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As a short background, I'm doing a lot of animation keying in a study of my ideal workflow, typically from Blender to Unreal (or Unity). I've learned a lot about armatures and shape keys; but I have a singular curiosity.

Is it possible, without merging the armatures in any way, to parent a mesh to more than one skeleton at the same time? As in, if I want one set of bones to be the basis for an animation, but without using shape keys, I want to add a portable addition onto it for another animation?

I tried parenting one armature to another, but it didn't seem to want to work on the base mesh.

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You can't parent a mesh to multiple armatures, but you can have multiple armatures deforming a single mesh. As armatures can have multiple bones, it wouldn't normally be needed.

I don't think that any of the following will export to Unreal or Unity, so this would only relate to animations to be rendered using blender -

Parenting the armatures to each other will only move them together in object mode. Within blender, you could use a child of constraint to have multiple armatures move as one in pose mode when desired, you can animate the influence to turn it on/off. This also allows you to parent it to different armatures or bones at different times. Other constraints may also give a desired result.

child of constraint

For an object, you can add as many armature modifiers as you want, each modifier then uses a different armature. Instead of using the Parent->Armature Deform options, you will want to add and set each modifier manually. The catch is that the bone names are used to link bones to which vertex groups they move, unless you are using bone envelopes, that means the armatures will need to use unique bone names between them or multiple bones will move the same vertices.

multiple armature modifiers

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AFAIK, no. The armature has to be the parent of the mesh, and an object can only have one parent.

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