Rigging my Dragon


I’ve been working hard and have created a Dragon and an Armature to move him.
The armature is fully weight painted and ready to rock and roll. Here he is!

![http://members.shaw.ca/aborsuk/Blender Dragon Capture.jpg](http://members.shaw.ca/aborsuk/Blender Dragon Capture.jpg)

But, I’m having problems figuring out how to put controls on the Armature. I must have looked at a dozen tutorials, but to no avail.

The Auto IK button performs some wonderful things, but I need more control.

  1. How do I tell a bone that it can’t move in relation to the whole body, as with a shoulder blade? I tried Add Contraint - Rigid Body Joint, but couldn’t figure out how to use it.

  2. When I move the tip of the tail a dotted orange line connects it to the Shoulder (my 1st and Main bone). This is a great effect, but how do I switch the connection to the base of the spine.

  3. I noticed that the program automatically pinned the Dragons rear feet to the floor. I assumed it picked up on the fact that I named the bones “Foot”. How can I manually pin a bone like this?

  4. How do I restrict the movement of a particular bone, or free the movement of one? For example I noticed that I can bend the tail upwards, but not downwards and some bones need to be told not to go too far in some direction.

I am very serious about pursuing this project and would appreciate any advice about creating a proper Armature.

Thank you kindly.

Don’t have much time so I can tell you how to use an IK chain

Turn auto IK off

In pose mose, say to make a arm move select the wrist, add a IK constraint and then where it gives the option for chain in that modifier menu bring it up to two (depending on how many bones you have in the arm) and there you go. Play with that first

Nice dragon CitizenOlek!

I would actually recommend leaving auto-IK on, since it will be very useful for animating the tail and wings, as well as any FK limbs as the feature was intended. To create a break in the auto-IK, you can parent the bone using ‘keep offset’ so it is not directly connected to it’s parent. The auto-IK length can also be changed interactively with the mouse wheel while posing.

For the legs and arms you’ll want to setup an IK solver as nicktechyguy suggested. There are plenty of tutorials and examples of that in my signature, so I’ll leave it to you to check them out :slight_smile:

I’ll take a crack at your specific questions too:

1)I’m not necessarily clear on what you mean by “tell a bone that it can’t move in relation to the whole body” but it is very likely that the Rigid Body Joint Constraint is not the tool for the job, since it is used for the game engine. Since your dragon looks very anatomically similar to a horse, you may be interested in these horse rigs for reference.

2)I answered this in the first paragraph…

3)I think the pinning of the feet was likely due to the auto-IK feature, and not a result of the naming. If it is the naming then that is new to me! If you turn auto-IK off does it still keep the feet in place when you move the torso?

4)auto-IK will bend either direction, and can also be used with rotation. So you can rotate the tail joints, and use auto-IK (with adjustable chain length) to get great results. Alternatively, you could also use a curve modifier as was done for Frankie in BBB.

Or you could even design something new if you’re so inclined :slight_smile: I always like seeing new rigging designs and solutions! :cool:


Thanks -feelgoodcomics- for responding.
Heaven knows I need the help.
By the way I’m using Blender 2.49a

Let’s start with just one thing:
2) When I move the tip of the tail a dotted orange line connects it to the Shoulder (my 1st and Main bone). This is a great effect, but how do I switch the connection to the base of the spine.

I’m in Pose mode - I select the bone at the end of the tail (right click) - I hit G - an orange dotted line appears connecting it to the shoulder bone. How do I change that connection to the base of the spine? You mentioned the mouse wheel, but all that does is zoom the View. Don’t forget, I know nothing about rigging. There is no documentation on the Internet about complex rigging in Blender 2.49a beyond the simplest example.

After pressing G the mousewheel will change the chain length (while the orange dotted line is visible). If you want to make sure the chain can never effect past a certain point, then unparent the bone and re-parent it using ‘keep offset’.

There is very little documentation for advanced rigging in Blender, but there are many great tutorials users have made that explain the concepts and how the components work. Once you understand them, it becomes easier to design the configurations you need, for any character or scenario. I would recommend checking out those tutorials, if you haven’t already, since they will each teach you something useful. By the time you’ve understood the concepts presented in them, I’m sure rigging will make much more sense :slight_smile:

Feel free to ask more specific questions in this thread, of course… but it may help to communicate if you have experience using rigging components and understand how they work to some degree. And I don’t mean you have to rig a character to do it, just start a new file, and make an armature with a couple of bones, and play around with them using the constraints to see what kinds of behaviours you can get them to do.

Rigging after all is just putting the components together to create ‘realistic’/‘intuitive’ movement for characters or objects. So it is important to familiarize yourself with what is available in the ‘tool box’ -bones, constraints, deformers (lattices/meshdeform), drivers, and modifiers. Also take a look at rigs other users have made, and figure out how they work by taking them apart and analyzing them… figure out why they were designed the way they were, and think about how they could be designed differently or more efficiently.

Obviously there is quite a learning curve, but it is really fun once you begin to grasp the concepts behind it. Atleast I think so :slight_smile:

I am actually working on a dragon-like character myself which is anatomically very similar to what you are doing here (except cartoonier and goofier). I plan to have the rig completed soon, and will release it in the rigging thread I started, when it is complete, so you’ll be able to take it apart and get ideas from it as well…

I use a trial and error system with a lot of the things I’ve learned, but this is far too complex for that. I need to know specifically what to do to control the movement of this armature. If someone will just help me with the tail, maybe I can apply that knowledge to the rest of the rig.

Using the mouse wheel after hitting G does what you said - it shortens the chain length, but unfortunately it does that for the entire rig not just the tail.

You also mentioned unparenting the bones, but I do not understand! The bone at the end of the tail is a child of the bone next to it not the bone representing the shoulder.

Could you quickly answer this - Why are the feet pinned to the floor? (with Auto IK on and while trying to move the entire dragon with the MAIN shoulder bone selected) And how do I un-pin them?

Okay, well first I want to be clear that the auto-IK system is simply a tool for posing the bones. It has nothing to do with animating the character, it simply allows you to pose the character quickly and easily in an intuitive way.

The way it works is if you select the hub of a joint hierarchy (like the shoulders/chest in your case), then the auto-IK will try to keep all the ends of any child joint chains in place (as happens with the arms, feet, and likely the tail - and maybe the head depending on your parenting setup). Whereas if you select a bone at the end or middle of a chain, it will work the other way - going up the chain instead of down. If you were to grab the left toe for example, then the right leg would most likely not try to stay in place, nor the tail.

To answer your specific question about the tail, try this:

  • go into edit mode and select the last/top bone that you want to be part of the tail auto-IK system (near the hips)
  • press alt+p to unparent it from the hierarchy
  • shift+click to select the bone you just unparented it from (so you have both selected, parent selected second), and press ctrl+p to parent it back in, but this time choose ‘keep offset’ in the options
  • move the end of the tail with the auto-IK length set to 0 (mousewheel), and it should only be able to effect up to that bone

To use the auto-IK in a full rig, it is common practice to parent each limb (tail, wings, legs, arms) with ‘keep offset’ so the auto-IK will only effect the active limb and not the whole body. Yes, the whole body can create a nice effect, but it offers very little control when animating to have it set up that way (since you will be animating in FK - meaning the bones aren’t actually locked in place as they appear to be, again: it’s just for posing).

I do know that trial and error works for learning rigging as well, because that is how I have learned it :slight_smile: after watching some tutorials to get introduced to some of the main concepts, tinkering is the best way to learn!

I know a lot of people seem to have the idea that rigging is a ‘cookie cutter’ kind of process and that there is a ‘right way’ and a ‘wrong way’ to rig. Really there are only efficient and inefficient rigs. At the end of the day, if it does what you need it to then it’s ‘right’ :wink:

I think it is far more useful to think of the rigging components like lego pieces. True, they are much more complex, but when you understand them individually then you are able to put them together to create whatever it is you need. Otherwise you will be limited to copying the work of others. Which is alright I suppose, if you aren’t too interested in learning rigging, but I find having the ability to design a character yourself is much more fun :smiley:

Do not underestimate what you can learn from the work others have done, even if the characters are entirely different from yours. The concepts are similar, and many of the mechanisms are useful in multiple situations.

Gotta thank you!
I implemented what you said and it is working very well. That was just the info I needed.
All the limbs are now moving on their own without affecting the other parts of the Dragon.
I’ve also discovered that after moving a part in a radical manner, flaws in my weight painting are revealed and I’ve been correcting that.

Thanks again, I really appreciate your patience.