Exploring the Different Types of Animation: From 2D to 3D 
Creative & Design

Exploring the Different Types of Animation: From 2D to 3D 

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Key Takeaways

  • Animation’s global market is set to grow at 5.2% by 2030, deeply embedded in our daily lives.
  • Explores different types of animation like 2D, 3D, and stop-motion animation, each with unique techniques and artistic possibilities.
  • Techniques range from traditional hand-drawn to computer-generated, with examples like “Frozen” and “Wallace and Gromit.”
  • Future trends include real-time rendering, VR/AR, and the fusion of animation with digital media for innovative storytelling.

Animation has ingrained itself deeply into our daily lives. It appears in ads, television programmes, movies, and even our beloved video games. Animation is a medium that transcends boundaries. It allows us to witness extraordinary worlds, empathise with characters, and experience emotions like never before. So how many types of animation are out there?

In fact, a recent study posted by Precedence Research predicts the global animation market will grow at a CAGR of 5.2% from 2021 to 2030 and hit US$ 642.5 bn by 2030. This statistic alone highlights the immense impact and growing significance of the types of animation in our modern society. 

a woman working on an animation

Without further ado, let’s dive into this blog and understand the timeless charm of 2D traditional animation, the immersive depth of 3D animation, and the tactile delight of stop-motion. In this blog, we will also learn techniques, types of animation styles used, and applications that make each type of animation a mesmerising art form in its own right.

So, let’s embark on this journey together and explore the diverse tapestry of animation, where creativity knows no bounds and storytelling becomes an enchanting spectacle.

1- Definition and History of Animation

1.1- The Origins and Evolution of Animation

Animation, as an art form. It has a fascinating history that spans centuries and has evolved tremendously over time. Its roots can be traced back to ancient times when early civilizations discovered the principles of visual persistence, which laid the foundation for creating the illusion of movement.

But the idea of contemporary animation did not start to take shape until the late 19th century.

The zoetrope, a machine that created the appearance of motion by rotating a cylinder with a series of pictures on the inside, was the first significant advancement in the types of animation. This led to the development of other devices to create animations, like the praxinoscope and the flipbook animation, which further refined the concept of animation.

These inventions marked the birth of computer animation as we know it today.

1.2- Common Animation Techniques Used Today

Currently, the types of animation have become a vast field that encompasses various techniques and styles. While the advent of computer-generated animation has expanded the possibilities exponentially, 2D traditional animation continues to be cherished for its timeless appeal. Also, the combination of 2D and 3D types of animation styles has resulted in stunning visual experiences in recent years.

Some of the common types of animation techniques used today include:

  • Traditional Hand-Drawn Animation: This technique involves creating each frame of animation by hand, either on paper or using digital drawing tablets. It requires skilled artists who meticulously draw and animate characters and objects to create fluid and expressive movements.A person hand drawing a monkey
  • Stop Motion Animation: Stop motion animation involves capturing a series of photographs of physical objects or puppets, moving them slightly between each shot, and then playing them back in sequence to create the illusion of movement. It offers a distinct and tangible aesthetic.
  • Computer-Generated Animation: With the rise of computer graphics, 3D animation has become immensely popular. It involves creating virtual objects and environments using specialised software and manipulating them through complex algorithms to simulate movement and interactions. 
  • Motion Graphics: Motion graphics combine animation with graphic design to create visually appealing and informative content. It often involves animating text, shapes, and images to convey messages in commercials, title sequences, and explainer videos.

So, these popular types of animation techniques are not mutually exclusive. Thus, this means animators often combine different approaches to achieve their desired artistic vision. The advancements in technology continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in animation. This allows the artists to explore new creative territories.

2- 2D Animation

2.1- Explanation of 2D Animation and How It Works

2D animation refers to the traditional animation method of creating movement in a two-dimensional space. It involves the manipulation of flat images, typically drawn on paper or digitally, and sequencing them to create the illusion of motion. In this form of traditional animation, characters, backgrounds, and objects are usually created with outlines and filled with colours or textures.

The process of creating 2D animation begins with storyboarding. This is where artists sketch out the keyframes to plan the sequence of events. Once the storyboard is finalised, the animators create the individual frames. They do so either by drawing them by hand on paper or using digital drawing software. These frames are then scanned or imported into a computer to be digitally manipulated and organised into a cohesive sequence.

In order to bring the drawings to life, animators use a technique called “onion skinning.” This technique allows them to see a faint overlay of the previous and upcoming frames. Thus, this enables the animators to ensure smooth motion, transitions, and consistent movements. Timing and spacing are crucial factors in 2D animation, as they determine the rhythm and flow of the animation.

2.2 Techniques and Styles of 2D Animation

2D animation offers a wide range of techniques and styles, each with its unique aesthetic and appeal. Here are some notable techniques commonly used in 2D animation:

  • Traditional Hand-Drawn Animation: This technique involves animating each frame by hand, resulting in a distinct and organic feel. It requires skilled draftsmanship and meticulous attention to detail. 
  • Cut-Out Animation: In cut-out animation, pre-drawn components, such as characters and props, are animated by shifting and rotating each portion separately. This method is well-liked for its effectiveness and adaptability.
  • Digital 2D Animation: Thanks to the development of digital tools, animators may now use software that imitates the traditional hand-drawn method. These tools enable artists to produce 2D animation directly on a digital platform with features including onion skinning, layers, and a selection of brushes.
  • Rotoscope animation: Rotoscope animation is a technique where animators trace live-action footage frame by frame to create realistic movement. Rotoscope animation blends the real world with the animated realm, resulting in a unique visual style. 

In the last decade or two, multiple 2D animated films and shows have captured the hearts of audiences worldwide. Here are some examples of beloved 2D animated works:

  • “Beauty and the Beast” (1991): This timeless Disney film is famous for its captivating story and gorgeous hand-drawn types of animation. It cemented the prominence of 2D animation in the industry by being the first animated movie to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
  • “The Simpsons”: Because of its caustic wit and endearing characters, this long-running animated sitcom has become a cultural phenomenon. “The Simpsons” has maintained its position as a pillar of 2D animation in the television industry because of its particular animation style, which is characterised by sharp edges and exaggerated features.

3- 3D Animation

3.1- Explanation of 3D Animation and How It Works

3D animation involves creating computer-generated characters and objects in a three-dimensional virtual environment. Further, this process requires modelling, rigging, animating, and rendering the 3D assets using specialised software. Thus, the result of vector-based animation is lifelike characters and immersive worlds that can be explored from different angles.

In 3D animation, artists create a digital skeleton, known as a rig, for each character. They then manipulate the rig to further create characters’ movements and expressions. Moreover, lighting, textures, and other visual elements are applied to enhance the realism of the final animation.

3.2- Techniques and Workflows for 3D Animation

3D animation relies on various techniques and workflows to bring virtual worlds to life. Some commonly used techniques and workflows include:

  • Character Modeling and Rigging: Creating 3D models involves designing and shaping the characters or objects in a virtual environment. Rigging involves adding a digital skeleton to the model, allowing animators to control its movements.
  • Keyframing and Animation Curves: Keyframing involves setting important poses or keyframes throughout an animation, while animation curves define how the movements between keyframes should occur. This technique allows animators to create smooth and natural motions.
  • Physics Simulation: You may use physics simulation to give objects characters or lifelike motion. To produce more dynamic and convincing animation styles, real-world physics such as gravity and collisions are utilised.

3D animation has become the dominant technique in contemporary animated films and shows, showcasing its versatility and ability to create visually stunning worlds. Thus, here are a few examples of popular 3D animated works:

  • “Frozen”: Disney’s “Frozen” utilised 3D animation to create a visually captivating winter wonderland. The film’s realistic snow effects, intricate character types of animation, and immersive environments contributed to its enormous success.
  • “How to Train Your Dragon”: DreamWorks Animation’s “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise employed 3D animation to bring mythical creatures and breathtaking flying sequences to life. The film showcased the potential of 3D animation in creating epic adventures and emotional storytelling.


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4- Stop-Motion Animation

4.1- Explanation of Stop-Motion Animation and Its Uses

Stop-motion animation is a captivating form of animation that involves manipulating physical objects or puppets frame by frame to create the illusion of movement.

Moreover, it is a meticulous and time-consuming process where the animator meticulously positions and adjusts the objects slightly between each frame, capturing a photograph of each frame along the way. When played back in sequence, these individual frames create the illusion of motion.

This kind of animation has several uses and may be used in a variety of contexts, such as movies, television shows, advertising, and even music videos. Its unusual tactile and palpable nature gives the finished product a certain charm that appeals to both youngsters and adults.

4.2 Techniques and Equipment Required for Stop-Motion Animation

In order to create stop-motion animation, animators require specific techniques and equipment. Here are some essential elements of the process:

  • Armature: Armatures are metal skeletons or frameworks that provide support and stability to puppets or models. They allow animators to manipulate the characters and maintain consistent poses throughout the animation process.
  • Set Design: Creating intricate miniature sets is an integral part of stop-motion animation. These sets serve as the backdrop for the characters and provide the context for their movements. Attention to detail in set design is key to a visually appealing and believable environment.
  • Lighting: Proper lighting is essential for this type of animation to achieve consistency and create the desired atmosphere. Controlling light sources and shadows helps to enhance the overall aesthetics and bring the animation to life.
  • Cameras and Tripods: Stop-motion animators use cameras with manual control settings to capture each frame precisely. Stable tripods are crucial to maintaining consistency in camera angles and movements.
  • Stop-Motion Software: Digital advancements have made it easier for animators to streamline the process. Specialised software, such as Dragonframe and Stop Motion Pro, provides essential features like frame capture, timeline editing, and onion skinning, assisting animators in achieving smoother and more precise animations.

Using these types of animations, several beloved films have been produced throughout the years. Here are a few notable examples:

  • “Wallace and Gromit” series: The “Wallace and Gromit” series, created by Nick Park, features endearing stop-motion animations that blend humour and adventure. The endearing characters and complex plot have won countless honours, including multiple Academy Awards.
  • “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993): Stop-motion animation and an enchantingly eerie plot are expertly merged in this Tim Burton-produced movie. It has gained enduring popularity among viewers of all ages thanks to its gothic style and lovable characters.

5- Other Types of Animation

5.1- Motion Graphics and Explainer Videos

Motion graphics and explainer videos are two popular forms of animation that have gained significant traction in recent years. They offer unique ways to convey information, engage audiences, and tell stories. Let’s dive deeper into these fascinating types of animation.

Thus, text, shapes, and other animated graphics are referred to as motion graphics and are used to produce dynamic and aesthetically appealing material. They are frequently utilised in a variety of media, including movies, television, advertisements, and internet platforms. In order to create visually striking animations, motion graphics frequently combine 2D and 3D components.

Moreover, the capacity of motion graphics to concisely and interestingly communicate complicated information is one of their main advantages. By utilising kinetic typography, vibrant colours, and smooth transitions, motion graphics capture viewers’ attention and effectively communicate ideas. They are especially prevalent in explainer videos, which aim to educate and inform viewers about a particular product, service, or concept.

Explainer videos, as the name suggests, are animations designed to explain and simplify complex topics. So, they often employ a combination of motion graphics, narration, and storytelling techniques to make the content more accessible and engaging.

Thus, explainer videos can be found in various industries, from technology and finance to healthcare and education, as they offer an effective means of breaking down complex subjects into easily digestible visuals.

5.2- Whiteboard Animation

Whiteboard animation is a unique form of animation that simulates the process of drawing on a whiteboard. It involves recording an artist’s hand-drawn illustrations and text on a white background while adding narration or voice-over to provide explanations or tell a story, which can be done using a text to voice generator. The distinctive style of whiteboard animation, with its dynamic illustrations unfolding before the viewer’s eyes, has captivated audiences across different platforms.

One of the key advantages of whiteboard animation is its simplicity. So, by using simple line drawings and a monochromatic colour scheme, whiteboard animation focuses on the core message without overwhelming the viewer with complex visuals.

Therefore, this type of animation is often used in educational videos. Other use cases include presentations, and marketing campaigns, as it effectively conveys information while maintaining a sense of engagement and intrigue.

5.3- Cut-out Animation

Cut-out animation is also known as puppet animation. It involves animating characters or objects by using individually cut-out pieces that are then manipulated and filmed frame by frame. Lightweight cut-outs can hinge for motion, often paper or cardstock. Cut-out animation offers a versatile and cost-effective approach to bringing characters to life.

This form of cut-out animation first gained popularity through the works of pioneers such as Lotte Reiniger, who created stunning silhouetted cut-out animations. Today, cut-out animation techniques have evolved, embracing new technologies and tools to enhance the process.

So, with the advent of digital animation software, artists can create and manipulate cut-out elements digitally, combining traditional animation craftsmanship with the advantages of modern technology.

Additionally, cut-out animation is often utilised in advertisements, music videos, and even interactive media, showcasing its adaptability across various creative platforms.

5.4- Claymation and Puppetry

One of the many processes of claymation

Claymation, also referred to as clay animation, is a type of animation technique. It involves manipulating characters or objects made of clay or similar malleable materials. Animators meticulously sculpt, shape, and reposition the clay models between each frame. This creates the illusion of movement when the frames are played in sequence. Clay animation has a distinct tactile quality that adds charm and appeal to the animation.

Therefore, the process of creating clay animation can be time-consuming and labour-intensive, requiring patience and attention to detail. However, the end result can be incredibly rewarding, as claymation offers a unique visual aesthetic that captures the imagination and evokes a sense of nostalgia. 

Puppetry, although not strictly an animation technique, is closely related to clay animation in terms of its tactile nature and the illusion of movement it creates. Puppetry involves manipulating puppets. This is done either with strings or by hand to bring them to life on stage or in front of a camera. Puppets can be made from a variety of materials, including cloth, foam, wood, or even more advanced materials like animatronics.

Puppetry has a rich history, dating back centuries. It has been used in both traditional and contemporary storytelling. In recent years, the combination of puppetry and animation techniques has become more prevalent. Nowadays, puppet characters are brought to life through stop-motion animation or enhanced with digital effects. This fusion allows for even greater creative possibilities and opens doors to new forms of expression.

6- Comparison between Different Types of Animation

6.1- Pros and Cons of Each Technique

It’s crucial to comprehend the advantages and disadvantages of each technique when navigating the enormous world of animation. Here, we’ll look at the advantages and disadvantages of different kinds of animation in order to highlight their particular qualities and factors.

6.1.1- 2D Animation:

2D animation pros and cons


Timeless Appeal: 2D animation has a rich history and nostalgic charm that resonates with audiences of all ages.

Artistic Freedom: Artists can try many animation styles – from traditional to digital – for creativity.

Cost-Effective: 2D animation is cheaper than 3D, good for small projects.

Quick Turnaround: With streamlined workflows and established techniques, 2D animation often offers faster production timelines.


Limited Depth: 3D is more visually versatile than 2D due to its depth and dimensionality.

Manual Labor: Traditional hand-drawn 2D animation requires meticulous frame-by-frame work, demanding time and skill.

Stiffness: 2D animation without advanced rigging may lack fluid character movements.

6.1.2- 3D Animation:

3D animation pros and cons


Realistic Visuals: 3D animation excels in creating lifelike characters, environments, and special effects, allowing for immersive storytelling.

Flexibility and Control: The versatility of 3D animation enables animators to easily modify and manipulate characters and objects.

Dynamic Camera Work: 3D animation offers more freedom in camera movements, creating dramatic and cinematic visuals.

Advanced Rigging: Rigging systems in 3D animation facilitate realistic character movements, providing a greater sense of fluidity.


Learning Curve: Mastering 3D animation software and techniques requires a steeper learning curve compared to 2D animation.

Higher Production Costs: The complexity of 3D animation often leads to higher production costs, including specialised software, hardware, and rendering resources.

Longer Production Time: Achieving realistic 3D animation can be time-consuming due to modelling, texturing, rigging, and rendering processes.

6.1.3- Stop-Motion Animation:

stop motion animation pros and cons


Unique Aesthetic: Stop-motion animation offers a distinct visual charm that is often appreciated for its handmade feel, providing a refreshing break from the sleekness of digital animation.

Tangible Craftsmanship: Crafting each frame by physically manipulating objects or puppets gives stop-motion animation a tangible and tactile quality, resulting in a sense of authenticity and artistry.

Versatility: Stop-motion animation can be used to bring various materials to life, including clay, paper, fabric, and even everyday objects, allowing endless creative possibilities.

Educational Value: Stop-motion animation can be a valuable learning tool, as it encourages patience, problem-solving, and attention to detail. 


Time-Consuming: Each frame must be carefully set up and photographed, making it a labour-intensive process that demands patience and precision.

Limited Fluidity: Stop-motion animation often lacks the fluidity and smoothness of other animation techniques, as the slight movements between frames can create a slightly jerky or disjointed motion.

Space and Resources: Creating a stop-motion animation requires a dedicated workspace, proper lighting, and a range of materials. 

Skill and Expertise: Achieving professional-quality stop-motion animation requires a solid understanding of cinematography, lighting, storytelling, and the technical aspects of animation. 

6.2- Best Use Cases for Each Type of Animation

6.2.1- 2D Animation:

Traditional Animation: 2D animation shines in traditional storytelling, hand-drawn techniques cel animation, and character-driven narratives.

Television Animation: Many animated TV shows still employ 2D animation due to its efficiency and cost-effectiveness for episodic content.

Explainer Videos: The simplicity and clarity of 2D animation make it an excellent choice for educational or promotional explainer videos.

Advertising: 2D animation’s versatility allows for captivating and memorable advertisements across various mediums.

6.2.2- 3D Animation:

Feature Films: The cinematic potential of 3D animation elevates storytelling, enabling filmmakers to create immersive worlds and realistic characters.

Visual Effects: 3D animation is widely used in live-action films to integrate stunning visual effects seamlessly.

Video Games: 3D animation plays a pivotal role in the gaming industry, breathing life into virtual worlds and interactive characters.

Architectural Visualisation: 3D animation assists architects and designers in creating realistic virtual representations of buildings and spaces.

6.2.3- Stop-motion animation:

Advertising: Stop-motion animation is often used in advertising to create captivating and memorable commercials. Its unique aesthetic and tactile quality can help products and brands stand out, leaving a lasting impression on viewers.

Short Films and Music Videos: Stop-motion animation offers a visually captivating and artistic approach to short films and music videos. Its handmade feel and attention to detail can enhance storytelling and create a visually stunning experience.

Education and Explainer Videos: Stop-motion animation can be an effective tool for educational content and explainer videos. Its engaging and tactile nature can help simplify complex concepts, making them more accessible and enjoyable for learners of all ages.

Social Media Content: Stop-motion animation works well for creating eye-catching and shareable content on social media platforms. Its visually appealing and unique animation style can help grab the attention of users scrolling through their feeds, increasing engagement and brand awareness.

7- Future of Animation

So, the future of animation is a fascinating world of cutting-edge technologies and creative approaches. Let’s explore some of the current trends and developments shaping the future of animation.

  • Real-Time Rendering: The emergence of real-time rendering engines has revolutionised the production pipeline by enabling animators to receive immediate feedback and watch their works come to life in real-time.
  • Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR): By providing immersive and engaging experiences that blur the distinction between the virtual and real worlds, VR and AR technologies are pushing the frontiers of animation.
  • Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI): To speed up laborious processes, improve character animation, and replicate realistic physics, AI is being used in animation more and more frequently.
  • Non-Linear Storytelling: Animation embraces non-linear narrative structures, allowing viewers to explore interactive and branching storylines, personalised experiences, and alternative endings.

7.2- The Impact of Digital Media on Animation

Digital media has significantly impacted the animation industry, transforming the way stories are told, produced, and consumed. Here are some key impacts:

  • Global Accessibility: The digital landscape has made animation accessible to creators worldwide, enabling collaboration, sharing of knowledge, and exposure to diverse perspectives.
  • Online Streaming Platforms: Streaming platforms have become a new avenue for animated content distribution, reaching wider audiences and offering opportunities for independent creators.
  • Fan Engagement and Community Building: Social media platforms have facilitated direct interaction between animators and fans, fostering a sense of community and enabling creators to gather feedback and support.
  • Hybridization and Cross-Media Integration: Animation is merging with live-action, virtual reality, gaming, and other forms of media, creating new storytelling possibilities and immersive experiences.

Our concluding thoughts

To conclude, animation, in all its diverse forms, is a powerful medium that continues to captivate audiences and push the boundaries of visual storytelling. Throughout this blog, we have explored the different types of animation, from 2D traditional animation to immersive 3D animation and the tactile charm of stop-motion. We learned that each technique offers its own unique benefits and artistic possibilities.

With a wide range of techniques at their disposal, animators can now bring their stories to life in ways that engage and enchant audiences. The future of animation holds exciting possibilities, and as technology continues to advance, conveying complex ideas, capturing imaginations, and evoking emotions will become more streamlined for experts. 

If you are ready to employ different types of animations for your business’s growth, scan through Sortlist’s archives. We assure you to connect with a reliable, trustworthy, and affordable animator to create more breathtaking and innovative animated experiences for your end users. 


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