Published on Tuesday, 22 January 2013


Wacom Cintiq Helps Bring 2D Animation Career to Life

Gemma Reeks-Coad is a 2D animator for Cackleberries Entertainment, an educational website for young children, and a graduate of the two-year Commercial Animation program at Capilano University in Vancouver. While at Capilano, Gemma’s coursework straddled two modes of production, combining foundations in paper animation with the faster digital expression of a Cintiq interactive pen display used with software that incorporates pressure-sensitivity like TVPaint and Adobe Flash. The university supplies each student and teacher with a 21” Cintiq for assignments, lessons and communication.

Pen Strokes

Gemma believes that having to be visually accountable for your pen strokes is essential to an artist’s development, but she also knows  that a good artist will be able to create many times faster when using a Cintiq. “To me, paper is for rough passes,” Gemma said. “A paper-only process is tedious when compared to the ability to create a polished version faster on a Cintiq. You can undo, colour in Photoshop and edit from every angle.


“The pen display feels better and more natural because your strokes directly translate onto the screen, though it’s not as expressive as paper because a piece of glass stands between you and your art. The closer I feel to my art, the easier it is to connect with it. For example, you can turn a pencil on its side for a heavier feel where the weight of the object is, and then use its sharp point very delicately to describe the finer details of the face - and you can do this fairly quickly.

“A Cintiq may not have exactly the same properties for 2D animation, but I expect that if you asked a 3D animator, the situation might be a little different. For 2D artists, paper is the origin while for 3D, a computer is the origin, and that’s where each type feels most natural - at least at this point in development.”

Competitive Reel

The Cintiq has also been a major factor in preparing a competitive reel for employers to look at. Her reel is made up of shorts she designed in Flash and TVPaint, and has led to her job with Cackleberries Entertainment. There, she specialises in producing short, one minute lessons that introduce children aged three to seven to reading, math and art. Based in a virtual town called Oville, her videos explore the world, from individual people to the environment to time concepts. She produces a new lesson every two weeks and bases her animation work on storyboards and pose concepts provided to her.


Her animation process remains very similar to the workflow she developed as a student. She starts with a value sketch, colours in Photoshop, and then animates her characters/scenes with Flash or TVPaint on the Cintiq, which she uses as an extension of herself. “Because it cuts out so many steps, whether through shortcuts I assign or the ability to apply precise amounts of pressure to my lines, I find that it encourages me to animate when I normally wouldn’t.”

She explained how she uses a value sketch to begin projects. “A value sketch is what I use when I am making a background image to animate on. It’s the step when I decide the tonal value of each part of the background image before I actually add colour - I draw the background, shade it in black and white tones and then go over that with colour.. It’s not exactly a necessary step and people can do this part differently, but it works so well on a tablet because Photoshop has layer opacity options to do a tonal painting before a colour one.”

New Tools

TVPaint is still a relatively new application that Gemma think may just inspire some people to get back into 2D animation. It includes many different brush features, and lets a user flip back and forth between drawings for a smooth, natural result. “When I am working on my own projects and have to make my own storyboards, I often choose TVPaint on the Cintiq, a very useful combination for storyboards. I use the pen in the same way that I would for animation, but with quicker looser sketches that describe the longer story I want to tell and eventually animate.


“TVPaint also very easy to learn,” she said. “Comparing it to Flash is hard because both are considered 2D animation programs, but give very different results. Flash is the more technical, money-saving approach, making it a popular choice among local studios here in Vancouver.

“A simplified description would be ‘cut-out’ animation. Instead of redrawing every frame, it reuses pre-cleaned and coloured images of the character’s head, body and extremities to create the illusion of a completely hand-drawn work. It’s a quality younger students may or may not notice, but any professional animator certainly does. That is, it gets the job done, but it doesn’t have much to do with drawing. Both of these programs work best with a Cintiq, but if an artist doesn’t have one then Flash would be the choice because since it doesn’t use such an organic process."

Gemma decided to focus professionally on 2D animation as opposed to 3D -  clearly the driving force in animation now - because she loves to draw. “Most major companies probably consider 2D films to be too high a risk right now because they require so much time and money, but I hope there will be more 2D films in the future. Personally, I think that the most important things are story and characters, regardless of medium.


+1 #1 ALEXANDRE MARTINS 2013-01-25 22:53
The unique problem of it is the price. I love to draw but i do it with wacom tablet, but I'm considering buying a samsung galaxy note 10.1, obvious that the accuracy is lower however is portable and 2 times cheaper than Wacom Cintiq . I leave the tip to create a touch tablet and I apologize for referring other brand however drawing every day and sometimes several hours would be easier to have something like Wacom Cintiq but much more affordable cost.