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When the layers in a Photoshop or Illustrator file are structured and named in a specific way, tags are auto-assigned to the layers for the character features they represent (chest, head, eyes, mouth, and so on). Behavior is automatically rigged when a puppet is created from the artwork. The external inputs, such as face tracking, body tracking, audio analysis, mouse clicks, and keypresses, in Character Animator can then control the puppet. External inputs give added expression to two-dimensional artwork.

The following section describes the necessary structure and naming of elements in a Photoshop or Illustrator file for automatic rigging to work. If you prefer, you can use the Puppet panel to assemble a puppet from individual layers and identify how layers are controlled using the Behavior tools. You can start by auto-rigging in Photoshop or Illustrator and then make more changes and refine movements in Character Animator. Use both the methods as appropriate for your workflows.

This document covers the basic layer structure and naming guidelines. Setup instructions for use with a specific behavior are described in the behavior-specific subsections in Behaviors in Character Animator.

Body features

Behaviors can control specific features of a character's body. To enable specific control, name the feature's layers in Photoshop or Illustrator using the following group/layer structure/naming, or use the tags with the following names:

  • Head
    • Frontal, Left Profile, Left Quarter, Right Quarter, Right Profile (used by the Head & Body Turner behavior)
      • Left Eyebrow
      • Left Eye
        • Left Blink
        • Left Eyelid Top and Left Eyelid Bottom
        • Left Pupil
        • Left Eyeball
      • Right Eyebrow
      • Right Eye
        • Right Blink
        • Right Eyelid Top and Right Eyelid Bottom
        • Right Pupil
        • Right Eyeball
      • Nose
      • Jaw (when used with Nutcracker Jaw behavior, do not specify Mouth shapes/visemes)
      • Mouth: all the mouth shapes are driven by audio except neutral, smile, and surprised which come from the camera. For more information about mouth shapes and visemes, and to see their visual representation, see Lip Sync: Control a puppet's mouth with your voice.
        • Ah
        • D
        • Ee
        • F
        • L
        • M
        • Oh
        • R
        • S
        • Uh
        • W-Oo
        • Neutral
        • Smile
        • Surprised
  • Breathe (used by the Breathe behavior)
  • Neck
  • Left Elbow
  • Left Wrist
  • Right Elbow
  • Right Wrist
  • Waist
  • Hip
  • Left Knee
  • Left Ankle
  • Left Heel
  • Left Toe
  • Right Knee
  • Right Ankle
  • Right Heel
  • Right Toe
  • In this example, the character name can be the parent group name and the Head and Breathe can be the layers. 
  • If Eyelid artwork is included, be sure to provide non-blank/empty Eye (Left Eye, Right Eye) artwork. Eyelid movement is based on the initial distance between the eyelid and eye.
  • If Pupil artwork is included, make sure that it warps independently of the eyeball is on by prefixing the layer name with a +. See Warping control for more information. The Pupil moves based on your eye gaze direction.
  • If Blink artwork is included, it replaces the Eye artwork completely when your eye closes.
  • If no Blink and no Eyelid artwork are included, the puppet’s eyes scales vertically with your tracked eyelids.
Photoshop example
Photoshop example

Illustrator example
Illustrator example

In Photoshop, Head and Mouth  are groups . All others can be groups or layers. In Illustrator, Head and Mouth must be layers or sublayers. For example, Head and Mouth contains several nested layers and sublayers. All others can be layers, sublayers, groups, or paths. Additional layers/sublayers and groups can exist in a file.

  • For Illustrator artwork, you can use a more accurate representation of it by selecting the Puppet in the Project panel. After that, deselect the Render As Vector option in the Properties panel. 
  • Some layer settings and capabilities — opacity, gradients, blending mode, clipping paths, and so on — are not supported when the Render As Vector option is checked.
  • Hidden (muted) artwork layers appear in a puppet as muted layers by default. However, if these layers are not used, they can cause unexpected results in puppet movement. Remove them from either the artwork file or puppet in the Puppet panel.
  • Unnamed layers, sublayers, groups, and paths in Illustrator artwork are assigned names based on their parent container.

Subgroups and groups

When a PSD or AI artwork file is imported, it creates a puppet in the Project panel. The structure in the artwork file determines the initial structure of the puppet. Groups in a Photoshop document and layers, sublayers, and groups in an Illustrator document all create groups, which are puppets themselves instanced in another puppet. The contents of these groups are usually groups, individual pieces with their sibling groups and are part of the warpable mesh inside their parent puppet. However, you can allow a group to warp independently so its parent puppet does not affect its wrapping. You can also specify a custom point for a group to attach to its parent.


In an Illustrator document, a layer or group that contains only unnamed sublayers, groups, and paths are coalesced into a single group. Adjacent unnamed groups and paths also get combined into a single unnamed group. To ensure that a group is created, give it a name.

Warping control

You can make a layer wrap independently, add, remove, copy, and paste behaviors, add handles, and add handle tags on a layer without needing to create a group for it first.
  •  Layers with + prefix become groups automatically. Don’t include the + in the layer, but instead make it warp independently in the Puppet panel. However, if the artwork layer is named such that it’ll get tagged on import, and that layer is intended to be independent (e.g., for Eyebrow and Pupil layers), it’s best to keep the + prefix to the artwork layer’s name.

Note: Making a nongroup layer shareable, then adding that sharable puppet into a puppet, adds it as a group referencing that shared puppet.

You can restrict single points in the warpable mesh with Fixed handles created using the Pin tool, or nonbendable segments with sticks using the Stick tool. The Stick tool (available in the Puppet panel) allows you to create rigid segments in the warpable mesh of a puppet’s rubber sheet.

The area around the segment cannot bend, but the segment can stretch or shrink. For example, you can create sticks (segments) for a character’s upper arm and lower arm, leaving a gap at the elbow so it can bend there.

Handle tags gets applied to the origin of the layer. For more information, see Layer handles.

Group attachment point

By default, a group attaches to the Origin in its group; this origin does not have to overlap the subgroup. Transformations of the subgroup are relative to this location. If no Origin-named handle exists, the center of the group's bounding box is used as the origin. 

Attach To attribute

For more information, see Auto attachment of independent groups.


Handles are locations on a puppet for specifying where a subgroup attaches to its group. Handles also specify behavior-specific use. For example, specifying the distance traveled for eye blinking, restricting movement of the group around it, applying dynamics to move a set of points, and so on.

For more information on restricting movement, see Handle Fixer: Restrict movement in a bendable skin.


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