peter's philosophy that anyone can draw and that the first rule to remember is that anything you draw doesn't have to be perfect. Since most people feel they can't draw, the program provides a friendly interface that guides users, step-by-step, from knowing nothing about drawing to being able to create fairly sophisticated animated cartoons.
For absolute beginners, the first step is to use the program's novice interface dubbed Wiggledoodle-ish. This interface provides the bare minimum of features for drawing including a paintbrush, paintbucket, eraser, and arrow tool for selecting, moving, and copying parts of your drawing.
One especially handy feature is the program's ability to let you draw pictures using the mouse or a pressure-sensitive drawing tablet, which mimics drawing on a piece of paper. Press harder on the drawing tablet and the program interprets this to draw a heavier, thicker line. Press lighter and the program interprets this to draw a lighter, thinner line.
Changing pen colors is as simple as clicking on a color displayed in a cartoon drawing of a palette, and changing the thickness of lines just involves dragging a slider left or right. If you need additional inspiration, click a big Inspire Me icon to view a short video clip of Peter H. Reynolds offering a short drawing tip.
After you create a simple drawing, the Wiggledoodle-ish interface guides you into creating a simple three-frame animated movie. Frame one contains your initial drawing while frame two contains a faded image of your initial drawing so you can trace over it and make a new drawing. This lets you make all or part of the old drawing appear to move. Repeat this step for the third frame and you've created three related drawings on three separate frames. When viewed in rapid succession, the effect is a simple animated movie.
You can save your drawings or export them to a variety of movie formats such as Flash, AVI, or QuickTime. Naturally, when you save drawings in the program's native file format, you can reuse them later.
Once you get used to creating simple animation, you can move to the intermediate interface of the program, called FlipBook-ish. This interface adds the ability to adjust the speed of your animation and move beyond the three-frame limitation of the Wiggledoodle-ish interface.
When you advance past the FlipBook-ish interface, you can use the final interface called Advanced-ish, which lets you create and control your animation using background and foreground frames, to make background and foreground images move simultaneously.
By gently guiding you through different animation steps, the program doesn't overwhelm you with features like most animation programs do. You learn gradually and progress to a more complicated and feature-rich interface when you're ready.
To further simplify drawing, the program can import pictures stored in other file formats, such as digital camera images trapped in JPEG files. Now you can trace over your digital images and draw cartoon images of yourself or any object captured in a digital photograph.
For anyone interested in learning to draw and create animated cartoons, Animation-ish is a wonderfully friendly program that can turn complete novices into confident animation students. When you outgrow Animation-ish, you'll be ready to move on to the typical animation programs without being buried by the sheer complexity of these other program's user interfaces.
If you've always been fascinated about drawing and animation, the $59.95 Animation-ish may be the perfect introduction you need. By guiding you through basic animation steps and making it fun and simple at the same time, the program can teach kids and grown-ups alike the joy of drawing and seeing their creations come to life. You may not be ready to create a full-feature animation movie after using Animation-ish, but you'll develop the skills needed to do so in the future.