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I'm trying to animate a tongue that is licking an object.

tongue

First I thought the tongue could be a soft body colliding with the object that it is licking, however, with that many parameters and options, I didn't even know where to begin. I tried out a whole bunch of different configurations, but couldn't get it to look better than this sad result: https://streamable.com/va8sj

Then I though, since the whole animation does not have to be physically correct, I can just use an armature/bones. Turns out, although this has yielded the best result so far, it is very(!) hard to control the position of the tip of the tongue and at the same time achieve a fluid motion: https://streamable.com/bbzht

It would be way easier to control the tip of the tongue, so I tried inverse kinematics. This feels like the right approach, but I could not figure out how to control the bending of the tongue. https://streamable.com/608kt

Is there any way to use IK for the tip, and FK for the other end of the tongue?

What's the best way to do this?

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    $\begingroup$ I have not much experience rigging, but would using bendy-bones help? $\endgroup$ – Akados Jan 19 '18 at 1:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Akados I hadn't heard of bendy-bones before, but they definitely look very promising! thx $\endgroup$ – kindoflike Jan 19 '18 at 18:50
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Lickedy Split - Easy Tongue Rig with a Single Bendy Bone

That method works extremely well for all sorts of short bendy things, tails, tentacles, tongues, you name it. Only having 3 controllers for all of it makes animating a snap, too.

Bendy Bone Tongue Rig - Controllers

I just want to add, that a couple of modifiers in combination with the mesh are useful: First, a Subdivision Surface Modifier, to make sure there is enough geometry there to be deformed and after the Armature Modifier a Corrective Smooth Modifier to resolve any warping and breaking that the Bendy Bone might inflict on the surface. They are prone to doing that.

Modifier Stack for Bendy Bone Tongue Rig

Minor Update: you can make the rig a lot faster by making the armature move the lo-poly model and adding the Subdivision Surface Modifier AFTER the Armature Modifier. Sorry about that.

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I ended up using bendy bones – which are essentially a number of bones aligned to a spline, whose control points can be animated.

I found this youtube tutorial very helpful. using drivers to map the position of an object to a parameter of the spline is a neat trick.

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