Tricks and Tips to Use Character Animation After Effects Tools

One needs to practice a lot to be proficient in character animation. The term “character animation” includes a lot of things. It includes plenty of artistic disciplines. In a simple sense, character animation is all about giving life to inanimate characters using various techniques. It is about making lifeless characters more realistic.

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

A fantastic animated video can bring a lot of return on investment for businesses. It works great for explaining a concept, marketing a product, and so on. The recent report found that over 80% of companies are now using videos for marketing purposes.


Image Source: YouTube

Adobe After Effect is a fantastic piece of software that lets you do a lot of things with your animated characters. It is an excellent piece of software with numerous in-built tools that enables 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 get to know about crucial tools and tips for moving forward with character animation After Effects. After reading this article, you will be able to use Adobe After Effects character animation features that will allow you to tweak your characters, according to your needs.

A Few Hacks to Unveil the Potential of Adobe After Effects for Character Animation

This section of the article will not only unveil the tools, but it will offer you systematic steps to follow along with the tips that you can use in that step for character animation.

  1. 1. Get back to the excellent old method of sketching

Surely, you can use software to do some sketching task. However, there is no better way to come up with amazing ideas for character animation other than sketching on a paper. You can get into using software afterwards but start with character drawing on a paper at first. After sketching rough ideas of your characters on a paper, you can then move your work to software.

Right after you finish moving your sketches to software, you can then import it on Adobe After Effects. Here is a video that will teach you how to import any designs to Adobe After Effects.

If you are only starting in Adobe After Effects, I recommend you to use simple characters, instead of fancy characters that demand a lot of 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. In case you have made use of software for sketching, you can import it in Photoshop. If you did your sketch on a traditional paper, you could import the scan copy into a Photoshop app.

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.


Image Source: Photoshop Essentials

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

Rigging is a process of bringing together the body parts of your characters for making it ready for animation.

Rigging makes character movement realistic. For instance, your character’s thigh and shin should move when it is 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 basic Dulk 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, color, and so on.


Image Source: Creative Cow

When we are setting a keyframe, we are telling 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 how our characters’ movement.

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

The tips that 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 give you an essential hint of how keyframing is carried out in real life. To learn more, you can spend more time, researching about keyframing.

5. Troubleshoot problems

After completing all the previous steps, you will still need to troubleshoot problems. It is true that we need to be careful in the earlier steps, but we cannot come up with a perfect animation in the very 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 it down and make some adjustments to overcome the problem. You may connect with other experts if you encounter problems in the character movement part.

What is the way forward from here?

The tricks that I’ve mentioned in this article will help you get started with character animation right away. With that, you should expect some failures in the beginning. It takes a bit of time to master the art of using the tools that I’ve mentioned in this article.

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 the third-party.

For now, you should follow the tips that I’ve mentioned and start using After Effects tools for bringing 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.

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Chehak Wadhwa

Chehak Wadhwa is a Creative Head at webdew and has an intensive 10+ Years of Experience in Designing & Animation. She has produced 500+ Videos with her team including some of the well know brands in the market like: UBER, Microsoft, T-Mobile, Calendar etc.

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