How to Properly Rig Long Hair Puppets in Adobe Character Animator?

How to structure a puppet art with long hair?​ Ho to make back hair follow head movements?[Download a Free Template for Long Hair Puppets + Free Example Puppet]
Rigging a long hair puppet in Adobe Character Animator * might seem like a standard rigging task at first. However, after starting the process  you will quickly face rigging problems that are unique to long hair puppets.
how to rig long hair puppets in adobe character animator include free tempalte and example puppet

Problems You Will Face:


What is the right way to structure a character art with long hair?


How to make the back hair follow head Movements and Tilts?


How to attach back hair to a turning head?

Although each of those questions may cause serious brain wrecking to one that deals with a long hair character for the first time. There are very simple and quick solutions to each of the above issues.

This tutorial assumes you are familiar with the basic puppet structure and hierarchy. It is explained in detail in our step-by-step guide to turning a static illustration into a puppet for Adobe Character Animator.

1: Layer Structure for the Long Hair

The first hair dilemma will occur already in your design software (Adobe Illustrator * in our case). Once you start separating your character art into properly structured layers there will be no defined place to put the back hair on. For most characters, we can divide the hair into 2 main groups: front hair and back hair.
long hair puppet back and front hair stucture

 The front hair will be placed in the regular hair area at each of the head views (like in any standard puppet – The standard puppet template with a basic hierarchy and layer names can be found here). 

But what about the back hair? 

Placing the back hair in any part in the “head” group will result in the back hair hiding the neck. Well, unless you put the head below the body and drag the neck inside it. But that may cause many other rigging issues.

A solution that worked best for me was creating a new “Back-Hair” layer in each of the views. Then creating sublayers corresponding to each of the head views of our puppet. 

This is how my structure for long hair puppets looks like:

Puppet Structure

Back-Hair Layer Structure

free example puppet with long hair for adobe character animator

Free Example Long Hair Puppet

long hair puppet template free download

Free .AI TEMPLATE for Long Hair Puppets

2: How to Make the Hair Follow Head Movements?

The first hair issue you might notice after importing the character into Adobe Character Animator is that it doesn’t move properly with the head movements.

The issue looks something like this: (*Might look more or less severe, depending on the hairstyle)

back hair not following head movements and tilts problem demonstartion adobe character animator

How to Fix?

There is a quick solution to this and it lies in the position of the origins for the head views. While the head origin should be placed at the neck area, the origin of each head view should be placed on the top of the head. (The area in which the back hair connects to the head)

moving the origin of head views up to make long hear follow head movements in adobe character animator

So what you need to do, is just move up the origin of each head view (frontal, right quarter, left quarter, etc.).

fix head origin for head views to make the back hair follow head
head tilt fix adobe character animator

3: How to Attach the Back Hair to a Turning Head

There are two main ways to approach head turns in Adobe Character Animator.  

A. Head Turn Behavior

To make our puppet follow head turns recognized by the camera, “head turn” behavior should be added to the head.

But here is what happens when you do that:

head tuns don't affect back hair issue adobe character animator

How to Fix?

To fix this issue just add the “head turner” behavior to the “back hair” group as well.

head turner behavior for head and back hair adobe character animator

B. Triggers for Head Views

You can also make the character turn her head by triggering different head views.  

Create a swap set with all the head turns triggers inside. Then trigger each view using keyboard shortcuts or the control panel.

If you do that only for the head views. You will end up with the same problem. 

How to Fix?

For the head view triggers to work properly, the corresponding back hair view should be included in each trigger.

head views swap set for long hair characters in adobe character animator

All of the fixes should be repeated for the left and right puppet profiles.

Once 3 of the above issues are resolved you should have a puppet with fully functioning long hair. For many artistic styles that can be enough and you can stop here. However, Character Animator has tools that allow you to go a step farther and make the hair movement more realistic.

4: Adding Physics

Adding “Dangle Handles” to hair is a great way to give it more life. To add it, just click on the “Dangle tool” and draw dangle handles where you would want the hair to move. The origin of the hair part you add the dangle tool to is the pivot point.

The problem is that for the dangle tool to work properly it should be applied only to independent objects (The one with a crown next to them). But once we activate independence for our back hair parts, the back hair may again look detached from our head.

How to Fix?

The solution once again lies in the placements of the origins. The origin of each hair view (frontal, right quarter, right profile, etc…) should be moved to match the origin of a corresponding head view. The best practice would be to have the origins of all head views, all back-hair views, and also the origin of the “Back-Hair” group itself be at the same position. 

dangle handles to hair in adobe character animator

To easily align all the origins you can select all the required views, which will make all the origins visible. Now move them all to the same point. 

aligning the origins for back hair in adobe character animator

The movement of the dangle handles themselves can be adjusted by changing the dangle-related parameters (stiffness, damping, and squashiness) at the physics behavior.

dangle physical paramters to adjust hair movement in character animator

Dangle should now function properly on the front view.  However, if your puppet has the ability to walk, you might still see odd hair behavior when he/she is walking.

Fixes on Profile Views

1. You might need to add a neck tag to the head. My rig for long hair puppets heads on walk profiles looks like this:

dangle hair and head rig for walk profiles

2. The back hair for the walk profiles should be tagged the same:

dangle and back hair tags on the walk profiles


Your puppet should now have properly rigged and functioning long hair.

long hair example puppet walking

Here are some of our long hair puppets:

Now What?

Now when your puppet has properly rigged long hair you can work on making the eyes more expressive.

Stay tuned for new tutorials.

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