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Learn to create and animate highly controllable characters using After Effects. In this course, author George Maestri covers every step on the way, from designing the characters in Photoshop or Illustrator, or drawing them straight from After Effects; assembling characters with hierarchies; making realistic deformations with the Puppet tool; automating rigs with expressions; creating realistic head turns; and showing advanced techniques such as using null objects as bones. Finally, the course shows how to perform a basic animation with the character and ensure the rig works correctly.
When you create characters for use in animation, typically what you will do is do some conceptual drawings; either these will be pencil sketches or digital drawings, but eventually you'll refine down a look, or a design, for your character. Now, once you have a design for your character, you need to draw what's called a model, and that's your character in a neutral pose, and this is what we have here: just a basic sketch with the character, and his arms outstretched.
Now, having this neutral pose will make it much easier to rig and set up the character for animation later. So just make sure that you have a design that is in a fairly neutral pose. Now once you do that, you need to bring it in to either Photoshop, Illustrator, or maybe even another drawing package, to actually draw your character and get him ready for animation. Now in this case, we're going to look at how to set a character up in Illustrator.
Now basically what you need to do is get your sketch in, and then just start tracing over it. But as we trace over it, we need to make sure that we create layers that we can use in After Effects later. Now the first thing I want to do is I want to select the sketch and lock it, so I am just going to go Object > Lock > Selection, and make sure that I can't select this. So this makes it much easier to draw over. And then I am going to zoom in. So let's go ahead and start with the character's face, and one of the things I want to do is I want to make sure that I know how to use my layers palette, because as we start drawing we are going to want to take our outlines and put them on separate layers.
So right now I am just going to do a new layer, let's just call this Head, and now I am going to draw the character's head. So I am going to go into my Pen tool here, make sure I have color set that I like, and then let's just start tracing. So I am going to go ahead and select this corner here, trace, and then just start tracing and drawing out what I want. In this particular character, each corner of his head is going to be basically a corner, so he is kind of got a squarish head with rounded off faces here.
So once I have that, I can certainly tweak it, make it how I want, and then once I have that layer, I can start creating a new layer. So in this case, I am going to go ahead and toggle that layer off, and then create a New layer. And let's go ahead and go over to his eye, so we're going to create the right eye. Now as we do this, we want to make sure that we start creating a naming scheme that works. So you want to name the eyes, the head, hands; everything should have a descriptive name.
That way, when you go into After Effects, it's much easier to see in the layers what you're doing. So in this case, the eye is not going to be a skin color; it's going to be white, so I am going to go ahead and change my colors here. Let's go ahead and change that to white with a black outline, and then all we need to do is just use the Ellipse tool, and go ahead and drag, and create that eye. Okay, so now this is just the outline of the eye. We want to make sure that we also have a pupil.
So for the pupil, again, I just want to keep layering this, so I am going to create Right Pupil, and let's go ahead and change our color here. I want it to be -- go ahead and deselect this, and then I want to select black, and let's go ahead and draw the pupil. Now, I am actually going to draw the pupil on this side, because I can see it, and then just go ahead and move it over onto the other eye.
So now, as I start drawing this, you can see how I'm starting to build my character. So if I want, I could take both of these layers, and then do a Duplicate Selection. So now I've got two more layers, and I can just move those over, and so on. Obviously, you will need to draw a lot of different parts for the character. Now, we're not going to go through that whole process, because it will take you about an hour or so. So let's go through and just show you what a complete version of the character looks like.
Now this guy is a little bit different; I've modified him after I drew him from the sketch, but he's basically that same character. Now let's take a look at the layering here. He's got a lot of different layers. So we've got a lot of different parts for this character; we've got a torso right here, we've got each shoe is separate, we've got the neck is separate, the collar and the tie are separate, and so on. So what I'm trying to do here is get each individual part of the character that I want to animate separate.
Now there are a couple of decisions you need to make. For example, do you want the arms to be part of the torso, do you want this to be one flat character that we animate with the Puppet tool, or do we want it to be separate parts that rotate? Now, some of this is going to depend on the look and style that you want for your character. If you have individual parts, you are going to get much tighter joint movement, but you won't get the fluidity that you'll have when using the Puppet tool.
So just remember, as you design your characters in Illustrator, be sure to layer them as you draw. That will make it much easier to import them into After Effects later, and also use descriptive names for your layers as well.
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