Adobe Character Animator CC 2020 | Review and Essential Guide

Last updated February 6, 2020.

Have you ever thought about making your own cartoons, but didn’t know where to begin?

A week ago, I was completely new to character animation.  I’d never done it before – never even thought about it, actually.  I assumed it was something I couldn’t do.  However, I’m proficient in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Audition… 

I followed Okay Samurai’s Complete Animation Workflow tutorial below, and created my own explainer-style animation video example within 2 days.  Have a look at it here:

Needless to say, I’m a big fan.

It’s time to talk about Adobe Character Animator.

Create a character and animate it with your own performance.  Make animations for your own cartoons, explainer videos, or an animated series.  When you smile… nod your head… raise your eyebrows… your character does too!

And it’s so fast and responsive, you can even stream your animations live.

Bring your artwork to life with Character Animator.

create a character and animate it with adobe character animator cc

Getting Started with Adobe Character Animator

Just getting started with Character Animator? 

There’s a lot to cover here, so we made this quick-jump section for your convenience.

Jump to a Section:

What is Adobe Character Animator CC?

Adobe Character Animator is a desktop animation program that allows you to use your computers webcam as an input device that mimics your own expressions and movements to animate your characters in real-time.  

Character Animator is not available as a standalone program or single app subscription.  It’s included in the Adobe Creative Cloud suite. 

This is because the software relies heavily on Adobe’s Dynamic Link between other Creative Cloud applications such as Photoshop and Illustrator.

What’s included with Adobe Character Animator?

One thing I really love about this program is everything that comes bundled with it.

Since character animation is new to most people, Adobe provides a number of free character (a.k.a. puppet) templates with the program.  

Use these free puppet files in your own creations, or break them down to see how they were put together.

What is a puppet? 

Puppet files combine original artwork (Photoshop & Illustrator) + animation rigging (Character Animator) into one file.
For more info, watch this video.

This is super helpful in a few ways.

Think about it.  For starters, it gives you a chance to quickly start playing around with how the program works (even if you have zero design experience).  Additionally, it gives you ready-made templates to use as the basis to build your own characters from. 

You can find these free puppet templates on the Start tab inside the program.

adobe character animator free puppet templates

But wait, there’s more where that came from!

There are plenty more free puppets available here.

free puppet templates for adobe character animator cc

Another Cool Thing to Note about .puppet Files

Once you bring your artwork into Character Animator, and rig it for animation… you can save it as a .puppet file. This file can then be shared with others.  

What this means is that ready-to-use, rigged .puppet files are starting to become available for download/purchase – similar to graphic templates.  We found some really stylish ones at GraphicMama, who also offer custom characters designed specifically for Character Animator.  

graphic mama character animator puppets for sale

How To Use Character Animator CC?

Woo-hoo!  Let’s get to animating. 

There are a number of ways to get started creating in Character Animator.

character animator animation funny stick man run cycle how to tutorials and revie

If you’re completely new to the software, and just want to play to see what you think… open the program and click on the Start tab at the top.  As we noted above, Character Animator comes pre-loaded with an assortment of free puppet templates that are rigged and ready to be animated.

However, if you’re ready to animate your own artwork… we’d highly suggest following the tutorials by Dave Werner of Okay Samurai.

For your convenience, we’ve compiled some of his best Character Animator tutorials for beginners below

Additionally, you can find a ton of useful information in the Adobe Character Animator’s User Guide, such as how to:

  • Prepare your Artwork for Character Animator
  • Create a Puppet from your Artwork
  • Edit your Puppet Structure
  • Control your Puppet using Behaviors
  • Add Your Puppet into a Scene
  • Record Your Character Performance
  • Export Your Project
  • Stream a Scene Live (+ Tips & Tricks)

Would you prefer to have a written out detailed list of the steps to follow here on Awesome Content Creator?

Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll add it to this article.

Adobe Character Animator Features

Character Animator comes pre-loaded with tons of features that make animating your 2D creations fun and easy.

The program is at it’s best when working with fully rigged characters (a.k.a. puppets) originally built in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator… 

However, there are new features, such as Characterizer, which make the software useful without needing Photoshop or Illustrator.

Create a stylized character in minutes.

Use the new Characterizer, powered by Adobe Sensei AI technology, to turn any piece of art into an animated character using your webcam. 

Or build new characters by modifying the built-in character puppet templates that come included with the software.

Bring characters to life using your own performance!

Adobe Character Animator CC uses your computer’s webcam and microphone as input devices – syncing lips to your voice, and tracking your eye movements and facial features to animate your character in real time.

More Features

When importing a character design built in Photoshop or Illustrator, you’re able to fully take advantage of the Character Animator by using features such as:

  • Dangle properties, which will simulate physics on things like hair and clothes
  • Pre-made walk, strut, sneak, and run cycles (with lots of options to tailor them to your liking)
  • Magnets to make your puppet throw, drop, and pickup static items

Character Animator is always getting better with new features rolling out regularly, and with your Creative Cloud membership… you get new features as soon as they’re released.

Adobe Character Animator Tutorials for Beginners

Even though the program is relatively new, there are already loads of amazing tutorials and walk-throughs that will help you get started with creating your own character animations.

We’ve compiled some of the best Adobe Character Animator tutorials for you to get started.

And remember, the puppets in the following tutorials either come installed with Character Animator, or are available for free here.

Happy animating!

2020 UPDATE!  Getting Started in Adobe Character Animator CC by Okay Samurai

This is a simple beginner-level walkthrough Character Animator CC (2020 Update) by Dave Werner of Okay Samurai.  After going through this tutorial, you should be able to create an animated character with:

  • Head Tracking
  • Responsive Eyes and Eyebrows
  • Realtime Lip Sync
  • A Body with Draggable Limbs

Triggers – Adobe Character Animator CC Tutorial by Okay Samurai

Triggers are a critical part of any puppet made in Character Animator… allowing you to add emotions, props, and animated sequences on demand.  In this tutorial, Dave Werner of Okay Samurai walks us through the fundamentals of setting up and using triggers.

Physics – Adobe Character Animator CC Tutorial by Okay Samurai

Adding physics is a great way to easily add motion and life into your characters and scenes. In this 3 part tutorial, Dave covers the following fundamentals of physics in Character Animator CC:

  • Basic Physics
  • Dangle Physics
  • Particle Physics

Walking (Adobe Character Animator Tutorial) by Okay Samurai

The Walk behavior in Adobe Character Animator CC lets you quickly rig a character for movement across a scene. In this in-depth tutorial, Dave shows you how to rig your character and add tagged handles (like shoulders and knees), plus how to adjust the parameters to make a custom walk style.

Complete Animation Workflow (Adobe Character Animator Tutorial) by Okay Samurai

In this longform Adobe Character Animator tutorial, Dave Werner of Okay Samurai takes us behind the scenes and shows us how he created his “Game Subscriptions Are The Future” explainer-style animation video using Character Animator.

Dave goes deep into every stage of the creative process:

  • Writing the script, and recording/editing the voice-over in Adobe Audition
  • Designing/Building the 2D character in Photoshop
  • Rigging and animating him in Adobe Character Animator
  • Compositing everything together in After Effects

New Features in Adobe Character Animator CC 2020

Character Animator CC had a major update in November 2019, and boasts a ton of new features!

Let’s take a look at a few of them:

Cameras – Adobe Character Animator Tutorial by Okay Samurai

Cameras let you add different types of shots into your scene.  This tutorial by Dave Werner of Okay Samurai walks you through a sample scene and teaches you the basics of setting up camera systems for both recorded, and live performances.

Keyframes – Adobe Character Animator Tutorial by Okay Samurai

Arguably the most exciting update to Adobe Character Animator CC, is the ability to use keyframes.  Keyframes allow more control over specific parameters such as position, scale, rotation, and more.  This tutorial covers the basics, showing you how to set up and edit a set of simple keyframes, and finally showing you an example of keyframed replays and triggers added to a new Character Animator puppet called Schizzler the alien. 

Remember, all the puppets in these tutorials are available for free at Adobe Character Animator.

Triggerable Audio – Adobe Character Animator Tutorial by Okay Samurai

The latest version of Adobe Character Animator adds triggerable audio.

Simply put, this lets you play an audio file at the same time as a triggered animation, such as a sound effect, voice, or song. In this tutorial, Dave from Okay Samurai takes us through the basics of adding audio to the Chloe puppet, and then shows a more advanced example featuring Drumbot.

Even More Beginner Tutorials for Character Animator

Can’t get enough Character Animator tutorials?

I know the feeling…

You’re in luck, check out this link to even more great Character Animator tutorials for beginners.

Final Thoughts

Personally, I think this program is a game changer.  

Character Animator takes the previously time consuming and tedious task of 2D animation… simplifies it, streamlines it, and makes it fun all at the same time.

Being part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite of apps is probably Character Animator’s biggest plus. 

Now, anybody with a subscription to Creative Cloud who has a working knowledge of Photoshop or Illustrator can be well on their way to making their own animated cartoon series.  

How About You?

Have you had a chance to check out Adobe Character Animator? What do you think?

What other programs do you use to animate your characters, and what makes them different than Character Animator?

Please share this article with fellow content creators social media, or to anyone who might be interested in character animation.

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to subscribe!


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