lynda course: migrate from Flash to Harmony

My latest course for has gone online:

‘Migrating from Flash to Toon Boom Harmony’

It teaches a Flash animator how their favourite Flash tools and processes correspond to the Harmony equivalent.

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The first twelve years of my animation career (1988 – 2000) were in the traditional hand drawn field, in feature, tv, and games. My subsequent years (2000 – present) have until recently been dominated by Flash.

This makes me an ideal convert to Harmony, as it’s aimed at both types of artist.

I learned Harmony for the explicit purpose of teaching it, and did so in my earlier course

‘Toon Boom Animate and Harmony Essential Training’.

This first course was a comprehensive introduction to Harmony. However, Harmony has a much steeper learning curve than Flash – a consequence of the greater range of features. Most Flash animators just want to get working with the program; their first priority is to recover all the tricks and techniques they use in Flash, or to find the least painful Harmony equivalent.

When using Harmony at first, I found that my familiarity with Flash was often a disadvantage, as my ‘muscle memory’ and expectations of Flash behaviour in Harmony kept tripping me up.

I saw several requests online from Flash artists, asking for a course that would simply show the Flash tool, and the Harmony version, thereby cutting down the time they need to become productive with the program. This became the original inspiration my latest course:

‘Migrating from Flash to Toon Boom Harmony’.

The course takes common procedures and the core tools, and shows the Harmony version of each. For example, how to create nested animations such as lip synched mouths, how to make puppets, how to line characters, how to use colors, etc.

I recommend that the Flash animator making the leap to Harmony can keep the course open in a tab, on standby for the moments when they hit ‘brain freeze’ – for example, if they forget the fine points of the line tool, how to ink lines, or how to handle the palette system, they can quickly reference the relevant movie, and keep on working with as little time lost as possible.

I’ve named each movie in the new course by the relevant Flash tool or process, and not by the Harmony name. This is so that the Flash veteran can quickly find the matching instruction for their familiar Flash methods or tools.


Follow this link to get 10 days of free unlimited access to This will also allow you to see the course, for free.

Here are the rest of my Lynda courses.

10-day free trial

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photoshop timeline glitch

If anyone can help with this inexcusable photoshop glitchery, please let me know. I was hoping to use PS timeline/animation feature to create some walk cycles for a future Lynda course, but this glitch / buggery renders PS utterly unfit for that task. A shame, because I’d like to use the PS brush tools, as they’ll look much nicer in print form. Oh well.

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lynda course: foundations of drawing cartoon characters

My latest course for Lynda has gone online – and it’s the most fun yet! The course teaches the classic animation drawing techniques, which are also applicable to comic books. This was a 28 year long ‘brain dump’, in which I included everything that I could remember from working for Don Bluth in the late 80s, through to working with the masters of the classic design style Terry Shakespeare and David Molina (of ‘Creative Capers’ in Los Angeles).

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Follow this link to get 10 days of free unlimited access to This will also allow you to see the course, for free.

Even if you’re not interested in following a traditional animation or comic book path, watching the course will give you an appreciation of the skills required to make an appealing cartoon or animated character.

Here are the rest of my Lynda courses.

10-day free trial

The course doesn’t just come with the movie lessons, it also comes with a 66 page handout, which is a book in its own right. Here are some sample pages to give you a sense of the scope. Click the image for the full size version.

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lynda thumbnails

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lynda thumbnails

lynda thumbnails

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lynda course: toonboom animate / harmony essential training

My fifth course for Lynda has gone online – and it was a great deal of hard work! I made a special effort to make the steep learning curve as shallow as possible. We all know that most people can pick up Flash and start animating scenes quite quickly, but Toonboom Animate/Harmony takes a little longer to come to terms with – to be expected, because the program has so many more features, and a different workflow.

lynda flash animation thumbnails

I’d recommend this course for anyone interested in moving past Flash, as I get the distinct impression that a major switch is under way in the animation world, from Adobe Flash to Toonboom Harmony.

Here are the rest of my Lynda courses.

10-day free trial

Posted in harmony, lynda, toonboom | 4 Comments

grosseteste: bishop of the century!

Another character from my huge ‘Continuum’ walking page: Grosseteste (ca. 1168–1253), one of the great intellects of medieval Europe (click for large version).

A couple of words about this ‘Continuum’ project of mine: the overall theme is an attack on binary thinking or the simplistic narratives that are common in the modern world. Examples of this simplistic thinking have lead us such beliefs as “science = good, religion = bad” (or the reverse), or “West= good, Islam= bad” (or the reverse). ‘Continuum’ illustrates that the actual course of history isn’t so clear cut – and is best thought of as an ‘infuriating dialectic’, and when you hammer dead people into modern categories you abuse history, and create a myth that is false to facts.

Stanford entry:

Robert Grosseteste (ca. 1168–1253), Bishop of Lincoln from 1235 to 1253, was one of the most prominent and remarkable figures in thirteenth-century English intellectual life. He was a man of many talents: commentator and translator of Aristotle and Greek patristic thinkers, philosopher, theologian, and student of nature. He was heavily influenced by Augustine, whose thought permeates his writings and from whom he drew a Neoplatonic outlook, but he was also one of the first to make extensive use of the thought of Aristotle, Avicenna and Averroes. He developed a highly original and imaginative account of the generation and fundamental nature of the physical world in terms of the action of light, and composed a number of short works regarding optics and other natural phenomena, as well as works of philosophy and theology … He made a powerful impression on his contemporaries and subsequent thinkers at Oxford, and has been hailed as an inspiration to scientific developments in fourteenth-century Oxford.

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avicenna: philosopher, scientist, genius!

Another character from my huge ‘Continuum’ walking page: Avicenna (980-1037), one of the greatest influences on medieval Europe: Brittania entry:

Avicenna’s most important work of philosophy and science is Kitāb al-shifāʾ, which is a four-part encyclopaedia covering logic, physics, mathematics, and metaphysics. Since science was equated with wisdom, Avicenna attempted a broad unified classification of knowledge… Logic was viewed by Avicenna as instrumental to philosophy, an art and a science to be concerned with second-order concepts … his theology—the First Cause and the 10 intelligences—allowed his philosophy, with its devotion to God as Creator and the celestial hierarchy, to be imported easily into medieval European Scholastic thought. In addition to Avicenna’s philosophy having been readily incorporated into medieval European Scholastic thought, his synthesis of Neoplatonic and Aristotelian thought and his encompassing of all human knowledge of the time into well-organized, accessible texts make him one of the greatest intellects since Aristotle…

Taken in his entirety, Avicenna must be seen in context with his Islamic colleagues—al-Rāzī, Ibn Rushd (Averroës), ʿAlī ibn al-ʿAbbās (Haly Abbas), Abū al-Qāsim (Albucasis), Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar), and others—who, during the Islamic golden age, served as invaluable conduits of textual transmission and interpretation of Hellenistic learning for an amnesic Europe. First through Sicily and Spain and then via the Crusades, the rich cultural enlightenment of the Islamic world awakened a benighted Europe from its intellectual slumber, and Avicenna was perhaps the movement’s greatest ambassador.

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flash palette: a custom improvement!

It’s not news that the default palette for Flash is dreadful. There’s not much that you can do with this, other than pretend it’s not there:

I made my own early in the 2000s; it’s much more subdued (maybe a bit too subdued) but you’ll find it much more useful than the default. Here’s an empty Flash file containing my personalised flash palette. It was created in Macromedia Flash MX, so it’ll work with very old versions, and will open with all the later ones. Macromedia MX Screenshot:

All you need to do is download the .fla file, open it, then in the color swatch window, do this (note that this screenshot is Flash CS 5.5, all versions are much the same):

Once you save this palette as the default, any future .fla files that you open will have that new palette. If you ever want the old, ugly palette back, open that same swatch panel and select ‘Web 216’, and party like it’s 1999.

Notice that there’s a top row of green, blue, tan, turquoise, etc. I reserve these for layer colours, as you can see layers in outline mode very clearly when these colours are applied.

This is also the palette that I use in all my Lynda courses…so if you want to follow along with those, it’s a very handy thing to have.

Posted in flash, lynda, software, tutorial | 1 Comment

al ma’arri, the great poet of 11th century Syria.

A favourite character from my huge ‘Continuum’ walking page, al ma’arri (973-1057):

From Brittanica:

al-Maʿarrī, (born December 973, near Aleppo, Syria—died May 1057), great Arab poet, known for his virtuosity and for the originality and pessimism of his vision.

…  A childhood disease left him virtually blind. He studied at the Syrian cities of Aleppo, Antioch, and Tripoli and soon began his literary career, supported by a small private income. His early poems were collected in Saqṭ al-zand (“The Tinder Spark”), which gained great popularity; it includes a series of poems on armour.

… In Baghdad he had been well received at first in prestigious literary salons; but when he refused to sell his panegyrics, he was unable to find a dependable patron. He renounced material wealth and retired to a secluded dwelling, living there on a restrictive diet. Al-Maʿarrī enjoyed respect and authority locally, and many students came to study with him. He also maintained an active correspondence.

… Although an advocate of social justice and action, al-Maʿarrī suggested that children should not be begotten, in order to spare future generations the pains of life. His writings are also marked by an obsession with philology.

A 1920s translation of his great poem ‘The Luzumiyat’ (posted on my personal blog, idleworm). Some sample verses – though you won’t regret reading the entire poem:

The Sultan, too, relinquishing his throne
Must wayfare through the darkening dust alone
Where neither crown nor kingdom be, and he,
Part of the Secret, here and there is blown.

To clay the mighty Sultan must return
And, chancing, help a praying slave to burn
His midnight oil before the face of Him,
Who of the Sultan makes an incense urn.

Turned to a cup, who once the sword of state
Held o’er the head of slave and potentate,
Is now held in the tippler’s trembling hand,
Or smashed upon the tavern-floor of Fate.

For this I say, Be watchful of the Cage
Of chance; it opes alike to fool and sage;
Spy on the moment, for to-morrow’ll be,
Like yesterday, an obliterated page.

Isn’t this beautiful?

“For this I say, Be watchful of the Cage
Of chance; it opes alike to fool and sage;
Spy on the moment, for to-morrow’ll be,
Like yesterday, an obliterated page.”

Sure is more impressive than grunting “YOLO”.

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continuum: philosophers

Some details from the enormous ‘Continuum’ walking page:

The philosopher Plotinus:

And al Farabi:

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why do movie posters suck?

I’ve written a long post about the awfulness of movie posters, book covers, and magazines.
It’s posted on idleworm, as I like to keep the posts here focused more on personal work & animation.

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