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Create a Custom Cartoon Effect with Red Giant ToonIt 2

Add pro cartooning effects to your next project in After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Motion, or Avid

Red Giant ToonIt makes video footage look like a convincing cartoon. ToonIt uses unique algorithms licensed from Toonamation to transform your image into beautiful cartoon shading and lines. Unlike other tools, such as the Cartoon filter in After Effects CS4, ToonIt actually mimics the process of rotoscoping and hand painting, producing better results on faces and providing much more control over styles, shading and outlines. ToonIt works in a variety of hosts, including After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Motion, and Avid systems.


Get to Know Your Presets

Using ToonIt is a snap, and version 2 has a nicely reorganized set of controls. ToonIt 2 features new controls for natural media right inside the plug-in, with styles such as Airbrush and Gouache paint, and new outline styles such as scratchboard. A number of presets ship with the product. Just click the preset menu (or use the Preset project file in Final Cut Pro) and drop them on your source media.


Go for a Custom Graphics Arts Style

Creating a cartoon look is easy, because Red Giant has done a lot of work to give you a nice appearance and process your video with different styles. But let me dive in and show you how easy it is to create your own “Graphic Arts” style that looks very similar to the Charles Schwab series of commercials. Start by applying ToonIt from the Effects menu. Choose Effects > Red Giant ToonIt! Roto Toon. This will render and give you a basic cartoon look.


Set Up a Cartoon Appearance

For the Graphic Arts look, we will adjust three groups of settings: the Main Blur, the Color Effects, and the Soft Outlines. The Main Blur controls set the type of blur that ToonIt uses as a pre-process step to remove detail from the footage before creating the shading. Under the Roto menu, choose No Roto. This does not apply the shape-flattening pass in ToonIt, but for this subject, there is already good light on the face so this will work well. Next, open the Main Blur group. Set the Radius to 22 and the Thresh (short for “Threshold”) to 7. This will remove a lot of detail and the threshold limit will create a nice modeling on the face.


Refine the Outlines

Next, turn off the Comic Outlines by opening the Comic Outlines group and clicking the Comic Outlines switch off. Instead, our source material will work better with Soft Outlines. Open the Soft Outlines group, then click the Soft Outlines switch to enable the effect. Set Strength to 35, Thickness to 1 and Transparency to 30. This will render a number of outlines, but the slight transparency and thin lines will make them look less bold.


Finish the Look

The final step is to lighten the overall appearance. Most cartoon animation uses bolder and more pastel colors, and fortunately ToonIt gives you an easy way to achieve this look. Open the Color Effects group and set the Lighter control to 65. This setting provides a good luminance balance to the source video without blowing out the highlights: an effect that is difficult to achieve in host applications alone without a lot of extra color correction. Save your results. Now you have a great graphic arts look suitable for many kinds of video.


Bonus Tip: Improve Detail

To improve the fine lines in the cartoon output, you can oversample the video resolution. For example, if your source and output are at 720p, scale and render the ToonIt version to 1080p and then scale back to 720p for final output. Step 1 is to pre-compose and use a scaler like Instant HD to cross-convert 720p to 1080p. Apply ToonIt to the 1080p version of your source video. Finally, take that result and nest or pre-compose this and scale the result back down to 720p. This gives ToonIt more pixels to analyze and will result in finer detail. Note that this can significantly increase render times, but for final output the results are worth it.

Watch the video of this tutorial

Your Guide

Sean Safreed
Co-Founder and Director of Products
Red Giant Software


Red Giant Software is home to best-selling products Magic Bullet (developed by The Orphanage’s Stu Maschwitz) and Knoll Light Factory (developed by ILM’s John Knoll). Founded in 2002, Red Giant develops it own technology and distributes special FX tools for digital video and film professionals, including Trapcode. The products have been used in thousands of feature films, music videos, national TV commercials and shows. Prior to co-founding Red Giant Software, Sean worked in product management and business development at Apple, Silicon Graphics, Puffin Designs and Pinnacle Systems (now part of Avid).

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