9 Animation Styles: A Beginner’s Guide

9 Animation Styles: A Beginner’s Guide

July 23, 2020

Animation Styles
Animation Styles

October 09, 2023

Table of Contents


If you’re reading this, then it means you’re passionate and more interested in learning about animation techniques. But, before we begin, we believe most people are wondering what animation really is. Now, if you’re an avid TV connoisseur, we believe you’ve seen a TV commercial in between breaks especially when watching your favorite TV series right?

Now, if that’s the case, then you’re already familiar with stop motion animation more than you might have thought.

So, what is animation and what are the three basic types of animation?  Well, in a simple definition, the animation is the art of creating films using the frame-by-frame technique. During the animation process, these films are flashed at a rapid succession rate of 24 frames per second (FPS) to create an illusion of movement.

Unlike live-action videos where the task involves hiring actors to shoot videos, animation relies heavily on crafting individual frames by drawing on paper, modeling out of clay or rendering via the computer.

Since there are multiple edits required to achieve the required perfection, the animation is considered to be laborious and expensive but with rewarding results once everything has been finalized.

Brief history of animation and why it’s being used as a marketing tool

Like we mentioned earlier, classical animations are more of an art. While the roots of animation date back to the Paleolithic period where the natives used hand-drawn animation to communicate, the film industry today has revamped this concept by breathing life into these fixed static anime styles.

Since computer animation has always captured the imagination of most people, perhaps this curiosity and enthusiasm is what led to these dramatic changes we see in most animation forms today. So, what’s the history of animation?

Although the history of animation dates back to the Paleolithic period, the closest resemblance of digital animation was discovered in the 18th century in France named the “Shadowgraphy”. In 1888, a more modernized animation type named the Theater Optique was invented by Emile Reynaud. The technique involves combining 300—700 frames for 10—15 minutes.

From 1914, hand-drawn-animation was officially invented where animated characters were hand-drawn on cels (transparent sheets of cellulose nitrate and camphor). This animation technique was first used by John Bray Studios and it really helped to save on costs and overall production time.

From 1928 moving forward, other advanced animations techniques such as stop-motion were invented thanks to animation giants such as Walt Disney. Renowned animation films such as Mickey Mouse and Snow White were released giving the world of animation, a new life.

Now that we’ve discussed a brief history of animation, let’s now move on to share some tips on why this technique is being used as a marketing tool by most brands. Now, over 80% of most businesses today are using video marketing as a marketing tool.

These brands have leveraged the use of different types of computer animation and storytelling techniques to compel entertaining and informative videos that demonstrate their brand’s vision and mission. This technique has been discovered to be visually stimulating, effective and versatile as compared to using texts and messages.

Types of animation techniques used today

  1. Traditional animation
  2. 2D animation
  3. 3D animation
  4. Whiteboard animation
  5. Typography Animation
  6. Motion graphics
  7. Sand Animation
  8. Flipbook Animation
  9. Stop-motion animation

1)  Traditional animation

Understanding traditional animation

Also known as classical animation, hand-drawn animation, and cel animation, traditional animation is a fantastic work of art that was popular during the late 80s and early 90s. This technique involved hand-drawing animate characters on transparent celluloid sheets then displaying them on a film reel to create motion.

A brief history of traditional animation

Since this was the first major breakthrough in the history of animation, the process was lengthy and required a lot of artistic skills to accomplish the animation process. This traditional animation technique involved hand-drawing animate characters in different anime styles on acetate sheets.

From there, the pictures would be photographed on a separate frame of film to display motion once the films were displayed on the film reel. This technique was used by Disney World to create realistic animations such as The Beatles “Yellow Submarine” and the “Flintstones”.

This technique because unnecessary after the invention of the digital computer-based animations techniques.

Techniques used in traditional animation

Cel technique

We’ve talked a lot about the cellulose technique so we believe you’re already familiar with it. However, just to give a brief demonstration on how to animate with this technique, let’s think of two characters talking to each other. To save on time, the listening character is only drawn in one cel while the speaking character is drawn on multiple cels to display the speaking motion.

Limited animation

This technique is used when production companies want to cut the overall costs. Here, shortcuts are applied in the cel technique.

Let’s take an example of a boy sitting on a chair while still talking. What happens is that the body and the chair remain the same while the head is redrawn to reveal the speaking motion.

Multiplane technique

This technique is usually used to give a sense of depth or parallax in 2d animation. It involves drawing paintings on separate layers of transparent glass or plexiglass.

These layers also known as planes are then placed in equal distances in the order of the scenes. A camera placed in front or above the planes is then zoomed towards or away from the planes to give the viewer the impression of motion.

Traditional animation process

The process of creating traditional animation is quite straight-forward. The only bad thing about it is that it can’t be accomplished simultaneously as you’ll have to complete each step individually. Although most of the steps are done manually, traditional animation is one of the most interesting animation techniques of all animation methods.

So, with that said, this section will give a descriptive outline of how the work is divided from start to finish.


This is the first process of creating traditional animation. It’s actually a collection of multiple hand-drawings and scripts that tell a story. It’s actually more of a large comic script.

At least with such creative drawing styles, the storyboard artists and the directors discuss and plan the flow of the plot before moving on to the next step.

Voice recording

Before the animation process begins, preliminary voice recording, which involves adding a soundtrack, sound effects, and the dialogues, is accurately synchronized into the storyboard to give it some life.

This is because, given the slow methodological manner in which traditional animation is processed, it’s easier to add the soundtracks before than after.

Animatic stage

Before the original animation work begins, a preliminary animation is released consisting of the storyboard and the voice recording synchronized together. This allows the writers, producers, animators, and editors to review the work and check for any scrip or timing issues that need to be rectified.

Design and timing

Once the synchronized animation type is approved, the next step is to send the storyboard to the design department. Here, designers mold the main characters of the animation into small statues known as maquettes to show how the characters will look like in the 3-dimensional environment.

This idea will help the background artists to design as well as set up the locations for the characters. It also gives them an idea of the colors and background themes they’re going to use.

While the design is in progress, the timing director on the other hand analyses the drawings and the poses to determine the speed needed for the frames.


Once the designs are approved by the project director, the next phase is the layout process. In this stage, the layout artists set the angle of the cameras, the camera paths and the lighting needed. They also determine how each character will pose in different scenes.


The animation stage begins once the animatic stage is finalized and approved by the directors. In this stage, the animators receive the character layout and use it to draw different frames depending on how each character poses.

For instance, if a character is jumping from one rooftop to another, the animator will have to hand draw each frame from the time the character is preparing to jump, when it’s on the mid-air and when it lands on the other side.


While the animation process is on-going, background artists on the other side continue to paint the sets where action for each animation sequence will take place.

The task is usually accomplished using gouache or acrylic paint though some animation studios generally use watercolor or oil paint.

Ink and paint plus camera

This is usually the lengthiest step in the entire animation basics process. It involves applying color to the entire scanned artwork or drawings. Although it’s lengthy, the time taken is usually determined by the complexity of the drawings.

When this is through, the compositor imports everything—including the colored backgrounds, sound effects, and animation references—to create the final product. This is where camera moves are created and necessary motion added depending on each scene.

2) 2D animation

Understanding 2D animation

2d animation is always used to refer to traditional animation. However, this digital animation technique is more of a vector-based animation thanks to its ability to use computer software to interpolate the various characters.

Here at Ideas Animation, we do offer 2d animation service thanks to our enthusiastic team of experts who are passionate in this sector.

So, before we proceed to look at realistic 2d animation, let’s first clear the air to some folks who are still in the dark when it comes to 2d animation vs 3d animation. In the 2 dimensional space, hand-drawn animation characters are only designed to move up, down, left or right but not moving towards or away from the camera.

However, in the 3d world, this challenge is taken care of as most of the characters here exist in the X, Y, Z environment where they’re able to rotate at 360°.

Parts that make up a 2D animation pipeline

All forms of animation have slightly different animation processes which vary depending on the drawing styles and the anime styles. Since most animation productions use the Walt Disney process as the standard approach, this animation style guide will offer you a simple process that you can follow.


This is the most important step in any film production. It acts as a guideline on how you’re going to plot the storyline, the dialogue, and the shooting directions.


Originally developed by Walt Disney, a storyboard is a graphic visualization of the actions and events that will occur throughout the animation.

With a storyboard ready, directors, editors, actors, and animators will be able to access the scripts and make the necessary enhancements at every stage.

Audio production

This is where actors read out the scripts while the animators add sound effects to the animation. The animators then synchronize the two by drawing mouth movements that match each spoken word.

Character designing

In this traditional animation process, different model sheets are produced for each animation element including the main characters, props, and backgrounds. Each model sheet contains the final design of a character including all the poses it’s likely to execute throughout the animation.

Color script

The next phase is designing color palettes for each character animation. Here, colors are added even to the objects, the various locations, and the background.


This is the phase where the animators combine all the work done in the previous processes. The model sheets, the storyboard, the background, and the layout are all put together to create the actual scenes that make up the original animated film.

Adding sound effects

Sound effects and audio tracks are then added to accompany the animation film. The purpose of the sound effects is to emphasize or rather enhance the dramatic narrative and emotional impact of certain scenes within the animation film.

Final editing

Lastly, there’s the final editing which involves selecting the best segments of the animation production process to be used in the final output during the production phase.

Techniques used in 2D animation

Different kinds of animation use different types of techniques to design animation films. For the case of 2d animation service, here are some techniques you can rely on during the various processes.

Flipbook animation

This is one of the oldest and easiest animation methods that have long been used to create 2d animation.

The technique involves drawing multiple images on pages with a slight difference in them.

When the pages are flipped at a rapid succession, the images tend to make an impression of motion.

Cel animation

This traditional animation technique involves drawing or painting rough sketches on transparent sheets. Animators then create in-between drawings as well as additional action drawings to complete the animation film.

Once the process is done, a pencil test is done where all the sheets are tested to ensure there’s nothing missing.


This is another technique that was used prior to the introduction of computer software in animation.

This technique involves projecting a sequence of action frames against a wall to create the illusion of motion.

Drawn-on-film animation

Another 2d animation example and technique we’re going to look at is drawn-on-film animation. This technique involved making hand drawings directly on a film reel then running the film reel in rapid succession to create the illusion of moving characters.

Where is the 2D animation used?

If you’re looking to learn animation free, then it’s critical that you understand the various uses of animation in the market today. For the case of 2d animation, this technique can be used for educational purposes to enhance reception levels of learners.

This technique is also usable in creating 2d animation explainer video which are used in advertisements and making of effective commercials.

3) 3D animation

What is 3D animation

3d animation is one of the classical animations forms that are totally different from both 2d and traditional animation methods. Instead of using frames to shore case motion, this technique leverages the use of technically proficient tools such as advanced 3d modeling software to export 3d picture sequences that create the illusion of motion in the eyes of the viewers.

Techniques used in 3D animation

3d animation is one of the many forms of animation that are being used by businesses today as a key digital marketing tool. So, to help it adjust to various dynamics, 3d animation is composed of three different techniques which are highlighted below.

Inverse kinematics

This 3d animation technique provides the simplest animation process where animators manipulate the joints in a skeleton to give an animate character the illusion of movement.

As one of the most affordable types of 3d animation, Inverse Kinematics (IK) is mostly used in gaming to manipulate fighting characters by making them lie down, bend or kneel down

Fluid stimulation

How do animations work? This is one question that has been asked by most animation beginners for quite a long time. If you’re a fan of animation, we believe you’ve watched scenes with giant waterfalls, stormy seas, and volcano eruptions. In case you didn’t know, this 3d art is what is called dynamic fluid simulation.

With this technique, animators are able to generate realistic animations that are able to convey messages in a more authentic manner.

3D skeletal animation

Another classical animations method that can be used in 3d modeling is 3d skeletal animation. In this method, animators combine two techniques by drawing objects then adding animations on those objects using a set of interconnected bones in a skeleton.

This technique is mostly used in gaming where animators create a skeleton then animate it to give the character the desired movement.

Where is the 3D animation used?

Initially, 3d animation was designed to be used in the entertainment industry for creating animations and films. Today, this technique has branched into various diverse fields such as medicine, architecture, interior design, gaming and business among others.

In business, for instance, 3d has been adopted as a major marketing tool for creating exceptional explainer videos for advertisement purposes. In education, this technique is used for training students in various fields while in manufacturing companies, 3d animation is a wonderful tool for creating objects which help you to visualize how the final outcome will appear.

4) Whiteboard animation

Understanding whiteboard animation

There are many features of animation you need to learn about especially if you’re a beginner in this arena. Whiteboard animation is one of them. In fact, this form of digital animation has attracted most businesses over the last few decades making it a key aspect in any successful marketing plan.

So, what is whiteboard animation? Now, if you’re a fan of YouTube or maybe an avid TV fan, we believe you’ve once seen a hand drawing some objects on a whiteboard while narrating. If you’ve seen such a thing, then it means you’re not new to whiteboard animation.

Actually, this technique involves drawing static images on a board while narrating. This technique is incredibly engaging as it helps businesses to explain complicated concepts in a simpler manner.

Where is the whiteboard animation used?

There are many uses of animation in the market today. Companies that offer whiteboard animation services (such as Ideas Animation) know this fact far too well. Since this technique involves writing on a board, the audience pays more attention as it offers an excellent educational approach.

Most companies use this technique as a marketing tool as it helps them to explain complex business ideas in a simpler and entertaining manner to the audience.

5) Typography animation

What is typography animation?

There are many forms of animation used in the business and entertainment world today. One of these types of computer animation is kinetic typography. Now, we will admit that the world today heavily relies on visuals. But, even if that’s the case, the magic behind written text can never be underestimated.

So, for those looking to learn animation free, kinetic typography is the technique of using moving text to portray a message. In this technique, animators expand, shrink, and move text in numerous ways to make it engaging to the viewers.

A brief history of kinetic typography

Although kinetic typography is labeled as an emerging trend in classical animations today, it has been around for quite a long time in history. The first traces of kinetic typography were discovered in 1959 Alfred Hitchcock’s film “North by Northwest” where the opening credits were designed with movable text.

The following year, another film “Psycho” was filmed with moving text in the opening credits, marking a breakthrough for this type of animation technique.

Today, kinetic typography is being used in diverse fields such as in the filming industry, TV commercials and in websites’ landing pages.

Applications of typography animation

Just like other kinds of animation, kinetic typography is hailed as a brilliant marketing tool. When moving text is combined with audio, it becomes a text-based-audio which is a brilliant tool for passing complex information to the audience.

When moving text is combined with a video, it becomes a kinetic typography animation. This type of video is short and to the point, making it an effective marketing tool.

Lastly, kinetic typography videos can be viewed without turning the volume on. So, whether you’re in a cyber café or in the office, you can still get the message right by simply reading through the moving text.

6) Motion graphics

What is motion graphics?

Now, another type of animation that has gained popularity in recent times is motion graphics. In definition, this style refers to putting graphics into motion using special tools and software.

Just like other kinds of animation, motion graphics are an excellent marketing tool that allows businesses to market their products and services in a much simpler way for customers to understand.

07 Types of motion graphics and when to use them

1- UI animations

If you’re looking to create a prototype or rather convey a particular idea before its put into action, UI animation is the right technique to use. Although it’s not a popular technique, this type of motion graphic gives you a clear understanding of how something operates. For instance, it can show you how to animate, how to create a slide and so on.

2- Icons and logos

3- Short films

Motion graphics and animations have overlapping characteristics that make them hard to distinguish especially if you’re new in this arena. However, the two can be combined to create short films which can be used as a marketing tool in the social media or TV ads.

4- Presentations

This is another lesser-known technique of motion graphics where moving text is combined with images and sometimes with animations to create presentations. Sometimes you can add animated charts and graphs to make the presentation more engaging to viewers.

5- Infographics

If you want to convey a message in a simpler way for the audience to understand, then interactive infographics are the best way to go. This technique allows you to animate graphs that can be used in explainer videos.

6- Gifs

Another technique of motion graphics is Gifs. These are not ordinary images but rather they’re somewhat similar to animated images.

Gifs are designed to hold multiple images at once. These images can easily be seen appearing sequentially once the picture is  twisted in a certain way.

Although it’s a traditional technique of motion graphics, Gifs are hugely used in social media platforms to express emotions just like how emojis do.

7- Broadcasting graphics

Motion graphics have long been used in the live television and motion picture landscape. Broadcasting graphics also known as motion or television graphics are an effective tool in TV programming that allows news stations to broadcast news and sports events using stunning graphics.

7) Sand animation

What is a sand animation?

Sand animation is another motion graphic technique that was highly effective in the 1960s. This technique involves manipulating sand to create animation.

In this form of animation, animators apply sand in a lightbox then start rendering images and drawing figures using their arms. With the help of overhead projectors, each scene is captured independently to create animation.

Applications of sand animation

As we’ve seen in the past from notable animators in the sand category, this form of animation is hugely usable in creating short films that can be used for educational or entertainment purposes.

8) Flipbook animation

What is a flipbook animation?

Another form of animation we’re going to discuss in this animation style guide is flipbook animation. In its most primitive form, flipbook animation is the idea of creating a series of hand-drawn images on different pages of a book.

The images are drawn sequentially so that when the book is flipped at a rapid succession, it creates the illusion of motion.

A simplified process of creating a flipbook animation

Step one: the first step is preparing the stack of papers where you’ll make the drawings. You can use sticky notes or a notepad which is as small as 3×5 inches.

Step two: using a pencil, create the first sequence of your flipbook animation by drawing the first image at the bottom right corner of the book. This positioning will make your images easier to view when you start flipping.

Step three: when you’re done with the first image, draw the second image on the second page at the same spot where you drew the first. Make sure the second image contains some minor shifts from the first.

Step four: continue drawing the images until you finalize the animation. Make sure each image varies slightly from the previous one.

Step five: when you’re done, you can add color to your animations to make them fluid and more sophisticated. Make sure to use the same color.

Step six: once you’re done, flip over the book to view the kind of motion they create.

9) Stop motion animation

What is stop motion animation?

Stop motion is an animation technique that has been in existence since the 1890s. Also known as stop-action or frame-by-frame animation, this style of animation allows artists to create physical objects from puppets, clay or paper cutouts. These objects are then moved in small increments then photographed individually. These frames are then moved in a continuous sequence to create the illusion of motion.

Techniques used in stop motion animation

Puppet animation

This technique involves articulated puppets that are made of constraints to allow easy movement of the joints to create motion.

This stop motion technique is quite familiar in filming and has been used in major animation works such as “The Tale of the Fox” in 1937, “Corpse Bridge” in 2005 and “Coraline” in 2009.

Clay animation

Also known as plasticine animation or Claymation, this technique of stop motion involves creating figures from clay or malleable substances.

Just like in puppet animation, figures in clay animation are designed with an armature or wireframe inside them to make it easy for animators to manipulate the figures depending on the scene.

Object animation

This type of stop motion animation involves creating animated movements on non-drawn objects such as toys, mugs, dolls, and blocks among others.

Cutout animation

This technique of animation is more of a realistic 2d animation where pieces of 2d objects are cut from paper or cloth then moved frame-by-frame to create a graphical effect.

Some notable examples of this technique of stop motion include “Fantastic Planet” in 1973, “Tale of Tales” in 1979, and “Flying Circus” in the 1960s.

Graphic animation

This style of animation uses non-drawn images such as photos derived from photographs and magazines to create manipulated frame-by-frame movement. This technique allows you to either move the graphic materials towards the camera or move the stop motion camera towards the images to create an onscreen action.

Go animation

This is a type of stop motion that allows animators to collect the velocity and speed data of a moving object. The technique is used to create a motion blur between moving objects.


Pixilation is another technique that uses live humans as stop motion props. This technique uses a number of surreal effects where characters appear and disappear in between the scenes.

Silhouette animation

Silhouette animation is a type of stop motion art that has existed for quite a long time.

This technique involves displaying backlighted articulated cardboard cutouts to display shadowed characters or black silhouettes.

Applications of stop motion animation

Stop motion animation is one of the most difficult and time-consuming forms of animation in the market today. Though tedious, this type of animation is also rewarding thanks to its uniqueness.

In the world of business, stop motion is highly regarded as a key marketing tool thanks to its ability to provoke and inspire the minds of the target audience. Since these videos are some of the most shared, marketing a business or a brand is quite easy.

In education, stop motion is used to explain tedious concepts in a fun way for trainees, clients, students and employees to understand.

What skills should a professional animator have?

Animators are professional creators and designers who create animated sequences to be used in TV commercials, explainer videos, games and television shows.

Since animation requires a lot of attention to detail, designers need to be creative, passionate and technically skilled to accomplish these endeavors. In this animation style guide, we’re going to highlight some of the skills animators should have to become professional designers.

1- Should have creative thinking skills

This is the first and by far the most important skill a professional animator should have. With this skill, you’ll be able to create an excellent plan or storyline which you’ll explain to your client or the rest of the team during the initial planning stage.

2- Attention to details

Another skill a professional animator should have is being attentive to details. These details may vary from notable features to the smallest of details such as eye blinks and gestures. By analyzing such individual details and expressions, your work will look more professional and authentic.

3- Timing and spacing skills

Since animation involves motion, a professional animator should have enough knowledge on how to time the movement of characters to enhance soft and natural movements.

4- Ability to use basic and complex animation tools and software

As a professional animator, you need to give life to your animated work. This is achieved by combining artistic skills and practical skills by understanding how to use simple tools such as animation tablets and complex tools such as audio and video editing software.

5- Good communication skills

Good communication skills are really paramount here as animators will be expected to frequently discuss about the progress of the project with their clients or other team members.   Remember, an animator will have to discuss comprehensively with a client about the possibility of a project depending on the available budget and software restrictions.

Wrap up

What are the three basic types of animation? Well, this is a burning question most people have been asking whenever they hear the word animation. Here at Ideas Animation, the three basic types of animation we deal with stops animation, 2d animation, and computer animation.

Now, the world of animation is a deep-sea full of many species of animation techniques and styles. Each of these techniques varies differently and is used in diverse fields such as marketing, education, gaming, and entertainment.

So, if you’re reading this animation style guide for entertainment or for educational purposes, we believe this guide has offered you enough information that will help you embark on this profitable animation business with enthusiasm.

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