Make Superhero Puppets In Adobe Character Animator | David Miller | Skillshare

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Make Superhero Puppets In Adobe Character Animator

teacher avatar David Miller, Multimedia Artist For Primordial Creative studio

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (26m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Cyclops head + power design in Illustrator and Photoshop

    • 3. Rigging Eyeblasts in Character Animator

    • 4. Wolverine Rigging

    • 5. Adding Superpower FX to Wolverine

    • 6. Copying + Pasting Of Takes

    • 7. Jean Grey Power

    • 8. Wrap Up + Project

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About This Class

In this fun course I show you how to utilize Adobe Character Animator to add superpower-like behaviors to motion capture puppets.  As examples, I explore 4 of Marvel's X-Men characters and how to express their powers using the functions of Adobe Character Animator and After Effects: Cyclops, Wolverine, Jean Grey and the Blob.  

I also walk you through how I designed the puppets in Adobe Illustrator and organized them so they'd be Character Animator-ready in Adobe Photoshop.  

Meet Your Teacher

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David Miller

Multimedia Artist For Primordial Creative studio


I'm David, a multimedia artist in Phoenix, and my studio is Primordial Creative.  


I have always been interested in the visual arts from an early age- drawing, painting, and clay- but around my high school years I became interested in photography for the social aspect of involving other people, the adventure inherent in seeking out pictures, and the presentation of reality that wasn't limited by my drawing skills.


One thing in my work that has stayed consistent over the decades since then is I have an equal interest in the reality of the lens next to the fictions we can create in drawing, painting, animation, graphic design, and sound design.  As cameras have incorporated video and audio features, and as Adobe's Creative Clou... See full profile

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1. Introduction: hello out there. I'm David Miller, Finks, Arizona multimedia artist and educator. I want to welcome you to my new class on Adobe character Animator. This is a motion capture software that comes with after effects, so if you own after effects, you already own character animator. This course is specifically about animating superhero powers. And to do that, I'm using some of my favorite characters. The X Men. I use Cyclops, Jean Grey and Wolverine to show you how you can create your motion, capture characters and give them special effects that resembles superpowers. What's cool about Adobe character animator is a lot of the effects that you see in The animations are simply triggered by a single keyboard stroke, so Wolverine's claws pop in and out. It is just me hitting the X key, because that is the letter I signed triggered, too. If Cyclops is shooting his laser blasts or Jean Grey is using her telekinetic powers thes air, all things that I assigned a trigger to Indo character, the first section of our course will be in Adobe Illustrator. That's where all design the puppets. I will organize them in Adobe Photo Shop and then I will ultimately take them into a doubIe character animator, rigged them and give them their superpowers. It's gonna be a lot of fun, so let's get started. 2. Cyclops head + power design in Illustrator and Photoshop: I'm gonna walk you through my superhero project. I am going to illustrate and animate the members of the X Men. They're some of my favorite characters of my youth. Haven't kept in touch over the years with their costume designs, So I'm really going to operate off of my memory from, Let's say, the mid eighties or the late eighties. This is the time that I was reading the most comics. This character is Cyclops, and Cyclops is traditionally the leader of the X Men. If you watched any of the X Men movies, he's kind of like a background character in comparison to Wolverine. Hey has one of the most iconic designs, I think with Hiss red visor that keeps his optic blasts in check. So I'm just gonna make his head right now because his powers are generated by his eyes. I feel like this is the easiest way to get a character animator puppet up and running. I designed him an illustrator and I am going. Teoh put his folder hierarchy for character animator together in photo shop. This is the easiest way for me to get things structured. I know you can make character, Amador puppets. Ah, 100% an illustrator. But in cases like this, I tend to design the character an illustrator, take him into Photoshopped ad textures and shading and do my folder hierarchy there. So the General folder hierarchy for character animator is a folder that has a plus by it that makes it independence. And then you write character within that folder, you have a folder for Head Group and one for Body Group. I haven't done a body group yet because Cyclops doesn't have a body. And now I'm gonna make some lasers for him in Illustrator. Um, just gonna make three quick lasers. I'm using the pencil tool to draw them kind of randomly and make sure I have my own hand drawn aesthetic in them. I don't want him to look like Atari lasers or something. I want them toe really look like they were drawn by an actual human being. Been experiment with some glows. When you add a glow effect in Illustrator, it actually puts the glow behind your object in photo shop will probably repositioned these to be in the front whenever I design an illustrator export as a PSD file with all the layers. So that's a Photoshopped file. Now I'm repositioning stuff to make sure it's gonna fit his face. I dragged my layers over to the Cyclops puppet reposition. So they're all in the same spot, going to add some blurs, some motion blurs. So you get the sense that these lasers are actually coming out of his face. I'm gonna re title these and then I'm going Teoh, have them be a simple, looping layer. 3. Rigging Eyeblasts in Character Animator: now let's head over to character Animator Import are Cyclops puppet. I'm going toe reposition these lasers a little bit. Make sure that they look good. I'm repositioning the axis of rotation so it comes from his face. If I apply any other effects, I don't want these lasers. Teoh, come out in a strange way. Now we're gonna experiment on how to get the lasers out of Cyclops first, I'm attaching a particle behavior and the particle behavior isn't giving me what I think I want out of Cyclops. It looks like he's tossing these like horseshoes a couple inches away from his face, and I'll make some adjustments in the particle behavior. But I'm thinking this is probably better off as a cycle layers. So let's apply. Cycle layers have given it a trigger, and it looks good. It just needs to be longer. So using the transform menu in the upper right corner of character animator, I'm stretching out his laser so he can laser things that are further than six inches away from his face. Now, whenever I hit the trigger and get the cool optic blast. One thing that character animator currently lacks is a sound component. It would be great every time he did his laser blast, that laser sounds went with it. This is something you're gonna have to add in after effects. I know there's a single work around if you have a a program that triggers sound when you tap a key on your keyboard, you have to run that program at the same time as character, animator and ah, Since I'm not doing live animation with my characters, I'm just going to use them for a show or a short animation that's not live. It's OK with me to add those laser sounds and in post. And in fact, it might be better off because I'll probably need to mix that sound depending on how close Cyclops is supposed to be towards a camera or if other characters air talking at the same time. Okay, at this point, I'm going to add a few more details to Cyclops, just one of the show you what he looked like as a finalized character design, um, mouths. I usually give single strokes for the neutral and M lairs, and then for the other mouth shapes that he's supposed tohave. It's generally a fill of black. No stroke. So I'm going to get rid of this pinkish stroke around his mouth. And then I draw the teeth and the tongue where they need to be. Depending on the mouth shape. I use Pathfinder tool to divide these up and eliminate the excess of the drawing on. Then I can port all of these over to my PSD character of Cyclops. 4. Wolverine Rigging: okay, I now have Wolverine on the screen. Wolverine is a character who is supposed to be a short, scrappy fighter. When I was reading the comics, he was definitely not the leader of the team. He was like the guy that math off to the leader, which is Cyclops. He s so he's very argumentative. And also he could go crazy in a fight and he might turn on his own teammates because he could go in this berserker rage and then somebody would have to calm him down. It's not too dissimilar Teoh the way the Hulk is portrayed in the Avengers movies, but I really like that version of Wolverine. I never been a big fan of Wolverine is the leader of the team just because it takes away from what made him cool to begin with. Same with knowing all this information about his origin. Eso I've designed him. I gave him kind of a goofy look because I tend to do that with serious characters. And now I'm just making sure that all the items are in the right place. When I do my Photoshopped hierarchy to get a blink for Wolverine, I've taken his eyebrow. I've darkened it with curves, and then I've copied it over and reflected it to get the left eyebrow. Almost all your eye components go in and I group folder. The eyebrows should be independence and not in the I Group folder. When you have things in a group like the head, you're saying you want everything in this group to move at the same time. But you can have independent layers like independent eyes within that group that will move on their own, but they won't float off of the head. Now I'm adding some shading to my character. And to do this I use blending options, inner shadow. And once I have a layer style that I like on a particular segment, I can copy layer style and then paste it on to all the other layers. So we've imported Wolverine into character animator. We're checking our rigging, and the best way to do this is to literally go straight down all of your layers. Like I noticed this I group. There seems to be pixels on the side that don't belong to the people. It shouldn't be that big of a rectangle, So, having gone back to photo shop and erased out. I was able to fix that area. A reposition the anchor or rotation points, make sure things are rotating where they need to be. This is really common when you get to like an armed group, and you see that the rotation is never on the shoulder where it belongs. It's just sitting in the middle of the arm. I need to move the rotation points of his legs up to the hips, put some bones in there. Wolverine has a pretty wide power set. He has enhanced senses. He has his claws that retract. He has a healing factor. He has unbreakable bones, and he has his berserker rage. So some of those I'm able to think of animations for mainly the claws and the berserker rage I probably could animate in some wounds that would appear and disappear on him. But I don't think I'm going to do that, because in my mind, if he got in a bunch of fights, the wounds would appear different areas of his body, and and, uh, I just don't feel like making gory characters with these guys. I feel like keeping them super cartoony and almost like if Disney X'd were to make a version of The X Men, this is the kind of thing they might have on. Like the Phineas and Ferb X men. I have drag a bles on his arms on his hand anchors, and that allows me to pull his hands up and manipulate them. I think he's got a really cute walk cycle. Having short legs and a big upper torso looks pretty fun. In character Animator. The walk cycles have more than just walked to them. You can have your character sneak, run head, bang several other things, and there's a lot of parameters you can adjust. Each character should have their own type of walk cycle. In my mind, I don't think it makes sense for them all to walk exactly the same. When I make any of my behavioral adjustments, I use the behaviors that no Tates, that it's to the character. It's to the head. All of these I assigned in a rig mode. If you are messing with their behaviors outside of Rig Moan and it doesn't say character, head or body and the parentheses, then those behaviors will function in the particular character animator scenario you have set up. But if you export the puppet like if I export a puppet file of Wolverine, none of those behaviors will stay with him on Lee the behaviors that you assign in rig mode . So my advice to you is if you're going to make any changes to the face, you're gonna make any changes to I gaze or even a dragger. You should assign those behaviors entirely in rig mode, as I'm doing rather than changing the dragger in the regular record menu, exporting your puppet and then realizing that he didn't keep those behaviors with him. 5. Adding Superpower FX to Wolverine: now I want to assign him the ability to have his claws go in and out. I want them to slide in and out on command with a trigger. So I'm going over to Photoshopped. I'm cloning his claws and I'm slightly moving them in and erasing out the excess that appears behind his little claw extenders. Those great things that are on his knuckles. I'm gonna do this a few times, each time getting a version of the clause that's further and further up into his glove, and what I'm ultimately going to do is create a cycle layers loop that will be activated when I hit the letter X. When you create cycle layers, either Itkin cycle continuously, Orkin cycle once and hold on the last layer. So that's my plan. I want Thies to extend once and hold on the last layer, and I'm also going to assign forward and reverse, which means that when you hit X again, they'll retract so X to extend and hold X to retract and hold. So I currently have five layers, one with no claws, one with them partially out, one with the midway out a little further, and then all the way. I'm gonna blur some of the middle layers just to make him look like they're going little bit faster. I'm using motion blur and having it extending the exact direction the claws pop out. I'll create my trigger ads, cycle layers, behavior. It's going to go forward and reverse. Hold on last layer. Give it the letter X and let's see what it looks like. I think I might have too many layers in this. It seems like it's coming out really slow. And generally these tutorial videos. I have them sped up, so it made appear pretty fast to you. But I think that five layers is too many toe have. So I'm gonna take away one layer and see how that looks still a little bit slow. I think ultimately what I'm going to need is just a single interstitial frame of Wolverine extending his claws. So he starts with nothing. He has one that's halfway, and then he has one that extends all the way there. I'm a lot happier with this animation. Now. I want Wolverine to fly into a rage as a trigger. The only thing that's really going to make this any different is my imagination and the amount of cycle layers that I need to create. I want his eyes to have spirals to them. I want his pupils to change shape and possibly color. I want him to have a set of looping mouths where his tongue wags around and he looks more feral and I want him toe have foam that frauds from his mouth. I won't give up. No, I won't give them until they reached the starting new level lease. I wanna try everything I wanna try even though you fail. 6. Copying + Pasting Of Takes: one cool thing you can do in the latest iteration of character animator is you can take a performance or behaviors from one character and paste it on another. So I have Wolverine here and he's singing a song. He's do a little dance. He's popping his trigger clause and number play here so you can get a sense of what's happening. E. I made one mistake. I gave Wolverine Shakira's voice. So what if I wanted to have his behaviors on a different X Men character? Jean Grey? Well, I can go into my puppets performance and select different things that I want to have copied . So anything I'm selecting. That's blue. It's something I'm going to ultimately copy. The lip sync, the triggers, the walk cycle. Once I have those selected, I go edit copy. Then I'll go over to a new scene. This is where my Jean Grey Phoenix puppet lives. She has nothing going on. There's no audio, there's no behaviors. There's no recording whatsoever here at it, haste and character, Amador has done the best he can to match what I copied. So push play. As you can see, she has the walk. She has the lip sync. She has the trigger. Her trigger is a telepathic thought bubble. She doesn't have the dragging hands. And the reason for that is the handles are labeled totally different on her body than they are on Wolverines. So she has hands like he does. But she actually has hand groups or her character because she has completely swapped hands that have these sort of magic power hands to match when she does, uh, some telekinesis. It's not everything pasted over exactly, but enough pasted over that. I have a majority of Wolverines performance on a different character. And if I wanted to match that audio, all I need to do is drop my original audio in, You know, im Teoh Teoh. Now, even though I pasted the behaviors on, I definitely can do more recordings to make her version of this song as lightly as Wolverines version, where he kind of jumps and dances around. That's still save me a lot of work, though. You know, when I did this recording a wolverine, I had to spend a lot of time swapping out these busines for what actually is in the song and what I mean by that is right, clicking on each letter and making sure the right sound is coming out of his mouth that corresponds with the saw. 7. Jean Grey Power: the more behaviors you assign your characters, the more personality they will have ultimately. And the fun thing about picking superheroes to animate is that they already have a pre existing power set or pre existing behavior components. You just need to figure out what it is they actually do, and then the best approach. If it's something where somebody is like a bouncy character like the Blob, who is a villain in The X Men, then he should have a lot of gang gal's and physics behaviors assigned to him, maybe even collision. If you have somebody who is a psychic character, they might have some mind powers that generate out of their head. In the case of the X Men, there's a character named Jean Grey, and she is telekinetic and telepathic. So telekinesis is when you can move objects with your mind, and telepathy is when you can send your thoughts to other people and also receive their thoughts. So in the X Men comics, they have a particular word balloon that looks like this is the psychic thought that somebody casts. This is how you know that they're speaking with their mind and not their mouth it doesn't have a point to the back of it. It has, like, this thought balloon, but it has a little bit of sort of this is being broadcast. Look to it. So I made an illustrator version of this balloon, and my thought is that if Gene is going to telegraphed her thoughts to other people, one she needs to have energy loops that come out of her head and to this bubble could be something that I could enter text into and it could travel to other characters. So I created basically this thought cloud. I assigned it a dragger. I make it breathe. Breathe is where the scale changes. It goes in and out, depending on the percentage that you assign it, and it has a few dangles on it. So when you dragged this thought cloud around, it bounces. And ah, that is something I really like. If I need a version of Gene to use your telekinesis, I probably have to go into after effects so she can throw other characters and objects around. Um, there are physics behaviors involving collision and dynamics that would bounce objects around. But I'm feel like what would really happen if Gene activated her. Telekinesis is she would just pick up other characters in the scene and have them drag or float. I feel like this is something I could probably do a lot easier and after effects to show that she's activating your telekinesis. Essentially, I want to give her energy that comes out of her head. It could be the same energy that goes with her telepathy, but it doesn't need the thought balloon. And I want to make sure that it has a fader behavior so it doesn't just appear and disappear instantly that it fades in and out. And then I want to give her some hand gestures to go with the telekinesis, just to separate it from what she does with telepathy, which it doesn't have any hand behaviors associated with it at all. So I'm going to design some extra sets of hands for her, where she looks like she's doing a sort of magic trick casting your hands around and then I'm just going Teoh, have these hands be a swap set in the triggers panel, and when she activates 8. Wrap Up + Project: Hey guys, I want to thank you so much for making it through this course. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. If you have created your own superhero, I want to see what you've done. So you can either post the puppet file or do a recording and hosted on YouTube or vimeo. Post the link to the skill share product page. Let us know what you thought of the process, and if you have any problems at all, given your characters powers, please feel free to write me at skill share or at info at primordial creative dot com and send me your questions would be happy to answer them for you. Character Animator is my favorite animation program to work in far I find that triggers the motion. Capture work makes it really simple to get results that I like where some of the other animation techniques I struggled with over the years character A meter is so simple and so much fun. My sculpture page is full of courses on character, animator animation, photography and video editing, so please feel free to check those out. I feel like they're going to be of some benefit for you. If you're into animation, talk to you next time