2D vs 3D Animation
2D vs 3D Animation

A majority of us grew up watching Tom and Jerry, Mickey Mouse, and Donald Duck. These are the kind of animations that gave us a blood rush whenever we missed watching, they are still hilarious and famous up to today because of their funny characters and scintillating scenes.

These animations were part of the old generation 2D animations that inspired many kids to pursue animation as a career.

The current market of shows has transitioned due to Technological advancements to 3D which is being used frequently and adopted for many uses.

Definition of 2D and 3D Animation

A 2D animation is a form of animation where one drawing is followed by another which has been modified a little bit to express a different pose or subsequent action at 24frames per second(24fps).

This kind of drawing creates movement in a two-dimensional space.  The objects worked in this way include characters, FXs, creatures, and backgrounds. 2D animation has existed since the 1800s and has evolved to more complex characters performing complex actions.

The 2D animations to many may seem old but it still holds a special place in the animation industry and that has made it survive all this time and still be relevant to date. Like in the recent times we have witnessed the combination of 2D and 3D in movies like a 3D bauble that glows was used in Disney’s The Black Cauldron, the 3D robot used in Warner Bros’ the Iron Giant which is entirely a 2D movie.

The current technological advancements have favored 2Ds integration with 3D and its application in various platforms today, it does have have its pros and cons which make it to be less demanded and they are:


  • Lower costs of production. Their cost of production is relatively cheaper compared to what one may use to make a 3D animation due to the advancement of technology characters can be re-used, making it cheaper to produce.
  • Less production times. Producing 2D animation takes less time due to software advancement and since its objects and characters do not require much manipulation like those of 3D.
  • Simple without Complexity: Characters and object formulation in 2D is simple and the available software can run on many machines.


  • Boring and Less Dynamic. The 2D animation can be boring, due to its simplicity and lack of the wow aspect even when the characters are not doing anything. Characters lack the complexities associated with real-life objects.
  • Less in demand. Currently, 3D has taken over a major share of the animation market as it can be used even in the corporate environment to showcase a project and achieve good results.
  • Time is money: Sometimes it is time-consuming to create 2D animation templates

Softwares in 2D Animation:

Unlike in the past where the majority of the work was done manually, nowadays there are good software in the market which are being used to make 2D animations.

Some of 2d and 3d animation software includes; Synfig, Opentoonz, Maefloresta and Pencil 2D which are free.

While FlipBook,Stop Motion Studio, Moho, CelAction2D, Adobe animate, Toon Boom Harmony and Reallusion CrazyTalk Animator are paid for in plans ranging between $59-$1200.

Future of 2D Animations

These technological advancements have turned the fortunes around for the 2D animation industry and it’s being adopted for adverts, teaching, and explainer videos. This is because currently, companies are starting to invest heavily in 2D as it is becoming multipurpose.

As per the market figures, 2D animation will retain its visibility as Netflix plans to invest over $5 billion into animation, and many platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube and many others are all coming up with a focus on 2D animation.

The technological advancements being witnessed are a clear sign that 2D will remain to be the foundation of all animations, and the line between 2D and 3D will be blurred very soon.

3D Animation:

On the other hand, 3D is defined as the use of motion to give life to objects and characters in a three-dimensional space and they have height, width, and depth.

The objects can be manipulated in any way just like one can handle real-life objects. 3D has evolved from the use of the Stop-motion/Claymation technique to modeling objects in the computer (C.G.I).

The characters were made using materials such as clay and then moved around for different shots which are then put together to make an animation; movies such as Gumby (1956), Wallace and Gromit (1990), Shawn the Sheep (1995) and Robot Chicken (2005) are products of Claymation. Popular examples of 3D movies that are available currently include Pets United, The Lion King, Coco, Toy Story, and Moana. 

Though highly favored in the current times 3D animation does have its Pros and cons that make it less adopted by many upcoming animators and they are:


  • Superior movement: In 3D all characters are in a 3D space, this gives the creator the ability to manipulate them, change camera positions to achieve your desired position or effect.
  • Realistic: Characters made in 3D are very superior and resemble real-life objects, this makes the 3D animation more believable than 2D as one can create the photorealistic renders of the animation.
  • Re-Using Models saves time: Once a character is created in 3D, it can be used over and over again in many projects with just minor alterations or none at all.


  • Longer lead times: Unlike 2D, before one fully realizes and makes a character, styling takes a lot of time and characters can appear to be the same as they adopted the same style as one’s imaginations may be limited by the rig.
  • Limited imagination: 3D is tricky to stylize compared to the vast array of styles that can be created in 2D. You are somewhat limited by the rig when creating a character.
  • Complex and Complicated: In 3D to make a character, you have to first model it, check on the lighting, animate it, and create its texture. Thereby the whole process becomes hectic and time-consuming.

Whether you are starting up from scratch or as a beginner in animation, there are a lot of software available in the market today for 3D animation which are both online/free and paid for.

These softwares include, 3ds Max, Motionbuilder, Cinema 4D, Blender(free), Clara.io(free), Daz3D(free), iclone, iPi Soft, MakeHuman(free), Maya, Mixamo(free), modo, Poser Pro, Terragen, SmartBody(free), Dragonframe, Boats Animator(free) and Houdini Apprentice that is free but limited in some features.

Future of 3D Animations

The introduction of Augmented and Virtual reality is proving that 3D animation’s application in the future will continue to grow and dominate the market share.

The advancements have made interactions possible by the way of making avatars in games and learning in a virtual class. Thereby, 3D animation will continue being an area of great interest as it opens the doors to unimaginable creativity

Differences between 2D and 3D animation

The following are distinctive differences that will help upcoming animators and animation enthusiasts to fully understand them better.

  • Animation Process: The animating process differs greatly in each version. In 2D the animation is majorly composed of drawing and redrawing of objects for each pose or action while in 3D it involves altering keyframes. Everything that a character does in 3D is done using computer software before texturing and rendering.
  • Frame Rate: 2D and 3D differ completely here on the frame rates. While 2D relies on frame rate (mostly it uses 24fps) to show action or a different pose from the previous ones, 3D doesn’t at all as it relies on general movement by changing keyframes.
  • Cost: So if we talked about 2d and 3d animation costs, producing animations can be cheap and also expensive. This solely relies on what format one will choose. In 2D the cost of production is relatively cheap compared to 3D because of the complexities involved and software.
  • Applicability: The two versions (3D vs 2D) are still being used in different areas for different purposes. 2D is highly used in advertisements, films, cartoon shows, websites, e-learning courses, and engineering, while 3D is used in gaming, movies, medical, biotechnology, aerospace for simulation and conceptual works.
  • Texture: This is a major difference between the two versions. Through observation one can note that 2D is characters or images in 2D are flat or flattened. This is why 3D prevails as animators can add texture and make real-life models or characters which can be added into any videos and fit well like mimicking real grass, trees, or even animals.
  • Space: In 2D space is flattened and it’s in a two-dimensional form, this means that a character has to be drawn and redrawn in different poses to show movement. While in 3D animation, the entire model is first created and then the animator can manipulate it like a puppet in three-dimensions.
  • Shapes: Main difference between 2d vs 3d shapes is that 2D shape consists of 2 dimensions, i.e length & width, and 3D shape consists of 3 dimensions, i.e length width & height.


From the information provided above, it is clear that 2D and 3D are reinventing themselves for the current animation environment and market need. Thereby making it hard for one to fully give a verdict on which one is better or good for use on different projects. This though does not shadow the fact that 3D has the superior market share and favorability among creators and it is the best. But before choosing, it is good to analyze your audience’s needs and preferences.

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