Learn to Animate

Animation Concepts

These concepts apply to all forms of animation - traditional, digital 2D, and digital 3D animation.

Traditionally, the standard frame rate for an animation is 24fps (frames per second). Originally animators would create a separate drawing for each frame. This would be a lot of work!

7 drawings of 24 - all different

Now it is more common to use 12 frames where each frame is duplicated once. This allows animators to use only 12 images to create the full 24 frames and saves a lot of time, yet looks the same to our eyes.

7 drawings of 24 - each drawing repeats

When each frame displays 2 times, this is called having a "step" of 2.


The amount of visual space between one image and the next (within a set period of time) creates a sense of speed:

More space between 2 consecutive positions creates the appearance of faster motion
Less space between 2 consecutive positions (in the same amount of time) creates the appearance of slower motion

Changes in Speed

Gradual increases or decreases of the visual space (between consecutive drawings) leads to acceleration or deceleration:

Increasing the distance creates acceleration
Decreasing the distance creates deceleration

The strength of movement and gravity both have an impact on the timing of an animation and can add to believability.

  • A ball dropped from a high place will gradually accelerate due to gravity
  • A ball dropped from a lower height will accellerate less
  • A ball thrown with a lot of force will start out fast and slow down over time
  • The same ball thrown with less force will still slow down but also will be slower overall and travel a smaller distance
  • A bouncing ball gradually slows down as it reaches the apex of it's arc
  • A bouncing ball speeds up as it reaches the bottom of it's arc

Anticipation is the preparation for an action. Using anticipation adds both complexity and believability to the movement.

Preparing to throw a ball
Most movement occurs along an arc of some kind. Our bodies are full of joints and wherever you have a joint or pivot, movement is likely going to be in an arc. Movement that is too straight often looks unnatural.

Coming Soon
Unless an object is rigid like wood or metal, the principle of squash and stretch often applies. Forces acting upon objects often effect the exact shape. If you sit on a cushion, the cushion sinks down a little under the weight of your body. A softer cushion will sink more. A firmer cushion will sink less. Often this can be very subtle but slightly exaggerating the effect in an animation can add realism. Be careful though - too much squash & stretch can look a little too jiggly.

Since this is a bouncy ball, it will squash as the ball hits a surface and stretch as the ball bounces away from that surface.
Consistency is extremely important in an animation.

In the case of a bouncing ball, if the size of the ball keeps changing randomly, the ball loses a sense of believability. Adjustments to scale can be a good thing - if they are deliberate. If the ball (or any object) gets smaller as it moves it will look like it is moving further away. If the ball (or any object) gets larger as it moves, it looks like it is moving closer. This is especially true if the position of the ball/object changes position closer or farther away from the horizon line.

There are many other aspects where consistency is important.

Characters rely on consistency. If the size or shape or position or sometimes even color of a facial feature or other body part keeps changing, the lack of consistency leads to a lack of believability.