How to Make Arms Go in Front of and Behind a Face in Adobe Character Animator

How to make your character move his arms in front and behind the face? How to accomplish it without creating extra artwork? How to easily switch between those two modes? Learn here these Adobe Character Animator techniques.
For the character puppet to work properly in Adobe Character Animator * the artwork should follow a certain structure and naming convention. But if we follow all the rules we might encounter some issues. One of the common ones would be the inability of moving the hands in front of the character’s face.
switching front and back arms

There can be many reasons we will want to have the arms in front of the character’s face. For instance, if we want our character to perform a Pica-boo gesture, “Shh” gesture, send a kiss and so much more.

Combining front and back arms in one character might look tricky, but it can be achieved relatively easily and without performing almost any extra work.

The Main Idea

We will want our character to have two sets of arms. One set in the layer beneath the head and another one on top of it. Doing that the traditional way would end up in bigger file size, double rigging work and extra work on every change we will later want to make to our arms and hands. We can avoid that! By taking advantage of the “make artwork shareable” feature in Adobe Character Animator we will be able to create two sets of arms in a click of a button.

Follow these 8 simple steps and your character will be able to move the arms in front and behind the face.

Step 1: Create the Arms

The first step would be creating the artwork for the arms in your design software. Follow the hierarchy that is advised by the Adobe community, just as you would do until now. Your left and right arms should be in the body folder. Under each arm draw the arm and put all the artwork for hand gestures in the left/right hands folders.

basic arm hierarchy adobe character animator

This tutorial focuses on building and setting up the arms of your character puppet. For an overview of the full puppet building process please refer to other tutorials.

Step 2: Prepare the "Upper" Group

Now it is time to make preparations for the front arms set. (We don’t need to create the arms themselves, but we need to create the folder/layer to place them later on). 

  1. Create a new layer (Name it anything you like, I named it “upper”).
  2.  Drag this new layer into our character hierarchy, above the head layer.
  3.  Draw a little square/dot (anything) on the character, and change its opacity to 1%.
  4.  Make sure it is placed as part of the “upper” layer.
placeholder for front arms

Step 3: Import the Character in Adobe Character Animator

importing artwork into character animator

Step 4: Create Arm IK Rig for Your Hands

  1.  Select left arm in the Puppet panel.
  2.   Use the puppet handle tool to mark the shoulder, elbow and wrist.
  3.  Tag each of them in the tags section in the properties panel.
  4.  Mark the wrist as “Draggable” (In the bottom part of tags section in properties panel).
  5. Use the stick handle tool to draw a ‘bone’ between shoulder and elbow, then between elbow and wrist.
  6.  Repeat all the steps for the right arm.
arm rig tutorial adobe character animator
  1.   Add “Arm IK” behavior to the upper level of the puppet.
adding arm ik behavior adobe character animator

Step 5: Create Gestures Swap Set

hand gesture swap sets
  1. Click on the left hand’s folder with the right mouse button and select “Create Swap Set”. 
  2. Go to the triggers panel and assign keyboard keys for each of the gestures. (Enable ‘Latch’ option if you don’t want to keep holding the key to keep the gesture triggered).
  3. Perform the same process for the right hand gestures.

Step 6: Make the Arms Shareable

make arms shareable adobe character animator
  1. With the right mouse button click on the left arm and select ‘make “Left Arm” shareable’. You will see the ‘Left Arm’ appear in the Project panel. 
  2.  Do the same for the ‘Right Arm’.

Step 7: Drag the Shareable Arms into Our "Upper" Folder

drag arms to front
  1. Drag the ‘Left Arm’ from the project panel into the ‘upper’ layer we created earlier.
  2. Select the attachment style to be ‘Weld’ the properties panel (under layer section).
  3. Do the same for the right arm.

Step 8: Create Swap Set for Arms Switch

swap set for switching hands
  1. Click the + in the top corner of the triggers panel and select ‘Create new swap set’.  
  2. Change its name to something meaningful. ( I named it ‘Front and Back Hands’).
  3. Drag the ‘Upper’ layer into the swap set. 
  4. Click on the +, once again and select ‘Create new trigger’.  
  5. Name it ‘Back Hands’. (Or something else…).
  6.  Drag the left and right arms that are placed inside the body. 
  7. Now drag the hall trigger (‘Back Hands’) into the ‘Front and Back hands’ swap set.
  8.  Mark one of the arm sets as default and assign a keyboard key to trigger the other one (Enable ‘Latch’ option for the last one).

Now What?

Now your character is ready for awesome animations. Create new triggers and swap sets. Create replays and start the production process.

Stay tuned for new tutorials.

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