Tips and tricks for lip syncing in Toon Boom

January 23, 2018

This time we have teamed up with Youtuber Alex Clark to bring you one of his most requested animation tutorials: lip syncing.
Alex Clark is a 2017 streamy nominee and the winner of 4 people’s choice awards. He runs an animation-focused YouTube channel and is the creator of Alex Clark Studios.
A former comedian and professional juggler (not a joke), Alex began his channel as a way to share his larger than life stories from his time on the road. Fast forward a few years and he now runs one of the most in-demand animation channels on YouTube. His team of animators, writers, and editors create television quality animation, on a weekly basis for their 2+ million subscriber fanbase. His videos cover a range of topics but mostly focus on his nutty family, lovably cheap father, and devastatingly evil sister.

Important Things to Know Before Starting:

1. There are different mouth shapes that line up with the different sounds the mouth makes.You can go as detailed or as minimal as you want in this. Five to seven total mouthshapes is recommended.
2. Based on the different expressions you’re going to need a different set of mouths: You have to do two different set of mouth shapes: “happy” and “sad.”
3. The main tool you’ll use is the paintbrush tool (third tool down on the left hand side). Click the plus button on the right hand of the screen side to open “Tool Properties.” This gives you access to all sorts of paintbrush sizes and settings.
Watch the video here or follow the steps below.

Tools you will need:

Cutter Tool
The Cutter Tool is the first tool on the left (black arrow)– but you have to click and hold,then navigate down to “Cutter.” (Kind of looks like a paper airplane). You can also click the Tkey on your keyboard. Drag it across overlapping lines to get rid of the parts you don’t need.
Contour Editor
The Contour Editor (second tool down; white arrow) allows you to manipulate, edit, and changethe curves of the lines you draw. Using this on lines made with the Paintbrush tool will showmultiple little orange dots; click and move them to adjust the line. Lines made with the Pencil Tool will put those orange adjustment points in the middle of your lines.
Onion Skin
The Onion Skin (lightblub icon) shows you a lighter version of the previous drawing underneathyour current drawing. This will be helpful when determining how the next mouth shape shouldlook.
Library Panel
Find the Library panel on the right hand side. (If you don’t see this panel, click the plussign and click “Library”.) This is where thumbnails of your mouth shapes will show, and you’ll be able to slide the bar to switch between them or use the bracket buttons on your keyboard.

Creating Drawing Layers

You will need to create layers for each mouth shape.
There are two kinds of Drawing Layers: Empty Drawings and Duplicate Drawings.
When creating an Empty Drawing, the current drawing will disappear, allowing you to create a brand new drawing. When creating a Duplicate Drawing, this will copy the drawing you have already drawn onto the next substitute drawing. This is helpful for when you want to make another version of a mouth shape that’s slightly bigger or smaller.
To delete a layer, click the minus sign in the Layers box (bottom left corner). To add a drawing layer, click the plus sign in the Layers box. Name it, then click “Add and Close”.
Short Cuts:
You can use the shortcut “Control + Shift + D” for Empty Drawings and “Option + Shift + D” for Duplicate Drawings. Your shortcuts may be different, so check them by going up to very top left and clicking Harmony > Preferences… > and searching for the shortcut by typing it in.


There are 7 mouth shapes we will be creating. Remember, for some you’ll need two versions for “happy” and “sad” mouths.
1. A closed mouth: just a straight line.
2. A large, open mouth. You can add details like a tongue and teeth.
3. A slightly smaller version of that open mouth shape.
4. Another slightly smaller version of that mouth shape, but showing only the teeth.
5. An “O” mouth shape: a big oval, with teeth and tongue.
6. A slightly smaller “O” shape– a small black oval.
7. A tiny “O” shape, with a line below it to indicate the bottom lip.
Here are the step-by-step instructions, including what tools to use and when:
1. Using the Pencil Tool, draw your first mouth shape: the closed mouth.
2. Make a new blank drawing layer , then draw your wide open mouth. Holding downthe Command key will make sure the lines link back up seamlessly.
3. To make the slightly smaller version of that big open mouth shape, click Option + Shift +D — this will copy that shape onto your next drawing layer. Then use the Contour Editor to make the shape smaller.
4. Do the same process to make the teeth mouth shape — Option + Shift + D, and Contour Editor. Draw in the teeth.
5. For the O shapes, do the same thing: start with your biggest O shape mouth, then copy that onto a new drawing layer.
6. Edit that shape to make a smaller O shape, then copy it again onto a new drawing layer.
7. Edit that shape again to make a tiny O shape with a little line below it to indicate the bottom lip.
8. Go back and draw the teeth and tongues within the mouth shapes
Lip Syncing
Once you’ve created all of your mouth shapes, import your audio.
– Go to File > Import > Import sound.
– Choose the file you want to lip sync and click open.
If you click the blue “play” button and the audio cuts off, you’ll have to make the scene longer. Go up to the top and click “Scene” then “Scene length” and type in a bigger number. Keep doing this until the scene is long enough to fit your audio.
Listen to the audio and assign the right mouth shape with the right word. Using the bracket keys [ ] on your keyboard will allow you to flip back and forth to different mouth shapes quickly.

Some More Helpful Tips

– Start with drawing the biggest mouth shapes and then work your way down.
– If the lip sync audio is really fast, it’s okay if you don’t have all the mouth shapes you hear in the audio.
– Feel free to use these mouth shapes for other characters, too!

Thanks for reading!

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