In this tutorial I will show how to rig a character with Blender using the addon Rigify. To rig a character means in simple words to set in the bones and joints for it, put them at the right place and assign the bones to the mesh to get a result like this:
To add a single bone is simple: In Object-Mode press Shift+A key, select Armature and then Single bone. A bone will be placed into the canvas and you can rotate, scale and move it like any other blender object. When you select the joint of a bone and press E-key you can add another bone to the joint. The direction of a bone in 3D-space can be changed by selectig the joint and moving it (M-key).
In Blender (>= 2.56 I think) the Rigify addon is integrated. You can activate it in the User Preferences->Addons->Rigify. With this addon you can add a full skeleton instead of just simple bones. Press Shift+A -> Armature -> Human (meta-rig) and a full human armature is added to the canvas.
Select the armature in Object-Mode and bring it to the center position (0,0,0). Your model should have the same position and the same pivot-point. Scale your mesh so that it fits the size of the armature.
Then switch to Edit-mode and bring the single bones to the matching positions. To see the bones through your mesh, enable the X-ray option for the armature:
Skinning means that you map your mesh to the armature. To do this, select first the mesh in Object-Mode, then the armature (rig) in Object-Mode and then press Ctrl-P key and choose With Automatic Weights.
With your armature selected go to Pose-Mode (Ctrl-Tab). When you select a bone now and rotate, scale of move it, you will see that your mesh will follow this transformations. Your model is skinned now.
Test some bones and rotations and check if the bones have the right position:
If not, switch to Edit-Mode and change the position of the bones to a better matching.
Where to go from here?
We used Rigify to rig our model because we made use of the default human armature. But that’s not all Rigify has to offer. In a next tutorial we will see how we create a rig from our meta-rig and widgets to control the bones with – make it ready for animation.