YouTube Toon Boom Tips Channel – Using Symbols

Toon Boom Tip of the Week

In the latest installment of our Tip of the Week series of Animation tutorials our resident expert and Professional Product Manager, Lilly Vogelesang, will walk you through the best and most efficient way to use Symbols  in our professional software.

So what is a Symbol? A Symbol is a container or construction block used to build your props, puppets and looping clips. Use Symbols to contain artwork and animation, to manipulate them as a single object, or as a case holder where you will put a series of different drawings for each body part of your puppets.

There are two videos:-

Symbols Part 1

In the first video which lasts around seven and a half minutes, Lilly will discuss:- Digitizing a traditional process; How to create a hierarchy in Toon Boom; She will then go on to discuss how to create a hierarchy in Symbols; You will find out about nesting symbols; Learn about how to animate nested Symbols; Lilly will then take a look at a cut-out character; and finally, working with Symbols for cycles.

Symbols Part 2

In the second part which lasts nine minutes, Lilly will continue by Drawing a Skateboard; How to make a change to something in the Symbol; She will then go on to discuss how to disable a layer for animation; You will find out about using a Symbol’s pivot point; and finally, you will learn about bringing in a Symbol with a cycle.

So get comfortable, watch the video and learn how to experience a better way to more efficient and satisfying animation, with our Tip of the Week.

More Animation Resources from Toon Boom

When you have watched our latest Tips of the Week we have  much more for you to learn about. Make use of these great animation resources to become the very best.

Visit our Toon Boom Tips Channel on YouTube and watch all of the Tips of the Week.

Become a better animator by visiting our Toon Boom Professional Animating Resources:

  • Producing a 3DStereoscopic Project  – Turn your project into a 3D Stereoscopic animation. Instructions and material.
  • Templates – Professional-quality templates for Animate, Animate Pro and Harmony, everything from Sunrises to Particle Effects.
  • Video Tutorials – Expert animation tutorials to help you begin and then progress to the highest level of animation expertise.
  • Community Video Tutorials –  These in-depth animation tutorials are created by some of Toom Boom’s industry power users.
  • Visit our User Forums –  We answer your questions. Work with other users and our experts to get answers to your animation and storyboarding questions.

9 thoughts on “YouTube Toon Boom Tips Channel – Using Symbols

  1. Thanks. I appreciate this video about symbols in Animate. I come from 10+ years experience using Flash for all my character animation and nested symbols (sometimes very dense) is second nature to me. I’ve been researching Toon Boom as an alternate in my down time.

    I certainly see the helpfulness of a parented rig set up and I do recognize the benefits of such setups over set ups in Flash.

    However, one very large benefit for using symbols (that I didn’t quite see mentioned in these 2 videos) is that a symbol “container” can hold all the various poses you may need for, let’s say, a hand or an eye. They all share the same registration point or stage, and they HOLD all the pieces you might swap out.

    Often times, these “containers” will be used for EVERY part of a character. Bodies, head shapes, arms, legs – especially when you get into thing like perspective. I often have multiple forearms drawn from different angles, as keyframes in s symbol that I call up when I need them.

    When every part of a character has potential to be a symbol that contains poses of various angles and special cases (different lighting/shadows), the potential of a parented RIG has less importance to me. When I want to pop to frame 2 of a forearm, where it’s foreshortened in perspective, the parenting no longer is helpful because now my hand that was connected to it at the wrist, is still parented to it, but it hasn’t moved/stayed with forearm now that its in a new pose. I’d need to physically realign the hand.

    With symbols, I can have s unique symbol that has the hand connected to a foreshortened arm with it’s own timeline.

    However, I still see advantages to parented parts. After Effects offers this aide.

    An ideal setup in my mind, would be to have all my symbols of all my parts, each containing various poses or bits of animation, and have all those symbols parented/rigged on the main timeline. New poses for the different parts will cause things to fall out of alignment (as in my foreshortened example above), but the rig will at least help keeping everything connected in some form.

    I’d love to know you thoughts about this. I’ve downloaded the trial of Animate and I’m trying to get over the hurdles of a complicated/foreign UI before I even start to understand new set ups and advantages to Animate. There is a simplicity to Flash (lacking a camera and z-depth and FX modules) that made sense to me even back when I first started learning Flash. My animation experience stems from Flash though – not traditional animation.

    Thanks for you time. Feel free to write back.

    -bob rissetto.

    • Hello Bob,
      thanks for taking the time to comment and point out your suggestion for an ideal rig. We always appreciated receiving comments such as these as they help us to further understand how the product is used in different ways by individuals such as yourself. I will forward your comment to Lilly Vogelesang. Lilly is our professional product manager and the one who created the Using Symbols video. I’m sure she will appreciate your comments.
      Regards, Peter Cawthorne Social Media Manager and blogger.

    • Thanks for the comments, Bob! I think rather than trying to write out a reply here, I’ll do another follow-up video that talks about some of the things that you outline here.


  2. These are two different techniques entirely. on one hand lily is discussing parented “puppets” Bob is talking about nested key poses for objects in a symbol so popular among Flash series. They are both very quick ways to animate. Harmony wins hands down for parented and tradigital. Flash is still a powerhouse when it comes to the swap method. Either software can do the other but you should follow the strengths of the product.Flash is still primarily a web animation tool, so I guess size is the real difference there. Best choice is to have a good understanding of both, and let your client decide what fits his production needs

  3. I really appreciate all the work you put into making these tutorials and weekly tips! I know it must take a lot of time.

    Like Bob above, I’m coming from a Flash background and struggling to move to a whole new system. But I want to, because I see the vast benefits of Toon Boom over Flash. Something that’s difficult for me is that a lot of these videos seem great for “Here is what you do if you already know what you’re doing” but not as much for people who have zero idea what they’re doing. Often things are referenced in an off-hand way that expects we know what’s being referred to, but for myself at least I have no idea what’s being referred to.

    What I’d love to see is a “Project” type tutorial. Instead of “Here is how you handle symbols” perhaps there could be a series just on getting a three-piece-rigged character from “blank frame” to “animating jumping.” Starting with absolutely NOTHING, taking it through completion of the character with an anticipation to jump to landing to recoil.

    When I learned Flash it was via a book where each chapter took you through a new project from start to completion, and it was very helpful. It built on each previous chapter a bit, but the first project started at square one and was simple enough to complete without knowing the whole program.

    I don’t know if I made that very clear, so if I can better explain you’re welcome to email me and I’ll do my best to elaborate. As I said, I appreciate the hard work put into these! I’m getting bits and pieces from each, but I feel very lost regarding the “big picture” of trying to literally animate a character from a blank frame with no Master Templates or anything. I’ve watched a lot of the tutorials on the site itself, but they don’t really walk you through a project, which I think is how a lot of animators learn. In traditional classes, you start with the bouncing ball and pick up timing, spacing, etc. as you go. They don’t just say “Here is what timing is.” You get a project (the bouncing ball assignment) in order to LEARN timing. I hope that makes sense. :)

    Thanks again!

    • If you want a step-by-step tutorial, then I’d recommend going through the video tutorials on the website. You can find those here:

      These videos are much more step-by-step, and serve a different purpose than Tip of the Week. In Tip of the Week, I’m trying to address concerns that come up on the forums, and in my interactions with customers that are already using the software. It’s definitely not a beginner’s video on how to get started.

      They are also meant to be really quick tips, and not in-depth tutorials. That being said, if you have already had a chance to follow the Animating tutorials from the website, and still want more project-based learning, then I can discuss it with the team here to see where is a good place to point you!

      • Thanks for the reply, Lilly! Yes, I have been going through the site’s tutorials slowly but surely. I think the issue I have there is it’s very overwhelming with no concrete GOAL. As I mentioned above, what I’d love to have is “Here is a set project, we’re going to accomplish THIS. Here is step one from a blank frame, etc. etc.” With the tutorials on the site now, they really do a great job of covering EVERYTHING. But that can be overwhelming. As beginners, we don’t really NEED everything. We need what will work to get us to X Goal. Instead of learning every button on the toolbar, for example, we might only need the brush tool, circle tool, and selection tool to start, and while it’s great to have more options than that, presenting the options right away only confuse us with too much information.

        Example: In the Getting Started tutorials, video 1.4 is 10 minutes long and talks about docking windows, resizing windows, and even clicking the X in the corner to close a window. I’m not saying that isn’t useful stuff, but it doesn’t get me making anything and it becomes overwhelming to try to remember it all. Generally we learn by doing (as artists) so instead of “here is all the information about the interface” I think it might be great to have us learn the interface AS we do an animation. In Flash, for instance, I didn’t need Actionscripting until well into learning the program to animate. If I was introduced to that aspect, though, before having some animation success, I would have probably given up because it’s so complicated and so much to remember.

        Anyway, just my thoughts. I think a “30 minute to complete project” series just to do a simple action (even if you didn’t know all the bells and whistles of this great program) would let people go in and put the education into practice plus make us feel like we accomplished something. It would be a great partner to the fantastic “all the details up front” videos currently on the site that you linked to. So if we needed the details, we could go to those specific videos, but if we just want to learn to make a character wave (and pick up the details as we do that), from brand new project to “waving” then we just follow the Waving Animation Project tutorial.

        If you happen to know any tutorials like that and I’m just missing them, please let me know! Thanks again for all your hard work. :)

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