Make your 2D puppets come alive with Adobe Character Animator

Animated 2D puppets often end up being flat and robotic. You can work your way around this problem with the innovative body isolation tools in Adobe Character Animator, which comes with Adobe After Effects CC 2015.

Here’s a quick overview of five body isolation tools to get you started:

Dragger tool: Do you want your puppet to bend its knees flawlessly or maybe, wave a hello? Start with the handy Dragger tool of Character Animator. This tool provides draggable handles that let you drag your puppet’s body parts to add dynamic actions. These handles can be controlled with the mouse attached to your system or fingers on a touch-based screen. The first step is to select the layer containing the body part you want to work on under the Puppet panel. For example, if you wish to add dragging points to the puppet legs, select the layer with the same name and then work on it.



Select the Dragger tool and click on puppet parts to add handles


Image A: Work on every part of the puppet body in isolation. Before making any changes to your puppet, make sure that you select the corresponding layer under the Puppet panel.

Image B: Options under the Dragger tab in the Properties panel help you hold the puppet in its position or return it to rest.

Stick tool: Ever wondered why some puppet arms or legs look slouchy? It is due to missing body joints. The right joints at the right places help create a livelier puppet. Make sure that you first create a skeleton structure of your puppet. This will prevent it from uneven bending or warping. What if your puppet has well-formed biceps and triceps? For this purpose, the Stick tool comes handy because it allows you to create sticks in the body parts of the puppet to mimic human bone movement. Place these sticks in areas you don’t want the puppet to bend.

Quick tip: Don’t be afraid to place multiple small sticks on the puppet body where you don’t want it to bend or distort. This will make it sturdier.



Select the Dragger tool and click on puppet parts to add handles

Staple tool:  Well, you have your puppet parts all assembled and moving, but you see that one arm is moving out-of-sync. How do you solve it? This is where the Staple Tool comes in. It attaches warp-independent limbs to the parent puppet to synchronize body movements. All you need to do is to place the independent body part on the parent puppet and staple it. For example, stapling the right arm (warp-independent) to the shoulder (parent puppet) results in preventing body distortions.



Select the Staple tool and click on puppet parts to add handles

Pin tool: In Character Animator, you can assign different puppet handles to the puppet body for achieving detailed and elaborate animations. For animations where you need certain parts of the character body to be static, the Pin tool comes handy. It fixes the selected body parts and refrains their movement by creating fixed handles.



Select the Pin tool and click on puppet parts to add handles

Dangle tool: No one likes a puppet that is stiff, unresponsive, and boring! To make the puppet look more lively, it is important to focus on intricate details, such as jumping, oscillating, and swaying of hair, a flowy dress, a pair of earrings, and other accessories. These details add character to the puppet and make it real. The Dangle tool gives you the flexibility to play around with the behavior of these details and create internal movements in the frame.



Select the Dangle tool and click on puppet parts to add handles

Note: You can adjust the intensity of the dangling effect of any artwork to suit your requirements. Go to the Properties panel and manipulate the Spring Stiffiness value under the Dangle tab.


Adjust the Spring Stiffiness value under the Dangle tab

The most important rule of using these body isolation tools is to understand the dynamics of the human body – how it moves, bends, and controls itself. Once you get a clear understanding of a human body, putting life to the puppets is easy with the powerful tools in Adobe Character Animator.

Get started with Adobe Character Animator today | Read more about 2D character animation.