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Getting Started With Character Animator : Research Guides | UTC Library

What is Character Animator?

Adobe Character Animator is apart of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite of software. It is an easy to use live capture puppet animation program that can be used for both live animation (think using it for zoom) or non-live animation ( think your typical cartoon show). Adobe Character Animator is used in conjunction with Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator to bring your ideas to life.

So what can I actually use it for? Well, A lot!

Digital Story


Twitch Streams

Zoom Sessions

Video Projects

And More!

Before We Get Started With Character Animator

Before we get started we must think about what we even want the puppet to do.  What is our intent with designing or finding a specific puppet that meets our needs? But what are our needs?  What can a puppet in Character Animator do?  To sum it up a lot!  We will start off with a few features enabled by default:

  • Dragger - Allows you to have movable  pivot points on a 
  • Eye Gaze - Uses your camera to track eye movement to mimic your eye movements onto your puppet
  • Face - Uses your camera to track facial movements such as eyebrows and cheek movements.
  • Lip Sync - Uses your microphone to capture 
  • Physics - Allows use of effects of gravity to provide realism in the forms of hair swaying, arms swaying, and walk movement
  • Transform -  Allows you to scale or position your puppet

Puppets in Character Animator can also be fully articulate.  The tagging system (located below) allows you to tag individual body parts to walk, wave, bounce, blink, and more. Puppet limbs can be tagged to operate as a specific body part or as part of a larger system. For example, a left toe by itself does not do much but when we are thinking about using the walk feature it helps the puppet move. However, a tag such as an arm can operate without a greater system.

So when thinking about creating a puppet lets just start out with a few questions

  • Do I want the puppet to move? 
  • Do I want the puppet to have small mannerisms like smiling or winking?
  • Do I want simple facial structures or simple shapes?
  • Will I use this puppet again? Note:  This is a critical question because if you wish to use your puppet multiple times, it will be worth your time to invest more time into deciding the features 

Sometimes we do not have the time to create our own Puppets and that's ok!  Character Animator has several example puppets to choose from on the Welcome Screen.  To get to this page go to Windows -> Welcome.  Any puppet you select will also download the source material so that you can customize it if you want!


Another place to look at is Okay Samurai's Website.  They are one of the main contributors to Adobe Character Animator Puppet Collection.   Also, a quick google search for " Adobe Character Animator Puppets" can yield some great results.  Just remember that this is others works.  Just out this guide to read more about how copyright works

Getting Started With Illustrator/Photoshop

Before we get started on creating our puppet you will have to choose if you want to use Illustrator or Photoshop.  Each program will produce similar results.  Both programs have their strengths and weaknesses but it will all come down to what are you comfortable with.  If you have never used either and you want to get into illustrations and creating logos then starting with Illustrator would be better.  If you want to get into photo edits and layouts then photoshop is where you want to start


Check out this guide for Illustrator

   Check out this guide for Photoshop

Creating a puppet is about identifying the parts in which you want your puppet to move and rigging it. Rigging is a technique used in skeletal animation for representing a 3D character/2D models using a series of interconnected digital bones. To do so we need to look at the fields that are available to us first:

Character Animator Rigging can be summed up into two categories the head and the body.  Each will have subcategories 

  • The Head can include eyebrow, eye (eyelid top, eyelid bottom, pupil, eyeball), Nose, Jaw, Mouth)
  • The body can include neck, elbow, wrist, waist, hip, knee, ankle, heel. tool

A fully rigged puppet could look like this. Please note this puppet has one advanced feature of a side profile that is used when the puppet is walking 














(Example of Illustrator)

The most basic puppet should have a head that includes two eyes ( pupil, eyeball), mouth.  A basic puppet can look like something like this

(Example of Photoshop)

It has a head with two eyebrows, two eyes, a nose, and a mouth.  This will be the typical setup that you will probably use. 


Using Character Animator

Let's get started by importing your puppet

  1. Got to FIle > Import
  2. Select Your Character Puppet

Rigging Your puppet is one of the most crucial components to character animator 

To get started let's check out the different panels

The first panel we are going to look at is the puppet layers panel.  In this panel, you will hopefully see the hierarchy of what we established in Illustrator/Photoshop. If something was mislabeled it will not appear here and we will need to retag a little bit later.  In this panel, we see our body parts and two icons.  Next to each body part is Eye (  ) and a Crown ().  The eye will give us the ability to hide certain body elements.  The crown is identified that the element moves independently from the rest.  Things you want to move independently but follow the main structure the rest of the body.  For example how pupils move in the head. 









The second panel (located on the righthand side) is our properties panel that houses information about our puppet layers, layer mesh, tags, and behaviors.

Layers - Shows XY Coordinates (in case you needed to move a body part or entire puppet a few pixels to the left or right), Scale, Rotation, and Opacity

Layer Mesh - The mesh represented by a yellow outline around a body part or profile represents the tissue how of the puppet can potentially move.  This feature becomes handy when a puppet does move the way we potentially want

Tags - The tag system is automatic if we correctly identified our body parts in photoshop or illustrator.  If not this is where we can make those corrections along with tagging additional items such as a neck or waist to aid in some behaviors.

Behaviors - We can add predefined behaviors to our puppet like walking or a nutcracker jaw. 

A Scene is a place where we will add our puppets and additional elements to 

To start a scene:

  • Scene >  New Scene (CTRL +N /CMD +N (Mac))
  • Drag and drop your Puppet into the scene

Arming puppet for recording is a fun and engaging process! Let's look at one of the panels we will be using

 Each puppet has several different variables that can be tracked and recorded.  We can see from the image on the left all of the possibilities.  Any element that has a red dot next to it will be armed (will record) once we hit the record button ( located below our scene).


To get started let's check a few things:

  1. Is our puppet in our scene?
  2. Is our camera on to make use of motion tracking of eye, mouth, and head?
  3. Do we need our microphone on to record our voice or did we prerecord our audio?
  4. Do I know how I want my puppet to interact in this scene?
  5. Will I be adding anything else to the scene or is it just the puppet?

Once we answer a few of these basic questions we can get started



Before we get started let's talk about the most optimal way to record.  Recording works best when we individually arm each element. For example recording head  Recording all elements at once is not recommended particularly when you have a very complex puppet. Recommended Record order (Voice, Walk (is using), Face = Eye Gaze, Physics, Triggers, Anything else)

  1. Refresh Scene ()
  2. Set Puppet Pose ( While looking at your camera click the Set Rest Pose() this will start the tracking feature of eyes , mouth, and face. Note: Glasses can skew the eye-tracking and face tracking
  3. Arm puppet for recording
    1. You can use recommended  recording order (Voice, Walk (is using), Face = Eye Gaze, Physics, Triggers, Anything else)
  4. Press the record button located at the bottom of your scene
  5. Record your audio or any other  feature
  6. Repeat steps 3 - 6 until all features are recorded



Saving your scene is very simple! 

  1. We will go to File >Export >  Video Via Media Encoder (Media Encoder is a secondary application from Adobe that manages encoding for all of the video applications). 
  2. Press the green arrow(this will start the encoding process.  Please note this can take a very longggg time depending on how long your scene is and the capability of your computer
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