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How to Animate an Explosion in Toon Boom

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Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial, we will be learning effects animation and the simple concepts behind creating awesome effects.

Unlike character animation, effects animation doesn't adhere to anatomical rules. Smoke, for example, doesn't have joints and a skeleton that limit how far it can bend around. Smoke can appear, thicken, thin out, and dissipate. Effects don't have to have a single way of moving about, and that's one of the things that make them fun to do.

Looking for an animator to help you out with your next project? Why not check out Envato Studio and their many Video & Animation Services.

The Basics of Animating an Explosion

Appear and Disappear

To make an effect appear, simply start very small, and make it grow as you go.

To make it disappear, on the other hand, simply shrink your effect until it is no more.

Appear and DisappearAppear and DisappearAppear and Disappear


Squash, stretch, and curve your effect by gradually transforming it into your desired shape. Just think of the resulting look you want, and slowly alter your drawings as you make your way there.


Break Apart

Split your shape apart by stretching one side of it. Then create something like a weak link by thinning down the area you want to break apart. When the weak link is thin enough, separate your drawing into different shapes.

Break apartBreak apartBreak apart

Spread Out

Separate shapes have the capacity to travel individual paths. To make them spread outwards, simply give them each a direction and nudge them along their respective routes.

Spread outSpread outSpread out


Apply all the concepts we've learned so far.

  • First, make your shape appear by starting small and making it grow.
  • Next, morph it into a stretched curve.
  • Break apart your drawing into multiple shapes.
  • Spread out the shapes in an outward path.
  • Lastly, make your shapes disappear by shrinking them until they're no more.

Easy, right?


How to Animate an Explosion

Now that we've covered the basics, let's get into some more complicated effects using more detailed samples!

1. How to Create the Impact

Observe the frame break-downs on the image below.

Frames 1-5: We want to make a shape appear from the sky and give it a downward direction. We also want to morph the shape, stretching it as we go.

Frame 6: This is when the object makes an impact and causes an effect to emerge around it. The stronger the impact, the bigger you would want the effect to be on this frame.

Frame 7: This is when the impact reaches its full mass. We want to add a few holes which will serve as the weak links that will break apart the drawing in the next frames.

Frames 8-12: Next, we want our effect to break apart, spread out, and disappear. Imagine the holes growing bigger and the effect dissolving into smaller bits. We also want the smaller particles to be moving outward from the position of impact as the frames progress, until they disappear completely.

Note: Since the effect would be broken down into so many pieces as the frames progress, we can focus on one area, one flow of movement at a time. Focusing on all the particles at once can be confusing.

Impact - frame breakdownImpact - frame breakdownImpact - frame breakdown

And here is the first effect in motion!

Impact animationImpact animationImpact animation

2. How to Create the First Smoke Wave

Study the frames in the image below closely.

Frames 1-4: Make our shape appear from the ground. Imagine a force blowing at it to morph and stretch it out in a curve.

Frames 5-8: Break apart our curved shape. Imagine two main paths as the upper and lower sets of drawings spread out and disappear.

Frames 9-11: Continue breaking apart the shapes and add a new path for some of them to travel. Keep nudging their position and shrinking them until they dissipate.

First smoke wave - frame breakdownFirst smoke wave - frame breakdownFirst smoke wave - frame breakdown

And here is the second effect in motion!

First smoke wave animationFirst smoke wave animationFirst smoke wave animation

3. How to Create the Second Smoke Wave

Look carefully at the frames in the image below.

Frames 1-4: Make the effect appear while imagining wind blowing from the right side.

Frame 5: Here, we start to imagine another wind force blowing from the left side this time. Morph or nudge the base of the effect as if it's responding to the new wind.

Frame 6: While the force from the left side continues to push upwards, we want to imagine another new force blowing from the right side. See how the smoke is shaped into an 'S' curve as a result.

Frame 7-10: Continue pushing this smoke in a swaying manner, imagining winds blowing alternately from either side.

Frame 11: We start to detach the effect from the ground, as if we are uprooting it.

Frame 12-16: Break the effect apart into smaller pieces and let the pieces travel in their respective directions. Continue to let them spread out until they disappear.

Second smoke wave - frame breakdownSecond smoke wave - frame breakdownSecond smoke wave - frame breakdown

And here is the third effect in motion!

Second smoke wave animationSecond smoke wave animationSecond smoke wave animation

4. Put It All Together!

Now, simply arrange the finished effects on top of each other, with the timing that you want.

Output animationOutput animationOutput animation

Awesome Work, You're Done!

Essentially, we pretty much just applied the same concepts for each effect that we animated. Whether you want your animation to be simple or complicated, just remember these easy steps: appear, morph, break apart, spread out, and disappear.

Have fun experimenting with effects animation!

Hope you had a blast! 

Animation breakdownAnimation breakdownAnimation breakdown
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