Animate character putting on clothing items

So, I wanted to be able to have my character actually animate putting and taking off various clothing items. Which is something I don’t really see anyone doing and seems kinda tricky. Does anyone have any ideas of good ways to do this?

You’ll need (at least) two copies of each item of clothing. One that’s surface deformed or fitted to the body somehow. Once the item is partially off the body, that object switches (instantaneously ) with the other copy. This other one has cloth simulation. The pin group is whatever is still on the body.

You’ll probably need at least three objects- say, 70% of it is pinned, 30% of it is pinned, 0% is pinned. You can parent the copies to the original and keyframe visibility. It’s still going to be a gigantic pain- there’s a reason that you don’t actually see outfit changes when you swap skins in a game

I never saw believable animation with character putting clothes on. But I’ve managed partially make some cloth pieces animatable as if it’s cover body parts. I’ve made bunch of shapekeys representing “stages” of cloth. Each keyframe then separately has been binded by surface modifier to character body, so I’ve get surface deform modifiers stacked on cloth mesh. In order to animate cloth I’ve used drivers on each modifiers influence from 0 to 1 going from first down to last modifier. So transitions from each modifier are smooth. That’s way I’ve managed to make sweater wrap body from upper part of chest to the rest position as if sweater is wraping whole body down to pelvis. But I didn’t tried to make animatable whole cloth with sleeves and neck part - it’s too much work for me if it’s even possible at all. Sometimes transitions doesn’t work well especially at breasts area, so I had to tweak according shapekeys to get rid off clipping. I think this way can be animated clothes like skirt or something like that.

Hope my English isn’t that bad so you could get basic idea. Happy blending!


Yeah, it’s kinda a hard problem… Mostly because as you move the cloth that was weighted for the skeleton its in the wrong place now so it’s deforming wrong, but some of it still needs to follow the skeleton… Its like it needs animated bone weights or something…?

I tried using an extra set of bones but that wasn’t really working… Many many shape keys seem like a possibility but also a pain…

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@netherby this quote sums it up really well, you can make a few hundred shape keys or sculpt each frame by hand and it’s still not going to look great, because this is a universal limitation of 3D animation.

There is a bit of a hack here- while simulating this is insanely complicated and difficult, it’s actually not too hard to draw. If by some chance you’re going for a hand drawn look here, you can just use grease pencil for the outfit change, and trace over some live footage


Shape Keys, either on Relative or Absolute (Non-Relative) might work well on that approach. It can be lots of Sculpting/Modelling work though.

Morphs will give you the freedom to ignore many Rigging issues.
You just create extra Shape Keys according to the current needs of the character’s movements and Poses on Key Framed animations.

With Unchecked Relative Option (Asbolute), you might want to have Duplicates of a cloth Mesh Objects; as each different Duplicate will have a different Shape Keys Panel sequence of morphs/Shape Keys, according to the specific needs of a singular animation. So you animate first the character, and then you make (literally create, Sculpt/Model) the morphs on top of the characters Key Framed Poses, on this approach.

With Checked Relative Option, this is probably what @joseph is saying: you’d need plenty of morphs/Shape Keys on a single cloth Mesh Object; you’ll try to reuse them, but it might be quite confusing. This method is more focused on reusing morphs on different animations, but it doesn’t mean you can’t create more morphs after (or as) you animate/Pose the character (just as previously).

I have some experience in 2D Traditional Animation; this is quite challenging to animate on that technique. In 3D Animation, at least you have automatic 3D spacial reference for the objects, so you must be concerned about how the character moves in space (the forces involved in dealing with clothes) and how to Key Frame the morphs/Shape Keys of the clothes more like as if it were a Secondary Action of the body. Of course, any 3D trick that would help with automation would be nice… for example, if you get Shrinkwrap Modifier Applied as Shape Key, on a Relative (turned ON) system for Shape Keys, you can control the Influence amount of “Shrinkwrapcy” of the cloth Mesh Object to the body, but this Object Modifier originally gets trouble when there are plenty of Mesh contacts (and there should be a lot on those animations I guess); but with lower influence (as a Shape Key), it could become worthy —can’t be sure without experimentation.

Also, for the Weight Painting issue: one idea is that you can also Apply Armature Modifier as a Shape Key for a cloth Mesh Object; to control its influence. Maybe it would be wise to have 2 Armature Modifiers, 1 of them the original one, and the other as the Applied one (that will disappear from Object Modifiers’ list).
But you can Add Driver to Realtime and Render, from Visibility functions of Object Modifiers; maybe this suggests you can Key Frame these functions into the animation (this I’m not sure of). I know you can Key Frame stages of morphs of Shape Keys from the Shape Keys Panel.


Hmm so basically what everyone is saying: Is it’s difficult and time consuming and the tools don’t really lend themselves to doing it, but basically Shape Keys are the best answer?

After about 4 hours and 7 shape keys I’ve managed to get a rough but almost believable animation of moving the top from the chest to the left shoulder, so now just the arm area is attached on the left (can probably mirror the keys for the right mostly). I tried using the cloth sculpting brush, but the results weren’t great so mostly had to move the verts by hand >_<

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