What Is 2D Animation? Step-By-Step Guide for 2D Production Process

Animation involves creating the perception of movement by using various techniques. This can apply to films or characters, among other things, and involves constructing a sequence of images that are slightly different from each other. When these images are shown in a chronological order, they create the effect of shape change and motion.

A more vibrant interpretation of animation could be described as giving something the capacity to come to life. By drawing, painting, or using other artistic methods, animators produce a series of images that, when viewed in quick succession, create the illusion of fluid movement. This technique is foundational in bringing stories and characters to life in a dynamic and engaging way.

Is 2D Animation Extinct?

Let’s start by dispelling a widespread misconception: 2D animation is far from obsolete. In fact, this adaptable medium is thriving across a variety of entertainment and media platforms. Whether it’s TV series, indie video games, feature films, commercials, mobile apps, or websites, 2D animation continues to play a significant role.

Consider shows like “Rick and Morty” as an example of how a compelling story combined with well-crafted 2D animation can be a winning formula. Furthermore, 2D animation remains a favorite tool for marketers looking to showcase their products or services. Given the medium’s wide-ranging uses, it’s understandable that people often have many questions about it.

In this blog, you’ll find comprehensive information about 2D animation, covering both traditional and hand-drawn styles, along with insights into the creation process and tips for becoming a skilled 2D animator. If you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section, and we’ll gladly provide detailed responses.

With that said, let’s begin this journey into the world of 2D animation!

Definition of 2D Animation

2D animation is a process where separate images, varying in height and width, are combined to create the illusion of movement within a two-dimensional plane, without incorporating any depth. The term “2D animation” is used because it involves only two key dimensions: height and width. When discussing the 2D animation process, it’s helpful to break it down into different styles. Essentially, 2D animation can be divided into two fundamental subcategories, which we’ll detail in the following section.

Traditional animation

Traditional animation, also referred to as hand-drawn or classical animation, is a technique where each frame needed to produce the illusion of movement is manually sketched on paper before being transferred to other mediums.

Modern animation 

In contrast to the traditional approach, modern 2D animation relies heavily on computer technology, allowing for greater possibilities in animation creation. Modern 2D animation software provides tools to design characters, craft backgrounds, and animate everything in a cohesive manner.

How Do 2D and 3D Animation Differ?

While there are many parallels between 2D and 3D animation production, with the development and pre-production phases sharing similar steps, the main production processes are quite different. In both cases, the early 2D animation steps include concept design, character development, lip-sync planning, storyboarding, and scene organization. Additionally, aspects such as controlled studio production, recruitment, contract management, budgeting, and scheduling are consistent between 2D and 3D projects.

However, the differences become clear during the main production phase. In 3D animation, the pipeline revolves around computer-generated models, where 3D modeling, texturing, and rendering are key steps. In contrast, the 2D animation process involves more hands-on work with traditional artistry, where artists manually create characters, backgrounds, and other elements.

For those interested in exploring 3D animation steps, you might consider our guide on the 3D animation production process, where we delve into the unique stages and methods used in this type of animation.

Where is 2D Animation Applied?

2D animation has a broad spectrum of applications in numerous industries, and 2D Animation Studio Malaysia is among the places where these animations are created and utilized. Here are some of the primary categories where 2D animation is applied:

  • Product Advertisements: Used in animated commercials to promote products and services.
  • Educational Films: Utilized to create informative and instructional content.
  • Feature Films: Full-length theatrical movies lasting over 60 minutes.
  • Music Videos: Employed to create animated music visuals.
  • Web Animation: Used for web-based content like animated GIFs and short videos.
  • Original Animated Video: Produced for home video playback, such as DVDs or Blu-rays.
  • Short Feature Films: Theatrical films lasting 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Short or Experimental Films: TV or theatrical films under 30 minutes.
  • TV Series: Typically 30 minutes or longer, including various segments.
  • TV Specials: Hour-long programs, including multiple segments.
  • Television Bumpers: Short animations that introduce or end TV segments, often just a few seconds.
  • Video Games: Used to create game graphics and animations.
  • Video Game Trailers: Promotional videos for video games.
  • Architectural Animation: Applied in designing and visualizing architectural projects.
  • Medical and Industrial Films: Used for specialized animations in medical or industrial contexts.
  • Multi-Path Movies: Feature interactive elements, allowing different narrative paths.
  • Logos, Intros, and Credits: Used for branding and opening/closing credits in various media.
  • Mobile Phone Graphics: Applied in creating visuals for mobile apps and interfaces.

What Are the Various Types of 2D Cartoons?

While 2D animation is often associated with entertainment, it’s also a powerful tool in marketing due to its versatility, lower production costs, and high audience engagement. Let’s explore the different applications of 2D animation within marketing.

Computer Animation

Computer animation, also known as CGI animation, involves creating animated images using computer graphics. This category can be divided into two types: computer-assisted animation and computer-generated animation. Computer-assisted animation takes traditional hand-drawn animations and digitizes them for further enhancement or manipulation on the computer. Meanwhile, computer-generated animation is entirely designed and created on a computer system using specialized animation or 3D graphics software.

Stop Motion

Stop-motion animation, also known as stop-frame animation, is a film technique used to make inanimate objects appear to move on their own. This is achieved by physically manipulating these objects and capturing their positions through a series of photographs, with adjustments made between each frame. When the images are played in rapid succession, it creates the illusion that the objects are moving independently.

Motion Graphics

Motion graphics are often used when animation does not require characters or elaborate narratives. Brands employ this style to animate logos, explanatory videos, and title sequences. In this technique, graphics and text are animated to create engaging visual content. The skills required for motion graphics differ from those needed for character-based animation, as there’s no need to understand body mechanics or acting. Commercial animation studios often offer motion graphics services for product videos.

Whiteboard Animation

Whiteboard animation involves depicting black-line drawings on a white background to illustrate various concepts or ideas. This approach is popular due to its effectiveness in communicating complex messages while keeping the audience’s attention. The straightforward style and clear visuals make it an excellent tool for conveying information in a simple and engaging manner.


When you have a large amount of information to present but limited time, animated slides or infographic animations are an excellent solution. Infographics are particularly effective at conveying complex topics and descriptions, especially when they require visual elements like charts and diagrams.

What Is the Process for Creating 2D Animation? (Step-by-Step Guide)

Here’s a breakdown of the typical workflow involved in 2D animation production. It’s important to note that each animated project might use different techniques, tools, and sequences, and there’s no “correct” way to create animation. The steps outlined here are commonly used by large animation studios, though your experience may vary.

This guide reflects the 2D animation processes typically practiced by big animation studios like Disney, DreamWorks, and Ghibli. However, if you’re interested in exploring other production approaches, you might consider working in 2D Animation Agency Malaysia, which can offer unique insights and tailored methods.

Visit our brand character service page to see how we assist brands in establishing a presence in the metaverse through custom mascots.

The production process for 2D animation, as described here, is split into three major stages:

  1. Pre-production
  2. Production
  3. Post-production

Within each of these stages, there are various sub-stages that serve as the fundamental elements in creating a finished animated piece.

2D Animation Pre-production Stage

Pre-production is the initial phase of creating a 2D animation and involves several key steps:

  1. Finding Inspiration Developing a story is the first step in making an animated movie, but it’s often challenging to come up with a compelling narrative. The story is crucial; a strong story with subpar animation can still make a great film, while a weak story cannot be saved by high-quality animation. To find inspiration, look at your surroundings—movies, songs, poems, or even personal experiences. Anything from people you’ve met to places you’ve visited can spark a story idea.
  2. Developing an Idea Once the initial story concept is established, the director and producers meet to refine it. This stage involves discussing potential changes to enhance the plot, the themes, and the message, making the story more complex and engaging for the target audience.
  3. Finalizing the Script This step focuses on writing the dialogues for the animation. It’s crucial to consider the target audience during this process. The script often undergoes multiple revisions and changes before it’s finalized, evolving as the production progresses.
  4. Scheduling the Production Just as you’d pack for a trip, planning is essential for an animation project. This step involves organizing all the elements needed for production and determining a timeline. Key aspects to consider include the delivery date, preliminary data, crew assignments, recruitment, and budgeting. Proper planning ensures a smooth transition into the production stage.

2D Animation Production Stage

Once pre-production is complete, the production stage in 2D animation begins. It involves a series of steps to bring the project to life:

  1. Designing This step encompasses character and background design. In character design, animators brainstorm and create various sketches until they agree on a final character concept. Sometimes, this step is outsourced to specialized studios for efficiency. For location design, animators create the settings where the action takes place, ranging from rooms to entire towns. Photographs from research or imaginative drawings are used to build these backgrounds.
  2. Composing Theme Songs (Optional) If the animation is a musical, songs are composed during this stage. Musicians create catchy tunes that fit the characters and storyline, adding memorability to the production.
  3. Storyboarding Storyboards are detailed sketches outlining the action and scene progression based on the script. They provide a visual representation of how the characters will move and interact. A bar sheet (or exposure sheet) is used to organize scenes and coordinate timing for action, dialogue, and sound.
  4. Concept Art Concept art sets the visual style, tone, color, and overall artistic approach for each scene. It guides the animators and helps them understand the desired aesthetic of the final product. This artwork is not used in the movie itself but serves as inspiration.
  5. Voice Recording After concept art, it’s time to record character voices. This process involves casting, presenting the characters, and then recording the voice lines.
  6. Animating Now the actual animation begins. Animators are divided into two groups: key animators and inbetweeners. Key animators create the essential poses for each character, while inbetweeners, also known as tweening artists, fill in the additional frames to ensure smooth movement and transitions. The standard frame rate for 2D animation is 24 frames per second.

2D Animation Post-production Stage

After the production stage, 2D animation moves into post-production, where final touches and finishing processes take place. Here’s what happens during this phase:


  1. Inking and Coloring Once the animation is complete, the sketches are transferred to celluloid, which is a transparent plastic sheet. This step involves inking or photocopying the outlines onto these cels, depending on whether it’s done by hand or digitally. Traditional inking required hours of manual work for each drawing, but computer technology has streamlined this process, making it much faster.
  2. Backgrounds Backgrounds are the settings for each scene and can be created digitally or traditionally by hand. Traditional methods often use gouache or acrylic paint, while some productions use watercolor or oil paint. The choice of materials can affect the visual style of the animation.
  3. Visual Effects Visual effects are used to enhance scenes that would be challenging to animate manually. Computers are employed to create effects like crowds, magic, fire, or other complex elements. Additionally, computers are used to correct errors, adjust lighting and camera angles, and add title sequences and credits. These effects bring the animation to life and contribute to the final look of the movie.
  4. Sound Design This is the final step in the animation process, where sound effects and ambiance are created to complement the visuals. This includes recording footsteps, doors opening, and other ambient noises to add texture and depth to the scenes. In earlier animation, sound designers had to manually create these effects, but now they are typically done digitally. Once the sound effects are completed, the background music is composed, with different tempos to match the emotional tone of each scene.

Final Steps in Post-production

At this stage, the recorded dialogues are synchronized with the character’s lip movements to ensure perfect timing. The various sound elements—dialogue, music, and sound effects—are then brought together during the sound mixing phase. Here, adjustments are made to audio levels, equalization, and perspective. Effects like echo, and simulations of TV or radio sound, are also added as needed. Once all these elements are finely tuned, they’re mixed into the final audio track that accompanies the completed animation.

Contact us to dive into the world of 2D animation! We’ll guide you step-by-step through the production process and answer all your questions

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