Top 6 popular animation types

Animation is the art of breathing life into the inanimate for films, games, and advertising. Below are the top 6 popular animation types.

Traditional animation

Traditional animation is hand-drawn like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Sleeping Beauty. Each animated component is painted on a separate layer of transparent sheets (known as cels) so they can be animated separately.

Due to its complexity and time-consuming process, it’s an animation style rarely used today.

2D Animation

2D Animation is the art of creating movement by combining a sequence of images together in a two-dimensional space. One second of animation is equal to 24 pictures (or frames), but most 2D animation usually only animates every second frame (12 frames total). It’s enough to create the illusion of movement without needing to animate all 24 frames. 


The animator can also create characters using digital rigging. This allows them to create a “skeleton” of the character and tell the computer which body parts to animate. It’s a huge time-saver for animators, who don’t need to redraw the character for every frame. 

In the past, this style was drawn by hand, which is very time-consuming, requiring 24 frames of art per second of finished animation. Today, it’s streamlined by using digital tools and techniques. 

3D Animation

3D Animation is the art of bringing digital characters, vehicles, props, and full scenes to life in a virtual 3D space. It’s more mechanical and technical than 2D animations and requires input from other departments to create 3D models and complex character rigs. 

3D animation lets you drop your 3D rigged model into a digital scene and manipulate it. You can optimize the process by setting keyframes for key actions and allowing the animation software, such as Maya, to fill in the frames between.


Another important distinction between 2D and 3D animation is that with 2D animation, you only create one side of the character (the side facing the camera). In 3D animation, the 3D character rig is designed so it can be viewed from any angle. Your character can walk 360 degrees around an asset and see all angles.

Pixar revolutionized the animation industry with their blockbuster Toy Story, the first feature-length animated 3D film. These digitally created worlds and assets had previously been used in shorter animations like commercials (check out the first 3D animated M&M ads from the nineties), but Toy Story opened the world to more realistic animations where lighting, movement, and character emotions were more lifelike than ever before. 

Motion capture

Motion capture is a process that captures all the movement of objects or people and then processes them via a computer. Motion capture helps enhance the realism of 3D animations.

It’s used in movies like AvatarandLord of the Rings, etc.  Actors wear bodysuits containing special sensors and act out a scene. The motion capture animation software translates the motions from the sensors into a digital version. There is also software that can capture facial expressions to help convey the emotions and nuances of an actor more accurately.

An animator is pivotal to the motion capture process, they will ingest the recorded data, which includes retargeting the character rig, cleaning it up, and refining it to make sure it’s in line with the character the motion capture is being used for. 

Motion Graphic

Motion graphics animation is how you animate text logos and basic illustrations. They’re commonly seen in animated logos, opening and closing film and TV credits explainer videos, and the graphics you see on top of sports plays on TV. These can be done as either 2D or 3D graphics.

Like 2D and 3D animations, motion graphics are created by designing frames and using the process animation software to simulate smooth motion between the frames. 


Stop Motion

Stop motion is a series of still images filmed, or shot, sequentially to simulate action. It’s how movies like “Shaun The Sheep” were created. Producers can create this animation style with real actors, clay figurines, or even toys and other props. The opportunities to use stop motion are only limited by imagination. 

Depending on the need and purpose of use, businesses will choose the suitable animation type. Free animation articles will inspire you on your journey to realizing your dreams.

Prev Post2D and 3D animation comparison
Next PostHow to use animation in education?