Blender 2.7 Basics — Tutorial 09: Character Rigging and Animation

Welcome to the ninth tutorial of the Blender Basics tutorial series. In this tutorial we will be rigging our basic character in Blender.

Blender Reference Manual — https://docs.blender.org/manual/ja/dev/index.html

Blender Hotkeys Reference — https://wiki.blender.org/index.php/Doc:2.4/Reference/Hotkeys/All

Walk Cycle Poses — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Walk-cycle-poses.jpg

Rigging

The first thing we need to do in order to animate our character is to give him some bones. This is called rigging a character.

Let’s go into Front View (1 on the Numpad) and move the 3D Cursor to the bottom-center of the character by using the LMB. Go into the Right Side View (3 on the Numpad) and make sure the 3D Cursor is in the proper place.

Go back to Front View (1 on the Numpad).

We are going to use Rigify in order to make it easier to rig our character. Go to User Preferences > Addons > Rigging >Rigify. After you place a checkmark next to the addon make sure you Save User Preferences and then return to 3D View.

In order to add the armature to the character use the shortcut Shift + A > Armature > Human (Meta-Rig).

Use the S key to scale the Armature to the proper size. In order to see the Armature inside the character go to the Armature tab (skeleton icon) and check X-Ray under the Display section.

Tab into Edit Mode and in the Tool Shelf (if you do not see it use the T key to show it) under the Options tab check X-Axis Mirror which will act similar to a Mirror Modifier.

Use the MMB and scroll in to see the bones of the feet. Let’s use SHIFT + RMB to remove the Toe Bone, Heel Bone, and Control Bone by using X and Delete Bones.

Go back to Front View (1 on the Numpad). Right-Click on the bottom of the Lower-Leg Bone (where the foot Bones use to be) and, using the Manipulator, move it along the X-Axis to its proper place.

Reposition the Knees by right-clicking on the upper part of the Lower-Leg Bone and moving it along the Z-Axis and then the X-Axis.

Select the Hip Bone and move it down to the upper part of the leg and move it along the X-Axis if necessary.

Select the bottom Bone of the Spine and move it to the pelvic region.

Use the B-key (Box Select) and remove the Hand Bones and the Control Bones using the X key and Delete Bones.

Go back to Front View (1 on the Numpad). Select the Wrist Bone and move it into place and rotate the Bone (using the R key) as needed.

Select the Elbow Bone and move it into place.

Select the Shoulder Bone and move it to the shoulder area.

Select the Collar Bone and move it into place and make sure the Neck Bone is slightly overlapping the bottom of the head.

Go into Top View (7 on the Numpad) and straighten any Bones as necessary then go into Right View (3 on the Numpad) and straighten any Bones as needed.

Tab back into Object Mode so we can parent the character and the Armature.

Go back to Front View (1 on the Numpad) and right-click to select the character and then SHIFT + Right-click to select the Armature. Hit CTRL + P to bring up the Parent Menu and select With Automatic Weights.

To test our parenting, go into Pose Mode (CTRL + TAB) and select any Bone. Use the G-key to grab the bone and move it. If everything is working correctly use CTRL + Z to undo the move and reset the character to a T-Pose.

Tab back into Object Mode (CTRL + TAB) and hit the A key until everything is deselected.

Weight Painting

Now we need to make sure the Armature and mesh are working correctly together. To do this, we are going to need to use Weight Painting.

Select the Armature (you may need to right-click twice to select the Armature) and go into Pose Mode (CTRL + TAB).

Select the Shoulder Bone and using the R key rotate the arm. Select the character mesh and go into Weight Paint Mode (CTRL + TAB). We can fine-tune the deformations of the character rigging in Weight Paint Mode.

In the Tools Panel under the Options tab select X Mirror.

Select the Hand Bone and Rotate (R key) it to see if there is any changes that need to be made due to harsh interaction with the surrounding bones. We need to do the same for each bone on one side of the Armature. (Since we have the X Mirror selected any changes we make will be mirrored to the other side.)

If you find an area that needs to be changed go to the Tools tab and change the weight (0 to take away from the deformation and 1 to add to the deformation).

Using the A key, select all the Bones and then using ALT+R we can reset our character back to the original T-Pose.

Animation

Use CTRL+TAB to tab back into Object Mode right click (twice) to select the Armature and then using CTRL+TAB tab back into Pose Mode. We are going to do a very simple four-stage walk cycle. Open up the Transform Tools panel (N) and place a checkmark next to Background Images. Click on Add Image to load the walk cycle image from Ajaykarat. (I have provided the walk cycle image link in the description.) After the image is loaded close the Transform Tools panel (N).

Go into Front View (1 on the Numpad) and rotate the Elbow and Upper Arm Bones to place the arms in a more natural pose.

Go into Left View (CTRL+3 on the Numpad).

Using the reference, rotate the legs Bones and arm Bones to match the rotation of the reference. (Right-click to select the Bone and left-click to lock in the rotation).

Use the A key to select all the Bones and using the Insert Keyframe menu (I) insert a Rotation Keyframe on frame 1.

Move ahead 10 frames and rotate the Bones. Once you have the rotation completed use the A key to select all the Bones and using the Insert Keyframe menu (I) insert a Rotation Keyframe on frame 10.

Move ahead another 10 frames (Frame 20) and rotate the Bones. Once you have the rotation completed use the A key to select all the Bones and using the Insert Keyframe menu (I) insert a Rotation Keyframe on frame 20.

Move ahead another 10 frames (Frame 30) and rotate the Bones. Once you have the rotation completed use the A key to select all the Bones and using the Insert Keyframe menu (I) insert a Rotation Keyframe on frame 30.

Change the End time of the animation to 30 and test out the animation.

This is a very simple walk cycle but it should help you on your way to making more refined and intricate animations.