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Do you want to become an animator or are you just a fan of animation? You cannot begin your journey into the world of animation without knowing the basics or fundamentals. That is you should at least know what is animation and the different kinds of animation styles. This is important because it will help you to identify the style that will convey your stories in the most effective manner.

In this article we will not teach you how to animate but we will break down the 5 types of animation available to you for animation. But first we will briefly explain the basic idea behind animation.

What is Animation?

The process of manipulating figures in a way that they appear to be in motion is called animation. In the traditional method, transparent celluloid sheets were used for drawing or painting images which were later photographed and exhibited on film. In present times, animations are created using advanced animation software or computer-generated imagery(CGI).

Now that you know what animation is we can get down to the different types of animation styles that are available for you to use.

Types of Animation

  1. Traditional Animation
  2. 2D Animation
  3. 3D Animation
  4. Stop Motion
  5. Motion Graphics

Traditional Animation

We are going to start off the list with traditional animation. Some may even call it 2D animation. But we have placed 2D in a different category and you will see why in the later part of this article. This form of animation is also known as cel animation which is the oldest form of animation.

In traditional animation, the animator has to draw every frame in order to create an animation sequence. Sequential drawing screens quickly one after another create the illusion of movement. Traditional animation consists of hand drawings called frames. In the past the drawing occurred on a big light table which was basically a drafting table on which the animator drew the sequence. In the middle of this table there was a light panel that enabled the animator to view his previous drawings. This is called onion skinning.

In present times, even traditional animation is mostly created on computers by using a tablet like the Wacom Cintiq 2d. Traditional animation is usually animated on twelve frames per second with occasional faster actions animated on 24 frames per second. Japanese animation however is known to be animated on a lower frame rate in most cases.

2D Animation

Next on the list of different types of animation is 2d animation. When we talk about 2d animation we are referring to vector based animation like the ones done in Flash. This style has become very popular in the last decade with the increasing amount of people doing it due to the accessibility of the technology.

You must be wondering why we placed 2d animation in a different category. It is because in addition to the option of animating frame by frame an animator has an option of creating rigs for the characters and then moving the body parts individually instead of drawing the character over and over again.

After Effects allows you to create complex rigs for animation or use the puppet tool to drag and move body parts around these flexibilities. It gives beginners more options when approaching animation especially if drawing isn't their strong suit unlike traditional animation where drawing skills are mandatory.

3D Animation

3D Animation

Third type of animation style is 3d animation also known as computer animation. At this point 3d animation can be called just animation since this is the most common form of animation today just like traditional animation used to just be called animation thirty years ago.

3d animation however works in a completely different way than traditional animation. They both require an understanding of the same principles of movement and composition but the technical skill set is very different for each task. Like we've mentioned before, while in the past you had to be an amazing draftsman to be an animator but with computer animation that is not the case.

3d animation is more similar to playing with puppets. Rather than drawing, the animator moves the character in a 3d program with special controls that are connected to each body part such as hands, elbows, lips, etc. Then he sets a keyframe when all the body parts are in the right position. After that they proceed to move forward in time and move all these controls again to create another keyframe. The computer then calculates the journey the body parts are going through between each of those keyframes. A 3d animator will spend most of their time looking at curves that represent the movement of different body parts over time.

Stop Motion

Stop motion is a special form of animation that combines live-action filmmaking principles with traditional character animation. Stop-motion is done by taking a photo of an object and then moving it just a little bit and taking another photo and the process is then repeated. When the photos are played back one after another they give the illusion of movement. This is similar to traditional animation but it uses real-life material instead of drawings.

One of the most popular forms of stop motion is Claymation which involves working with clay or playdough characters that can easily be manipulated for animation. Another popular form of stop-motion is cut out using construction paper or cardboard characters. They are then placed on paper while shooting the animation from above. Similar to cutout animation silhouette animation uses cardboard or some kind of lab material but the objects are all dark and the shot is depicted with silhouettes only.

Motion Graphics

Last but not the least in our list of 5 types of animation is Motion Graphics. While still considered a form of animation, motion graphics is rather different than the other types of animation on the list. Mostly because unlike the other types it is not character or story driven. It is the art of creatively moving graphic elements or text usually for commercial or promotional purposes.

The skills for motion graphics don't necessarily translate to the other types of animation since they don't require knowledge of body mechanics or acting. But they do have some attributes in common such as understanding good composition and the all-important camera motion.


So now you know all about the different types of animation. You can give a shot to each of them and find the most suitable type for you. Even if you are just a hobbyist you will have a lot of fun trying out each of these types of animation. Moreover, there are many animation software for beginners available that will help you get started with any of these animation types. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the three basic types of animation?

Ans. The three basic and most common kinds of animation are 2D animation, 3D animation and stop motion.

Which type of animation is the best?

Ans. In present times 3D animation is the most popular form of animation. It is mostly used for creation of digital characters for animations and video games animations. 

Who is the greatest animator of all time?

Ans. Without any doubt Walt Disney is the greatest animator of all time.

“What we love most about animation is, it’s a team sport, and everything we do is about pure imagination.”