Welcome to the Auto-Rig Pro documentation! This complete guide gives instructions to start with, from installing the addon, rigging, to skinning and appending the character in a new scene. Note you can download this documentation by clicking the download icon in the top right corner of this page.
Also make sure to check the dedicated youtube channel for video tutorials and useful informations.
Extract the .zip file in a new folder (name it Auto-Rig Pro for example).
This folder contains one blend file, the addons directories containing the addons to install, and the remap presets that may be used with the Remap tool. Here is how to install the addons.
Note about the Rig Tools addon:
Only install the Rig Tools addon (rig_tools.zip) if you don't install the Auto-Rig addon (e.g. after rigging your character, you can send it to the animator to ensure the IK snaps and other rig functions). Make sure not to install both addons, it could potentially lead to internal conflicts.
Finally, by default Blender is very cautious with scripts and even bones drivers execution. When starting up a new scene and clicking Add Armature to add the default rig, Blender will show a warning Auto-run disabled [Ignore] ... in the top menu:
The rig does not work properly, no arms/legs, caused by an extreme scaling due to this error. Because Blender by default does not run python code for safety reasons, even not bones drivers, which are mathematical expressions to handle the bones mechanic, placement, rotation, scale...
They are two ways to fix that:
1) Save the file, reload it. A warning will be displayed in the top menu. Click Reload Trusted to enable the scripts and drivers for this file only. The drawback of this method is each time the file is open, it's necessary to click Reload Trusted to expressively tell Blender to execute the coded datas of this file.
2) Or in the User Preferences > File (Ctrl-Alt-U), click Auto-Run Python Scripts. It will allow the code execution for any file automatically. Then click Save User Settings below to save:
Of course, most addons are safe, but always make sure to install addons from trusted sources.
Blender 2.79 and above:
Press the Add Armature button in the Rig tab.
This button is only available in Blender 2.79 and above because of stability issues with previous versions.
If you use previous versions such as 2.78, append the armature file auto_rig_[version].blend in your character scene:
Uncheck the Active Layer box in the bottom left area.
The Smart feature is useful to quickly place the reference bones within a few clicks. It only works with biped character at the moment. It has been designed to cover several cases, however there are few guidelines to follow:
The character can be in T-Pose or A-Pose. For the fingers detection, there must be enough spaces between fingers. The palm must face the floor, if the hand is too much twisted forward or backward, the fingers detection will fail.
If your character's fingers don't meet these requirements, you can choose Skip Fingers above the Go button (read below). If the whole character it not a biped, skip this part and go straight to the next chapter to manually place the reference bones.
The camera will frame the character in front view. If the model doesn't face the camera, you can use the Turn buttons to this end.
Depending on the character's fingers count, choose Find 5 Fingers, Find 4 Fingers or Skip Fingers.
Optionally you can setup the facial markers (if you wish to rig the facial):
At the end of the process the references bones should be properly positionned on the model. Note that this may require additional manual tweaking to get a more accurate placement.
The fingers detection should run fine with most of the characters, however it may fail sometime. In this case, the first thing to try is to move a little the wrist marker (you can click Recover Last Session to restore the previous markers positions). Then reduce or increase the Voxel Precision value, and then try to increase the Finger Thickness. If it still does not work, there's something special in the hands design that prevents the detection to work. Feel free to send your character for inspection (check the Bug Report chapter on the left menu of this page), if the issue can be fixed i'll let you know, if not, place the fingers manually: check the chapter Editing the reference bones to this end. You can also restore the previous markers to try different placements by clicking Restore Last Session after Get Selected Objects.
Now it's time to configure and define the skeleton. Click on the Rig tab in the Auto-Rig Pro panel.
For quadruped characters (dog, cat, horse...) it's necessary to switch to Multi-Ped type instead of the default Biped. The difference will be visible later: the spine controllers won't be vertically aligned since a quadruped/multi-ped stands with his "hands" on the ground. Here is an example to position bones for a quadruped.
Only check the needed limbs. To disable or duplicate a limb, see the next chapter.
The spine bones amount can be adjusted from 3 to 4, the neck is up to 16 bones. One global "neck_master" controller will be added if the neck bones amont is greater than 1. It rotates all neck bones at once.
If you want the fingers phalanges to curve when scaling the first one, set the Rot From Scale property below the fingers checkboxes. Set it to Disable to disable this feature.
Just next to it, you can also define the default shapes of the fingers and toes (circles or boxes).
There are two deformation modes in option for the secondary bones (bones used to curve the arms, legs). Bendy bones may be better for very cartoony characters, since it better supports high bones stretching, and is generally smoother. Here is a comparison:
Whether your character is not supported by the Smart function (not a biped) or you want to manually refine the reference bones position, or want to place the facial bones, here is how to edit them:
Adjust the bones positions so that they fit the character proportions.
You can follow the guidelines below for a biped rig, and watch this for a multi-ped rig:
The foot_heel and foot_bank bones (the three little bones under the foot) should match the heel back position and the foot width.
Remember to keep a slight angle between the arms/legs bones. It's very important for the IK chains to work properly. They MUST NEVER be straight!
Also, the IK chains roll can't be manually adjusted. It's calculated when clicking Match to Rig. Changing the bones alignment as shown below will change the roll. Here the arm is shown from the front view, it can be straight from this point of view, but must keep a slight angle backward (check from the top view):
The root_ref bone tip should be centered at the bellybutton height, spine_01 at the bottom of the chest, spine_02 should reach the neck base.
The facial bones should be positionned like this, with bones X-Ray display in the first picture (see-through): scary, isn't it?
The lips bones have to be very close to the geometry, positionned all around the lips.
The eyelids and eyes bone heads should be positionned at the eye center while the tail should reach the eyeglobe surface.
The lips_roll bones have been designed to work with shape keys and drivers (read below the Skinning chapter).
To rig characters with multiple limbs, duplicate a limb by selecting one bone from it and click Duplicate.
Only the arms, legs, neck, head, facial, and ears can be duplicated. It may not be possible to duplicate individual bones: for example, the arms duplication will duplicate the arm, forearm, hands and fingers as a whole, the head duplication will duplicate the neck, head and linked facial if any as a whole. The fingers and spine bones cannot be duplicated yet.
You can disable a source limb or a duplicated limb by clicking Disable.
It's possible to restore all disable limbs by clicking Enable All, wich will restore of the disabled limbs except the duplicated (which can't be backed up).
If disabling a limb is not precise enough to remove a specific bone, you should avoid deleting the bone manually. It can break the rig functions when clicking Match to Rig for example. Instead, consider hiding the bone. Read the FAQ to this end ("Is it possible to delete bones?").
It's possible to save the reference bones transforms into an external file that you can load later, e.g. when the addon/armature has been updated and the Update Armature button can't do the full upgrade job. Just click the Import and Export buttons to save or load the file.
Click Match to Rig to generate the final rig with controllers and mechanic.
You can go back to edit mode and make some changes anytime by clicking Edit Reference Bones again.
You may want to adjust the controllers shapes. Just click the Edit Shape... button and Apply Shape once you're done. To mirror the shape to the other side, click the little button next to Edit Shape
If you haven't done it already, you might want to split the 3D viewport into two areas, one view to display the character and one view to display the picker panel. How to do this:
Then click the Set UI Cam button in the Misc tab, in the view you want to display the bone picker.
If you don't need the picker panel, you can delete it with the X icon button next to Add Picker.
Add Picker will generate a new picker if it has been deleted. It's also possible to Export or Import a picker layout file.
You can adjust the color theme here too.
If you can see these awful lines, just uncheck the Relationship Lines option in the properties panel. They can be disabled in Pose Mode only.
You can add a background facial picture by framing your character's head, and clicking Capture Facial. If you want to replace this openGL screenshot by a real render, just replace the saved image file with your own file.
Then if you wish to change the picker layout, click Edit Layout.... You'll be able to freely select, move, rotate and scale the picker bone shapes, buttons, text and background picture. Once you're done, click Apply Layout to complete.
Note! The Voxel Heat Diffuse Skinning addon is compatible with Auto-Rig Pro and does a great job at clothes and props skinning. See below to use it.
First, make sure the mesh objects have no parent attached. If so, select it and press Alt-P > Clear Parent and Keep transforms
Click the Bind button in Skin tab. Enable Split Parts for better results if your character has clothes, props as separate meshes (not welded to the main mesh). Be aware, with high poly meshes containing lots of loose parts, it can take several minutes to bind. In this case, Optimize High Res can speed up the binding time. Use Chin will improve the head skinning based on the chin position (when facial is disabled, and for bipeds only). Just make sure the reference jawbone is properly positionned, and disable facial afterward.
It will automatically add two armature modifiers, will make a list of all the necessary vertex groups, and will roughly assign the vertices groups based on bone-vertices distances. The twist bones weights are automatically smoothened along the limbs.
If binding does not work, see the FAQ.
If you own the Voxel Heat Diffuse Skinning addon, here is how to use it on top of the default Auto-Rig Pro skinning:
Ok, it's time to carefully paint the weight vertices for each vertex group in the list. The auto-skinning is just a basis, if the results are not good enough, it's up to the rigger to work on it.
Facial rigging demo:
How to paint the weights?
To quickly select the deforming bones and check the associated vertex groups in one click, you can display only the layer 31 of the armature, wich includes the deforming bones only (no controllers):
A quick search in Google (such as "blender weight painting tutorial") will give you the basis of the Blender's weight painting tools if you don't know them, this is something I won't elaborate here. Basically, it's all about browsing the vertex groups list and painting the weights. For a high quality skinning, this process can take some time, don't hesitate to test the skin accuracy by posing the character into several extreme position (arms up, arms down, arms ahead, thighs up...)
Here are a few notes about some specific painting regions:
If the automatic skinning of clothes is not good enough, and if the body is modeled and skinned underneath, you can consider to transfer the weights from the body to the clothes. This way, they will perfectly stick to the body.
Make sure to assign the correct vertices to these bones:
The big circle (c_eye_offset) is meant to deform both the eyes and eyelids. It simulates the muscles stretch and compression. The eyelids and eyesballs bones have their own vertex groups though (eyelid_bot, eyelid_top, c_eye and other secondaries), so this bone should just influence the external borders, gradually reduce the influence near the eyelids.
The small circle (c_eye) is meant to rotate the eyeball only.
The sphere circle (c_eye_ref) is meant to control the reflexion disk mesh (if any), sometime used to fake the eye reflexion, easily animatable.
As explained earlier, the lips_roll bones are supposed to be used with shape keys.
Lips roll: it will be necessary to create two shapes on your head mesh: the bottom lips kissing, and the upper lips kissing.
Note you can use shape keys to make the character smile too and for eyebrows deformations (bone deform is less accurate), if you want to do so select the bones that you want to use with shape keys, and uncheck the Deform in the bone property panel.
The addon includes a tool to quickly create the drivers between a shape and a bone.
If the shape key increases too slowly or too fast while the bone is moving:
Left click on the pink shape key value then multiply 'var' by any number using the * (asterisk/star) character, e.g to speed up 5 time faster, write:
You can also negate the expression to switch the bone direction: "-var"
Optionally, you can add a fist controller on the hands. This controller is meant to blend the fingers into a pre-defined fist pose. This allows a better grasp than the default "Fingers Grasp" property since that simply curls the phalanges along the X axis, wich may be inacurrate.
Create a new action and make sure to include "rig_fist" in its name.
Keyframe the fingers controllers (rotate directly the fingers controllers, the Rotation From Scale can't be used here) this way:
frame 0 = rest pose, frame 10 = fist pose
Select the hand controller and click the Add Hand Fist button to generate the controller. Fingers will curl into the fist pose when scaling it.
X-Muscles System is an addon for muscle simulation, bringing more depth and credibility to realistic characters. It's very well done and easy to setup, so I thought it could be a great addition to Auto-Rig Pro. I've been glad to work with its developper to make both addons compliants.
When creating muscles, you can select the deforming bones by enabling the layer 31 of the armature (last bottom right):
There are two methods to load a rigged character in a final file. Appending will load a static copy of the rigged character in the file, this means if you change the character geometry or armature in the rig file, the changes won't be applied to the character in the final file. It's just a copy. On the contrary, Linking will load a dynamic copy of the character (instance). Changes made in the rig file will automatically be applied in the final file, which is very useful!
Option A - Object method (easy):
Option B - Group method:
Second step, let's make the armature editable. Currently, it's not possible to enter pose mode!
Make sure to check the other documentation chapters on the left, Rig Features, Game Engine Export and other chapters.
Feel free to get in touch for any remarks, if anythying broke with a newest Blender API update or whatever... and happy blending :D !