Since graduating from the National Film and Television School, London-based Jonathan Topf has worked as a director and animator. He mainly works in 3D, but enjoys the challenge of inventing something for a job, be that some custom software or a strange camera rig to get the right shot.

In this tutorial, director and animator Jonathan Topf details the steps involved in designing a believable shadow puppet character that appears to be made of paper. You’ll trace the character’s parts in Photoshop, then animate the elements in After Effects. He’ll guide you through the techniques you’ll need to create a simple but engaging character: rigging, parenting and use of blending modes.

Jonathan says that while the techniques and principles shown here aren’t too complex, they can be applied to any style you like and are applicable to more complicated character setups in After Effects or even 3D suites such as Maya.

To help you follow along, he has provided his character design as a Photoshop PSD, the background and light box files, plus the final After Effects project for reference.

Time to complete 

3 hours


After Effects, Photoshop

Project files

Files for this tutorial are downloadable from here.

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