2D Animation: Basic Character Building With Bone Rigging Techniques

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Hey there, animation beginners and hobbyists!

With 2D animation software tools that support key-frame animation techniques (like Anime Studio, Adobe Flash, and Toon Boom Studio), an important step in animating your objects (for example, characters or props) is to rig them.

In my previous post (2D Animation Basic Walk & Run Cycles), I showed a demo of how simple the concept of rigging an object really is. The basic rigging concept shown in the video (Animating A Straight Line) involves a simple straight line. Actually, the same rigging idea also applies to other types of objects like rectangles, ovals, or even imported pictures. Although my demo was done in Toon Boom Studio, other programs also have the same idea of character/object rigging, which may be given a different term. So it’s still possible to follow along and try the hands-on experiments on your own with a different animation tool.

Basic Rigging Techniques

Once you have a good handle of the tool’s interface for drawing simple objects (lines, rectangles, ovals), as well as rigging and animating them in short cycles, you can take things a step further by building a very simple character. But before that, let’s make sure we have a good understanding of the basics of rigging using bones, as they call it in Toon Boom Studio. I use several rigging techniques for my characters, but among my favorites is the Bone Rigging tool. And when using the Bone Rigging technique, you can choose between the following two methods:

  • Method 1: Keep all your character parts in the same drawing layer. This is a quick and easy rigging method for less complex characters with few moving parts. See this video for a demo. If you don’t get the rigging done right, you’ll get weird results like the ones I compiled in my Rigging Fails video.

  • Method 2: Separate your character parts into their own drawing layers. This is recommended for more complex characters with many moving parts. The following video shows how you do it to create a very unsophisticated stickman with no elbows and no knees. I even made animated short movies using that stick figure for my own learning exercises (see Episode 1 and Episode 2 of my Stickman Stories).

Besides the Bone Rigging techniques, I’m also experimenting with the Cutout Rigging technique as well as mixed rigging (bones and cutout) for many of my newer characters (for example, Critter), most of which are currently in development. I’ll share the details in a later post.

Building Stick Figure Characters

Now let’s see how an improved stick figure (I call him Stickman 2) is built in the next demo video. By simply adding ONE more bone segment to each arm and leg, we’re giving this guy elbows and knees!

If you want, you can even add shoulders and hips to the character by adding an extra bone segment to each of the arms and legs.

Finally, have a look at how you can create a nicer-looking stick figure, this one made of rectangles instead of straight lines. Now you can add colors to your characters. Nice! Remember, this is just ONE way to do it, not the ONLY way.




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