What is 2D Animation? Step-by-Step Guide for 2D Animation Process

There are two definitions of the verb “to animate” in the Oxford Dictionary:

“To animate something or someone means to use animation techniques to give (a film or character) the appearance of movement.”

However, the second definition may sound more lively:

“Describe the action as the ability to bring something to life.”

To depict the aforementioned “appearance of movement,” we must create a series of images that are slightly different from one another, whether drawn, painted, or created using other artistic methods. The display of previous images in chronological order creates the illusion of shape change and motion.

Here’s a quick 2D animation breakdown to give you a general idea of how 2D animation is made:

What is 2D animation?

The illusion of movement in a two-dimensional world with no depth happens when we combine different pictures of different heights and widths together. You may be wondering why we call this 2D animation. This is due to the fact that width and height are the only two variables and dimensional elements. There are various types of animation, which we will discuss in the following section.

There are several ways to categorise 2D animation styles, but the most basic distinction is between two subcategories:

Traditional animation

Traditional animation (also known as hand-drawn animation or classical animation) is a type of animation in which all of the frames used to create the illusion of motion are first drawn on paper and then done by hand.

Modern animation 

Modern 2D animation, in contrast to the traditional method, is all about computers and their ability to go further when it comes to creating an animation. Along with that, 2D animation studios will use various 2D animation software is being developed, giving the option of creating characters, backgrounds, and animating them all at the same time.

What Is the Difference Between 2D and 3D Animation?

There are numerous parallels between 3D and 2D production. The stages of development and pre-production are virtually identical. The design stages, expression and lip-sync development, storyboarding, scene planning, and, most importantly, the controlled production circumstances (the fact that everything happens within the production studio) are all very similar. Recruiting, contracts, budgeting, and scheduling are all the same in 2D and 3D productions.

When the main production phase begins, the true differences become apparent. Because the computer replaces paper and pencil, the process necessitates a different production pipeline. The creation of 3D computer-generated models of all characters, props, and sets is the first step in this process.

In the 3D animation pipeline, for example, we have stages such as rendering, 3D modelling, and texturing. In the 2D pipeline, however, these are mostly done by artists. Check out our guide to the animation production process if you want to learn more about the workflow of 3D animation.

What Are the Different Types of 2D Cartoons?

We don’t always make 2D animation for the sake of entertainment. Many marketing and branding videos are created in 2D for a variety of reasons, including versatility, low production costs, and high engagement rates. Let’s take a look at the various applications of this type of animation in marketing.

Computer animation

Computer animation, also known as CGI animation, is a technique for creating animated images using computer graphics. Computer animation is classified into two types. Traditional animation is computerised in computer-assisted animation. Computer-generated animation, on the other hand, is created entirely on a computer system using animation and 3D graphics software.

Stop Motion

Stop-motion animation, also known as stop-frame animation, is a cinematic process or technique used to make real-world objects appear to move. Every time the objects are moved between frames, they are physically manipulated and photographed. The objects are “brought to life” when the sequence of images is displayed quickly.

Motion Graphics

Character or story-driven animation isn’t always necessary for brands. They prefer to use graphics and text for animated logos, explainers, and titles instead. Motion graphics are an excellent choice in this situation. Because motion graphics do not require knowledge of body mechanics or acting, the skills required to create them differ from those required for other types of animation. Motion graphics for product videos is one of the most important services provided by commercial animation studios.

Whiteboard animation

Whiteboard animation involves simulating black-line graphics drawn on a white background to illustrate the concepts or ideas at hand. The popularity of these videos stems from their effectiveness, as the dynamic graphics and animations do an excellent job of conveying complex messages while keeping the audience engaged. Using a streamlined style that results in a simple and to-the-point conclusion.


If you have a lot of information and a limited amount of time, animated slides or infographic animations are a great way to accomplish both. Infographics shine when it comes to complex subjects and descriptions that require illustrations and graphs.

Let’s take a closer look at how 2D animation is made. The process is divided into three stages: pre-production, production, and post-production. Let’s take a look at what’s in each of them.

How About 2D Anime?

Anime is commonly defined as a hand-drawn animation style derived from Japanese artwork. It’s not that different from traditional 2D cartoons, but the main characters in anime have large doe-like eyes. Furthermore, anime is the dominant style in Japanese comic books or manga.

What Is the 2D Animation Creation Process (Step-By-Step Guide)?

Now we’ll explain and break down the 2D animation workflow. However, it is worth noting that each animated film was created in a unique manner, using a variety of techniques and devices. There is no such thing as a “correct” or “unique” way to animate, and the steps outlined below are not always followed in the same order.

We have specifically divided the 2D animation production process into three parts:

  • Pre-production
  • Production
  • Post-production

Each of these stages is made up of various mini-stages that serve as the foundation for a fully animated work.

2D Animation Pre-production Stage

#1 Finding inspiration

To create an animated film (or any film in general), you must first develop a story. However, coming up with a good story can be extremely difficult at times. The plot is the most important aspect of any animated film. If the animation isn’t great but the story is, you have a good movie; if the opposite is true, the movie is worthless.

To create a good story, you must first find inspiration. How do you do it? All you have to do is pay attention to what is going on around you. A movie, a song, or a poem can all provide inspiration. To get inspired, use anything from your own life. Any person you’ve ever met, any place you’ve ever visited, and any experience you’ve ever had could spark a story in your head.

#2 Developing an idea

It’s now time for the director and producer(s) to sit down and brainstorm changes to the story we’ve chosen to animate. We propose various ways to add depth to it, such as the message we want to convey, the main plot, and so on. We strive to make them more complex and appealing to a modern audience.

#3 Finalizing the script

All of the animation’s dialogue is written at this stage. When writing, it is critical to consider the intended audience for the animation. It’s worth noting that the script changes a lot during the filming process until we get the final version.

#4 Scheduling the production 

Just as you would pack your suitcase before a trip to ensure you have everything you need, you should plan ahead of time when and how you will begin producing your animation project. Although it may appear tedious, it is critical to organise the project and prepare everything before beginning to animate. Planning should include the following items:

  • Delivery date
  • Preliminary data
  • Crew plan
  • recruiting
  • budget

2D Animation Production Stage

#5 Designing 

Once all of the scheduling is completed, we begin designing the characters and backgrounds for the animation, which is divided into two categories:

  • Character designing : When it comes to character design, everyone contributes their ideas. Every animator grabs a pencil and a scrap of paper and begins sketching various designs of the characters over and over. Finally, they come up with a reasonable character design that everyone on the team approves of. Artists may outsource this stage to character design studios that can provide quick and dependable assets for their projects.
  • Location designing : Animators must also design the backgrounds for the film, whether it is just the main character’s bedroom, a school class, or an entire village. They sometimes use photographs taken during the research process when designing backgrounds. Sometimes they just use their imagination.

#6 Composing the theme songs (optional)

This stage of the process entails writing the songs that will be sung by the characters. This step is only applicable when discussing a musical film; not every animated film contains singing. When composing, musicians often include simple and catchy songs so that listeners remember the lyrics and they become stuck in their heads. Consider some of the best Pixar films, such as COCO, in which the characters sing a specific type of song.

#7 Storyboarding

Storyboards are comic-book-style sketches that follow the action of the script and show how the characters will move in each scene. Animators organise the scenes on a bar sheet to plan the storyboard. A bar sheet (or exposure sheet) is a table that contains a breakdown of each sequence’s action, dialogue, and sound.

It specifies which poses, drawings, and movements animators must draw later. It is structured similarly to a music pentagram and is typically smaller than an A4 sheet of paper. When the bar sheet is finished, the storyboard artists start drawing everything.

Storyboards do not need to be as detailed as the final animation; they are simply rough sketches. The features of the character do not have to be exact either. However, there are some storyboards that are extremely detailed and even coloured. It is up to the artist who creates it.

#8 Concept art

We develop the style, tone, colour, and overall artistic approach to each sequence when creating concept art.
Concept art will not appear in the film; it will only serve to inspire the animators and give them an idea of how the final product will look. Everything, from the main characters to the smallest props, must be designed. To design everything, they create tens of thousands of drawings, paintings, blueprints, sculptures, and models.

#9 Voice recording

When the concept art is complete, it is time to record the characters’ voices. Casting, character presentation, and recording are the three steps in this process.

#10 Animating

This is the point at which animation truly begins. Now that the storyboards and planning are complete, it’s time to let the animators work their magic. Key animators (or main animators) and inbetweeners are the two types of animators.

  • Key Animators : Every character is assigned to one main animator in a 2D animation agency, usually the one who designed them, who will draw all of the scenes in which the character is mentioned. The frames with the essential poses of the characters are drawn by key animators without regard for the fluidity of the movement.
  • Tweening Artists : The inbetweeners are the animators who take the mainframes created by the key animator and fill them with more frames to make the movement flow and look natural. A second must contain an average of 24 frames per second. Tweening is the process of filling the mainframes. They must remember that the characters must perform basic human functions such as breathing and blinking. They must give them the sensation of flesh and bones. Tweening is also a difficult process because everything must appear consistent and unified.

2D Animation Post-production Stage

#11 Inking and colouring

After all of the scenes have been animated, they are delivered to the inking department. That is where the pencil sketches are transferred to celluloid. A celluloid is a thin, transparent sheet of plastic. They ink or photocopy the drawing’s outline onto a cel, depending on whether they are doing it traditionally or digitally.

Originally, everyone inked the sketches by hand, and they could spend hours on just one. Fortunately, since the invention of the computer, the process has become much faster and simpler.

#12 Background

The backgrounds are the sets where each animated sequence’s action takes place. They, like the previous step, can be completed by computer or by hand. Traditionally, painted drawings are created with gouache or acrylic paint, though watercolour and oil paint are also used in some animated productions.

#13 Visual effects

When a sequence necessitates animation that would be extremely difficult to create by hand, we employ computer effects. When animators need to animate a scene with a large crowd or with some kind of magic effect or fire on them, they use a computer.

We can save extra work and time by animating the background characters with a computer. Animators use computers to change the camera angle, edit possible mistakes, correct lighting, movement speed, scene atmosphere, and so on. They give the film its final look. They also use the computer to enter the opening and closing credits.

#14 Sound design

Sound designers create and record sound effects and ambiance (footsteps, clothes rustling, doors opening, etc.) to create textures and layers of sound that enhance the story. They are now created digitally, but at the start of the animation, sound designers had to make the sounds they required themselves. Because they didn’t have another option, they recorded the sounds of broken dishes, animals, doors knocking, and so on in Snow White.

The background music is then composed. The background music expresses how the main character is feeling at the time. As a result, depending on the scene, the music will be fast or slow.

Contact Us and book your first consultation with us today. Here at Dezpad as a growing 2D animation company will strive to meet your goals all the while making the whole creative process fun for you!

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