How to Create a Dog Puppet in Adobe Character Animator

A step by step guide to turning a static cartoon dog illustration into an animated and walking dog puppet for Adobe Character Animator. [+Free fully rigged cartoon dog]

Although most of the characters we work with are human-like or at least move like humans, eventually we will need to animate a 4 legged character. In this post, we will cover the process of turning a static dog illustration into an animated and able to walk dog puppet in Adobe Character Animator *.

how to make a dog puppet in adobe character animator

The process discussed here can be applied to many other quadruped animals: cats, lions, cows or even dinosaurs.

The dog we are creating in this post will be able to:
1
dog puppet moves head motion capture
2
dog puppet lip-sync in ch
3
dog puppet walks in scene

The Main Idea

The main difference between rigging a dog puppet to a standard puppet would be in the way we apply a walking behavior. Adobe Character Animator is not optimized for 4 leg characters and therefore we will need to apply several walk behaviors on the dog puppet’s different body parts to make it walk properly. 

Follow these steps and you will have a fully working dog puppet:

Step 1: Prepare the artwork

We will need illustrations for: front static pose, left profile/right profile for walking.

cartoon dog front left and right profile illustrations to be transformed into a puppet

All the parts that will need to move in Character Animator should have a separated art and placed on its sub-layer.

dog front view separated elements for animation
side profile dog body parts sperated for animation

We will want the head of our dog to be expressive and therefore we will have all the facial elements on their sub-layers just like we would have with any other character.

We will need artwork for the blinks, pupils, eyeballs, brows, ears, etc.

dog facial elements on separated layers for animation

To make our dog talk we can either work with the jaw element or create different mouth shapes.

In this tutorial we will work with the mouth shapes and therefore those are the mouth shapes we will create: Neutral, Surprised, Smile, Ah, Oh, Uh, S, D, M, L, F, Ee, R, W-OO.

mouth shapes for lip

Step 2: Structure the artwork

Just like creating a standard [2 arms+2 legs] puppet a dog puppet source art file should also follow a strict layer names rules  and hierarchy.

Make sure all the created artworks are properly named and structured in the software you work with.

This is how our dog layer structure looks in Adobe Illustrator *:
dog puppet correct structure layer names and hierarchy
This is how the head is structured:
dog puppet head layer names structure and hierarchy

Our dog has 3 views: front, 3/4 left, 3/4 right, but it can have up to 7 views including left/right profiles and up/down head views.

Step 3: Import the artwork file into Adobe Character Animator

importing artwork into character animator

Step 4: Rig the puppet in Adobe Character Animator

4.1: Make the head follow your head movement

head and neck tags in adobe character animator for dog puppet
dog puppet head rig in adobe character animator

4.2: Make the dog walk

Turn on the “Left profile” and draw a leg bone structure for each of the four legs:

4.2.1 Front legs rig

rig for left front leg

When you select the body, you can see 2 green dots appear on it, those are the places you positioned the origins of the two front legs. Those can help you align the hip handles you just created to the left/right front leg's origins.

front legs hip tags on body dog walk

4.2.2 Back legs rig

The process of rigging the back legs of the dog is very similar to rigging the front legs. The main difference is in the left/right hip tag. For the back legs, we will add this tag directly on the legs and not on the body. 

4.2.3 Add walk behavior to the top level of the puppet

adding limb ika and walk behavior-to-dog-puppet in adobe character animator

You can tweak all the other parameters later to achieve the desired movement.

If we switch to record scene now, and press arrow keys the walk will look like this.

dog walk problem when dog behavior applied to top level puppet

We can see only two front legs are moving. Not exactly what we wanted, right?

That is because the walk behavior only recognizes the first right and left legs in the puppets hierarchy (in each profile view).

Character Animator is optimized for human-like puppets and therefore we need to find a workaround for a four-legged one.

To make the back legs move we need to add the walk behavior to them as well.

4.2.4 Add walk behavior to the each of the back legs

If your puppet's hierarchy is different, you might need to apply the behavior to different legs. To check which are the legs main walk behavior applies on: go back to the top-level panel, scroll to walk behavior on the properties panel, click on the small arrow next to the handles, go to right heel (check which are the 2 right legs listed there) apply walk behavior to the rest of the right legs. Do the same for the left legs.

The dog should now be walking in place.

dog charlie walks in place in adobe character animator

4.2.5 Make the dog walk in scene

To make the dog walk around the scene instead of walking in place, just change the body speed at the main walk behavior (the walk behavior we added on the top-level puppet) to the desired value. For our dog Charlie that value is 80%.

make the dog move in scene and not in place adobe character animator
dog puppet walks in scene

4.3: Rig the front view

rigging front view legs for a dog puppet
make front origin draggable for limb ik legs to work in dog puppet
fixing back leg in sitting pose for dog puppet

4.4: Rig the tail

dangle tail for dog puppet

4.5: Rig the ears

dangle ears for dog puppet

Congratulations!

You now have a fully working, walking, and talking cartoon dog puppet.  We didn’t do anything for the talk rig because nothing is required. If you named and stacked the mouth shape layers correctly your dog should be ready for lip-syncing. You can read about how quickly lip-sync your dog puppet here

Now What?

Now you have a working basic dog puppet. A more advanced version of Charlie, with different accessories, facial expressions, and triggers can be downloaded for free, here

Stay tuned for new tutorials.

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