Have you ever wondered how you can create a simple animation with cool characters?
Maybe something to use for a video game, app or for a dramatic scene. Well, in this tutorial you will learn how to take an image of a character (it can be the one provided or one of your own), split it into the different body parts, create a rig and animate it easily using CrazyTalk Animator 3.
We will work on creating a dramatic scene of a warrior having a hard time against his enemy. This will be depicted with the character being tired, breathing heavily and showing different emotions on his face; letting us know that he is thinking and considering options to take down his adversary. All of this will be accomplished by first preparing the character in Photoshop, adding cell shading for a dramatic effect, and easily animating it in CrazyTalk Animator 3. Once you have the character ready for animation, you can move it in any way you want, and you can use it to create other animations as well.
To make your life easier, I will provide the animation presets as well.
Step 01 – Get Started
Create a new document (Cmd/Ctrl+N) at 1920×1267 pixels, then add the background. From there, you can import the character provided or use one of your own. Rename this layer as “Original Character”
Step 02 – Create the Head
Duplicate the character layer (Cmd/Ctrl+J), and delete every part of the character except for the face. Rename this layer as “Head”. I typically like to hide the other layers to see my progress clearly.
Step 03 – Create the Body
Now create another duplicate of the Original Character layer (Cmd/Ctrl+J), rename it as “Body” and delete everything except for the body. Make sure to leave space for the neck of the character.
Step 04 – Redraw Joints of the Body
Carefully redraw the neck and the shoulder of your character. You can do this by using the pen tool if you only have a mouse, and then merging the shapes with the body layer (Cmd/Ctrl+E), or with the brush tool if you have a drawing tablet.
Step 05 – Create Body Parts
Repeat Steps 3 and 4 with the other parts of the body, which consist of duplicating, erasing and redrawing the different parts of the character. You should be left with: L Shoulder, L Forearm, L Arm, L Forearm back, R Forearm, R Arm, R Forearm Back and R Hand.
Step 06 – Redraw the Face
Duplicate the head layer and rename it “Face”, delete the hair and redraw to delete the eyes. The face should only consist of a plain head with nose, mouth, ear and no hair. Make sure to include the shadow of the hair.
Step 07 – Separate the Face into Parts
Apply Step 4 to draw the different parts of the face that corresponds to the eyes. You should end up with 10 layers in total ordered in pairs of Brows, blinks, pupils, eye whites, and eye masks.
Step 08 – Separate Hair front/back
Then repeat Steps 3 and 4 to separate the hair and divide it in 2. The frontal part of the hair and the part of the back. Rename them accordingly and reorder the layers by putting the back hair below the face layer.
Step 09 – Reorder Layers
Now that you have all the parts of the character separated, reorder them like this: HairFront, L_Iris, R_Iris, R_Blink, L_Blink, L_EyeWhites, R_Eyewhites, L_EyeMask, R_EyeMask, R_Brow, L_Brow, Face, HairBack, L_Shoulder, L_Forearm, L_Arm, L_ForearmBack, Body, R_Forearm, R_Arm, R_ForearmBack and R_Hand.
Step 10 – Add Shading to the Face
Create a new layer on top of the face (Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+N) and name it Face shade, make it clipping mask (right-click>ClippingMask), pick the brush tool with color black, with hardness 0%, flow 1%, size 300px, and paint a soft shadow in the left side of the face.
Step 11 – Finish Shading
Repeat Step 11 with the rest of the parts of the body to add a soft shadow to all the whole character. I am imagining a light source at the right of the screen, so the soft shadows should be on the left.
Step 12 – Merge Clipping Mask Layers
Take each clipping layer and merge it with its respective layer. Simply select each clipping layer and press Cmd/Ctrl+E, and that will merge it with its corresponding layer. Face Shade with Face, Body Shade with Body, etc.
Step 13 – Export Images
Export layers: HairFront, L_ForearmBack , L_Shoulder, and R_ForearmBack. For this, select each one, press Cmd/Ctrl+Click on the image of the layer in the layer’s panel (to create a mask from layer), then Image Menu>Crop, then Optn/Alt+click the eye icon, and export (cmd/ctrl+optn/alt+shift+S) as PNG w/transparency. Undo and repeat for each.
Step 14 – Import Character to G3-Template
Open the file pe_g3_character_template.psd provided, and import all the layers of the character. For this, go to the project file with that has your character, select all the character layers, and click and drag into the tab of the G3 Character, and drop in the workspace.
Step 15 – Put Images in Folders
Put each layer in its correct folder. The body parts (Body, Forearms, and hand) go inside RL_Image (you will need to create folders for the RForearm/LForearm). The body goes inside the folder named “Hips.” And the Face images go to subfolders inside RL_TalkingHead>HeadImage. NOTE: Eyes go inside subfolders.
Step 16 – Adjust Bone Positions
Now, put the bones in the correct positions. The R_Eye in the R_Eye of the character, etc. The bones of the face are found in the folder RL_TalkingHead>HeadBone, and the bones of the body are found in the folder RL_Bone_Human.
Step 17 – Import Character to CTA
Save PSD file, open CrazyTalk Animator 3, and import the saved file as G3FreeBoneCharacter (CreateMenu>CreateG3FreeBoneActor). This opens Composer Mode. Click Preview and make sure that the bones are working correctly and then click on the “Back Stage” icon to return to the workspace. Resize character to W:131.4 and H:131.4.
Step 18 – Import Background and Assets
Import the background as Prop (CreateMenu>CreateMedia>Props), and put it in position X:-42.5 Y:120.7, Z:-3000, and scale W:353, H:353. Then import L_ForearmBack, and position it in its correct place in the character but with Z:-10, and do the same with R_ForearmBack. Then, the L-Shoulder but with Z:20.
Step 19 – Link Assets to Character
Link the assets to the character by selecting each asset, then clicking on the Link Icon found in the top toolbar, and then clicking on the part of the body you want to link to. Link shoulder to arm or body, and the ForearmBacks with its respective forearm.
Step 20 – Import Hair as G3-Character
Follow step17 to import the HairFront as G3FreeBoneCharacter. In ComposerMode, add bones by clicking on the Add Bone button, then click on the hair to add the first branch of bones. Press ESC to stop. Then Cmd/Ctrl+Click on the root bone, Add Bone and create the rest. Exit composer mode.
Step 21 – Delete Hair from Character
Select the character in the workspace, and click the “Composer” Icon located at the top of the left toolbar. In the Scene Manager Panel, click on the Layer Manager Tab (at the bottom), select FrontHair, and press Delete. Click Back Stage to exit ComposerMode. You are now ready for animation!
Step 22 – Animate the Character
Adding the motion clips provided in the pe_motion_files.zip file. Inside you will find the instructions to install the motion files. Once installed, select the character and the hair, and apply the custom motion clips to animate the character. Finish off the scene by animating the camera.
Step 23 – Expert Tip- Separate the Mouth
If you want, you can also have the mouth separated from the face, which will need you to have the face redrawn with no mouth and then, add the mouth as a separate layer, so you can add a dramatic effect of having your character panting and look more tired by moving the mouth when you get to the animation part in CrazyTalk Animator. Just have the Mouth layer in its respective folder when rigging using the template, and use the Face Key Editor in CrazyTalk Animator 3 (Cmd/Ctrl+K).
Get your free guide
If you wish to take it a step further, you can check our free guide to learn how to animate and apply the Animankenstein Formula to create any animation you want to achieve. It doesn’t matter how complex it is, just by following the formula and the steps described, you will be able to create and animate any scene you want. This guide covers in full how to design and create a character and background using Photoshop, and animate them in a scene using CrazyTalk Animator 3. It can be anime characters, cartoony characters or any type of character you want.
About the Author
I love anime, and love the idea of taking any image of any anime character and bring it to life by adding movement and emotional expressions to the face, and I have found that the best combination of software to do that is Photoshop and CrazyTalk Animator 3, because of the flexibility and speed in which you can achieve a short animation.
I’m a self-taught animator who learned animation without going to a formal school, and through my online school at http://www.2DAnimation101.com, I have been helping beginners to transform their imagination into animation by using Photoshop to produce images and then animate them using different animation software like CrazyTalk Animator 3, Moho, After Effects, etc.