Videos have become one of the most popular and fruitful digital marketing strategies. And why not? They are connecting as well as engaging, fun, and cool.

Animated characters are an incredible asset to build a strong connection with the target audience while they help you meet your marketing objectives and streamline your ROI.

However, one must practice a lot to be proficient in character animation. As easy as it may sound, it includes many artistic disciplines.

The true essence of animated character videos or animated explainer videos lies in how proficiently one can bring life to lifeless characters. In a simple sense, character animation After Effects is about giving life to inanimate characters using this tool. 

Character Animation

Character animation videos are perhaps the most sought-after marketing strategies among the various kinds of videos, especially animated explainer videos. That's because these videos have an extraordinary ability to give you and your brand a perfect touch of feelings and personality and help you stand out in the crowd.

The characters could be anything from fancy, imaginative cartoon characters to non-living aspects like a lamp, wood, and even a single colour. Great character animation is the key to creating an amazing animated video.

An animated explainer video works great for explaining a concept, marketing a product, etc. A recent report found that over 80% of companies now use videos for marketing.

Adobe After Effects

Adobe After Effect is a fantastic software that lets you do many things with your animated characters. It is an excellent piece of software with numerous built-in tools that enable you to beautify your characters immensely.

However, you need enough knowledge to perform the magic, whether you are planning to do 2D character animation After Effects tasks or 3D character animation After Effects works.

In this article, you will learn crucial tips and ticks for moving forward with character animation After Effects. After reading this article, you can use Adobe After Effects character animation features that will allow you to tweak your characters according to your needs.

Hacks to Unveil the Potential of After Effects for Character Animation

This section will unveil the systematic steps you can take for character animation.

1. Get back to the excellent old method of sketching

Surely, you can use software to do some sketching tasks. However, there is no better way to come up with amazing ideas for character animation than sketching on paper.

You can get into using software afterwards, but start with character drawing on paper at first. After sketching rough ideas of your characters on paper, you can move your work to software.

After you finish moving your sketches to the software, import them into Adobe After Effects. Here is a video that will teach you how to import designs to Adobe After Effects.

If you are only starting in Adobe After Effects, I recommend using simple characters instead of fancy characters that demand many skills for you to edit.

2. Use Photoshop for designing your characters

After you complete the sketching part, you need to use Photoshop to make your characters look real. If you have used software for sketching, you can import it into Photoshop. You can import the scanned copy into the Photoshop app if you do your sketch on traditional paper.

Take reference of your sketch to design your characters in Photoshop. You need a separate layer for every single moving part of your character. For instance, you should make a separate layer for a character’s forearm, bicep, and so on instead of using a single layer for its hand.

After allocating a separate layer, you need to label your layers.

Later, you need to use layers in Adobe After Effects, so label it appropriately. After you complete designing your characters, save it in PSD format.

3. Use Dulk for rigging

Install the Adobe After Effects character animation plugin, Dulk, to simplify character rigging. You can get this plugin for free. If you like it, you can donate to the creator of this software.

Rigging is the process of bringing together the body parts of your characters to make them ready for animation.

Rigging makes character movement realistic. For instance, your character’s thigh and shin should move while walking; otherwise, the whole campaign would be unrealistic. The rigging part is carried out by parenting Photoshop layers and turning those layers into null objects.

Rigging is a complex activity. Check out this tutorial for carrying out basic rigging.

4. Keyframing

Keyframing is another complicated thing to do for beginners. It is about telling After Effects about the positions in which you want to adjust the value of a layer, such as rotation, opacity, colour, and so on.

When setting a keyframe, we tell After Effects about the beginning and end of the animation. We insert keyframes within a timeline.

There are three steps to setting a keyframe:

Step 1. Use the Stopwatch icon to set up the first keyframe

At first, we select the starting point of a character and then set a keyframe for the role.

Step 2. Position your play head to the next location

In this step, you move your time indicator to the endpoint or other position.

Step 3. Second value adjustment

The final step is the second value adjustment. We release the mouse button for creating a new keyframe. After that, we can preview our characters’ moves.

Here is a tutorial for setting up a single keyframe to help you.

The tips I’ve mentioned will only allow you to insert some necessary keyframes in the video. It takes a lot of time to master the keyframing skill. However, you can make it as a starting point of your journey.

The tutorial will cover how keyframing is carried out in real life. To learn more, you can spend more time researching keyframing.

5. Troubleshoot problems

After completing all the previous steps, you will still need to troubleshoot problems. We need to be careful in the earlier steps, but we cannot develop a perfect animation in the first trial.

The significant problems that you may observe would probably be in keyframes. Carefully play and check out the animation. If you find any issues, note them down and make some adjustments to overcome the problem.

You may connect with other experts or a professional animated explainer video production company if you encounter problems in the character movement part.

What is the way forward from here?

The tricks I’ve mentioned in this article will help you get started with character animation immediately. On that note, don't get disappointed if you fail in the first few attempts. It takes some time to master the art of using the character animation tools. Remember, “Rome was not built in a day“. So, take baby steps for now.

You can spend time learning the usage of different character animation software to enhance the quality of your animation.  Another option to improve the animation quality is outsourcing this task to a third-party, animated explainer video production agency.

You should follow my tips and start using After Effects tools to bring your characters to life. Hopefully, the article has provided a clear direction on how to start.

If there is anything that you want to add to this article, let us know your thoughts below. Till then, Happy Animating!!!

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Frequently Asked Questions

After Effects primarily uses keyframe-based animation tools for character animation. It features a range of tools like the Puppet Pin tool for simple character rigging and the Parenting feature to create hierarchies of animated elements. Additionally, plugins and scripts can be added to extend After Effects' capabilities for character animation, making it a versatile choice for animators.

After Effects is a versatile software widely used for animation, especially motion graphics and visual effects. It offers a robust set of animation tools, compositing capabilities, and integration with other Adobe software. While it's not a dedicated character animation tool like Adobe Character Animator, it can certainly be used for character animation when combined with proper rigging and animation techniques.

Adobe Character Animator is not entirely free. It's part of Adobe's Creative Cloud suite of software, which requires a subscription. Adobe offers a free trial period for Character Animator, allowing users to explore and use the software for a limited time. However, a subscription is necessary to access its full range of features and continue using it beyond the trial.

Character rigging in After Effects creates a skeletal structure for a character, allowing you to smoothly control its movement and articulation. It involves defining joints, bones, and control points that animate various parts of the character. Rigging simplifies animation by providing a system to easily manipulate and animate character elements, such as limbs and facial expressions, through keyframes and controllers.