Introduction To 2D Animation – How to Become A 2D Animator

One of the most significant human activities may be storytelling. The methods we employ to communicate these stories, whether for entertainment or instruction, have evolved over time. Animation is one of the various media that have been created to help us tell these stories. While there are several other types of animation available today, we want to focus on 2D animation today.

You have probably seen a 2D animated creation if you have access to a TV or the internet. 2D animation, commonly known as “cartooning,” is a common form of animation that was used to create classic movies like Spirited Away and The Lion King.

You may already be familiar with Snow White, the first 2D animated feature film made in the United States by Walt Disney Studios, the company that produced The Lion King. Over 750 artists worked on this well-known Oscar-winning Disney cartoon, which required more than 2 million sketches to complete.

As a result of tremendous advancements in 2D animation techniques and technology since the release of the Disney animated feature Snow White, becoming a 2D animator is today easier than ever. We are providing this guide to enable anyone interested in pursuing careers as 2D animators or character designers learn more about the business and get started on their path to producing animation.

You ought to have a fundamental grasp of 2D animation at the end of this guide, including how it differs from earlier forms of animation and how it’s applied to movies, video games, and other types of media. We’ll also give you some essential information on how to continue working toward your dream of being a 2D animator as well as some helpful resources. Let’s get started!

What Is 2D Animation?

Making numerous images that, when seen in succession, appear to be in motion is how 2D animation is created. “The technique of filming successive drawings or positions of puppets or models to create an appearance of movement when the movie is exhibited as a sequence” is how these kinds of animation are described. In order to produce just a few brief minutes of video, thousands of exact photos may be used in the extremely specific and comprehensive visual sequence.

A flipbook would be the most straightforward illustration of this. Flipbooks can also be thought of as the basis for conventional animation methods. Starting with one image, you gradually alter it on each page until you get “motion” as the pages are turned. Project complexity and completion time rise when tools and procedures are improved. Sometimes it takes almost a decade to make a feature-length 2D animated picture, and more than 40 key animators are involved.

How Is It Different From Stop-Motion Animation?

This frame-by-frame, sequential approach may sound like stop-motion animation—and it totally is! How do they vary then?

The fundamentals of animation are roughly the same in stop-motion movies. In stop-motion, images of a scene and inanimate objects are first captured, after which the objects are subtly moved before another image is captured. Similar to 2D animation, this sequence of still images of inanimate things will similarly appear to be “moving” when seen as a whole.

Because stop-motion productions can also incorporate 3D Models, stop-motion and 2D are not usually synonymous; Tim Burton’s feature films are arguably the most well-known example.

How Is It Different From 3D Animation?

The most noticeable distinction is that while 2D animation is based on 2D drawings, 3D animation uses 3D models. Building 3D models out of 3D items and posing and moving them much like a stop-motion production is what 3D animation production entails.

2D Animation Media

The phrase “2D animation” is broad and covers a wide range of styles and methods. Stop-motion was already noted as one potential variation, but there are many additional distinctive forms of animation that fall under this category.

#1 Cel Animation

This is a more conventional hand-drawn method that is less frequently used, particularly in light of the advancement of computer animation capabilities. In cel animation, artists put their paper sketches onto a clear sheet known as a cel. Then, a sheet with a static background will be placed over the painted drawing. Cels will be switched after being photographed, with each new cel making a different, imperceptible movement. The animation you are familiar with will eventually be produced by this collection of photos.

Cels will be switched after being photographed, with each new cel making a different, imperceptible movement. The animation you are familiar with will eventually be produced from this collection of images.

The static backgrounds only needed to be drawn and coloured once thanks to cel animation, which allowed multiple animators to work on different segments of the same animation at the same time. Multiple translucent cel layers allowed for more efficiency while also paving the way for more advanced animation techniques.

#2 Digital Animation

While using additional digital tools to do the task, digital animation nevertheless abides by the basic principles of animation. Artists and their animation teams can now handle their artwork, special effects, and background music in computer programmes rather than sheets of paper or cels. These days, this technology is used to produce the majority of cartoon characters.

#3 Less Prominent Animation Forms

  • Drawn-on-film : In the drawn-on-film animation technique, film strips are directly edited to create an animation. The most conventional types of 2D animation photograph their frames before having film stock printed copies made of them.
  • Erasure Animation : Erasure animation is a remarkably original style that is renowned for its unpolished animation and straightforward design. Erasure animation usually only uses paper, charcoal (a pencil), and an eraser, and the animation team will work on a single page. They make drawings and erase them to make changes on the same paper, taking images in between, rather than creating gradual modifications utilising different drawings.
  • Auteur Technique : This is difficult to define because auteurs stress their individual vision by using animation technologies in creative ways. A excellent way to learn about auteur tactics is to look at particular directors and observe how they have achieved their style through a succession of images. This will help you to think about your own style.

Digital 2D Animation

While Snow White may have been the first 2D feature film produced in the USA, Emile Cohl’s Fantasmagorie is recognised as the very first 2D animated video. It was made in 1908 and has a runtime of just under two minutes and 700 illustrations. With its 250,000 final illustrations, Snow White achieved this feat after many changes. The ability to quickly and easily produce 2D animation video was specifically facilitated by the technique and technology available, and this trend has persisted for many years since.

The first types of 2D animation videos entailed artists creating countless numbers of drawings and making minute adjustments to each one in order to convey action through a sequence of images. Cel animation techniques were helpful for Snow White because they let the focus to be on minor incremental changes rather than on repeatedly redrawing larger figures and backdrops.

Since Snow White, digital animation software has received more attention, advancing 2D animation technology even further. Since digital files can handle every aspect of the animation process, many animation projects have abandoned paper altogether. Animation tasks can now be accomplished more quickly and easily than ever thanks to the tools’ increasing accessibility.

Pre-Production in 2D Animation

The work completed before to the start of any animation is referred to as the “pre-production phase” for 2D animation. This phase entails creating the plan and the assets you’ll need for the production phase.

There are several broad elements that every pre-production process should address, despite the fact that some studios or individuals may label or structure their process with small variations. These include storyboarding, character and environment design, audio recording and animatics (if applicable), colour styling, and script or screenplay writing.


You will need a strategy for what will happen during the animation, whether you are creating it for a film, television programme, or even a commercial. A screenplay, which includes details on the plot, settings, dialogue, and even sound effects, is essentially the written version of your project.


The storyboard you create will then be aided by the script. This script must be transformed into a visual representation of what the final animation will look like by a specialised role (a storyboard artist). Along with a basic visual sequence that provides an overview of the finished animation, characters, scenes, speech, and sound effects are noted.


When creating an animation, it’s crucial to stick to a consistent visual aesthetic. The watching experience may be ruined if characters do not appear to have been produced by the same artist or if they seem odd against specific backgrounds (although this can be an artistic choice). Character and environment design is the process through which artists decide how characters, backdrops, and other environmental props will look. This process frequently takes place concurrently with or before the storyboarding phase.

Your favourite cartoon characters likely underwent a few design iterations before being given their ultimate appearance. Before committing to a design that will need to endure the lengthy production process, artists might explore ideas during this pre-production stage.


Once the black and white designs are complete, the models can be forwarded to colour stylists who assist in deciding what colours will be utilised in the animation. This stage will emphasise particular colour schemes that some shows may desire to use.


Animatics and audio recording may not be necessary for all projects. As you may anticipate, actors record lines for dialogue that is written in the script during audio recording. During this time, several sound effects might also be recorded. Then, an animatic is produced by fusing these audio files with a storyboard.

As a result, the team can better see the ultimate product as the different frames of the storyboard steadily advance while pertinent voices and sound effects are played over top of them.

In order for animators to know how to move the lips of characters and depict other activities, dialogue and other noises may also be clearly described. One method animators have historically used to keep track of all the components that go into a scene is an exposure sheet. They can keep track of things like how the camera should move, what speech is present, what sound effects are required, etc. in this way.

While many animation companies will record some audio during the pre-production stage, this isn’t necessarily the norm in the business. This is crucial to remember. Japanese anime productions, for instance, often record their dialogue at the post-production stage, once the majority of the animation process has been finished.

Production – Lights, Camera, Action!

Depending on the studio and how technology advance, several pre-production activities could be seen as integral to the production process. Audio recording and narration were taken into account by various animation workflows as part of the production and even post-production procedures as sound cartoons (basically animated videos with sound) grew increasingly prevalent.

The production method for animation is relatively simple after the pre-production processes, with clearly defined duties to play in order to achieve success. Even if contemporary digital animation projects and traditional hand-drawn animation differ slightly in some aspects, they both still use the same animation principles.

The background layout and posing, animation, compositing, and rendering of an animated project are what you may anticipate from the production process.

Background Layout and Posing

During this stage, a member of the production team would set up the scene’s surroundings and position the actors in crucial positions that were taken into account when creating the storyboard. After the figures are posed, animators can start animating them by sketching out their subsequent moves.

Background Color and Painting

Making ensuring the environments are properly coloured in accordance with the style guide is a necessary step in establishing the environments in animation. It’s possible that the person in charge of this is different from the one who poses and sets up the setting.


There are several distinct teams of animators that you can use, depending on the size of your production team. Key Animators, a senior role in charge of composition and the primary colour standards for animation production, may be present in large studios.

They are in charge of drawing the frames with the characters in their most “key” stances, which are often the start and finish of an action (these are referred to as a keyframe). The in-between frames will then be drawn by a different animator to finish out the animation’s look.

Clean-Up / Inking and Painting

Often, the animator will finish the process with rougher lines for the majority of it, and then a clean-up artist will enter to make sure everything is tidy. An inker or painter who ensures that all drawings are neat and acquire the appropriate colour may also be the artist in charge of this. This could be the stage of manufacturing that takes the longest.


To create the final frames, a compositor will merge materials from the various production and pre-production stages. To create the final frames, a compositor may apply special effects, highlights, and shadows to the cleaned-up and coloured drawings.

The same animation project may have multiple artists working on it at once. Any minor variances will also be equalised by the compositor. Cartoon characters are able to preserve the same appearance and animation style because of this, even though they are created by numerous different artists.


All of this work needs to be rendered in order to produce the movie or animation after the final frames have been selected. Your chosen software application will take care of this, formatting the series of photos made during production into a video.

Post-Production in 2D Animation

The post-production stage of the animation process contains fewer clearly defined steps than the preceding stages. Here, you will make your last modifications to your animation, such as modifying the effects and incorporating transitions and other decorative elements.


Audio and video editing make up the majority of editing. The volume will be properly adjusted during audio editing, and dialogue and other sounds will be synchronised with the animation. There will be additional effects, and actors may enter to record some final voice lines. In this stage, dubbing might also take place.

Video editing will make sure that every scene flows well and that any odd animation or art may be fixed before it is released. For your favourite show to exist, the beloved cartoon characters had to go through the full procedure.

When all modifications have been made and your project has received comprehensive inspection, you are ready to export the final digital video files and get your animation ready for distribution.

How To Become A 2D Animator

There are many diverse alternatives for picking a job in the animation industry. These days, 2D animators work in the fields of education, broadcasting, video games, and app development. While each profession and business will have their own criteria, there are some general skills that will get you ready for a career in 2D animation.

What Education Is Needed To Be A 2D Animator?

Even while businesses frequently place a high value on education, it is still possible to work as a 2D animator without a formal degree. Employers, on the other hand, will often hunt for candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree when a degree is required.

A B.A. in Animation and Visual Effects, Fine Arts, Illustration Digital Arts, or Computer Animation are common degrees for 2D animators.

If you’re seeking for some online courses to start your 2D Animation study outside of traditional college programmes, we may suggest the following outstanding choices:

  • CG Spectrum Advanced 2D Animation : CG Spectrum offers comprehensive, supervised coursework with knowledgeable business executives. This is one course aspiring animators should take note of due to its small class numbers and practical nature.
  • CG Master Academy Foundations in Modern 2D Animation : This course also makes use of business specialists to help students comprehend the realities of contemporary animation work and provide them with the skills they need to be successful.
  • Idea Academy 2D Digital Animation Course : The course offered by Idea Academy is a lengthy programme that is perfect for students who are eager to study 2D Animation and has animators who have worked for organisations like Cartoon Network and even Pixar.
  • Check out the options at Udemy : Udemy offers a wide variety of animation lessons made by artists who share their expertise with students. Looking for classes here may be a fantastic choice for you if you have a certain artist or a particular style in mind.

However, the animation programme at CalArts might be the best option if you’re looking for a college animation experience. This university is notable since several of the most well-known animators from the Walt Disney Studios attended it for their undergraduate studies. You may have heard of the Disney animation easter egg known as A113, which alludes to the classroom where students studying character animation and graphic design are taught.


If you have less education to draw on, experience is where you can differentiate yourself. Every candidate seeking a position as a 2D animator needs to have a portfolio and demo reel.

A portfolio typically takes the form of a website where you can highlight your professional background and experience and offer samples of your work. A demo reel, which normally lasts under a minute, is a display of your best work.


No matter where they find work, 2D animators will need a few key abilities, including:

  • Knowledge of the animation process and workflow : The production processes we previously highlighted are crucial for keeping a project’s schedule and results. You should be familiar with the procedures needed to complete each step in an animation project as well as the methods employed (or at least the ones you are focused on).
  • Experience with animation techniques or programs : Being able to complete work using this medium is crucial if you’re seeking for classic paper-based 2D Animation jobs. You should get knowledgeable about the complex animation software that will be used in many, if not most, 2D animation projects.

When you do start looking for work, seek for teams that can make the most of your skills and work style. To find job, you might also think about joining organisations and networking with others in the sector.

2D Animation Software Options And Pricing

There are more alternatives for animation software than ever; whether you want free options to test them out or want to use paid software to expand your portfolio, there is a huge selection available to you. There isn’t really an incorrect software choice as long as you can create art to your preferences and obtain your digital video files consistently.

Let’s go over some of these free and premium options in more detail to help you gain some understanding and direct you to a good starting point.

Free Tools

  • Pencil 2D : Animation software called Pencil 2D is open-source and free. Its largest benefit is undoubtedly because it is open-source, which makes it user-friendly for beginners and expandable as you gain more expertise.
  • Synfig Studio : You can be confident that this programme can produce high-quality animations because a reputable animation studio utilised it before making it available to the general audience. It can be a little challenging to get started, and it does demand more computer power.
  • Creatoon : This is yet another effective free application with a tonne of features and effects to give your projects a polished appearance. Finding the educational materials to begin your adventure with this programme may be the lone drawback.
  • Blender : With its wide range of tools, Blender has gained popularity among 3D animators, but as their 2D animation options have advanced, it has also become a potent tool for 2D animators. Because it is open-source, there have been a lot of improvements. You won’t discover any official tutorials from the company itself; all of the tutorials you see will be from independent authors.
  • Animation Desk : Even though our own software is free to use, it still has plenty of features and capability. Both novice and experienced animators can benefit from Animation Desk’s many features. View some animations produced with our programme to see what you’re capable of (and maybe even go beyond it)!

Premium (Paid) Tools

  • Toon Boom Harmony : Numerous studios use Toon Boom Harmony, a professional-grade piece of software. Although this place has all the tools you could possibly need to control the animation process, it might be overwhelming for novice animators.
  • Toon Boom Storyboard Pro : We talked about how crucial pre-production is to getting the production process off to a smooth start and keeping it running efficiently throughout time. Almost every aspect of the pre-production process, including storyboarding, animatics, character design, and more, can be handled using Toon Boom Storyboard Pro.
  • Adobe Suite (After Effects, Photoshop, Flash, Encore) : Given that Photoshop is one of the most widely used editing programmes worldwide, the Adobe Suite may be the most well-known item on this list. Although the UI and tools of the several Adobe apps can be difficult, they are frequently required for some businesses. Fortunately, there are thorough tutorials available to teach you how to grasp any specific digital element.

Wrap Up

This guide’s objective was to educate readers interested in animation about the history of the medium and how it is currently thriving. Animation has had a huge influence on how we tell stories, from its early paper roots to its contemporary digital branches.

A noble ambition is to work as an animator on your favourite films, video games, or other forms of media. We also wanted to talk about the animation production process and provide you some tips on how to get started on your path to being a 2D animator for those of you who choose to follow this aim.

It has never been simpler to pursue 2D animation because there are more resources than ever before for education and careers. Even young children may now make their own cartoons and games as technology gets more user-friendly.

The best approach to learn about art and creative endeavours may be to watch others in action. Consider animators and styles you really like while choosing your own path in animation. Find out more about their backgrounds and even the technologies they employ. This might help you establish a starting point and provide guidance as you work toward your objectives.

If you are looking for a 2D animation company or a 2D animation agency to create a video animation 2D for your business or personal use, Dezpad is the right choice for you. Contact Us and book your first consultation with us today.

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