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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.
Creating a character in Photoshop is similar to how you would do it in Illustrator, but of course we'll be using bitmap tools. Now, when we use a bitmap, we need to be cognizant of how big we want that bitmap to be. Unlike an Illustrator file, which can scale however you want because it's vectors, bitmap has to be at least big enough to fill the screen. So what we need to do is make sure that we understand how big our final output will be; if it's HD, standard def, Web, whatever, and then make sure that we have enough pixels in our basic character to fill that screen.
So you need to think about, okay, what's the biggest close up we are going to do on our character. So, for example, are we going to do a close up of the character's head? Then we need to make sure that we scale the bitmap so that when the head fits in the screen we have enough pixels. So we can do this under Image > Image Size, and just make sure that we have a width and a height that works. Now, again, with Photoshop you can start with a sketch, and either paint over or draw over the sketch, or you can even just create it from scratch.
Now I am not going to draw over the sketch here, because I've got another sketch that I've created and just done in Illustrator, and then imported into Photoshop, and modified it a little bit. But this is a bitmap image. So, when you start with a bitmap image, typically you'll just paint the whole character, or create the whole character, and then you'll start segmenting that character as needed. So let me show you a little bit about that process. So let's go ahead and start segmenting the parts of the character that we want here.
I am going to go into the head, and let's go ahead and just start breaking this character apart into layers. Now, very similar to Illustrator, we want to separate this character out into layers so that we can animate it more efficiently. So if we take a look at this head, one of the things we can do is just use a Lasso tool. So, for example, the Magnetic Lasso should work pretty well for this, and I just want to select out his head, and then I'm going to just cut and paste that head back on.
Now when I do that, you'll notice that there's a big gap where the neck used to be. I've got the head, but if I'm going to actually animate this head, I'll need more room on the character's neck. So I need to start drawing the overlap between the parts of the character, and this is probably one of the more important thing that we have when drawing in Photoshop. So here, for example, I could select my neck here, and just create an Elliptical Marquee or something that gives me the shape that I need for the top of that neck, and then just select my Paintbrush, and just fill that in.
Okay, now what I'm looking for here is just a little bit more neck so that when this character's head starts animating, that I have something behind there. And then we are going to start doing this for the entire character. We're going to start doing it for the arms, the hands, and so on. Let's continue to focus a little bit on the face here. Let's go ahead and do the eyes. So I am going to go ahead and just select out these eyes here.
In fact, I am just going to draw an outline around there. We're actually going to over-select them; make sure that this head layer is selected here. And then again, this time we're just going to copy and paste. So now I've got an eye; again I've got a little bit of a ring around that, but I can just use my Magic Wand tool here to select that ring, and delete it. Now I should have a pretty good eye here. Now, what happens, though, is that I still have this eye here; I still have the eye behind that.
I need to fill in behind here. I am going to go ahead and select my Paintbrush, eyedropper this, make sure I'm on that Head layer, and then just paint this out. Now, once I have that painted out, I can go back to my eye layer, and just drop that back in. Now again, just like what we did with Illustrator, we need to make sure that we have descriptive names for all of our layers as we start creating them.
So again, I am going to call this one Head, call this one the Left Eye. Now we're going to do another one for the pupil. So again, I am just going to Copy, Paste. And I've got another layer here; let's call that Left Pupil, and again I want to paint in behind there. So I've got this left eye, and it still has that old pupil in there. So again, select my Paintbrush, go to my Eye layer, paint that out, and then turn on my Pupil layer here.
So now I've got a separate eye and a separate pupil. We can do the same for pretty much every part of the face, and then we can work our way down to other parts of the character that we may want to animate. So, for example, you probably would want to separate out the neck, you may want to separate out the tie, the hands should probably be separate, you may separate out the shoulders. So every part of this character, you want to separate out just depending on how you want to animate it. Now, I have a complete version of this character, so you can kind of get an idea as to how segmented we want it to be.
Now, in addition to all of the parts on the face, and the hands, and everything, I've actually included several different arms, several different legs, as well as hands, mouths, and eyelids. And we're going to get into how to create some of these a little bit later, but just notice that we've got a very, very complete list of parts for my character. So if you go down here, for example, I've got a separate layer for the shoes.
Each leg is a separate layer. I've got separate hand. If you look at the sleeve, I've got a separate sleeve. But I also have separate forearms and biceps. It just depends on how I want to animate the character. So, if I want to bend the arm using the Puppet tool, I can use this Sleeve character, or I can have separate parts for each part of the arm. So if you want, take a look at this file for reference, but the basic notion here is that we do want to layer our characters with descriptive names, and make sure that we have layers for everything that we want to animate in After Effects.
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