With the SoftMod addon for Blender 2.8x we can quickly add local deformers on a mesh. The plugin is using widget which are actually armatures. Then we can convert a deformation to shapekeys. In this video I show you quickly how to work with the add-on. Instead of using shapekeys we can also have a worklow with the NLA editor.
For those who don’t have access to the video here a short explanation in text .
How the SoftMod Addon works
First select the monkey and press the button “Create” in the add-on. Now click and drag with your mouse, on the monkey’s eye for example, and click again. As a result, you see now a widget close the monkey’s eye. Now we can scale, rotate of move the widget and you see the we are deforming the monkey this way.
Next steps are to adjust the weights if need. For that you press one of the buttons under “Smooth Softmod” or press “Paint Softmod” And if we want to symmetrize there are buttons like: Activate Symmetry, Mirror Weights and Topology Mirror.
One other goal of the addon is to convert deformations to shapekeys. For that, select a widget and press the button “Selected to Shapekeys”. Keep in mind that there has to be a deformation first before making shapekeys. There is also a button Capture Shapekeys, but that gave me an error.
Tips on how to use the SoftMod Addon
What if you make an animation with the widgets straight away. Without converting them first to shapekeys. And once the animation of a widget is done you open the NLA Editor. Once in the NLA editor you press the little triangle behind a track called “Push action down”. Then if you select the strip and press shift+D, you can duplicate the animation. I believe this worflow is a bit faster than animating shapekeys.
Where to download the SoftMod addon?
You can download the SoftMod addon on Gumroad. The add-on is free but you can name a price if you want. (The developer would be very happy with any donation I suppose). Installation is like every other addon. (Download zip, open Blender, edit, preferences, navigate to download zipfile, etc). You can find the addon in the N-Panel.
For a bit more into depth explanation check the video on gumroad made by the developer. This was video is an attempt to show you how to start a bit quicker bit is lacking more details.