If you're interested in animation, you've probably noticed that there are many different styles of animation out there. 

Each style has its own unique characteristics, and choosing the right style for your project is an important decision. 

In this article, we'll cover:

  • Some of the most popular animation styles
  • The characteristics of each style
  • The types of projects they are best suited for
  • The advantages and disadvantages of each style. 

Whether you're a professional animator or just getting started with animation, this article will help you understand the different animation styles and choose the right one for your project.

How Many Animation Styles Are There?

There are many different types of animation to choose from, each with its own unique look and feel. Here are some of the most popular animation styles you can choose from:

1. Traditional Animation

Traditional animation, also known as cel animation, is the oldest form of animation. Unlike modern techniques, where computers handle much of the process, traditional animation relies on the skillful hand of the animator.

Each frame is meticulously drawn by hand, reminiscent of the early days at Disney.

If you've ever had a flip book as a child, you understand the magic I'm referring to.

Through a rapid succession of sequential drawings, the illusion of movement is brought to life.

These drawings, known as frames, were traditionally created on a large light table, a drafting table with a radiant panel in its center.

large light table

Large light table - Source: Quora

By utilizing this light table, animators could see their previous drawings through the paper, a technique aptly named onion skinning.

In the modern era, traditional animation has adapted to digital tools like tablets, although its essence remains rooted in the artistry of hand-drawn animation.

Traditional animation continues to captivate audiences with its timeless charm and the dedication of talented animators who breathe life into each frame.

2. 2D Animation

Unlike traditional animation, which relies on hand-drawn frames, 2D animation often utilizes vector-based animation programs such as Flash (formerly known as Adobe Flash).

This style has gained tremendous popularity in the past decade due to its accessibility and the increasing number of people embracing the technology.

One of the distinguishing features of 2D animation is the option to create rigs for characters, allowing animators to manipulate body parts individually rather than redrawing the entire character repeatedly.

While traditional animation necessitates strong drawing skills, 2D animation opens up avenues for individuals to explore the art form without relying solely on their drawing abilities.

Whether created by hand or with the assistance of digital software, 2D animation continues to captivate audiences with its vibrant characters and imaginative worlds.

3. 3D Animation

3D animation, also known as computer animation, is the prevailing form of animation that we see a lot in movies and video games today.

Instead of drawing everything by hand like in traditional animation, animators use controls to move virtual 3D models of characters around.

They set important positions called keyframes, and the computer figures out how to make the characters move smoothly between those positions.

In 3D animation, all body parts of the characters are always there, even if we can't see them. This means animators have to be careful about every part of the character.

Unlike traditional animation, which has some pauses, 3D animation usually looks very smooth. This style needs special animation software like Blender to make 3D models and animations.

4. Motion Graphics Animation

Stop motion is a special kind of animation that is different from the other types we talked about. It's not about characters or stories, but about moving graphic elements or text in a creative way. It's often used for things like animated logos, explainer videos, and commercials.

Motion graphics is a skill that focuses on making things look visually appealing and using camera movements effectively.

While it's not the same as animating characters, it still requires an understanding of good composition and how to make things look cool and interesting.

5. Stop Motion Animation

Stop motion is a kind of animation that mixes live-action filming with traditional animation. This style is often used for commercials and music videos.

It's done by taking pictures of an object and moving it a little bit each time, then taking more pictures. When you play those pictures in order, it looks like the object is moving.

It's like traditional animation, but instead of drawings, they use real-life things.

There are different styles of stop motion:

  • Object motion
  • Clay animation (or claymation): involves using clay to create characters and environments. This style is often used for commercials and short films.
  • Legomation
  • Puppet animation
  • Silhouette animation
  • Pixilation
  • Cut-out animation: involves creating characters and objects out of paper or other materials, and then animating them by moving them around on a flat surface. This style is often used for children's TV shows.
  • And more

6. Whiteboard Animation

Whiteboard animation is a special way of sharing messages and stories using image and text movement on a white or whiteboard-style background.

In whiteboard animation, an artist draws pictures and writes words on the whiteboard, and it happens right in front of the viewer's eyes, making it really exciting and engaging.

People use whiteboard animation for advertising because it helps get their messages across in a clear and interesting way. It's perfect for entrepreneurs, startups, businesses, and organizations that want to explain complicated information in a simple way.

Watching a whiteboard animation helps us understand things much faster than reading, and we remember a lot more too.

7. Rotoscope Animation

Rotoscope animation is a unique way of creating animations. Some people think it's a tricky or sneaky method, but it all depends on how you use it.

Basically, it involves drawing or tracing over live-action footage to create a more realistic animation. You can use your own footage or get permission to use someone else's.

8. Flipbook Animation

Flipbook animation is a fun way to create moving pictures using a small book of drawings. You start by drawing a series of pictures that show a scene or an object changing over time. Then, you take those pictures and put them into a book, one picture per page. When you flip through the pages quickly, the pictures appear to move, just like in a movie!

You can make a flipbook animation by hand, using pencils and paper, or you can create one digitally, using software on a computer or tablet. Either way, it's a great way to express your creativity and bring your ideas to life.

One cool thing about flipbook animation is that you can make it as simple or as complex as you want. You can draw stick figures doing a silly dance, or you can create a detailed scene with lots of characters and action. The possibilities are endless!

9. Mechanical Animation

Mechanical animation is a way to show how machines work by creating a 3D model that mimics the real thing. It's like making a movie, but instead of using actors, you use computer-generated images to show how different parts of a machine move and work together.

One of the coolest things about mechanical animation is that it can help people understand how complex machines work, even if they've never seen one before.

For example, if you were trying to explain how a car engine works, you could use mechanical animation to show how the pistons move up and down, how the spark plugs ignite the fuel, and how the gears turn to make the wheels spin.

10. Zoetrope Animation

Zoetrope animation is a unique and fascinating style of animation that involves placing a series of images inside a rotating drum. This drum is then spun, creating an optical illusion that makes the images appear to move.

Zoetrope animation is often used in experimental films and art installations to create mesmerizing visual effects.

What's interesting about zoetrope animation is how it works.

The images are placed in a specific sequence and drawn slightly differently from one another. When the drum is spun, the viewer sees each image through a slit in the drum, creating the illusion of movement.

It's like watching a flipbook animation but on a larger and more immersive scale.

Animation Techniques and Tools

As an animator, you have several animation techniques and tools at your disposal to create stunning animations. In this section, we will explore some of the most popular animation techniques and tools used by animators today.

Hand-Drawn Animation

Hand-drawn animation, also known as traditional animation, involves drawing each frame of the animation by hand. This technique is time-consuming and requires a lot of skill, but it can produce beautiful and expressive animations. Whiteboard animation is a type of hand-drawn animation that involves drawing on a whiteboard or a similar surface.

Computer Animation

Computer animation, also known as digital animation, involves creating animations using digital software programs. This technique is faster and more efficient than hand-drawn animation, and it allows animators to create complex animations with ease. Computer animation can be further divided into 2D animation and 3D animation.

Software Programs

There are several software programs available for animators to create animations. Some popular software programs for animation include:

  • Adobe After Effects
  • Toon Boom Harmony
  • Autodesk Maya.

These programs offer a wide range of features and tools to help animators create stunning animations.

Also, with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), there are now AI animation generators that can create animations automatically. Some examples of AI animation generators include:

  • Wideo: a video animation platform that uses AI to help users create videos quickly and easily.
  • Animaker: an online animation tool that uses AI to help users create animated videos without any prior graphic design experience.
  • Vyond with Vyond Go: an animation software that uses AI to help users create professional-looking animations quickly and easily.

AI helps in creating animations by automating certain tasks like character animation, lip synchronization, and even generating background music.

AI also helps in reducing the time and effort required to create animations, as it can generate animations automatically based on user input. This allows animators to focus on more creative aspects of animation, like storytelling and character development.

3D Modeling

3D modeling is a technique used to create digital models of objects and characters. These models can then be used in computer animation to create realistic and detailed animations. 3D modeling software programs, such as Blender and Autodesk 3ds Max, are used by animators to create 3D models.


Storyboarding is a technique used to plan out an animation before it is created. Storyboards are a series of drawings or images that depict the key moments and actions of the animation. Storyboarding helps animators to visualize the animation and plan out the timing and pacing of the animation.


Audio-Animatronics is a technique used to create lifelike and expressive animatronic figures. This technique involves using digital software programs to create the movements and actions of the animatronic figure, as well as incorporating audio to create a complete experience.

Audio-Animatronics is often used in theme parks and attractions to create realistic and engaging experiences for guests.

In conclusion, animators have a wide range of animation techniques and tools available to them to create stunning and engaging animations.

Whether you prefer hand-drawn animation or computer animation, there is a technique and tool out there for you to use.

By utilizing these techniques and tools, you can create animations that are sure to captivate and entertain your audience.

Animation and Storytelling

Animation is a powerful tool that can be used to tell stories in a visually compelling way. Whether you are creating a short film, a commercial, or an explainer video, animation can help you communicate your message effectively and engage your audience.

One of the key elements of successful animation is a STRONG narrative. A good story can captivate your audience and keep them engaged from beginning to end.

When creating an animated video, it is important to think about the story you want to tell and how you can use animation to bring that story to life.

There are many different animation styles that can be used to tell a story. Traditional animation, 2D animation, and 3D animation are just a few examples. Each style has its own unique look and feel, and can be used to convey different moods and emotions.

Puppetry animation is another style that can be used to tell a story. This involves using puppets to create a stop-motion animation. This style can be particularly effective for creating a whimsical or playful tone.

Anime is another popular animation style that is often used to tell stories. This style originated in Japan and is characterized by its distinctive look and feel. Anime can be used to tell a wide range of stories, from action-packed adventures to heartfelt dramas.

Overall, animation is an incredibly versatile and powerful tool that can be used to tell stories in a visually compelling way. By choosing the right animation style and focusing on creating a strong narrative, you can create an engaging and memorable animated video that resonates with your audience.

Visual Effects in Animation

Visual effects (VFX) are special effects that are used in animation to make it look even better. VFX is created by changing images, graphics, and text to create the illusion of motion or other special effects.

VFX can be used to create all sorts of things, like explosions, smoke, and fire, and make characters and environments look even more interesting. They can also be used to make text look like it's moving or changing shape, which is called kinetic typography.

One of the most important things about VFX is that they use different shapes and designs to create special effects. You can use simple shapes to make things like transitions, or more complicated ones to make really amazing animations.

When making an animation with VFX, it's important to think about how it will start and end. By planning carefully and using the right VFX at the right time, you can make your animation look really impressive and keep your audience interested.

Overall, VFX is a special tool for animation! They help make your ideas come to life and create an exciting experience for audiences.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, animation styles have come a long way since the early days. From 2D and 3D animation to motion graphics and stop-motion, there are countless techniques and styles to choose from.

With the rise of technology like AI and the increasing demand for engaging visual content, animation projects have become an essential tool for businesses and creators alike.

Whether you're looking to create a fun explainer video or a stunning visual experience, there's an animation style out there that can help you achieve your goals.

So, don't be afraid to experiment with different animation styles and techniques to find the perfect fit for your project. With a little creativity and the right tools, the possibilities are endless.

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About the Author Millie Pham

Meet Millie Pham - an SEO content marketer and video editor who loves exploring the latest tech and AI tools. She provides honest reviews and demystifies the world of AI, SEO, and blogging, making these complex topics accessible and easy to understand for everyone. Her work has been featured on Marin Software, jobillico, Nicereply, and other sites.

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