AnimSchool instructor Janel Drewis breaks down the basic steps, and how video reference is used as an aid to achieve believable character movement.
Achieving a natural and convincing walk is deceptively simple. A successful walk cycle animation requires a keen eye for the intricacies of human movement. It involves mastering complex details such as weight distribution, timing, balance, and coordination all while ensuring the character’s movement matches their personality.

Walk cycles do not employ any one specific Principle of Animation – a good walk cycle incorporates each principle in some manner. Because walks are so familiar to the human eye, audiences are extremely aware and can easily identify when a walk looks off or is not believable.

Main Poses of a Bipedal Walk Cycle

  • Contact: front heel makes contact with the ground
  • Down: hips are at their lowest; “bottom” position
  • Passing: back leg passes the front leg
  • Up: hips are at their highest; “top” position

Walk Timing
In a standard walk cycle, the four poses above are spaced evenly throughout. Most people walk “on 12s,” which means they take one step every 12 frames, or roughly two steps every second at 24fps. Animating walk cycles on 16s or 8s was more popular in older 2D animation because animators did not have to split the drawings on thirds like they would have for animating on 12s.

Other Tips
When looking at a reference video, make note of how much the hips drop/rise and how straight/bent the legs are. Additionally, pay attention to the spacing of the feet between frames; this will affect the ease in/out between steps.
To loop your walk cycle, ensure that the pose of your final frame matches your initial frame – you can do this by copying and pasting the initial frame. This will ensure seamless looping. To play this loop continuously, select everything and activate Curves > Pre Infinity > Cycle with Offset and Curves > Post Infinity > Cycle with Offset.

Watch the full excerpt from a live AnimSchool lecture below:

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