If you want to show a story, there’s nothing better than an animation—you can share what you’ve got to say through the look of the characters, their movements, and the sounds they make. CrazyTalk Animator 3 is a perfect program for this task—very simple to use, yet very powerful. If you use it in its Pipeline version, you can even make it an extension of Photoshop!
In this tutorial, I will show you how to create a character in Photoshop, how to adjust it for animation, and how to import it to CTA3. Then you’ll learn how to add automatic animations to it, and how to add sounds to create a complete story. This will be a very basic animation of a dog chasing a butterfly, but it will teach you all the basics you need!
And once you’ve learned how to create your own comic animation, why don’t you take part in the Animation At Work Contest? There are great prizes to win!
1. How to Prepare the Assets in Photoshop
First, create a sketch of a dog and open it in Photoshop. Lower its Opacity.
We’re going to build the whole dog’s body out of vector shapes that can be reshaped easily. If you have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, you can learn how to do it in this quick tutorial:
Let’s start with the muzzle. Use the Ellipse Tool (U) and hold Shift to draw a circle. Make sure you’re working in Shape mode first! Give the muzzle a beige color, and then use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to drag the points and reshape the circle. You can add more points anytime by using the Pen Tool (P).
Add an oval nose (black) with an oval shine (dark grey).
Build the eyes step by step, including the iris, the pupil, the white of the eye, the shine, and a dark patch around the eye. Add the head, a fluffy cheek, and a pattern on the head.
Add the floppy ears and a smiling mouth.
Add the fluffy neck.
Add the torso. Make it super fluffy!
The tail and legs should be easy to create now. Just keep them simple!
Create the eyebrows.
If you want to create animated facial expressions, prepare them now. You can duplicate the mouth, for example, and reshape it to make it open for a bark. And you can rotate it to close the mouth.
Our first character is done! Let’s create the butterfly now:
To make the scene complete, we also need a background. We can do it in a very simple way. Create a new file with the dimensions intended for your video. Mine are 1920 x 1080 px. Copy your characters and place them here to have a reference.
Fill a whole layer with a white-blue gradient. Then add some ground to it, making each layer lighter and more bluish to fit the sky.
Add a white circle for the sun.
Right-click the sun layer and select Blending Options. Add Outer Glow. Use yellow in Normal mode. Adjust its Spread and Size to achieve a nice glow.
2. How to Add Bones to the Characters
Our characters are finished, but they’re only graphics now. To animate them, we need to add “bones” to them—this way, CrazyTalk Animator 3 will know how to move the parts of the body.
First, organize the layers of your dog. Some need to be merged, while others don’t. You should have layers for:
- Front paw (R and L)
- Front leg (R and L)
- Back paw (R and L)
- Back leg (R and L)
- Neck (merge it with the right cheek fur)
- Smiling mouth
- Barking mouth
- Closed mouth
- Ear (R and L)
- Head (merged with the muzzle and eye patches)
- “Iris” (R and L; iris merged with the pupil and the shine)
- The white of the eye (R and L)
- Various eyes modified for expressions
- Eyebrow (R and L)
Download the template with bones for a quadruped. Open it in Photoshop. Make both windows visible at the same time, and drag the layers from the template to the dog’s file.
With the layers still selected, use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to adjust the size of the template to your dog.
The template file contains four types of elements:
- Images: the parts of the animation that we can see.
- Bones: the parts of the animation that direct the movement of the images, though they are not visible during the animation.
- Labels: they help us assign the bones to the correct images.
- Pivot: it defines the ground level.
First, replace the images of the template with your graphics.
Some elements must be placed in the RL_TalkingHead group. These will be used for the facial animation.
Next, move the bone markings to the correct places on the dog’s body and face (in the groups RL_Bone_Quadruped and RL_Talking > HeadHead_Bone). Save your file when you’re done.
Our butterfly will need bones, too, though not as complex. Open the Wings_Template from the previously downloaded pack and use the same method as before, this time on the butterfly.
3. How to Animate Characters in CrazyTalk Animator 3
Time for the real fun! Open CrazyTalk Animator 3. Go to Render > Render Video and adjust the dimensions you need. Don’t click Export—just close the window when you’re done.
Drag your background into the program. Select Background when a window appears.
Click Create G3 Free Bone Actor. Select your file with the dog.
The dog will appear, along with its bones as defined in the template.
Regardless of the layer order you had in Photoshop, CTA3 has its own order that can make some mess. Open Layer Manager and drag the mouth under the face.
You can click Preview to play with the bones to see if they work correctly.
They should move along with the graphics they’re attached to.
If you notice anything that needs to be fixed, you can easily go back to Photoshop to adjust it live. Just select Launch to External PSD Editor. Your file will be opened automatically—adjust what you need and save. Your changes will be applied to the dog open in CTA3, so you can check the effects of the change at once.
Are you happy with the end result? Click Back Stage to go from Composer Mode to Stage Mode.
Place your dog where you want it to be at the beginning of the animation.
Import your butterfly the same way as the dog.
We’re ready for animation! Go to Content Manager and open the Animation tab. Go to Motion > 2_G3 Animals > Dog > Move. Make sure your dog is selected, and then double click Run(1S), Run(2L), Run(2L) again, and Run(3E). This will give your dog animations of starting the run, two animations of running, and one of ending the run.
Test your animation now:
But we don’t want the dog to run in place! We need a few more steps to adjust this animation. Go to Window > Timeline and select Motion to open the timeline of the dog.
Here you can see all the animations that have been applied. Drag the marker to the end of the run, click the frame below, and press V to mark a keyframe. It’s not necessary, but it helps organize the motion on the timeline, and it’s a good practice if you want to separate the motions from one another.
Drag your dog to the place you want it to run to.
If you play the animation now, you’ll see the dog running through the scene!
Make sure your maker is placed right at the end of the running motion. Go to Edit > Flip > Horizontal Flip to make the dog turn around.
Repeat the previous steps to make the dog run back.
Let’s add more action. Put your marker at the end of all animations and go to Animation > Motion > 2_G3 Animals > Dog > Perform > Bark(1S), Bark (2L), Bark (3E).
To give the dog a reason to run around, make it chase the butterfly. The butterfly should move right before the dog, and turn around before it stops.
Finish the motion in the same place it started, to allow for a loop. Make it stop before the barking begins.
But the butterfly can be animated, too! Go to Animation > Motion > 4_G3 Wings > Wings > Butterfly(2L).
You can make the motion more natural by adding more turns to the track.
4. How to Add Facial Animations
To make the whole animation more natural and interesting, let’s make the dog change its facial expressions. It’s very easy!
Select the dog and click Face Puppet.
Find a dog on the list and press Preview.
Put your cursor on the dog’s head, press Space, and move your mouse to make the dog move its head. You can also left-click to make it blink.
Play with various expressions a little to learn what can be used in your animation. I decided to use Happy expressions for the running. Place the marker where you want the animation to start, and then click Record. Press Enter to gain extra time, and play your expression. Press Space to stop recording.
I achieved a satisfying and unintentionally funny result after the first try, but if you don’t like what you recorded, just press Control-Z and try again.
Use the same method to create a barking animation.
5. How to Add Sound Effects to an Animation
The animation is almost done, but it’s weird without any sounds. Let’s add them!
Click Music on the Project‘s layer in the timeline (if you can’t see the project, click the first icon on the bar and tick Project).
Drag some background music to this layer. I chose sounds of birds, but you can choose anything that seems fitting to you. Make sure that the music covers all the time of the animation—if not, you can copy and paste it again.
Next, click Sound FX1.
Put the sound of a panting dog here.
We need to adjust this sound, because it shouldn’t be played all the time—just when the dog’s mouth is open. You can do it easily by splitting the track. Select the sound, place the marker where you want it split, and press Control-B.
Split tracks can be moved to the correct place easily.
Finally, click Sound FX2…
… and put the sound of a barking dog here.
Split it correctly and place it where it should be.
After everything is done, take a look at the video and see how it all looks together. I decided to alter the background’s colors a little to make the dog stand out more. After you’ve applied these changes, just go to Render > Render Video and hit Export.
Now you know all the basics of animating in CrazyTalk Animator 3. You can create your own characters and write your own story that you can share with others!
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