Sunday, June 10, 2012

After Effects - The Puppet Tool

Compression part 2: other compressors. Is still being worked on for a later post. (im hoping for less errors and easier understanding)

After effects is an amazing toll to work with and has spectacular integration with Adobe programs which I find to greatly reduce processing time (no need to export layers from a PSD, just import them!) But one thing i want to focus on today that I found handy and fun to play with is the Puppet Tool. It’s similar to rigging a model (ringed models are used in shows like My Little Pony other flash animated things and a few forms of traditional animation), however instead of requiring a model to be produced and then manipulated via layers; it allows you to work from a flat image that contains no layers and thus no rigging. Sounds nice eh? BECAUSE IT IS! It’s a wonderful tool for manipulating still images where you don’t have aces to breaking apart layers in order to generate rigging (say a photograph or a screen shot?).
  1. To get started, import the image you want to manipulate in to After Effects. (i suggest breaking apart anything that you will want to keep absolutely still and masking everything out in Photoshop)
  2. Now add it to the timeline and set it durations (go to the ends of the bar for the clip and drag as needed)
  3. Now bump the button that looks like this
  4. When you move your curser back to the composition you will notice it looks like a pin, this is your golden ticket.
  5. Find the spot where you wish to place a joint (manipulation point) and left click to set it!
  6. Next step is to set all of the other joint points and spots that you may want to change.
  7. So now that you have all of your joints set you can now animate! Simply drag the points about with the pin tool still selected (it will turn in to a movement box symbol when over a point) and watch as After Effects does a crap load of math. (Literally, every line in those displayed image is treated as a polygon when transforming)
Now that you’ve played with it for a bit here’s some more handy things to know about this tool.

  • You can stiffen parts using the Starch Tool found by click holding on the pin tool button. Just start setting a bunch of points where ever you want stiff spot and it won’t change those when you start moving their related points around. 

  • The last trick is the Overlay Tool. This allows you to specify parts of the puppet that will go in front of everything else when overlapping is occurring. 
No Overlays set 
Overlays Set


  1. I'm really glad you published that tutorial. I rarely dabble with After Effects, but it's definitely on my to do list. I've worked with the puper tool in PhotoShop and it looks as though the steps are similar, which should make it a fairly easy transition. I think it will be interesting using the puppet tool to animate. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for putting this up, very useful - especially since I have never used the puppet tool nor After Effect. I actually really enjoyed this last part in your video. The sound added so much to it. I actually like that everything was done fairly quickly, made it more realistic. I think animation should be quick enough to where the audience cannot dissect how it was made. The beauty of not knowing. It's kind of like a magician, they are very quick and precise during the visual presentation to the point where the audience can't tell how point A got to point C. I mean after-all early film makers were magicians. So, I thought yours was very well done compared to mine which was really slow and obvious.

  3. I have never tried this but you explain it so that it seems to be very easy. It reminds me of the puppet warp tool that is in photoshop. I use that to straighten out horizons in panoramic pictures.

    1. well you've opened my eye up to a new thing, never thought about using that to straiten out horizons. i will have to try this out on some botched panoramics because of their bowing.