Animation Tips & Tricks: 2D Animation

Forums Resources Animation Animation Tips & Tricks: 2D Animation

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    Animation Pagoda Staff
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    Warner Bros


    Cels are clear plastic sheets that display one frame of animation. The holes at the bottom fit into the prongs on an animation lightboard, kind of like notebook paper in binders. This prevents the cels from moving around when drawing. The sheets are clear because it allows artists to trace over previous frames, as well as add in backgrounds and other layers..

    The standard practice is to draw and ink on the front side and paint color on the back.

    Disney: The MultiPlane Camera

    D23: Preserving Disney Animation Records

    The Walt Disney Family Museum: Women in the Disney Ink and Paint Department



    Lead animators typically only draw the key poses. Assistants will finish the in-between animation that goes between key frames. In-between animations are often subcontracted to overseas studios to save costs.

    Sometimes actions have to be exaggerated to appear fluid on screen, leading to physical distortion. When played at 24 frames per second, the movement appears normal, but pausing at the right time can reveal some very unusual looking frames.

    Onion Skinning

    Onion Skinning is a filter that displays semitransparent frames before or after the current frame. This can be used as a visual reference guide for the animator to review work and make adjustments.

    Deformation Rigging

    GIFs and Java/Flash animation are considered very simple to learn, as they follow basic principles of traditional animation.  Basic animation can be created in most photo editing programs and illustration software as well.

    More advanced 2D animation programs allow the animator to rig puppets.  These puppets consist of joints and vector-based segments called bones that can bend and be positioned. 

    Rigged puppets do not have the fluid range of motion that freehand drawing enables.  The vector tools and control points can also be frustrating and uncooperative at times.  The complicated tools may be a turnoff to some animators, but rigging software can save a lot of time depending on the project demands.

    Onion Skin: Rigging with Bones in Toon Boom Essentials

    Draw with Jazza: A Guided Tour of Toon Boom Harmony 12!

    Fox Entertainment

    Limited Animation

    Animation is very time consuming work, so animators have to be smart about how they use their resources and cheat whenever possible. Television cartoons and most 2D animation productions use limited animation. This method is primarily intended to cut production time and costs.

    The general rule is that the more action, characters, and moving parts in a scene, the more time it will take to animate. Closeups, dialogue, establishing shots, editing cuts, static action, and still frames can all cut down the amount of work for the animator. Scenes and animation cycles are often reused.


    Rotoscoping refers to animation that is traced or painted over live action reference footage. It is one of those effects that can end up looking really cool or really terrible depending on how much effort is put into it. Rotoscoping was done a lot in the past as a means to produce cheap VFX and animation.

    Now that many software programs have built in cel shading filters that can achieve a similar effect in less time, rotoscoping by hand isn’t as common of a practice. It is still seen frequently in experimental music videos.

    Taylor Swift: Shake It Off Rotoscoped by Students of Newcastle University in Australia

    Breakbot: Baby I’m Yours feat. Irfane

    Amanda Palmer: No Surprises

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