Free (mostly) tutorials & resources
Updated: 3 May 2020
Below are some locations on the internet which offer valuable information if you are interested in character animation. Although my emphasis is on After Effects because that is what I’m working with most at the time, there are useful resources below that can offer help for other applications as well..
First, subscription tutorial services
or just skip down to the next section for the free stuff
If you have the cash, some of the paid tutorial services are very good. I can only speak of my personal experience, which is with Lynda.com1. Lynda.com offers tutorials on many subjects including After Effects, Illustrator, Photoshop, Animate CC (Flash), and Blender.
I took the plunge awhile back and paid for a month to sharpen my Illustrator skills. The cost for a month was about what you would pay for a good technical book ($34.99 which included the work files). When your subscription expires all of your playlists and history are kept in case you want to resubscribe at a later date. I can highly recommend Deke McClelland’s Illustrator tutorials, which are great. He has dozens of hours of instruction in which you can submerse yourself. Also, Dermot O’Connor offers a different way to approach animation with Animate CC, which doesn’t use bones. He likes to get away from that “flashy look.”
Should I subscribe to any other tutorial sites I’ll add my impressions to this section.
I mention this avenue of learning as I found the expense worthwhile, especially since I chose a 30 day period when I knew I would have plenty of time to binge on tutorials. However, I realize not everyone can, or wants to, go that route. Luckily, there are may resources on the internet to help you learn more about animation and animation software without spending any, or a least very little, money. Below are some resources I’ve found helpful.
General After Effects Tutorials
Free tutorials and tutorial venues that I find useful and of good quality that are not mentioned anywhere else on this page. While these may not focus on character animation in After Affects, there are definitely tricks and skills that can be applied to that endeavor. The more you know, the more you can be creative and innovative with After Effects.
ECA Abrams on YouTube. Evan Abrams has been working with After Effects for over two decades, and he knows his stuff. Here’s a great example of what he does by showing you the shape layer repeater or take a look at his simple face rig. You can also visit his website here.
Software production help
For questions and tutorials on a wide variety of media software and subjects, Creative Cow is a good first stop. It’s very friendly place where professional and serious media producers will answer questions when your production goals elude you. There is a list of subjects and software they will help you with here: Creative Cow forums. I have gone to Creative Cow forums with questions dozens of times and never had to create a post because someone else had already had the same issue. So, use the search function first because you’ll most-likely find your answer already posted.
School of Motion is a YouTube channel that features a lot of motion designers who contribute to tutorials on animation and motion production techniques using After Effects, Photoshop, Cinema 4D, Nuke and others. There is a hefty amount of After Effects material that covers information for beginner and advance users.
Also, pardon me for stating the obvious, but don’t forget to check out the online manuals and forums for your particular software as well. Many offer their own set of tutorials to get you up and running. Free After Effects tutorials by, or approved by, Adobe can be found here.
Character animation with After Effects
As I’m sure you are aware, many people have donated their time and talent to providing free tutorials on the internet. Here are just a few that helped and inspired me.
Official Duik documentation. With the launch of Duik Bassel, Duduf created an excellent wiki resource at github. It has lots of information that will help you better understand how to use Duik Bassel.
Daniel Gies Vimeo page | E. D. Films (has tutorial section, both free and paid) | YouTube page (make sure you check out his tutorials there on lighting). Daniel Gies has done some great work with After Effects and offers some detailed tutorials.
David Legion offers a nice set of puppet tutorials. Although part of his puppet rig requires Mettle’s Free Form plugin and Mamo World’s Auto Lip Sync, you can still learn a lot from his tutorial series even if you don’t have those plugins.
After Effects scripting & expressions
Animoplex tutorials: There is a set of expression tutorials by Parker Young on YouTube that will give you an excellent start with expressions. Very professionally done, and free. You can opt to pay for the course, which will give you more documentation, high definition videos, projects files, and extra tutorial content. The paid content is available here, and is set at name your own price.
After Effects scripting help (direct link to that forum) at Creative Cow (describe in “General media production” above) is a good source of information.
Dan Ebberts: Dan Ebberts’ Motion Script website offers a scripting resource for writing After Effects expressions. A side note: Dan Ebberts developed the original inverse kinematic (IK) and Bezier IK expressions used in Duik. He also contributes a lot to Creative Cow where his answers have solved my After Effects problems many times.
J J Gifford: jjgifford.com offers scripting instruction and covers a lot of information about writing expressions.
1I am not associated with lynda.com (now Linkedin Learning) in any way, other than being an occasional customer, and receive no benefits from lynda.com if you decide to purchase a subscription.