Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Business of Animation Logo

Cartoon Fundamentals: Techniques for Aspiring Animators

ben marvazi 2020

FREE Masterclass: How To Become A Successful Animator

Join our free masterclass to learn how to make real money as a freelance animator or studio owner.

Welcome my fellow animators to the world of cartoons! Whether it be a whimsical fairy tale or a gripping action adventure, our role is to bring stories to life through animation. Through this exciting journey, we will delve into the nuances of the cartoon fundamentals, learning how to infuse each of our creations with their unique personalities and quirks. So let's get started and bring your imaginations to life!!

Attention animators! Follow our blog for insider tips, tricks, and free resources to level up your animation career. Check out our free masterclassAnimation Business Accelerator Program, and download our free marketing handbook. Studio owners can learn how to start their own animation studio with our informative blog on "How to Start an Animation Studio." Don't miss out on this opportunity to take your animation career to new heights!

Cartoon Fundamentals: Character Design

Cartoon Fundamentals creating a Character Design

Gif by Golden Wolf via GIPHY

The design of your characters is an important part of the animation process. It can be the difference between a cartoon that looks amateurish and one that feels polished.

Make sure your cartoon character has ideal body proportions. Body shapes vary greatly among people so pay attention to what age and build type your characters are going to be. Don’t forget about facial proportions too! Try drawing triangles within triangles for eyes and noses; squares within rectangles for mouths; circles within ellipses for chins; diamonds within diamonds for cheekbones as a quick sketching tip.

Cartoon Fundamentals: Create A Storyboard

Bog on Animatic Storyboards: The Secret of Perfect Animations!

Read our blog on Animatic Storyboards: The Secret of Perfect Animations!

Once you have your character and setting in mind, it's time to start building your story. A storyboard is a visual representation of how an animation will play out - it shows the order in which shots are presented and any dialogue or sound effects that will appear during each shot.

For a simple example, imagine that you're creating an animated version of The Three Little Pigs (a classic tale by James Halliwell-Phillipps). In this case, your first step would be creating rough sketches of each pig character: one with curly hair; another with straight hair; and finally a third with curly-and-straight combo locks. 

Next comes their houses - one made out of straw, another made out of twigs, and lastly one made entirely out of bricks. Once those two steps are done, all that’s left is drawing up some concept for our villainous wolf so he could come knocking on all three doors!

Cartoon Fundamentals: Objects to Lead the Viewer's Eye

This dog character is using its eyes and head to Lead the Viewer's Eye across the screen


The first step to creating a scene is to use objects to lead the viewer's eye. You can do this by using perspective, color, and shape as well as composition.

Let's say you're drawing a landscape with mountains in the background. The viewer's eye will be drawn towards whatever is brightest or largest in that area. If you want them looking at your character then make sure he's standing out from everything else around him (like wearing bright colors). If you want them looking somewhere else then make sure everything else stands out more than him (like wearing dark clothes).

Cartoon Fundamentals: Body Language and Gestures

Body Language and Gestures is part of the cartoon fundamentals like this dog using its ears for communication


Gestures is a great way to add personality and character to your cartoon characters. Gestures can be used to show emotion, thought processes, or feelings.

Two common gestures of the cartoon fundamentals include arms outstretched, which show excitement or happiness. If you want your character to be excited about something that just happened (like finding an ice cream cone), this is the perfect gesture! The other one is having your cartoon character's hands on its hips - this shows impatience or annoyance with another character. 

Cartoon Fundamentals: Facial Expressions

a baby showing multiple facial expressions

GIF by gifnews via GIPHY

You can have the best character designs, backgrounds, and animation in the world but if you don't convey emotions with them then your audience will be confused and bored. It's important to remember that animated characters don't just move around like puppets on strings; they have feelings! And those feelings are expressed through facial expressions.

A simple tilt of the head can indicate confusion or curiosity while raising eyebrows might show shock or surprise; these non-verbal signals help add depth to your story because they give viewers something extra to latch onto when trying to relate themselves with how one feels about something happening.

If a character is sad, don't just have them say it; show their sadness through their eyes, mouth, and posture! If they're angry or frustrated, have them stomp around angrily or frown fiercely. 

Cartoon Fundamentals: Matching Voices with Characters

Matching Voices with Characters with cartoon fundamentals, yellow bird talking

Gif by Sow Ay via GIPHY

One of the most important aspects of animation is matching voices with characters. If you can't do this, your audience will lose interest and move on to something else. It's a good idea to start by identifying what kind of character you want to create, then find someone who has a voice similar to it.

Cartoon Fundamentals: Lip-Sync

Lemur character signing I like to move it move it

Gif by DreamWorks Animation via GIPHY

The most important aspect of animation is lip sync or the process of synchronizing speech with mouth movements. It's what makes animated characters seem realistic and believable. 

Lip sync is an essential skill for any aspiring animator because it determines whether or not your audience will be able to enjoy your work. A lot of people think that lip-sync is easy; however, this couldn't be further from the truth! 

There are many different techniques for creating mouth movements that correspond with spoken dialogue and each technique has its own advantages and disadvantages - you'll need to experiment with them all before finding one that works best for you. 

Cartoon Fundamentals: Symmetry and Proportion

Understanding Symmetry and Proportion as part of the cartoon fundamentals

Gif by Ori Toor via GIPHY

Symmetry and proportions are powerful tools and important aspects of cartoon fundamentals. Proportions can make characters appear realistic or unrealistic and with symmetry, there are many different types such as radial (circle), bilateral (mirroring left and right sides), and vertical/horizontal (vertical lines through the center of an object).

Symmetrical objects have equal halves that reflect each other in some way - for example, they share common features or sizes. They are aesthetically pleasing, and they can make your animation look more appealing, natural, and interesting.

Cartoon Fundamentals: Determine the Action of the Scene

young fox listening through a hole in a log and a dogs nose touches his ear and gives him a fright

Gif by Disney via GIPHY

The first step to animating is determining the action of your scene. What does it want to accomplish? How will it do so? The answer lies in objects, which are used as tools to lead viewers' eyes around the screen.

To start, think about what you want your character(s) to do within this context: Are they walking across a room or running down an alleyway? Do they have something important on their mind that they need to tell someone else? Or are they just trying not to be noticed by anyone who might be watching them right now? Once you've established what kind of action needs to happen in each scene, you can begin building out those scenes visually using three key elements.

  • Objects: They give context and meaning by establishing where characters exist within their environments.
  • Props (or Items): These include everything from cars and chairs all the way up through spaceships.
  • Backgrounds/Environments: This includes both indoor settings as well as outdoor locations such as parks or forests.

With these three elements, you can start to build out your scenes and create a cohesive story that's easy for viewers to follow. 

Cartoon Fundamentals: Find an Appropriate Camera Position

Finding an Appropriate Camera Position such as when this bus is driving away with animal characters inside it

GIF by Signature Entertainment via GIPHY

You'll want to consider the camera's position when animating your cartoons. You may choose a static shot where the camera remains stationary or you might want to move it around freely throughout your scene. In some cases, you might even want your character's eyes or gaze to act as a POV (point of view) for viewers while they watch your animation

There are many options when it comes to camera positioning but remember to keep changing it up, if the camera positing is too static your cartoons could become boring and viewers may lose interest.

Summing Up The Cartoon Fundamentals 

Blog on Creating a Successful Cartoon Business as an Animator!

Read our blog on Creating a Successful Cartoon Business as an Animator!

And that's a wrap! Now that you know the ins and outs of cartoon fundamentals, you're well on your way to becoming a top-notch cartoon animator. Just remember, the road to success may be bumpy, but don't give up! 

With dedication and practice, and understanding of these techniques you'll be churning out cartoons that are so awesome, they'll blow your own mind. So go forth, my fellow cartooning warrior, and create some truly spectacular characters that will inspire the world!

For more information about cartoon fundamentals, as well as answers to any other questions you might have about working as a freelance animator, 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”!

ben marvazi promoting webinars for freelance animators and studio owners

You Know Animations, 
I Know Business

I’ll give you the tools and knowledge you need to succeed in this masterclass!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Business of Animation Footer Logo
Helping Animators Succeed

Feeling Stuck in Your Animation Career? Learn How to Break the $10,000 Per Month Barrier!

crossmenuchevron-down linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram