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Mesh, attachments, and handles

Puppet mesh, attachment, and handles are important to ensure your character is rigged properly and that it behaves as expected. This document provides information about these properties and applying them to your puppet.

Puppet mesh

When you select a layer in the Puppet panel, a yellow outline appears for the mesh. The yellow outline represents the mesh identified by layers with a vertical yellow line in the layers list along with the Mesh Shape and Mesh Expansion settings. The outline helps you confirm that a mesh is the shape you want and is not an unexpected shape due to a non-overlapping layer.

Puppet mesh outline
Puppet mesh outline

To hide or show the mesh outline and auto-attached handles, toggle the Show Mesh Outline and Auto Handles button ( ) in the lower-left corner of the Puppet panel.

Each deformable mesh is made up or one or more nonindendent layers at the same level in a puppet's hierarchy. The boundary of the mesh is controlled by the settings in the Puppet Mesh section of the Properties panel.

Mesh Shape

Contour: boundary of the mesh wraps around the opaque pixels in the layers' artwork.

Rectangle: fits the rectangular bounds of those layers.

Auto (legacy): For puppets imported in earlier versions of Character Animator, the default is called Auto (Legacy), and will use either a contour shape if the layers overlap each other or rectangular shape if all of the layers don't overlap.

Mesh Island Connection Width

When using a Contour mesh shape, nonoverlapping layers (mesh islands) can be connected to each other so that all of the layers are included in the mesh. By default (no connection between islands), the largest layer in area is used, which would cause the nonoverlapping layers to be ignored, and not appear in the Scene panel. When you have nonoverlapping layers, set the Mesh Island Connection Width parameter to 1 or larger to connect these mesh islands with a bridge or "causeway" so that all layers are part of the mesh and visible in the scene.

Connect Each Island to parameter

Use the Connect Each Island to parameter to control how these mesh islands connect with each other. Nearest connects to the nearest-in-distance island, whereas Largest connects to the largest-in-area island.

Mesh Expansion

Mesh Expansion extends the outline of the mesh for additional padding.

Handle fixer

Handle fixer is a behavior that helps restrict movement in a bendable puppet. This behavior allows parts of a bendable puppet to stay fixed in place as if pinned down. Read more about handle fixers, the set up, and using the stick tool, click here.

Auto attachment of independent groups

Rigging a puppet with independent parts is streamlined with the automatic attachment of these independent groups to their parents (e.g., arms, legs, or other parts that overlap a torso or other part of a character). For newly imported artwork, position the group’s origin to where you expect it to attach. You don't have manually staple or use extra staple handles. There are also helpful visualizations in the Puppet panel to show how these independent groups attach to their parent group’s mesh.

To automatically attach independent groups to puppet’s parent group’s mesh, follow these steps:

  1. In the Puppet panel, select the independent group.

  2. In the Properties panel, under the Layer section, set Attach To to Auto.

    Auto is the default setting for newly imported artwork that doesn’t have a specific Attach To setting in the artwork file. Also, the default Attach Style setting is  Weld, except if the puppet has only one top-level independent group (e.g., a “+Character” in the artwork file), in which case it is the top-level group is set to Free.
    Tip: Hover over the Attach To drop-down list to temporarily show all the available attach points on the puppet.

  3. Adjust the position of the group so it overlaps the parent group’s mesh, then move the group’s origin handle to where you want the group to attach to the parent.

    Auto attachment of groups
    Auto attachment of groups

  4. Now, move the group’s origin handle to the position where you want the group to attach to the parent.

  5. The group automatically attaches to the parent group.


    Beta6 or older projects and .puppet files are not converted. If you have independent groups that contain Dangle handles, and the group is attached using the Free attach style, the group falls when the puppet first appears in the scene. Switch to Hinge or Weld as needed.

Release layers in a clipping mask

To release clipping masks from layers, follow these steps:

  1. Select all the successive clipping mask layers (with icons) which are above the base layer.

  2. Choose Puppet > Release clipping Mask (Command+Option+G (MAC) or Ctrl+Alt+G (Windows).


The clipping masks you create in Photoshop artwork and import to Character Animator is converted into clipping masks in the puppet panel. The ones created using Illustrator artwork () is not converted into clipping masks in the puppet panel. But, you can create clipping masks from Illustrator sourced layers in the Puppet panel.

Layers attach style options

When you select a layer in the Puppet panel and check the Warp Independently option, the Attach To control is enabled along with the new Attach Style control. The following attach styles are available:

  • Weld: The layer cannot move, rotate, or scale around its origin.
  • Hinge: The layer can rotate, but can’t move or scale around its origin.
  • Free: The layer can move, rotate, and scale freely around its origin.

Layer handles

Handles, whose behaviors control to manipulate a puppet, can be created using tools in the Puppet panel.

View the handles of a puppet

Either deselect all layers (or select the top heading on the left side of the Puppet panel) or select a group layer. The handles in the open or selected group, and participating in the same warpable mesh appears as yellow circles.

Handles created in the Puppet panel have a dot in the middle of the circle; these handles can be deleted, moved, and renamed. Handles specified in the artwork file do not have a dot and cannot be moved or renamed. If the outline is solid, it can be deleted. If it's dashed, it represents an origin handle, and cannot be deleted.

Handle tags

The Puppet panel displays Handle tags to the right of the puppet and text-based tags in the Properties panel. The Handle tag is displayed to the right of the handle in large text. The small text centered below the handle is the handle name. The artwork guides named similar to the tags do not have a name by default in the Puppet panel.

You can add visual tags to layers and handles for easy identification and faster operation. Tags are also categorized based on their use, and you can view the tags as text or picture buttons. To know more about visual tagging, see Visual tags for puppet layers and handles.

Tools to create handles

To create a handle in the Puppet panel, use one of the following tools

  • Handle tool: Click at the intended location. You can change the tag of the handle, for use by a particular behavior or as an attach point for a group.
  • Stick tool: Click a layer to specify one end of the stick, then drag to the other end of the intended stick. A "Stick"-tagged stick handle is created. For example, to bend an arm or leg. Avoid crossing sticks.
  • Pin tool: Click at the place above a layer to restrict from warping. A “Fixed”-tagged handle is created.
  • Dragger tool: Click at the place above a warpable layer to control using the Dragger behavior. A “Draggable”- tagged handle is created.
  • Dangle tool: Click at the place above a warpable layer to sway using the Dangle behavior. A “Dangle”-tagged handle is created.

The Pin, Dragger, Dangle, and Stick tools are specialized tools that do what the Handle tool does, but also tag the created handles for specific purposes.

The behaviors required by the Pin, Dragger, and Dangle tools (and conversely their corresponding Fixed, Draggable, and Dangle tags) are added automatically at the top level of the puppet if the behavior doesn’t already exist at the layer or higher in the puppet layer structure.  A notification will  appear when a behavior is added automatically. 

To select or deselect handles, switch to the Selection tool, then do one of the following:
  1. Click the handle to select it.

  2. Shift-click a handle to extend the selection.

  3. Drag a selection (marquee) box around the handles. Hold down Shift while dragging to extend the selection.

  4. Click away from a handle to deselect all of them.

To reposition a handle, select it, then drag it to the intended location.


Read-only locations coming from the artwork file and appearing with no yellow dot in the middle of the circle cannot be moved.

To reposition the origin handle for a puppet, select the handle named after the puppet and appearing as a dashed circle by default, then drag it to the intended location. You don’t have to update the origin location in the Photoshop or Illustrator artwork file. When using Weld or Hinge attach styles for groups, you want to position the group's origin at the intended anchor or pivot location.

Note: To reset the location of the origin handle to the center of the puppet’s bounds or to its specific location in the artwork file, select the handle, then press Delete.

To rename a handle, select it, press Enter (on the main keyboard, not numeric keypad), type the new name, then press Enter or click away from the text field to accept the change. Press Esc instead to cancel your edits.

You can cut and copy handles from one layer of a puppet and paste them in the exact same location, relative to the entire puppet, in another layer. This is useful when you want to make sure two handles share the same location, such as a Magnet-tagged handle in a hand group needing to align with the same location in a coffee cup group, or if you need to move a handle to a different level in the puppet hierarchy.

To cut, copy, and paste handles, follow these steps:

  1. Select one or more handles on a layer.

  2. Choose Edit > Cut or Copy.

  3. Select one or more layers in the puppet to paste into.

  4. Choose Edit > Paste.

You can apply tags to the origin handle. For example, to allow a puppet to be dragged with the mouse or your finger on a touch screen, select the origin handle and assign the Draggable handle tag. 

To edit the tags for a layer or handle:

  1. In the Puppet panel, select the layer or handle.
  2. In the Properties panel’s Tag section, select or deselect the capabilities to associate with the selection.


  • Selected tags still require that the corresponding behaviors that use them are applied at or at a higher level in the puppet hierarchy. For example, selecting the Chest tag for a handle doesn’t do anything unless Breathe is also applied to a parent puppet.
  • Hierarchical and layer name changes in the artwork file reset any tags associated with the affected layers. However, layer content changes retain any tags changed in the Puppet panel.

When a layer is selected, you can apply both layer or handle tags, with handle tags applied to the origin handle for selected groups or in the parent puppet of a layer. When a handle is selected, only handle tags can be applied.

When viewing tags as text, applied layer tags are blue and handle tags are yellow. When viewing tags as pictures, applied tags are blue.


A stick handle can be modified like other handles by giving it a Draggable handle.

To remove a handle, select it, then press Delete or Backspace or choose Edit > Delete.


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