Drawing in Flash
In this chapter
Working with Tablets
Working with Scanned Artwork
Working with the Mouse
Flash's Drawing Tools
There are three basic methods in which Flash artists can create their artwork for Flash: pen/tablet, mouse, or scan and trace. Although some are more time consuming than others, each has its own distinct advantage.
Working with Tablets
One of the most frustrating parts of animating in Flash is learning how to draw with pressure sensitive tablet and pen. Many traditional artists have complained of the slickness and lack of traction on the tablet. (Yes, I know, I feel your pain.) When I first began using this tool, I would go absolutely nuts because I could not replicate my stroke with the ease I had on paper. It felt like learning to ride a bike all over again. One thing that helped was to place a sheet of paper on the tablet in order to gain some tooth (or traction). The paper was thin enough so that the pressure-sensitive pen could still transmit my strokes onto the screen. Sure enough my strokes got better. Using the paper as a set of training wheels also prevented me from hurling the computer out the window. Eventually, I got used to the feel of the surface and got rid of the paper.
Drawing while looking up at a screen instead of down at the paper represents another learning curve for many artists. There will be a period of hand-eye readjustment, even for the highly skilled traditional animator. With consistent practice and diligent hard work, it won't be long before you're replicating your pencil art perfectly. Turning on the pressure sensitivity will turn your pen into a loaded wet brush. Consequently, the artist will have to learn how to delicately gauge the applied pressure. Mastering the digital stroke is a skill that saves an enormous amount of time in the long run. Practice drawing simple shapes or familiar characters when starting out. Try tapering your paint strokes by gradually building and then releasing pressure as shown in the following figure.
People always ask me how long will it take to learn to draw with consistency straight into Flash. It's hard to say because each person brings their own individual work ethic and artistic potential to the table. I have seen some talented traditional animators struggle with their hand eye re-coordination. But, during my interview with Hanna Barbera legend Iwoa Takamoto, he knocked out a beautiful gesture drawing on his first try.
Tips with the Tablet
Tablets come in a variety of brands and sizes. For the purposes of animation, bigger is not always better. As an independent animator, a smaller tablet is a wiser choice for travel convenience. The actual area on which you will draw will never exceed a few inches. Many animators use the small 4x6-inch models. I recommend the 6x8-inch Wacom Tablet. It's small enough to use on a plane, and big enough to use without feeling that your workspace is cramped. I used to work on a 12x12-inch tablet, which was simply too clunky and cumbersome.