Learn to Animate

Traditional Animation Process

There are two major approaches to traditional animation: drawing/painting by hand or stop motion techniques where objects or people are photographed each time they change position.
In hand drawn animation, each keyframe and every frame inbetween is drawn by hand on a separate piece of paper.
  • Materials
  • Pegboard
  • Lightbox
  • Paper
  • 3-hole punch
  • Drawing utensils

Tips

  • Keep a guide planning out your arcs and movements underneath your drawings
  • Draw all of the frames in pencil first and afterwards use other materials if desired
  • Draw the major keyframes first then go back and draw the inbetween frames
  • Use the lightbox to trace any parts of the previous drawing that you want to keep for the next drawing
  • Use the pegboard to keep your drawings registered while drawing and while photographing
In charcoal drawn animation, each keyframe and every frame inbetween is drawn by hand on a single piece of paper. A trail of erased drawings forms over the course of the animation.
  • Materials
  • Paper
  • Charcoal and/or pastels
  • Kneaded eraser
  • Rag
  • Pegboard or magnet strips

Tips

  • Use a pegboard and/or magnet strips to keep the paper from moving as you draw
  • Rub charcoal over the paper to create a toned surface
  • Draw each frame in the order that it occurs in the animation
  • Only erase parts of the drawing that you need to change and then draw the changes
  • Don't worry about erasing perfectly - the ghosting is part of the aesthetic
In paint on glass animation, each keyframe and every frame inbetween is painted by hand on a single piece of plexiglass. This is often backlit by a lightbox.
  • Materials
  • Lightbox
  • Oil paint or gouache paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Plexiglass
  • Rags
  • Water
  • Palette
  • Spray bottle

Tips

  • Be careful about the placement/registration of the plexiglass and the lightbox
  • Paint each frame in the order that it occurs in the animation
  • Only wipe away parts of the painting that you need to change and then paint the changes
  • To rewet dried goauche paint, spritze it with a little water
In sand animation, each keyframe and every frame inbetween is drawn by hand into a transparent container full of sand. This is often backlit by a lightbox.
  • Materials
  • Lightbox
  • Clear box full of kinetic or standard sand
  • Drawing stylus

Tips

  • Be careful about the placement/registration of the sandbox and the lightbox
  • Draw each frame in the order that it occurs in the animation
  • Only wipe away (or pat/smooth back together) parts of the drawing that you need to change and then draw the changes
  • Paperclips create really smooth lines in the kinetic sand
Pixelation is a form of stop motion where live people are photographed and then the photos are put together to form the animation. This can be great for creating the illusion of unnatural movements such as gliding or hovering. Pixelation used to be used for special effects in some old tv shows and movies.
  • Materials
  • Actors
  • Tripod
  • Costumes (optional)
  • Props (optional)
  • Backdrops (optional)

Tips

  • Use a light tripod to allow for both portability and consistency
  • When possible, have actors freeze and hold their pose inbetween each camera shot
  • Smaller changes in position can create smoother animation
  • Larger changes in position create speed of movement
  • Have a separate "director" and "cameraman" so that one person can focus on guiding the actor's poses from one shot to another and then the other person can focus on the camera
Claymation is a form of stop motion where characters and sets are created using modeling clay on metal armatures. These characters and objects are then carefully photographed in different poses and positions.
  • Materials
  • Modeling clay
  • Wire
  • Wire tools (pliars and wirecutters)
  • Backdrop (paper, fabric, cardboard...)
  • Measuring tools

Tips

  • When building a character:
    • A wire armature underneath the clay will give greater support and consistency when posing the character
    • Make sure you are happy with the movement of the armature before adding the clay around the wire
    • Keep gravity in mind - make sure they can balance easily
  • Using the camera:
    • The camera can be used to zoom in/out or pan from side to side
    • Use a ruler, protractor or etc. to make consistent adjustments to your characters
Cut paper animations are a form of stop motion that rely on paper "puppets" and scenes - sort of a moving collage. The different segments of the characters are often connected with small handmade rivets.
  • Materials
  • Colored and/or decorative Paper
  • Drawing utensils
  • Cutting utensils (scissors, exacto knives...)
  • Cutting mat
  • Adhesive (glue sticks, glue dots...)
  • Plexiglass
  • Rivets or brads
  • Hole punch
  • Magnet strips

Tips

  • Put stationary backgrounds underneath plexiglass to allow for easy movement of moving parts
  • Connect the moving parts of the body together with brads or some other type of connector as joints
  • Sometimes it is easier to make multiple versions of a face or character with different expressions or poses to switch between as you animate
  • Sometimes the tip of an exacto knife can help to make small adjustments to the position of a character or other paper object
  • If you make a long background, you can slide the background to create the ilusion of the camera panning
  • Use a ruler, protractor or etc. to make consistent adjustments to your characters