Quick Start Guide

The following guide is intended for users who are new to Blue Pencil 1.5. It provides a brief overview of the major features along with introductory how-to guides for drawing and animating with Blue Pencil.

Main Menu

After loading the Blue Pencil plugin, a new menu item will be added to Maya's main menu. The Blue Pencil menu contains all of the tools, utilities and settings for 2d drawing and animating.


Although it is possible to draw and animate using only the items in the Blue Pencil menu, it is quicker and more convenient to use the Toolbox UI. The majority of this guide will be demonstrating features using the Toolbox.

Creating a Drawing Surface

  1. Create a new scene in Maya (File->New Scene).
  2. Display the Toolbox by selecting Toolbox... from the main menu (Blue Pencil->Toolbox...).
  3. Click on the Pencil button at the top of the Toolbox. If a drawing surface does not exist, the New Layer dialog will be displayed.
  4. Set the layer type to "Animation" and click the OK button. This will create a new animation layer in the persp camera viewport and activate the Blue Pencil Tool.

    Note: A larger canvas size requires more resources and can cause slowdown on slower computers. The default size should provide a good balance.

Drawing on the Animation Layer

  1. Enable the Blue Pencil Tool by clicking the Pencil button at the top of the Toolbox. The mouse cursor will switch to a crosshair when it is moved over a viewport.
  2. Set a new key by clicking the button on the Toolbox.

    Note: A key must be set on the current frame when drawing to an animation layer. If Auto key is enabled in the Preferences, a key will be set automatically.

  3. Click on the Toolbox Color Swatch to set the drawing color.
  4. Mouse over the active camera viewport, hold down the left-mouse button and drag to draw.
  5. Drawings can be erased from the screen by selecting from the Toolbox and drawing on the viewport or by holding down the Ctrl key (Cmd on OS X) while drawing.

Tool Options

The properties of a tool can be quickly changed through the Tool Options UI. The options are context-sensitive based on the active Tool and may include diameter, opacity and hardness.

The Tool Options UI can be opened by:

  • Selecting Tool Options... from the main menu (Blue Pencil->Tool Options...)
  • Right-clicking on the Toolbox and selecting Tool Options... from the menu

Use the sliders or text fields in the Tool Options UI to change the properties of the active tool.


The Blue Pencil animation workflow is designed around Maya's existing workflow. As such, animators familar with working in Maya should feel immediately comfortable with Blue Pencil.

Blue Pencil keys are displayed directly in Maya's timeline and can be retimed using traditional methods, custom MEL scripts or the included Blue Pencil retiming tool. It is also possible to navigate back and forth between keys using the Maya hotkeys.

The Lightbox is a Blue Pencil feature that allows animators to see drawings from keys prior to, and after, the current key. It can display up to five keys in either direction.

Adding Keys

Animating in Blue Pencil involves creating drawings on an animation layer at different times in the scene. The current key's drawing will be displayed at each frame of the timeline until a new key reached. If the current time is earlier than the first key, nothing will be drawn to the animation layer.

Note: A draw layer will always be displayed and doesn't need a keyframe before drawing.

To add keys:

  1. Set the current time to the time to add the new key.
  2. Set a new key by clicking the button on the Toolbox.

    Note: If a key already exists at the current time, an error will be displayed.

  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for each new key.

Adding numerous blank keys can be tedious. For situations that involve adding or removing a a number of keys, Blue Pencil includes several utility scripts that will operate on a range selected in Maya's timeline.

To add keys in a selected range:

  1. In Maya's timeline, select the first ten frames.
  2. From the main menu select Blue Pencil->Utilities->Add Keys in Range

    A blank key will be added to each frame that was selected in the timeline. If a keyframe already exists in the selected range, it is ignored.

Removing Keys

Keys should only be removed through the Blue Pencil menu or Toolbox. Deleting keys through the timeline or graph editor can result in loss of data.

To remove a key:

  1. Set the current time to the time of the key to be removed.
  2. Remove the key by clicking the button on the Toolbox.

Cut, Copy and Paste

Blue Pencil provides the ability to cut and copy keys from their current time to a new time. These operations can be safely performed from either the main menu or the Toolbox.

Note: Keys should not be cut or pasted directly in Maya's timeline or the graph editor. Drawings will not be included in these operations and it can result in a loss of data.

  1. Set the current time to the time of the key to be cut or copied.
  2. Cut the key by clicking the button on the Toolbox.
  3. Set the current time to the new time of the key.
  4. Paste the key by clicking the button on the Toolbox.

    Note: A key cannot be pasted at a time with a pre-existing key. The existing key must be removed first.

Using the Lightbox

By enabling the Lightbox, Blue Pencil keys prior to, and after the current key are displayed in the viewport with a decreasing opacity.

  1. Enable the Lightbox for previous keys by clicking the button on the Toolbox.
  2. Enable the Lightbox for upcoming keys by clicking the button on the Toolbox.

Retiming Tool

The included Retiming Tool makes it easy to retime existing keys. Animators can quickly shift keys left and right or uniformly space a selected range. The full functionality of the tool is beyond the scope of this Quick Start Guide and will be covered in detail later in the documentation.

  1. Launch the tool by selecting Retiming Tool... from the main menu (Blue Pencil->Retiming Tool).
  2. Select the layer to be retimed from the Layer Manager. The keys should be displayed in Maya's timeline.
  3. To uniformly space a range of keys, highlight the range in Maya's timeline and click the 2f button.

    All of the keys in the selected range will be spaced two frames apart.

  4. To shift keys to the right, set the current time to the left of the keys to be shifted and click the +1f button.

    All of the keys to the right of the current time will be shifted one frame to the right.


Blue Pencil includes commands to quickly clear existing drawings from each layers or to completely remove all Blue Pencil data from the scene. The cleanup commands can be accessed throught main menu by selecting Blue Pencil->Cleanup. The descriptions of these command are listed below:

Clear - Removes any drawing data from a draw layer or the current key of an animation layer.

Delete Layer - Removes the active layer from the scene.

Delete All Layers - Removes all layers from the scene.

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