Insanely Easy Character Animation in After Effects

Mike Labrow

Learn the easiest way to animate characters in After Effects!

Animating characters can easily be one of the most challenging tasks as an artist. And it’s even harder in After Effects, which isn’t designed for character animation. But in this tutorial, Motion Designer Mike Labrow will show you his workflow for bringing characters to life using Duik, a free plugin for After Effects that makes rigging and animating characters insanely easy.

You’ll also get some great tips on character design and creating a stop motion look for the final piece.

Don’t forget to download the free corresponding project files!


Download the After Effects project file and follow along.

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Setting Up Rigging for Limbs in After Effects:

  • Objective: Create circle joints for arms and legs at natural bend points (like the shoulder, elbow, wrist, thigh, knee, ankle).
  • Technique: Eyeball placement of joints; use bright magenta for clarity; name joints for organization.
  • Tip: Imperfection is welcome. Accept imperfections to give the design a unique artistic style.

Separating Arm Sections:

  • Objective: Separate the shoulder, forearm, and hand into distinct layers for smoother animation.
  • Technique: Work on refining details and adjusting overlapping circles to best match the artwork.
  • Tip: Duplicate and correctly label artwork sections for greater consistency — organization is paramount.

Rigging Arms and Legs with Duik:

  • Objective: Use the Duik script (see download link below) to connect the joints in the artwork and generate an IK rig.
  • Technique: Use the bones tool, ensure that snapping is connected, and align with the joints you created.
  • Tip: Leverage the powerful tools within the Duik script for the most efficient rigging setup.

Refining Arm and Leg Rigs:

  • Objective: Adjust your rigs in the project to create more natural movement and a cleaner workspace.
  • Technique: Change the orientation, adjust opacity, and hide any unnecessary layers.
  • Tip: This helps to streamline layers, maintain efficiency across the project.

Creating Keyframe Movement:

  • Objective: Set up your keyframes based on music beats for character rig animation.
  • Technique: Focus on down-up-down-up movements every 46 frames in a 60 fps composition. This approach will give a more organic feeling.
  • Tip: Test and adjust the poses in your artwork to avoid unnatural bending.

Adding Rotation to Your Animation to Enhance Realism:

  • Objective: Incorporate rotation in your animation to emphasize effort and increase believability.
  • Technique: One way to achieve this is by adjusting the rotation values to depict strain on the character.
  • Tip: Fine-tune the rotation settings to enhance the realism of the barbell lift.

Adding Detail:

  • Objective: Enhance your animation by layering in small movements and flourishes.
  • Technique: Adjust the positioning of key body parts like arms and thighs for lively movement.
  • Tip: Build on keyframe movements with more subtle adjustments to make the animation feel even more alive.

Techniques for Enhancing the Looping Body Texture:

  • Objective: Create looping effects for body textures.
  • Technique: Use brush textures, enable time remapping, and apply turbulent displacement to further enhance the realism.
  • Tip: Fine-tune your animation with adjustments in levels, posterize time, and frame rate.


Watch the entire video and download the free project files to follow along!



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