Resources3DWritten by Ben TrajeDisclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you buy something we get a small commission at no extra cost to you(learn more)
The best way to start animating is through practice.
And if you’re brand new then using a pre-built rig is the way to go. While there are tutorials on how to rig for yourself, it will take you several months to get moving with the process. Learning animation is already a huge undertaking. Learning it with a substandard rig will make the whole experience unbearable.
To save you some time we’ve compiled free quality rigs specially-made for anyone using Maya.
These range from simple body mechanics rigs to advanced facial rigs. The list also covers various biped, quadruped, and other creature models. Most of these rigs are stylized but the same principle applies to realistic animations.
Take note that while the rigs are free, this doesn’t mean you can freely use them in your short film. Be sure to check each rig’s license to make sure you’re not breaching any guidelines on commercial use.
Anthro is a bipedal rig that features switchable IK and FK arms, convenient breath control and a dynamic tail option.
You’ll also get to animate padding props available in the pelvis control.
For the dynamic tail you need to enable it by switching the DYN FK attribute from 10 to 0 under the COG control. If you’re comfortable with Maya this shouldn’t be too tough, although there are tutorials online to help.
This character is modeled and textured properly which should give your project a nice “polished” vibe.
Also even though this is a tiger, it is not meant for quadruped locomotion. The rig is ideal for those going for heavy action calisthenics such as Kung Fu Panda’s Tigress.
Tre Vital, the creator, released a rig demo video which is definitely worth a watch.
Want to practice with a character from Blue Sky’s Ferdinand?
This water buffalo character is perfect for any such exercise.
This quadruped ox comes with dedicated facial controls and standard IK and FK switch for the limbs. The final rig looks flawless and it’s really a fun way to dive into 3D animation, assuming you have the right Maya learning materials.
Malcolm is a production-proven animation rig from AnimSchool, an online animation school with teachers hailing from DreamWorks, Disney, and Pixar.
With a completely revamped second version of the rig, you now have multiple attire changes ranging from a farmer to a construction worker. All changes can be done through its own dedicated body and facial picker.
Malcolm is highly optimized so that even while it’s packed with the essential cartoony features, it still runs at real-time. You can check a comprehensive walkthrough of the rig in this video which is surprisingly comprehensive.
Well it’s really a well-modeled quadruped rig that is guaranteed to look awesome in your project.
The legs are packed with several pivot controls that function just as you’d expect. It has dedicated facial controls with tweaker controls for advance manipulation. The facial rigs are easy enough to manipulate and hit several expressions too.
If you’re new to animating quadrupeds this will be a challenge. Yet by the end I guarantee you’ll learn a heck of a lot about animal locomotion.
The Lily and Snout rig is a fruitful collaboration between Artella and Sketchfab.
The aim is to showcase animation in a VR platform. Lily is a cute little girl accompanied by her adorable oversized pet dragon. The rigs come with only IK limbs but with stretchy features. They are most likely constrained with joint counts.
As this was made in VR, the rig only has rudimentary facial controls. You can still do plenty with this since it’s designed as a professional-level resource. You can also see this rig in action in the Sketchfab site.
If you’re interested in this project you can check this dedicated blog post offering a cool behind-the-scenes look at the production process.
Judy has a state of the art facial controller where you don’t actually select any floating controllers, but rather the controllers directly on the face. Moreover it features dynamics for jiggly cheeks and micro facial controls to hit various expressions.
The rig can be mapped into a HumanIK system too. This means you can plug in motion capture data easily.
If you prefer working in Blender you can also download this version as well.
Ray was made to complement CGTarian’s online animation courses. Thankfully the team published this rig and made it available for everyone.
It’s a production-ready rig that is comparable to anything you might find in a detailed 3D animation.
Know why? Because this was made from several artists with experience at DreamWorks Animation!
This has well-deformed facial controls that offer various secondary controls for eyebrows, eyelids, and lips. The eyes have automated eyelid rotation too.
Lips have specialized attributes such as zipping and the head has a hybrid translation and rotation mechanism.
Of course, it comes with the usual cartoony features such as stretchy joints. But unlike the other rigs, this one offers a pinning option. Squash and stretch are available not only on the spine but also on the head.
The obvious caveat here is that it’s a heavy rig. So if you are experiencing less than real time response while working, that’s totally normal!