Complete 2D Character Rigging & Animation in After Effects

Step-by-step - straight to the point lessons. Character Rigging and Animating in After Effects. Artwork Included & More
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  • Lectures 43
  • Length 4.5 hours
  • Skill Level Beginner Level
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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    Available on iOS and Android
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About This Course

Published 3/2016 English

Course Description

Character Rigging in After Effects and animating is what you’ll find in this loaded, focused, and direct character rigging tutorial course.

The methods in this course are what I use to rig my own art no-matter what the characters look like. I created this course so that you could learn how to bring your own art to life.

~  Imagine what your own art could do if it could move or say if it could speck.

If you have a character you’ve been trying to rig and animate . . . or think you want to start . . . continue reading . . .

. . . All the artwork for you to learn is included by the way.

    . . . . And there’s no After Effects experience necessary.

Before I tell you what's inside the course I must tell you that when I started rigging characters all I could find were courses teaching with very specific types of characters in mind. You and I both know that we all draw differently. Most of us might sketch out a character as a whole painting when we start drawing ~ everything is all one layer, on one piece of paper.

That's how most of us draw right?

So then I realized all we have to do then is re-think this character and re-draw it in layers and then . . . we can rig it an animate it; tell a story with it.

In this course I wanted to teach you how to do this by providing a human character drawn in layers so that you will know how to apply this to one of your sketches (you'll know how you can re-draw your own character into layers similar to the character provided) and apply all the rigging techniques to your own artwork in the future. I chose a human because anything else is typically easier to do. ~ especially if they are more 'cartoon or non-realisticly painted'.

Okay so here’s What You’ll Learn Inside the Course . . .

#1 - SETTING UP AE - Easily set up After Effects with some free Massive Time-Saving tools.

#2 - EYES - Blinking and Movement

#3 - LIP-SYNC - Mouth’s ability to react to replaceable audio tracks (very cool)

#4 - FACE - Facial Expressions (which still work with talking)

#5 - HAIR - To be able to move in the wind & react to Head Movement.

#6 - LEGS - Inverse Kinematics (IK) including Ankle & Foot Articulation

#7 - ARMS - IK as well as opening and closing Hands & Fingers

#8 - SECONDARY CLOTHING - Adding a dress/skirt which moves with underlying legs

#9 - ANIMATE - Set up a Scene for a short animation including a Walk-Cycle

#10 - EXPORTING - Add in some music and get an animation ready for Youtube etc.

         AND MORE . . .

With all the artwork provided for you to learn character rigging from start to finish I also walk you through setting up a free plugin called DUIK which speeds the rigging process up tremendously. You will also learn how to do some basic animation with our complete rigged character.

You will also learn a method of lip-syncing a character for dialogue which can easily be swapped out for new audio. Great if you change the script!

If you have ever wanted to create an animated short or mini-series I will show you how you can use a fully rigged character for multiple episodes. This is the method I used in the creation of the 3-part mini-series Wicked Love found on YouTube with the exception of Trapcode Particular. You can find it by searching 'wicked love animation' on youtube.

If you love to draw or paint digital art in Photoshop or the Procreate app for iPad this course will teach you skills to take your own creative characters drawn in a layered fashion and bring them to life for use time and time again.

I’ve included detailed notes (PDF files) you can print out to assist you. * Available as separate lessons or the entire notes as one. Simple code snippets I use are in there as well as the same values I type in as I walk you through the process.

Check out the previews to gain a more in-depth look on what this course offers. There is no risk, no questions, nor hard feelings if you want your money back for 30 days.

See you on the inside,


PS. If you’re new to After Effects it can look like it’s a lot to learn. After Effects is a BEAST but Don’t Worry - You’ll learn what's needed as you go by doing - this is the fastest way to learn.


UPDATE - June 2016:   

Check out Lecture 3, another example of an animated short created in After Effects. 

I took the EXACT character taught in this course and put her into another animated short - different from the animation I walk you through in the course. Lecture 3 can be seen by anyone as it's a free Preview

Set the Udemy player to 1080p and let it load.


UPDATE - May 2016:   

New Lecture added: Flipping the Hands for more Position Options

Character Rigging Trick with positioning the hands which address overcoming one of the seeming limitations with this style of animation where a hand is painted with palms facing up . . . . what if you want them facing down?  - check it out in Lecture 27


UPDATE - April 2016:  Added quick time-saving trick when creating controllers which goes with the preceding lecture on Legs and Feet. - check it out in Lecture 23


What are the requirements?

  • Have access to Adobe After Effects.
  • All the artwork is provided for you to learn with.
  • The detailed notes are in PDF format, you may prefer to print them out to help you with the course.

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Rig your own art and characters once you re-design your art into layers.
  • Animate your art for a single animated short or for a mini-series.
  • Export you final animation to youtube or anywhere you wish.

Who is the target audience?

  • This course is intended for those who would love to know how to turn a photoshop drawing or painting (drawn in layers) into an animatable character.
  • No After Effects experience necessary. You will learn as you go.
  • This course is NOT for you if you are looking for lots of flexibility when animating such as with 3D animation or Traditional style animation. This is more of a cut-out style which is known for limited views.

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: Getting set up!

A heads up before you play the videos . . . .


Here is the general flow of this course.


After I made this course, I put together an Animated Short using the exact character (Zoe) rigged in this course.


This is how to access & download the notes which have been designed to clarify what is covered in each video.


We will start by setting up After Effects with some free software to dramatically save time.

This includes Duik animation tool (free and by donation) as well as Mamo World’s Auto Lip-Sync which is free for 30 days and affordable if you like it.


Converting an Adobe Illustrator file to an Adobe Photoshop file

Section 2: Rigging the Character's Head

How to acquire the files needed for this course.


Here I help you get set up with the included project files and getting them organized in After Effects.


This lesson begins the creation process! We set up the main compositions we will be working with on the front 3/4 view of the character named Zoe.


Character Rigging certainly includes the eyes needing to blink and here we set up a simple slider control to allow for this.


Simply adding some round appearance to the eyes tends to bring a little more life-likeness to the character. I walk you through a technique to improve the round look of the eyes without having to go back into your painting software.


This is a great way to hook up the eyes to some controls you can grab with your mouse. You will then be able to move the controls around and the eyes will mimic their behavior. We also set up the ability for the Iris/Pupil of the eyes to automatically move slightly when the eye-lids move as humans eyes do.


In this character rigging tutorial we go through the process of setting up Auto-Lip Sync in the correct manner for allowing two things:

- Preserve facial expressions we will create to function along with any talking the character may be doing.

- Allowing for any new audio track to easily be changed out later, which I also cover.


Using After Effect's puppet tool along with DUIK’s tool we set up the character’s face to allow for the creation of controllable facial expressions.


Working with the bones we created on the face we get going on our first facial expression, the smile.

This is where you learn how to utilize easy-to-use code expressions to affect the position of bones.


Leading off of the ability of the character’s mouth to be controlled we explore working with very simple code expressions affecting the Rotation of some other elements on the face.

Section 3: Rigging the Character's Body

Before rigging up the character’s body we quickly create some very helpful guide null objects that are only used for a reference point for use as we go along.


Focusing on the Torso layer in this lesson we create the bones which will later be useful with upper-body movement through slider controls. We utilize the Guide Null objects from the previous lesson.


This is a brief lesson to create a slider control for tilting the character’s head upward and downward.

This is NOT a side-to side rotation.


Character Rigging After Effects - Hair

This lesson is a bit longer in duration as it covers a couple simplified possibilities when rigging the hair of a character. We set up controls for the hair to react with head movement and set up a short animation as if there were a slight breeze in the air to demonstrate the additional code snippet: ValueAtTime.

The Following 2 lectures: Legs and Feet plus the Update on controllers

Character Rigging After Effects - Legs

We rig the legs with ankle and foot articulation allowing for multiple stepping positions all contained within a controller you will be able to grab with your mouse and position the character’s feet.


This is and Update and little time-saving trick when creating controllers on legs or arms. This lecture demonstrates how to include rotation on an Ankle controller whereas before we were having to create an additional slider control do accomplish the same thing.


Character Rigging After Effects - Arms

Next up is rigging the arms in a similar fashion as the legs only a bit more complex as the arms also have hands and fingers to account for, addressed in the upcoming lessons.


Character Rigging After Effects - Hands

The Thumb and Pointer finger are attached to the arm in this case as I wanted to show you it is possible to do this. We create a way to control the Wrist and Hand. We also create some controls to have the Thumb and Pointer finger Open and Close together as well as have individual control over the Thumb and Pointer finger by themselves.


The remaining fingers are the Middle finger, Ring finger and Pinky finger. This time we create the ability to have these fingers ONLY react with the Open/Close slider controls. Now each arm can be positioned just as the feet with the additional slider controls for the hands inside.


Here I run you through a strategy to have more options with the hands, having the palms up or down depending on which way you painted a characters hands. First I show you how is can easily go wrong, then the quick and simple method to do this.


Character Rigging After Effects - Dress

It is now time to move into adding on a layer of clothing which will react to the movement of the legs.

In this lesson we go over one of the two dress (skirt) layers to get started as we address some issues with only having one layer when we get to animating. This will be where the second dress layer comes into play.


In very little time we will replace the audio track (the character’s voice) with some new audio. This is simply amazing as the face will still react to the new audio track only requiring a few minor adjustments.


It may appear that if you use Auto Lip-Sync the mouth is always closed unless there is an audio track and the character is speaking. I cover how you can modify Auto Lip-Sync to animate a breath and it’s very easy.


We address a couple of differences with a side-view character including a seemingly layer over-lapping issue as well as getting Auto Lip-Sync work for us with a side-view as it seems to have been designed for a front-view of a character. This is possible and it may you take a few runs at it. Stick it out as once you nail it you won’t have to do it again.

I will Not be guiding you through the entire rigging of the side-view as it is the same process as the front-view.

Section 4: Animating the Character

First we organize the timeline of our completed character. Then you SAVE YOUR PROJECT as you always do.

This is where I go over how you make it simple to reuse your final character again and again for a mini-series by creating what I refer to as a BASE. We go through this actual action in the next lesson.


We create a new project (a new animated short) by opening our BASE and then saving it as a new project. This way BASE is never altered or damaged and we can continue creating new animated shorts in the future with the same character. Then we set up a potential animated short scene before bringing in our character.

This includes some background art consisting of a Title, Mountains, Meadow, Clouds, Rotating Windmill, and Sky.


To compliment the idea there is a breeze blowing (wind) as the clouds are moving and windmill rotating, we add in some flowers that will repeatedly sway to and fro.


Character Rigging After Effects - Walk Cycle

Bringing the character into the scene, we start right off setting up a walk cycle complete with upper body movement and stopping motion. At this point we are leaving the dress layer unseen.


Time for the dress to move along with the walk-cycle we have completed. We will run into an issue which is easily fixed with the addition of the second dress layer we have not yet rigged.

The NOTES will surely help with this lesson.


In this animation lesson we simplify the camera controls with the use of a new a Null object and move right into a close-up shot of the character’s face to incorporate a smile, eye movement and some hair movement.


I put together a separate small After Effects project file you can use (for any reason anytime) consisting of a horned butterfly. We will set this up and fly it into the scene.


Another very easy task to re-locate a character’s dialogue (audio track with the talking) to a new point in time on the timeline. You could change the position in time many times as it’s so easy.


This is the last time we see the Buttercorn as is so gracefully flutters out of the scene and out of our lives forever. I provide some example values for positioning, scale, and orientation.


I have included two additional .wav files; one for background music and another to inform the butterfly (Buttercorn) is entering the scene. This lesson is only to provide a quick, brief example of how do add background music or additional sounds to any movie and then export the final project.

And now you are DONE.



We move through the process of exporting our project using Adobe Media Encoder


Watch animated shorts using the techniques from this course!

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Instructor Biography

Benjamin Child, After Effects Animator, Simplifier | Engaged Educator

Ben is dedicated to simplifying projects and providing a solution to a challenge.

With more of a Ready. Fire. Aim approach he not only educates students about a specific subject but also reveals to them that by simply starting and taking action, they learn at a much faster rate.

He maintains clarity through keeping on track and to the point with any subject as he passionately believes that the best way to achieve your desired outcome is as simple as maintaining focus until you get it. It’s that simple.

Always happy to help others along their way, Ben welcomes all those who are interested in After Effects and curious of how to bring their art to life.

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