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How to Create Bones for Rigging in Blender: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Before you can start rigging and animating your models, you will need to learn how to add bones. Whether you need a realistic scene or an animated character for an indie game, Blender is an all-in-one solution for designing such assets.

In this article, we will delve into this process of adding bones to your model, starting with taking a closer look at the concept of an armature. Then, we will go through the fundamental steps such as how to add, frame, extrude, and categorize bones, as well as look at some final tips.

Armature and Bones in Blender

An armature is a type of object in Blender, more specifically, it’s a skeleton-like structure that consists of linked bones. Simply put, you can use the bones in an armature to deform other objects. This comes into use when you want to create puppet-like controls for your character animation.

The armature is made of bones that act as unit elements, just like bones in the human skeleton. There is a head and a tail, which are the start and end of a bone, and they can be moved and scaled as required while the body connects them. As they act like any other object in Blender, this means they can be rotated as well.

This is one of the basic first steps for rigging your model as well as later posing and animating. Now that we’ve cleared this up, let’s delve into working with bones Blender.

Related: Getting Started With Blender

Step 1: Add

blender add armature add a single bone

First, we need to add a bone. To do that, follow the below steps:

  1. Go into Object mode by hitting the Tab key.
  2. Hit Shift + A to open the Add menu. It’s worth noting that there are various useful shortcuts in Blender, to view these shortcuts check out our write-up on Blender 3.0 Keyboard Shortcuts.
  3. Navigate to and click on the Armature option, this will add a single bone to the scene.

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Step 2: Frame

frame bone

Now that you’ve added a bone, it’s time to frame it. To do so, ensure that you are in Edit mode by using the Tab key. In this example, we’ve used a character arm that was modeled in Blender.

To frame your bone, follow these steps:

  1. Select the whole bone by pressing the A key.
  2. Rotate it with the R key.
  3. Finally, grab and move it around by hitting the G key while using the mouse to move and align it with the model.

Step 3: Extrude

extrude bones

For the next step, it’s time to extrude the bones. We’ll use one bone as an example. Follow the steps below:

  1. Ensure not to change the mode and let it be in Edit mode.
  2. Click on your bone, and then, to extrude, simply press E. You will notice that a new bone has been created which is now connected to the first bone. This bone can be scaled and aligned accordingly; in this example, we’ve aligned it to the upper arm of our character model.
  3. Now, extrude that bone to make some fingers; these can be aligned with the character’s fingers.
  4. After aligning the bones with the model, remain in Edit mode, and extrude each bone individually.
  5. Scale the bones with the S key.


Once you’ve added all the bones required for the arm, it’s time to categorize them.

Step 4: Categorize

Blender model with automatic weights

During the process of rigging, things may become complicated as more bones are involved. To mitigate this issue, we need to categorize the bones, starting with renaming them.

To categorize your bones, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the bone that you want to rename.
  2. Navigate to the outliner. This is the section that shows all the objects present in the scene as a list on the top-right of the 3D viewport (shown in the image above).
  3. Now, double-click on the highlighted bone and rename it.
  4. Different bones can be categorized by putting them in a collection. Right-click on a bone in the outliner and select New Collection from the menu. The new collection will be created, and the selected bone will be added to it. To add more bones, simply move them into the collection.
  5. Enter Object mode by hitting the Tab key.
  6. Press A to select everything (both the model and the armature).
  7. Parent the object by hitting Ctrl + P.
  8. Now, select With Automatic Weights under the Set Parent To menu.


Congratulations, you’ve successfully added bones to your model in Blender!

Final Tips

The process of adding bones can be complicated, so we’ve compiled some tips for you.

Locking

To prevent unintended changes when working on other bones, you may want to “lock” bones. While in Edit mode, simply hit Shift + W and choose Lock. To disable it, expand the Context Collection Boolean Set (this will show up after you have locked the bone), then click on Disable.

Duplicating

Just as you can duplicate objects, you can do the same for bones. This is very useful if your model has more than one of the same parts, such as its arms or legs. Instead of doing all that work twice, you can duplicate it while in Edit mode. Press Shift + D, and now, the selected bones will be duplicated. You can then move and align them with your model.


Mirroring

When you are modeling, you know that there is no need to do twice the amount of work when you can use the mirror modifier. Likewise, you can create bones for one side of your model, then choose to mirror them to complete the other side.

While in Edit mode, select all the bones you want to be mirrored. Then right-click, select Armature Context Menu, hover over Mirror, and select the axis along which the bones are to be mirrored.

Related: How to Use Reference Images in Blender

Working With Bones in Blender

In this article, we’ve gone through the fundamental steps involved in adding bones to an armature. We then showed you how to prepare them for rigging by categorizing them in the outliner. What are you waiting for? Load up Blender, follow this guide, and prepare your models for being brought to life!


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