Animating With Character – Rigging

In part 1 of this 3 part series, I’ll show you how to design and rig a character for animation in After Effects! Rigging is the setup process of your artwork that streamlines the animating workflow. You’ll learn everything you need to get up and running with character animation.

The great thing about this technique is that it isn’t limited to any design style. You could create a flat vector character in Illustrator, or a hand illustrated and textured character in Photoshop. If you can design it, I’ll show you how to animate it.


Class Outline

  • Character Complexity. By adding complexity to your character, you add complexity to your rigging. You’ll get a preview of different levels of difficulty of animation design by going over three different character shapes.
  • Design Requirements and Guidelines. To start, you’ll learn how to make your animation character large for rigging, and you’ll cement your character’s style. (You can’t change the shape after you rig it.) You’ll also learn how to overlap separated joints for your character, and make guide layers for your character’s joints in Photoshop.
  • Install DUIK, and Import Your Artwork. DUIK is a free After Effects plugin. It includes multiple features that will help you rig your character. You’ll see how to set DUIK up in After Effects. Otherwise, prepare your composition settings, including frame rate and pixel resolution. Then you can begin rigging.
  • The Puppet Tool. This tool is key for After Effects animation. The puppet tool can determine how your creature moves, as well as its resolution. You’ll learn to place pins with the puppet tool, in order to create linear motion paths. Then you’ll use DUIK to make those motion paths more complex.
  • Rigging an Arm with IK. Starting with your character’s left arm, you’ll learn how to animate with the IK system. After placing pins by using the puppet tool, you’ll rename your pins, in order to keep  better track of your process. Then you’ll learn how to attach separated parts of the arm by “parenting.” Next, you’ll learn how to animate one part of the arm in a way that makes the rest of the arm move around—based on that single, localized motion.
  • Rigging Trevor’s Legs and Body. The process for rigging your character’s leg is the same as the one used for the arm. So you’ll get a brief refresher before moving onto the body. Once you lock the limbs and anchor your character’s hair to its head, you’ll see how to parent the limbs to the body. Then you can  ultimately ensure that different movements in your character correspond to one another.
  • Clean Up Your Timeline, and Lock the Neutral Pose. You’ll find out tips for remembering how to distinguish the multiple controllers for your character’s movements, and you’ll learn to lock certain characteristics of your work. For instance, your  scale stays the same as you animate.
  • Rigging Stu. Since Stu has a longer body, he represents the type of character that will require multiple movement points in his torso. You’ll learn where to add anchor points, in order to create comprehensive body movements in a long-bodied character.
  • Rigging Allen. Now that you’ve worked your way up to the most complicated rigging challenge in this lesson, you’ll learn how to make your character’s belly rotate with its shoulders. And you’ll get its head to rotate in tandem with its neck.
  • Animating a Wave with Trevor. Finally, you’ll create a full, animated loop with all the skills you’ve learned so far. By setting multiple key frames, you’ll be able to make your character wave.
    As you can see, animation really involves attaching multiple elements of a design to make it move as a single, convincing unit.


Jake Bartlett

Motion Designer

I’ve been working as a motion designer for over ten years. After graduating with a degree in digital media and working at a production company in LA for 5 years, I made the jump to full-time freelance. Since then I've begun teaching motion design courses online at Skillshare, School of Motion, and my YouTube channel. Supporting my family as a motion designer is a dream for me. I get to make things move every single day, and be at home with my wife and family while doing it.


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