after effects Tutorial

Basics of After Effects Character Rigging

Michael Lembree
|3 min read
Written by Michael Lembree


Today we have Michael Lembree breaking down the basics of character rigging using the Pick Whip, Anchor, and Rotation tools in After Effects. If you're an aspiring animator or a seasoned professional looking for some quick fixes, you won't want to miss this one!

Setting Up Your Workspace

Before diving into the tutorial, make sure you have your character ready in After Effects. Michael uses a simple stick figure for demonstration, but the principles apply to more complex characters as well. So, let's get to the meat of it!

Stitching It All Together with the Pick Whip Tool

The Pick Whip tool is your go-to for creating relationships between different parts of your character. Essentially, you're "stitching" or "sewing" the parts together.

  1. Left Arm to Bicep to Torso: Michael starts by connecting the character's left arm to the bicep and then the torso.

  2. Rest of the Limbs: Repeat the same process for all the other limbs, ensuring they are all securely connected to the torso. It's all a bit like an anatomical jigsaw puzzle—everything needs to fit together.

The Anchor Tool: Perfecting Pivot Points

After establishing the hierarchy of the character's parts, it's time to get precise with the Anchor tool. This tool helps you define where exactly each limb will rotate around its axis.

  1. Elbows and Shoulders: Position the anchor points near the elbows and shoulders for natural arm movement.

  2. Hips and Knees: Likewise, move the anchor points close to the hips and knees to give your character some swag in the step.

  3. Neck: If your character design includes a neck, position the anchor point there to allow head movement.

Working with the Rotation Tool

Finally, we bring in the Rotation tool, the last ingredient in this animation concoction. With the rotation tool, you can keyframe your character's movements to make it dance, wave, or perform any action you'd like.

Michael sets some simple angles to test out the rig. As a tip, you can rotate the torso as a quick way to see if all parts are indeed moving in conjunction, which they should if you've followed all the previous steps.

Limitations and Alternatives

Michael openly states that this method is not ideal for complex animations, calling it 'clunky' and admitting it might not yield the best results. But hey, when you're in a pinch or need a quick-and-dirty animation, it does the job.

Wrapping Up

So that’s the nitty-gritty of basic character rigging in After Effects. Using just the Pick Whip, Anchor, and Rotation tools, you can have a rudimentary but functional character rig. A big shoutout to Michael Lembree for sharing his expertise. Remember, like any tool, it's all about how you use it.


motion design
after effects

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