If you want to animate characters you’ve created in Photoshop, there’s a very simple way to do it. CrazyTalk Animator 3 is a program designed specifically to work with assets created in Photoshop. It detects the layers and attaches bones to them, to make them ready for animation.
In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create a simple animated scene with a dog pulling a sled. I’ll show you how to animate the dog, how to attach the sled to it, how to move the background to give the illusion of motion, and how to add falling snow.
If you like CTA 3, you must check out Cartoon Animator 4 WIP.
1. How to Prepare the Characters in Photoshop
Let’s start with the dog. Create its head out of simple shapes, using the characteristic “chibi” style. Make the head big, the muzzle small, and the eyes big and full of expression. You can use any program you want for this, but make sure to keep the elements on separate layers.
Create the torso. It must be simple, too, like a bean. Add the bushy tail, a fluffy neck, and a harness.
Add two pairs of legs.
The kid should be created the same way, keeping the illustration as simple as possible. Use quiet colors that look good together
Create a simple sled with presents. If you want to make the presents prettier, you can cover them with a pattern.
We’ll need something to attach the dog to the sled. Create a very simple strap with a golden circle on one end, just like these on the harness.
Our scene needs a background. Keep it simple, too—just a sky with some clouds, some snow, and trees.
Create some falling snow. You can make it with a brush or a pattern. Keep the background transparent.
2. How to Add Animation Bones in Photoshop
We have all the assets, so now we need to prepare them for animation. Each of the dog’s body parts needs to be on a separate layer. What counts as a body part?
- Each paw, separately
- Front leg: forearm, arm
- Back leg: “foot” without paw, calf, thigh
- Head without ears, nose, eyes, eyebrows, mouth
- The white of the eye, separately for each eye
- The iris, separately for each eye
- The ears, separately
- The eyebrows, separately
Placing the elements of the face on separate layers makes it possible to animate them to create facial expressions. If you don’t need to do that, feel free to merge the whole head.
Download the file with sample projects. Open the folder and go to 01_Templates > Quadruped_Template. Drag the layers from this file to your file with the dog. Replace the body parts of the template with the body parts of your dog, as shown below:
This part is only necessary if you want to be able to animate the facial expressions. If not, just place the merged head layer in the Head folder.
Open the RL_Bone_Quadruped folder. Each body part has a separate folder here, with special markings for the bones. Drag them to their proper place, treating them like joints.
After you’re done, do the same with the RL_TalkingHead > HeadBone marks, this time simply showing where the facial elements are.
The file with the sled and the kid will be much simpler. Create just three layers: for the sled merged with the kid’s body, the bow of the present, and the kid’s head.
As for the background, keep the sky, the snow layers, and the shadow in separate files. Make the snow layer much wider than the scene.
3. How to Add Photoshop Characters to CrazyTalk Animator 3
Open CrazyTalk Animator 3. Click Create G3 Free Bone Actor and select your file with the dog.
The layers in the templates might have a different order than intended. Fix it now—go to Layer Manager…
… and rearrange the layers until it all looks good again.
When you’re done, go back to Stage Mode.
Add the sled file the same way. You’ll notice that there are no bones on this character, but instead each layer has a “handle”. That’s all we need! Let’s just place these handles in more appropriate places. Click Bone Editor…
… and drag the handles to where the “joints” should be.
You can use the Preview function to see if it works properly.
Go back to Stage Mode. Resize both characters and place them as they are supposed to be.
We need one more “character” here—the strap. We’re going to add it with another method. Go to Content Manager > Actor > Character > 3_G3 Spine and drag Spine Dummy into the scene.
With the dummy selected, go into Composer Mode (first button), and then click Launch to External PSD Editor. Select Photoshop and export the image.
This option can be used to modify your character even if it’s already animated!
You’ll notice that this dummy has its own images and bones, just like the dog’s template—just much simpler. Replace the image with your previous image of the strap. Resize it to fit the bones. When you’re done, just save the file to export it back to CTA3.
When you go back to CTA3, the strap will be there already, with the bones added to a proper picture. Go back to Stage Mode.
Place the strap where it was supposed to be.
4. How to Animate Characters in CrazyTalk Animator 3
With all of our characters present, we can finally start animating! Select the dog, and then go to Content Manager > Animation > Motion > 2_G3 Animals > Dog > Move, and click Run(2L). A simple running animation will be added to your dog.
Click Show Timeline, and then click Motion to see the animation on the timeline. You can drag the marker to see the motion along the frames.
The dog is animated, but the strap isn’t, so it doesn’t look convincing now. Let’s fix it. Select the strap and open its Motion layer. Click 2D Motion Key Editor.
Drag the marker to see where the dog’s body is the highest, and then place the strap there by dragging and rotating the bones. Then go farther, searching for the lowest point, and do the same. Run through the whole animation and adjust the strap until it moves along with the dog.
Let’s animate the sled a little, too. Open its Motion layer and rotate the head and the bow every few frames, to create a natural rocking motion.
All right, so our characters are animated now, but it’s a very short animation. We can make it longer by copying the animations for all layers, but it’s a little tricky. First, go to the dog layer and click Collect Clip.
Select all the frames with the animation.
Right-click the selection and select Add to Action Menu.
Give the action a name.
Drag the marker to the end of the animation.
Right-click the dog and select Action menu > [your action].
The animation will be added to the timeline. Do the same with the other characters, turning their multiple keyframes into a neat animation bar that can be easily selected. Then, select all three bars, copy them, and paste right after they end. Paste as many times as you need to create a longer animation.
When you’re done, don’t forget to drag the red marker to the end of the animation. This will help you navigate between the first and the last frame.
5. How to Animate Background in CrazyTalk Animator 3
Let’s add the rest of the scene now. First, drag the image with the sky and clouds, and select Background. It will automatically fill the scene.
Drag the snow layers now, this time selecting Prop.
Go into 3D View. Move the snow in the third dimension, to create some distance between them.
Go back to the 2D View and resize the snow to fill the scene, but with a big part of both layers going outside of it, too.
Add a shadow to the scene, under the characters and behind them.
Let’s animate the snow now to create an illusion of motion. Go to the first frame and place the right side of the first snow layer on the right side of the scene.
Go to the last frame, and drag the snow to the left side of the scene. The longer the snow’s layer, the faster it will move.
Do the same with the snow in the back. To create an illusion of depth, make it move slower—make the layer shorter.
Let’s add the snow now. Drag it to the program as a Prop, and then move it in 3D View behind the first layer of snow. Animate it by changing the position between the first and the last layer.
Add the snow again. This time, make it larger and place it right in the front. Make it move faster and slightly to the side.
Look at the whole animation now and see what else you can do to improve it. I decided to move the background some more, add a tree for a sense of scale, and add more dynamism to the falling snow. If you’re satisfied with the result, go to Render > Render Video, adjust the settings, and click Export.
Do you want to learn more about CrazyTalk Animator 3? We have more tutorials about this program!