walk cycle animation blueprint

Walk Cycle Animation Blueprint: A how to tutorial

Walk cycle animation blueprint covers the overall approach to animating a normal walk so you know where you’re going before you even start animating.

If you want to be a professional animator working in movies or games for a living – one of the first things that you’ll want to animate WELL – is a walk.

After all there is a reason Richard William’s book focused so much on learning walks.

And no matter if you animate in 2D or 3D you’ll be able to apply all that you’ve learned in this video to get great results.

So lets dig in.

First off, What is a walk cycle animation?

walk cycle animation
walk cycle animation looped

In a normal walk cycle animation a character takes two steps in 1 second (24 frames). But the first and the last step hook up into the same pose so that it can be looped again and again.

This allows a character to appear to cover ground without actually moving anywhere.

Cycles ares most commonly used in video games to develop interactive moves for the characters you’re playing.

And it’s also used in the 2D animation world to prevent extra drawing when all you need to do is slide a background.

But for your learning sake, a walk cycle has long served as a benchmark for animators that are on their way.

So how do we animate a walk cycle?

A Walk Cycle Animation needs 4 key poses

walk cycle animation key poses

These poses will be our visual formula for what happens in real life.

The first pose is the contact position. Both feet are in contact with the ground and the weight of the body is split between each leg.

We’ll need 3 contact poses. On frame 1 will have the left leg forward on frame 13 will have the right leg forward and on frame 25 it will be a repetition of frame 1

The second most important pose for a walk is the passing pose. One foot is planted on the ground while the other is lifted. And both feet are passing to the next contact pose.

This is where a walk first starts to show life because there are breakdown keys.

It’s adding change to our animation right in the middle of each step on frame 7 and frame 19.

The hips are generally a touch higher than they are in a contact so we establish a bit of up and down – between the 2 poses – a tiny sense of gravity and weight.

The final two poses in the walk take all of that to the next level.

They are the up and the down poses. They define…well…ya.. the  extreme UP and down moments of the walk where the head is highest and lowest.

With these poses included our eyes can read the weight of the character very clearly.

In the down pose we get compression in the whole body.  Not only is the character at his lowest point in vertical space – but there’s a big bend in the knee on the planted foot as the hips and the spine curl forward on frame 4 and 16.

In the up pose we get the opposite – of COURSE – an extension. A stretch to the planted foot – with a tilt up and back in the hips and spine on frame 9 and 22.

Now lets break down each pose of a walk cycle animation

walk cycle animation key pose breakdown

In the contact position the hips are rotated towards the leg that’s forward because that’s what pulls the leg into position.

The arms are opposite what the legs are doing for natural momentum. And the upper body gets the arms into position, by opposing the hips while at the same time helping to keep us balanced.

As walking is a process of falling forward and catching ourselves – we tend to be rotated slightly forward throughout a normal walk.

The faster a character moves, like in a run, the more we tend to rotate forward as we go.

If we were adding personality to a walk we could ignore this and add whatever we want but we’re trying to keep it basic for this tutorial.

In the passing position the weight of our bodies counter balances overtop of a foot that’s still flat on the ground.

This allows us in real life to keep from falling to the ground as our other foot is in the air.

The arms are almost halfway as they pass to next pose but they slightly favor where they came before. It is also the lowest point for the shoulder to swing through with the arms in a generic walk

In the UP pose the planted foot is pushing us up to our highest point in the walk while the hips and spine are tilting back.

In the DOWN position the hips and the spine are bending forward to their extreme. Whereas the arms are at their widest point in the walk.

This is the complete visual formula for a basic walk.

You may already be wondering about personality though.

How can I make a character that’s confident, depressed, or relaxed?

Altering any part of a basic walk cycle animation creates personality

walk cycle animation personality

If we start altering this basic walk formula – personality will start to appear.

Shifting the timing, spacing,  exaggerating elements, or altering the poses – any of this will dramatically change the attitude of a walk.

Which in turn opens the door to acting and story.

But to really understand it you’ll first need the animation experience of a basic walk.

And Now Your Ready to Start Animating

walk cycle animation visual formula

Our Step By Step Walk Cycle Tutorial will walk (badum dum tisch) you through it all to completion.

For a full list of even more walk cycle tutorials (creatures,  personality, etc) go here:

Walk Cycle 3D Animation Tutorials

Or scroll down to get a free run cycle tutorial

Hopefully you’ve picked up some great animation techniques that will take you to the next level. And your having plenty of fun!

Stay tuned for more in the future. Until then…

Happy Animating!

Free Step by Step Run Cycle Tutorial

run cycle tutorial giveaway

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