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I have my character all rigged up and I made a basic walk cycle. Now it's time to animate the character climbing a short cliff face. After that he'll walk a short distance, jump and fly away.

Is there a way to save animations for later reuse, similar to the pose library? That would allow me to do the walk animation once, save it, then reuse it after the character climbs the cliff. Or do I need to animate the walk twice? What if I want this character to have the same walk again in another scene?

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  • $\begingroup$ one possibility is to export it as e.g. fbx file or any other format which can handle animations. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 5:10
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    $\begingroup$ have you looked into the NLA Editor? $\endgroup$
    – Harry McKenzie
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 5:27

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You can use the Asset Browser to store and import actions. Even though for now the way to do it isn't as handy as it could be ; you can't just RMB RMB > save an animation into a new file, and importing the animation to a scene isn't just a simple drag'n'drop like other assets.

I will use one of my projects as examples:

enter image description here

Two characters with each an armature, and a prop with an armature.

Saving the animation

In Blender, animations are stored in "actions" data-blocks, these are what we can save and import later. Think of it as a video clip containing your keyframes.

You can see them in the Dopesheet editor set to Action Editor Mode:

enter image description here

Or in the Outliner set to Blender File Display Mode:

enter image description here

It has some caveats to be aware of:

  1. Actions store only keyframes
  2. For now (it's planned to be changed in the future releases of Blender), each object animation is stored in a different action, and each object's data level is also stored in a different action. Which means in our case:
  • Animating an armature object and animating its bones will give you two different actions.
  • I have three armatures: Snow, Rain and the glass, that's three actions to store.
  • The glass root bone is constrained to the Snow's hand bone, I have to bake that constraint into keyframes (menu Pose > Animation > Bake Action, Enable Visual Keying and Clear Constraints.
  • If you make use of Custom Properties in your animation, they have to be created on the bones in the armature, not on the armature object.

Mark asset libraries

For now, marking actions as asset will not allow us to import them as actions, they can only be used for poses. We need to save the armature object instead.

Go in the outliner, RMB RMB the armature > Mark as Asset:

enter image description here

You know it worked because of the asset library icon added to the action data-block:

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You can select multiple armatures and mark them as assets in one go.

You should also already be able to see that asset in the Asset Browser.

enter image description here

You could stop here, but you might instead want to save this externally.

Save as external files

You don't have to do that, but it's a common workflow to store only the strict minimum data you can in a different file: lightweight, less prone to data loss, easy to update.

For this, we can use the addon io_export_blend to save the asset externally:

  1. ↹ Tab into Object Mode
  2. Select the armature
  3. Menu File > Export > Blender (.blend) or RMB RMB the armature in the outliner > Export to .blend
  4. Save your file with a nice name somewhere in your Asset Libraries

Once this is done, you can open the Asset Browser and go in the Unassigned catalog, you should see that action twice, one with the "current file" icon on it because it's in the current file, one without that icon because it's the one we exported to another file.

enter image description here

From there, since we saved the action externally, you can un-mark it as asset from the current file using RMB RMB > Clear Asset:

enter image description here

Good to know: if you use this addon, there is an option to mark as asset while you select the destination:

enter image description here

So you could in theory skip the asset marking-unmarkin and use that option instead.

Importing the animation

Drag the asset from the browser to the viewport, it should append/link (according to your preferences) the armature with the action.

Select the armature you want to import the action into, and in the Action Editor, select the action you imported in the Actions list:

enter image description here

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Toggle on the shield icon next to the animation name. That gives it a "fake user" so it won't disappear when you close blender.

I used to create a cube to hold attributes I didn't want to disappear. I think many people did that and that may be why the toggle is called fake user. Just a guess :)

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