Best ball socket armature for stop motion | Top options for life-like characters

by Joost | Last Updated: September 20, 2022
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Those cool-looking stop motion animation figures and characters you see in stop motion films and short videos are usually made out of ball and socket armature.

The big studios all use professional armatures made of wire or plastic with moveable socket joints.

But what if you don’t want to spend lots of money on a pre-assembled armature?

Best ball socket armature for stop motion | Top options for life-like characters

When it comes to ball and socket armatures, you can buy the wire online to make your own armature for the stop motion puppets.

The K&H Metal Puppet Figure for Character Design Creation is a metal wire armature kit you can easily move because it has plenty of flexible joints. This allows you to make your characters appear to have realistic movements in your stop motion film.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to some of the best ball socket armatures on the market.

Playmobil petting zoo stop motion
Playmobil petting zoo stop motion

We’ll also give you a buying guide so that you can find the perfect one for your needs, and then I’ll show you how to make your own ball socket armature.

First, check out the list of the armatures you need:

Best ball socket armature for stop motionImages
Best metal ball socket armature & best armature kit for stop motion: K&H Metal Puppet Figure for Character Design CreationBest metal ball socket armature & best armature kit for stop motion- K&H Metal Puppet Figure for Character Design Creation
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Best plastic ball socket wire for stop motion: 1 Foot 1/4″ Jeton Ball Socket Flexible Armature M03019Best plastic ball socket wire for stop motion- 1 Foot 1:4 Jeton Ball Socket Flexible Armature M03019
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Best plastic armature kit with connectors for stop motion: Jeton Ball Socket Flexible Armature + Chest ConnectorsBest plastic armature kit with connectors for stop motion: Jeton Ball Socket Flexible Armature + Chest Connectors 
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Best jeton pliers for stop motion: Loc-Line 78001 Coolant Hose Assembly PliersBest jeton pliers for stop motion- Loc-Line 78001 Coolant Hose Assembly Pliers
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Best wood armature for stop motion: HSOMiD 12” Artists Wooden ManikinBest wood armature for stop motion: HSOMiD 12'' Artists Wooden Manikin
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Best action figure armature for stop motion: Action Figures Body-Kun DXBest action figure armature for stop motion- Action Figures Body-Kun DX
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Buying guide

Here’s what you need to keep an eye out for when buying or making ball and socket armatures

Material

You’ve got a couple of options here: metal or plastic (jeton) ball and socket armature.

If you’re looking for an armature that’s going to give you a lot of movement and durability, then you’ll want to go with a metal wire armature.

These are also great if you’re planning on doing a lot of re-positioning of your figure during animation, as they can take a lot of wear and tear.

Plastic armatures are going to be lighter and cheaper, but they’re not as durable. Also, they can’t hold as much weight as metal armatures.

I would recommend these if you’re just starting out and aren’t sure how much movement you’ll need in your figure.

But don’t worry, plastic jeton is actually very flexible once you get the hang of it.

Professional animators like to use ball and socket armatures.

These can be constructed in standard sizes and customized sizes. This armature type can be used for prolonged production.

The joints can be kept in position for a long time if they are tight enough for your clamping requirements. Also, you can adjust their tightness to your preference.

This means removing the screw holes on the puppet’s skin.

They could come in various kinds of metal like stainless steel, mild steel, or carbon steel. It’s usually available in standard sizes of 12′′ x 11′′.

I also quickly want to mention wooden mannequin armatures since they have balls and sockets, too, so they’re a good option but not as popular with animators.

Size

You’ll want to take into account the size of your project when you’re choosing an armature.

For example, if you’re making a small figure that’s only going to be a few inches tall, then you don’t need a huge armature.

Conversely, if you’re making a life-size figure or an animal, then you’ll need a much bigger armature to support all that weight.

When buying wire like jeton, consider the thickness of the material. The thicker it is, the sturdier it will be.

Type of ball and socket armature

There are two main types of armatures: multi-jointed and single-jointed.

Multi-jointed armatures are going to give you a lot of movement and flexibility in your figure.

They’re perfect for stop motion animation because they can imitate all the different human and animal motions.

Single-jointed armatures are much simpler, and as such, they’re not as expensive. They’re also easier to work with because there are fewer moving parts.

However, they don’t offer as much flexibility in terms of movement.

Flexible joints

The advantage of ball and socket armatures is that they don’t have fixed joints and instead have flexible joints which allow for a wide range of movement.

Ball and socket joints allow you to imitate natural human movement with your puppets.

This is important for stop motion animation because it allows the animator to position the puppet in any number of positions and create the illusion of movement in stop motion movies.

If you’re just starting out, I would recommend getting an armature with flexible joints.

Check exchangeable points (hands, head)

Check if it’s possible to replace the hand or head with another one.

Some armatures come with hands that are already attached, while others come with separate hands that you can attach yourself.

If you’re going to be animating a lot, then you might want to get an armature with interchangeable parts so that you can change out the hands and head as needed.

Weight

The weight of the armature is also an important consideration. If the armature is too light, then it might not be able to support the weight of your figure.

On the other hand, if it’s too heavy, then it will be difficult to move around and position during animation.

You’ll need to find a balance between the two depending on the size and weight of your figure.

Check the number of joints

You might want your characters to replicate a human being, but your armatures must have plenty of flexible joints.

Some armatures are unable to move the shoulder or heel. The knees are also a problem for many armatures.

To make sure that your armature is able to replicate human movement, check the number of joints.

The more joints, the better. But keep in mind that more joints also means more expense.

Ball socket armature for stop motion reviewed

Now let’s have a look at some of the best options available when it comes to stop motion ball socket armature.

Best metal ball socket armature & best armature kit for stop motion: K&H Metal Puppet Figure for Character Design Creation

Metal puppet armature kits are more expensive than plastic ones, but they’re also more durable and offer a wider range of movement.

The K&H Metal Puppet Figure is a great option for those who want to create stop motion animation with professional armatures.

Best metal ball socket armature & best armature kit for stop motion- K&H Metal Puppet Figure for Character Design Creation

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This kit includes double-jointed balls as well as the socket joints so you can create any kind of character you want.

The DIY Studio Stop Motion armature can be easily assembled by adults and even kids, regardless of skill level.

Thus, it’s suitable for both beginners and more experienced animators.

What’s special about this armature is that the torso joints, as well as the shoulders, are anatomically correct.

This means that you can mimic natural human movement. Even the knees and toes are flexible and malleable to your needs.

You can precisely perform things like shruggings or front and back moves.

This helps you animate better since your characters can be more mobile compared to a clay puppet, for example.

Another advantage is the fixed joints with just one pivot point, which makes the character easy to work with when shooting the photos for stop motion.

This armature is made of steel, which gives it a high degree of durability.

The ball joints are also made of steel, which makes them very strong and resistant to wear and tear.

Also, the joint plates are sturdy and don’t feel flimsy.

The K&H Metal Puppet Figure is also lightweight yet durable and quite sturdy, so it doesn’t topple over.

The only downside of this armature is that it’s a bit more expensive than the plastic ones. But the price is justified by the fact that it’s reusable over and over again.

This armature kit also includes the additional tools you need to tighten and loosen the joints.

Overall, compared to other metallic armatures, the stop motion Diy studio armature is the best value because it’s not as expensive as the kits you can get from the studios but still easy to work with and of good quality.

Plus, you can get various sizes of puppets to suit your needs.

Check the latest prices here

If you do prefer clay puppets, have a look at my review of the best armature for claymation characters

Best plastic ball socket wire for stop motion: 1 Foot 1/4″ Jeton Ball Socket Flexible Armature M03019

The most cost-effective solution for making armature is to use the jeton ball socket because it’s very flexible and easy to work with when making DIY puppets and figurines.

This material is also known as flexible modular armature.

Best plastic ball socket wire for stop motion- 1 Foot 1:4 Jeton Ball Socket Flexible Armature M03019

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The jeton armature is made of PVC and is 1/4″ in diameter, which makes it perfect for smaller figures.

It’s also only 1 foot long, so it’s not too big or unwieldy to work with.

This armature is perfect for stop motion beginners because it’s very affordable and easy to use.

This armature features fixed joints, so it’s not quite as versatile.

To make your figure, you have first to create the head, then the torso, and then the legs and arms.

Once you have all the parts, you can start assembling your figure and use connectors too.

As soon as you start using the jeton wire, you’ll realize that it’s easy to use and bend since these materials are very flexible.

You will also need to use jeton pliers (aka coolant hose pliers) in order to grip the wire and make precise bends.

The most important thing to keep in mind when working with wire is that you have to be careful not to over-bend it or else it will break.

The only downside is that jeton is not as durable as metal armatures, but the upside is that it’s easily assembled using connectors.

You can use this material for most character designs but can’t mimic realistic movement quite as well as models with flexible ball joints.

Practically, the jeton wire doesn’t have the same types of joints or interchangeable parts, and some might find this a bit of a letdown.

Animators who are looking for a quick way to make stop motion armatures like to use this material as the skeleton or “base” for their characters.

Check the latest prices here

Metal wire armature vs Jeton wire

When it comes to choosing the right armature, it comes down to how crafty you’re feeling.

As easy as jeton is to work with, you still have to do some cutting, assembling, and crafting to make your armature.

The metal wire armature is more customizable and has more joints (i.e., toe joints), so you can create a wider range of movement with your character.

Professionals consider that the metallic puppets are the best armatures because they are more durable, have a better range of motion, and can be used over and over again.

The jeton wire is great for beginners or people who want to experiment with different character designs.

It’s also a good choice if you’re on a budget since it’s very affordable.

The main downside of jeton is that it’s not as durable as metal, but it’s still a good choice.

Both materials can easily be covered in modeling clay for claymation too.

Best plastic armature kit with connectors for stop motion: Jeton Ball Socket Flexible Armature + Chest Connectors

Looking for a complete kit that’s ready to use instantly?

Then check out this plastic armature kit that comes with 16mm ball socket joints, 2 Y-connectors, and 2 X-connectors.

Best plastic armature kit with connectors for stop motion: Jeton Ball Socket Flexible Armature + Chest Connectors 

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The kit also includes 2 feet of 16mm PVC armature wire.

This is a great option if you want to get started with stop motion right away and don’t want to worry about putting everything together yourself.

The kit is also great for those looking for an alternative to wire armatures.

One concern I have is that you can make a decent-sized stop-motion puppet, but that’s about it.

You might have to order more wire if you want to make a larger character or several puppets.

Also, you get only 4 connectors, so you might not be able to create your desired pose.

When using this type of jeton wires, you have to create other fingers and toes for your armature. But you can do that using clay, so it’s not a big setback.

Check the latest prices here

Best jeton pliers for stop motion: Loc-Line 78001 Coolant Hose Assembly Pliers

In order to assemble and bend the jeton socket armature, you need a good handy set of coolant hose assembly pliers.

The pliers need to be small and have a good grip.

You also want to make sure that the jaws of the pliers are serrated so you can get a good grip on the wire.

Best jeton pliers for stop motion- Loc-Line 78001 Coolant Hose Assembly Pliers

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I recommend the Loc-Line brand because they make high-quality products at a budget price.

With such pliers, you can connect the components of your armature quickly and easily.

You can also use the pliers to make precise bends in the wire so you can create any kind of character you want.

Check the latest prices here

Best wood armature for stop motion: HSOMiD 12” Artists Wooden Manikin

This wooden mannequin has flexible joints and is easy to pose. Therefore, it’s a great choice for stop motion animation.

Best wood armature for stop motion: HSOMiD 12'' Artists Wooden Manikin

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The mannequin is made of hard wood, which is both lightweight and strong.

It can be used for a variety of artistic projects, but if you want to make easy character designs, then this is the product for you.

The HSOMiD 12” Artists Wooden Manikin Jointed Mannequin comes with 6 joints that allow you to move the arms and legs into any position you want.

It’s also very lightweight so that it won’t weigh down your stop motion set. You can then add costumes, clay, or any other materials to the mannequin to create your character.

While this is a good armature for stop motion, the issue is that it’s hard to disassemble without damaging it, so I would stick to using it as is.

Since the articulated joints move freely and feel well-made, you can animate and mimic natural movements almost as well as with metal wire armatures.

Arm and leg movements are the strong point, whereas the torso is less moveable.

This mannequin is very affordable. Therefore, it’s excellent for beginners and those looking to learn how to work with armature puppets.

Check the latest prices

Best action figure armature for stop motion: Action Figures Body-Kun DX

If you don’t feel like assembling your stop motion armature but still want the mobility of the ball and sockets, action figures are a great solution.

Best action figure armature for stop motion- Action Figures Body-Kun DX

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This small action figure is perfect for action hero stop motion animation.

It comes with 11 points of articulation and pedestal support, so you can pose it in any action scene you can think of.

The figure is made of tough plastic, which makes it durable enough to withstand being handled a lot.

It’s also small enough that you can easily pack it up and take it with you when you travel.

One of the best features is that the articulation is pretty good and sturdy, so it’s not one of those very cheap flimsy plastic figurines.

However, I find that the arm movements don’t look as natural as a metal puppet though since the plastic is quite thick.

But you can add small accessories for fight and battle scenes which makes it a good puppet for stop motion animation.

One downside is that the figure doesn’t come with any accessories, so you’ll have to provide your own.

Also, this plastic material can withstand a lot more than its own weight without toppling over, so it’s best not to over-cover it.

But since it’s poseable and has a support stand, this action figure is a great choice for those who want to create stop motion animation without having to assemble an armature themselves.

Check the latest prices here

Wood vs plastic action figure

Both of these budget-friendly mannequins are great for stop motion animation.

However, there are some key differences between them that you should be aware of before making your decision.

The first difference is that the HSOMiD 12” Artists Wooden Manikin Jointed Mannequin is made of wood, while the Action Figures Body-Kun DX is made of plastic.

Both offer the same level of joint control and are lightweight. However, the plastic figure is more durable and can take more of a beating.

The wood mannequin is more delicate and can be easily damaged if not handled carefully. It’s also more difficult to disassemble without damaging it.

The second difference is the size. The HSOMiD 12” Artists Wooden Manikin Jointed Mannequin is larger than the Action Figures Body-Kun DX.

The larger size makes it easier to work with and add details, but it can also be more cumbersome to carry around.

Read this post if you are looking for ready-made action figures that you can use for stop motion

How to make your own ball socket armature for stop motion

If you’re looking for the best ball socket armature for stop motion, look no further than this tutorial.

In it, you’ll learn how to make your own ball socket armature that will serve you well in any stop motion project.

The first step is to gather your materials.

What parts & supplies to use

You’ll need:

The brass tubing is designed in a way that it elongates and extends like a telescope.

Use the ball links (heavy-duty 4-40) to make the ball joints – it’s an easy trick to save some time.

The joints are going to be crafted out of 1 mm x 6 mm brass stripping.

Instructions

  1. First, you’ll need to draw your character to scale on paper. This will help you determine how big your armature needs to be.
  2. On the drawing, you must mark the spots where the joints will go and make some rough measurements so you know just about how much of each material you need.
  3. Begin by marking the thin brass stripping pieces with the places where the holes will go. Use calipers for this task.
  4. You can use a drill press to make the holes or do it manually. If you’re doing it by hand, first use a smaller drill bit to make a pilot hole.
  5. After that, use the 4-40 tap to thread the holes. It’s a good idea to use some sort of lubricant, so the process is easier.
  6. Test fit all the joints to make sure they’re the right size and that everything moves as it should.
  7. You’ll then need to shape the joints with a file to give them a more natural look.
  8. Hinge joints must be made using the round plastic tubing and the round brass tubing.
  9. You’ll have to cut them so they’re the exact same width as the square brass tubes.
  10. To keep bolts aligned inside the joints without them moving around, you can place plastic tubes inside the brass.
  11. Now it’s time to solder using something like Tix Flux, which will help the process go more smoothly and solders the pieces together since it bonds well.
  12. To make your puppet’s hip block, you need some more brass tubes. You need to cut a piece out of the larger tube, so you remain with a u-shape at the top. This is how you’ll make the t-joint.
  13. Then, you must add 2 additional pieces of the thicker tubing, which you need to use as the rigging points for your figure when you have to lift it up into the air while animating.
  14. You can then screw the balls in and solder them all to create the complete chest block for your stop motion armature.
  15. To create the feet, use simple single ball joints – 1 for each foot and a couple of small brass plates.
  16. Using a single ball joint will make the toes be on a hinge while the ankles are located on a ball joint, and this gives you more flexibility.
  17. Once all of your individual pieces are finished, you lay them out over the original drawing.
  18. Make sure to cut all of your pieces and drill the remaining holes.
  19. Add any remaining balls to create the ball joints by drilling them in.
  20. If anything is not connected properly, you can solder pieces together.

If you’re unclear about how to make the joints, here’s another quick tutorial:

How to make a stop motion ball joint

To make a ball joint, you need to use a small ball – this can be made of brass, steel, or aluminum. Bearing balls are ideal for such projects and quite cheap.

But first, you want to cut up your plates into approximately 1-inch pieces. Stack them to check that they’re aligned accurately.

You can use a vise to keep your workpieces together while you’re drilling the hole for the ball.

Add a bit of WD40 spray for your cutting fluid and lubricant.

Use a 1/8-inch drill bit to make the hole for your ball.

Now, take a file and round down the edges of your plates.

Next, place the brass balls between the plates and screw them together. Your joint should fully articulate at this point.

You can now use your ball joint!

How to make a low-cost ball socket DIY armature: jeton armature

You can make a low-cost ball socket armature for stop motion animation using readily available materials.

Jeton armatures are a type of armature that uses ball-and-socket joints. They are often used in stop motion animation because they allow for a wide range of motion.

You can make a jeton armature using the jeton wire from my list.

Once you have your materials, you will need to cut the jeton wire to size. The length of the wire will depend on the size of the armature you want to make.

Next, you will need to create the ball-and-socket joints. To do this, you will need to use a wire cutter to create two small holes in the jeton wire.

Once you have created the ball-and-socket joints, you will need to attach the jeton wire to the armature base. You can do this by using a hot glue gun.

Now, you will need to add the joints to the armature base.

There are special jeton connectors that you can purchase, or you can simply use a hot glue gun to attach the joints.

Finally, you will need to add the limbs to the armature.

You can do this by using a hot glue gun to attach the limbs to the joints.

Now, your armature is complete!

Takeaway

A ball socket armature is a great choice for stop motion animation because it allows for a wide range of motion.

You can make a jeton armature using jeton wire and a hot glue gun or a sturdier metallic armature using metallic components.

If you want to buy the best ball and socket armature, the wire armatures like K&H Metal Puppet Figure for Character Design Creation are ideal.

For something more low-cost and easier to work with, the jeton armatures are a great option.

Once you have your materials and armatures, you’re ready to start creating stop motion animation movies that are sure to impress!

Rather work with clay? Then claymation is your thing, here is what you need to make clay stop motion videos