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different types of animation

They say creative adults are the children who survived, which explains why so many of us in the media industry appreciate a good animation. 

From the believable worlds of 3D cartoons to awe-inspiring magic of stop motion flicks; animation can touch an audience just as well as any live-action film -  like the animated short, Sitara  Directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy which uses animation and music to tell the story of a young girl in Pakistan.

Here we explore the five different types of animations and list the software that can be used to create each one. 

Ready to become an animation expert? Well then, we suggest you continue reading!

What Is Animation? 

Let's start with the animation definition.

Animation is: ‘moving images created from drawings, models, etc that are photographed or created by a computer’.


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How Cartoons Are Made

The way a cartoon is made depends on the type of animation the studio/director is opting for.

Let’s explore the five different types of animations.

What Are the Five Types of Animation?

The five types of animations are…

  • 3D
  • Traditional
  • Stop Motion
  • Motion Graphics 
  • Vector


How Do Animators Work?

Let's run through each of the above types of animations and how they actually work, this way you'll get a sense for which type of animation is best for your needs or skillset.

1. 3D Animation

Not be confused with animations presented in 3D (with the special glasses) – 3D animation uses computer-generated imagery (CGI) to develop intricately-detailed worlds and characters.

What Popular Animations Were Made Using This Technique?

Since the turn of the millennium, almost all film and television production companies have turned to 3D animation. But the feature films and short films that we associate with 3D animation technology the most is PIXAR. 

What Software Is Used to Create This Type of Animation?

2. Traditional Animation

Also known as hand-drawn animation and cel animation, traditional, 2D animation was the original animation method, and therefore the go-to method of 20th Century animators.

Traditional animation involves each frame being drawn by hand on celluloid: a transparent sheet which the animator draws directly on to.  

What Popular Animations Were Made Using This Technique?

Early Disney animations are the most obvious, and arguably the best example of hand-drawn animation. We’re talking the likes of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Bambi and Pinocchio.

What Software Is Used to Create This Type of Animation?

3. Stop Motion Animation

Needless to say, stop motion animation involves the physical movement of objects (commonly created using clay) that are animated by being photographed one frame at a time. 

What Popular Animations Were Made Using This Technique?

If you’re anything like us, the macabre worlds of Tim Burton and Henry Selick (think: The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride and Coraline) will come to mind when thinking about stop motion animation. 

Or, of course, the fabulous creations of animator Nick Park’s Wallace and Gromit films, together with Chicken Run, Shaun the Sheep and Early Man.

What Software Is Used to Create This Type of Animation?

4. Motion Graphics Animation

Motion graphic animation is essentially animated graphic design, bringing to life text and images that would otherwise be static. 

What Popular Animations Were Made Using This Technique?

This type of animation is frequently used to bring the titles of TV shows and films to life. Some of our favourite motion graphics are created by Marvel, who switch-up their title sequences for every entry in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe).

What Software Is Used to Create This Type of Animation?

5. Vector Animation

Vector animation is essentially the modern-day version of hand-drawn animation. It is a method that focuses on 2D graphics, popularly used in both children’s and adult cartoon TV shows.

What Popular Animations Were Made Using This Technique?

Some of our favourite TV shows are created using Vector 2D animation – including Phineas and Ferb and Rick and Morty. We forecast an increase in vector animation within the next few years as audiences are nostalgic for the kind of films and cartoons they used to watch as youngsters.

What Software Is Used to Create This Type of Animation?

Music for Animation

Music can have a very special place in animation – think the classical music that Disney’s Fantasia popularised, or the classic, ‘You’ve got a Friend’ from Toy Story. Recently, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy used our music in her heartening short film Sitara: Let Girls Dream

As there’s no dialogue in the film, the music became very important as a way to highlight the emotions in Sitara.

Check out Sitara to see the finished effect.

Need Music for Your Project?

At Audio Network we create original music, of the highest quality, for broadcasters, brands, creators, agencies and music fans everywhere. Through clear and simple licensing, we can offer you a huge variety of the best quality music across every conceivable mood and genre. Find out how we can connect you with the perfect collaborator today by clicking the button below!

This page was last updated 10/12/2020 and 19/05/2022


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