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The Best 2D Animation Tips to Speed Up Production

“Your mind is like water. When it is agitated it becomes difficult to see, but when you let it settle; the answer becomes clear.”

Master Oogway, Kung Fu Panda

2D animation is the oldest form of animation, and 2D animators have survived the years thanks to the insane amount of innovation brought on by the digital age. 

A classic example is the boom of social media, providing a wonderful outlet for creativity and inspiration.

2D animation is incredibly effective at creating the illusion of movement even when there is no inherent movement present, and the 2D animation tips that we provide throughout this article will hopefully provide the necessary information you need to do just that.

In this blog post, we’re going to cover some fantastic 2D animation tips to both speeds up your animation production pipeline, as well as provide some tips for your studio to produce quality and efficient 2D animations.

Throughout this post, we’ll be sprinkling in some 2D animation tips here and there, so be on the lookout for some sporadic wisdom. But without further ado, let’s dive right in.

The 2D Animation Production Pipeline

a 2d animation production pipeline looks like a processing machine

GIF by Make It Move via Giphy

While we’re almost sure you’re more than clued up on the animation production pipeline, it doesn’t hurt to include a little refresher.

So let’s break it down swiftly. We’re not going to name every stage of the pipeline, but more just insight, some wisdom, and 2D animation tips about the main stages.

Pre-Production 

This phase is also sometimes referred to as the concept stage because all of the initial ideation and design work is done right here, in pre-production.

Pre-prod includes planning stages like Scripting, Conceptualization, and Storyboarding and is necessary 

Pre-Production Animation Tip:

Sometimes the order of operations within pre-prod is interchangeable. Sections can also be done simultaneously, making things easier to manage and the overall process move more swiftly.

Completing certain parts of steps at the same time can also help with client feedback, as it allows you to make identical changes to more than one thing at a time.

Production

This is your main animation production phase, where you will be doing all the primary time-consuming tasks, such as background layout, lighting, sound design, and of course, animation.

Production Animation Tip:

It may very well surprise you (or maybe not, we don’t know you) to hear that often 3D assets and components can be incorporated within 2D animation.

Think about your pre-prod stage, where you feel this might make sense and help with better visualization and streamlining.

Remember, your animation stage is arguably the most important stage, and should effectively take up the most amount of time.

Also, make sure to hand-draw all your own special effects to give them a more realistic feel. You don’t want your animations to feel synthetic.

Post-Production

Your post-production stage is for final tweaks and clean-up. At this point, you should be happy - or at the very least content - with where the animation stands, as the last thing you want is to have to go back to the production stage of the pipeline.

Composting, rendering, and exporting are the final stages of the 2D pipeline, and you’re now ready to provide the client with what they asked for.

Post-Production Animation Tip:

Optimizing communication channels helps tremendously with the final stages of the production pipeline, as the last thing you want is for communication to exist in limbo.

Once you’re here, try and relax! No amount of added stress is going to make the animation any better. One way to help with this is to keep all color correction, stylizing, and every other minute detail as simple as possible. Having less to think about means you’ll have less to worry about.

Hopefully, these 2D animation tips for the production pipeline can help you streamline your process and make the animation process that much simpler.

How A Strong Animation Production Pipeline Can Help Your Animation Studio

your 2d animation production pipeline will influence the speed and strength of production

Gif by Spongebob Squarepants via Giphy

Despite the overwhelming need for direction within your animation production phase, there are a huge number of benefits to consider when working on your 2D animation production pipeline.

We spoke about the production pipeline briefly in this post, and we recommend you check out some more of our posts on the topic as well as some more 2D animation tips, but essentially, like most things in this world, you need to be adept at planning if you want to succeed.

Freelance 2D animators, as well as studio animators, who work on multiple projects, need to be putting time into planning their production pipeline for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it saves both time and money in the long run. If you’re constantly starting from scratch and pulling ideas and phases of your workflow out of a clouded mind, you’re just wasting time, and time equals money.

Having a template from which to work also helps keep your workflow consistent. As we’ve hammered on multiple times now, consistency is key not just to overall success but to keeping your sanity in check as well. 

Finally, when your clients see just how professional and productive you are - how organized you are - you’re almost guaranteed satisfied customers and repeat gigs. Just make sure your animation is up to scratch too!

Now let’s cover some 2D animation tips in accordance with the 12 Principles of Animation.

2D Animation Tips For The 12 Principles Of Animation

2d animation tips is like a gift from the 12 principles of animation

Gif by Mickey Mouse via Giphy

  1. Squash And Stretch

Arguably the most crucial principle, Squash and Stretch help provide the illusion of gravity, weight, and flexibility 

2D Animation Tip: 

Ensure that your characters and assets have the correct volume and weight throughout their movement—I.e., thinner when stretching and fatter when squashing.

  1. Anticipation 
animating with anticipation like this block is overlooked as a 2d animation tip

Gif via Idearocketanimation

Anticipation helps with bringing an effectively realistic feel to your animation. To butcher a famous quote: every action has an equal and understandable anticipation.

Imagine what it would look like if we all jumped without bending our knees. It’s nightmare-inducing, right? This is why we create anticipation in our animations.

2D Animation Tip: 

Ensure that your characters and assets have realistic volume and weight when animating their movement, and always consider momentum as well.

  1. Staging 

Animators use motion to effectively guide their audiences’ viewpoints to what we believe to be important in any given scene. 

2D Animation Tip: 

Try to make your characters showcase their intentions by having specific actions, movements, and poses. While potentially time-consuming, you can create individual scenes one by one for your characters.

We also need to make sure that all other movements within the scene are kept to a minimum so as not to detract from the main object.

  1. Straight-Ahead Action And Pose-To-Pose
a 2d animation tip of animating from post to pose and straight ahead action is seen in this block

Gif via Idearocketanimation

Straight-ahead and pose-to-pose differ in function and approach but are often combined to create fantastic animations.

Straight-ahead, best for fluidity and realism in animation involves drawing each frame individually from beginning to end.

Pose-to-pose, best for control and dramatics, is when you draw only the beginning, end, and few in-between frames. You then must work backward and finish the scene, completing the rest of the frames you deem necessary, hence the control.

2D Animation Tip: 

Consider utilizing both approaches within your animations. When you feel like one approach won’t work, don’t try and force it. Instead, utilize the other - that’s why they're there.

Don’t worry about whether what you’re doing feels time-consuming; the key to success is not to rush.

  1. Follow-Through And Overlapping Action

Continuing the idea of momentum mentioned earlier, objects coming to a stop also need to have a certain nature of closing momentum. Objects slowing down and coming to a standstill will have different parts of themselves slow down and stop at different times.

An object or character asset will almost always require parts of them to move at different speeds; this is overlapping animation.

Similarly, objects will also need to have some stopping momentum - a classic example being a character’s hair continuing to move after they’ve stopped running - to ensure a sense of realism in your animations.

2D Animation Tip: 

Observe your characters’ movements and motions and ensure you are aware of any necessary overlapping actions. Plan these movements within your animatic to ensure you don’t miss out on any necessary momentum changes.

  1. Slow In And Slow Out
slow in and slow out animation practices how you control motion

Gif via Idearocketanimation

Understanding acceleration and deceleration are fundamental to realizing realistic animations. Essentially, an object will need more frames toward the beginning and end of its movement cycle to ensure they pick up speed and lose momentum properly.

2D Animation Tip: 

Take some time to determine the volume and weight of your characters and other objects, and consider their necessary momentum changes.

  1. Arc 

Physics and anatomy are the two most essential foundations of animation, and understanding an object’s arc is required to ensure your objects and characters follow the laws of physics.

2D Animation Tip: 

Making sure that your characters’ actions have a circular movement can help in creating a more realistic, life-like intention.

  1. Secondary Action
a secondary action helps a 2d animator animate more than one thing at a time

Gif via Idearocketanimation

Secondary actions assist with creating greater dimensions within your characters and objects.

As important as your character’s hair flipping as they walk is to create character depth, it should not be so distracting as to detract from the primary animated action, being the walk cycle.

2D Animation Tip: 

Tying in with the act of arcing your characters’ movements, consider incorporating secondary movements surrounding your characters to further emphasize and draw attention to their movements.

Essentially, you’re hoping to further exaggerate your characters and ensure that your audience is fully concerned with the right things.

  1. Timing 

Similar to the arc principle of animation, timing is used to ensure a sense of real-world accountability within 2D animation. Movement effects can very easily be unbelievable if they’re either too fast or too slow than what is usually considered “natural” in the real world.

2D Animation Tip: 

Remember: consistency is key. If you plan on making exaggerated animated decisions, ensure they’re consistent throughout your animation. Play with exaggerated timings to figure out how you want your characters to move.

  1. Exaggeration 
exaggeration helps animation elements stand out in a 2d space

Gif via Idearocketanimation

Despite the goal of most animated works to appear realistic and believable to an audience, too much realism can very quickly ruin an animation.

Exaggeration helps make 2D animation dynamic and is almost always necessary for animated works.

2D Animation Tip: 

Play with your characters and assets’ volume and weight within your animation, and push the limits of what you consider possible in the real world.

  1. Solid Drawing

Weight, volume, anatomy, lights, and shadows all make up the fundamentals of characters and objects within your 2D world. Ensuring you have a solid foundation of drawing skills backing you is paramount to being an animator.

2D Animation Tip: 

Despite your characters’ dimensions existing in 2-dimensional space, you still need to make sure that they have weight and intent in their space.

Again, consistency is key.

Solid drawing skills are key to ensuring that your characters have a lasting effect on your audience.

Even if you have a wacky charm to your drawing style - which is awesome in its own right - you should make sure that your skills are up to your own standard. Be consistent!

  1. Appeal 
making your drawing is visually appeal is the core of every 2d animation tip

Gif via Idearocketanimation

Visual appeal is everything. Well, mostly everything. As an animator, you should ensure that both your art and animation styles are attractive to at least someone out there, at the very least to you.

Of course, there isn’t a formula to appeal. It takes time to hone your skills and master them to ensure that people like the art you produce.

2D Animation Tip: 

Your character designs, backgrounds, and overall animation style should appeal to your proposed target audience. You need to ensure that you’re making an impact on your audience’s lives.

Remember, you don’t need to appeal to everyone; trying to appease the masses can very easily do more harm than good.

8 Expert 2D Animation Tips For Success

more expert 2d animation tips wouldn't hurt

Gif by Playstation via Giphy

  1. Study Human Anatomy And Movement

Disney got it right all those years ago by ensuring that their animators studied anatomy. It’s hardly a secret if it’s well-known, but still, Disney has been offering free life-drawing classes for their animators since the ’30s, and you don’t need us to tell you why it’s been such a successful idea.

Of course, you don’t have to be able to draw a human perfectly to be able to animate. Those skills are not mutually exclusive. However, much like knowing how gravity more or less works, understanding where our bones like to bend can help tremendously create a sense of realism and relatability within your animations.

Know that you don’t need to be a medical expert to understand how the body moves, but spending a little bit of time learning about and practicing drawing the human body will do you a world of good.

  1. Practice The Basics

Your 2D animation tips of the day are practice, practice, and practice. These are the words of a great person who may have said that at some point. 

It doesn’t matter if anyone important said the word ‘practice’ three times in a row, but the important thing is the sentiment behind it.

Suppose you have a baseline of good artistic talent or the ability to produce 2D animations quickly and easily at a basic level. In that case, you might fall into the trap of wanting to hold back and just coast through the ocean of animation like a sailboat.

However, over time you will start to lose your ability to be consistent in your craft, and that’s not something anybody wants to happen to them. 

So essentially, keep practicing the fundamentals. Keep sketching and drawing, keep working on your 12 principles of animation, and you will make sure your foundation is as solid as a mountain. 

  1. Study The Greats

The greats are greats for a reason. Disney Studios has been around for a long time and will most likely continue for many years to come, and we, as animators, have so much to learn from them and others like them.

Of course, studios like Disney and Pixar Animation are reputable and to be respected as animation studios, but there are a whole lot of others out there from whom you can stand to learn and be inspired.

There is a large host of avenues from which to derive inspiration that can help both with your basic animation and drawing skills and also with your time-management and production skills.

Learn from those not just in your field but in other fields as well to soak up as much information as possible both for you and your career. You really can acquire 2D animation tips from anywhere!

  1. Find Good Software 
practicing and using different software for animation can help you develop your animation skills immensely

Gif by Scratch Garden via Giphy

While you may not have to go out there and find the absolute best software on the market, finding the animation software that works the best for you and/or your studio is important.

We understand that hearing “the best software” might trigger you to want to spend a huge amount of money, but there are so many great options out there that are considered industry standards that won’t even touch your bank account.

Blender is a great example, being totally free and open-source, and considered by many to be one of the best pieces of animation software out there for both 2D and 3D animations.

  1. Practice With Gifs

The world of 2D animation has evolved tremendously over the years. There are a number of revenue avenues for you to take that were not even conceivable in the minds of an early 2D animator.

Since gifs are only a few frames long, you can simultaneously work on perfecting the 12 principles of animation and also learn how to make the most with as little as possible.

One of the best ways to practice your 2D animation skills, as well as make a bit of cash on the side, is to work on making gifs.

  1. Work On Your Design Skills

On par with ensuring you’re constantly working through the basics to keep your fundamentals strong, it’s equally as important to continuously expand your abilities and work on improving both as a 2D artist and as a 2D animator.

Consider practicing your character design skills by devoting time to excessive sketching. 

From a massive pool of both wild and simple sketches, you can better work on realizing your character ideas and designs from all different angles, and the more rough sketches you have, the more interesting designs may flow from your fingertips.

Always remember, never stop practicing!

  1. Follow The Right Animators For Inspiration

This may very well tie in with our earlier 2D animation tip on studying the animation industry titans, but sometimes you may very well not find any inspiration from that which studios like Disney and Pixar put out.

Sometimes, you may find the most amount of inspiration from someone on social media who posts their gifs for the world to see, and that’s ok. 

Inspiration can come from literally anywhere, and because it’s an inspiration towards creativity, it is individual-specific. What may provide you with ample inspiration for drawing and animation may give nothing to another, and that’s fine.

Just make sure to do your research and scour the land for that which works best for you.

  1. Be Prepared To Fail
one of the most important 2d animation tips is that you should be prepared to fail

Gif via Giphy

You’re going to fail. It hurts to hear that, but trust us when we say it’s the most necessary step to success.

Animation is not easy, and regardless of your experience, you’re going to create some not-so-satisfactory animations, and it’s important not to let that detract you from your goals.

It’s also important to get used to failing quickly; not everything is salvageable. Don’t waste precious time and money working on something you know is not going to make it out into the world.

In the immortal words of Dory: “Just keep swimming.”

Follow these 2D animation tips and you will be swimming beautifully in no time!

Be On The Lookout For More 2D Animation Tips

2D animation is literally everywhere and so it can be quite daunting wandering around with your eyes and ears peeled, searching for the right inspiration and 2D animation tips.

But there are tons of outlets available from where to receive 2D animation tips out of the wazoo. So certainly, make sure to be on the lookout constantly to be able to soak up as much inspiration as possible. But also take some time to stop and watch the animated flowers grow.

Make sure to follow the classic principles of animation, and check out the various 2D communities for as many 2D animation tips as possible.

For more 2D animation tips to speed up your production pipeline, as well as answers to any other questions you might have, be sure to follow our blogs, check out our free masterclass and our Animation Business Accelerator Program, download a copy of our free marketing handbook, and check out our blog on “How to Start an Animation Studio”!

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