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

Cartoon Rendering 101: Tips & Tricks for 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.

Aspiring animators, listen up! Cartoon rendering is one of the most important aspects of making cartoons. It's also one of the hardest things to master. 

As an animator, you're tasked with creating lifelike drawings that move fluidly and seamlessly through time and space. You have to make sure that all aspects of your drawing are in sync—that it has both depth and texture from all angles. In this blog, We will share these tips on cartoon rendering for aspiring animation artists such as yourself!

Good Cartoon Rendering Captures Emotion

Good Cartoon Rendering Captures Emotion like this dog showing sad eyes and holding a sign saying sorry

GIF by Lazy Corgi via GIPHY

A good cartoon is one that captures emotion with just images and dialogue. It can be funny, serious, scary, or cute; it could be about anything at all. The key to creating a successful cartoon is knowing what kind of emotion you want to evoke from your audience and then finding ways to achieve that end through your animation style, story development, and of course, your cartoon rendering skills!

Cartoons have been around since the early days of cinema when silent films were in vogue - and ever since then, they've continued evolving as our society has changed over time. 

Cartoons are still very popular today because they allow us an easy way of conveying complex ideas without having to explain everything verbally (or even visually). A lot of people enjoy watching cartoons because it gives them an opportunity to escape from their daily lives; being able to escape into another world where anything's possible means there aren't any limits on who we can become when we watch these shows!

Learning to Render Cartoons

Blog on The Secret Technique to Efficiently Animating 2D Characters!

Read our blog on The Secret Technique to Efficiently Animating 2D Characters!

So, how do you learn cartoon rendering? Well, there is no one right answer. But the best way to start is by practicing and drawing as much as possible. Don't be afraid to look at other people's work and ask them questions about it; they may even give you some tips on what they did!

You can also try drawing from life or imagination (or both). If your goal is to make a cartoon based on real events in your life, then that's an excellent place to start--just remember that not everything will translate well into animated form! 

You may be wondering why we're starting with the basics of cartoon rendering when there are so many other important things to know about animation (like rigging!). While these other skills are important too (check out our blogs on rigging), learning how to render well helps any aspiring animator develop a strong foundation for their work - whether they want to become 3D animators or just do some hobbyist sketches in their free time!

Start With A Rough Sketch When Cartoon Rendering

Blog on Animation Character Ideas That Connect To Your Audience!

Read our blog on Animation Character Ideas That Connect To Your Audience!

A good cartoon is one that captures emotion with just images and dialogue, not necessarily one that has the most realistic character design or animation. 

The key to creating an effective cartoon is understanding the character you're creating, so do yourself a favor and start by making some quick sketches of how they would move and speak if they were real people (and then try to forget everything you learned). 

This will help you figure out what kind of personality traits your character should have in order to make sense within their world--and it also gives them some leeway when it comes time for animation! 

Cartoon Rendering: Different Poses and Angles

Cartoon Rendering the different poses and Angles of a character landing from a jump

Image by Future Learn

Try different perspectives. For example, if you have a scene where two characters are talking to each other, try switching between close-up shots of their faces and medium shots that include their bodies as well. This will help keep the animation interesting and engaging for your audience!

Try different camera angles as well: high-angle shots show characters from above while low-angle shots make them look small in comparison with their surroundings; extreme long shots reveal vast spaces between objects while close-up shots make everything look big by comparison.

Cartoon Rendering: Shading And Coloring 

Blog on How Animators Use Color in Animation to Influence Viewers!

Read our blog on How Animators Use Color in Animation to Influence Viewers!

Shading and coloring are key to creating an appealing cartoon. You can use a large range of colors, or you can limit yourself to just a few. It's up to you!

If you decide on a limited palette for your cartoon rendering, try contrasting and complementing different shades in order to make your image more interesting. For example: red vs blue; green vs purple; yellow vs orange (and vice versa). This will make it easier for viewers' eyes to navigate around the picture without getting lost in all those different hues.

The next step is adding highlights where appropriate - this includes things like hair highlights, shirt buttons/ties/scarves...anything shiny!

Soft shading and harsh shading are the two different types of shading used for cartoon rendering.

You may add depth and complexity to your drawings by using the incredibly easy method of soft shading. Although it's fairly simple to do, not every cartoon style will work with it. When you want to make circular, soft curves, it works best.

Hard shading is a more complex technique that can add depth to your pictures. They appear considerably more lifelike since it is akin to how real-world objects are tinted. It's not appropriate for every cartoon style because it takes longer to complete than soft shading.

Cartoon Rendering: Adding Contrast

Adding better lighting and contrast to a scene showing the improvements in lighting between a character and a blue bird

Image by boredpanda

When you are starting out as an animator, it's important to remember that value contrast is your friend! Contrast is the difference between the lightest and darkest parts of a drawing. It is one of the most important elements for creating effective cartoon renderings because it helps draw attention to what's important in your image - and also helps create depth in your drawings.

There are three main reasons why contrast is such an important concept:

  • The contrast makes images more interesting visually; this keeps viewers engaged with what they're seeing on screen (or paper).
  • The contrast helps viewers focus on what's essential in an image - so if something needs attention drawn toward it then make sure that part has enough contrast against its surroundings so that viewer doesn't miss anything important while looking at something else nearby!
  • Finally, having good contrast means being able to create depth within each frame which gives us some idea about where things exist spatially relative to each other (or even relative to ourselves!).

Cartoon Rendering: Multiple Passes of Different Elements

Cartoon Rendering multiple layers of a frog sitting on a leaf in the rain

GIF by DP Animation Maker via GIPHY

The process of cartoon rendering involves layers. If you only render one section at a time, your final product will look flat and boring; it will be the equivalent of painting the background of your picture before focusing on the foreground pieces.

Rendering is essentially the process of employing many passes (layers) of various elements to provide additional information to an animated image or shot, improving lighting effects and shadow quality (like those cast by objects in front of others).

How To Start An Animation Studio - Businesss of Animation

Looking to Elevate Your Business Skills as an Animator?

Unlock your potential with our FREE Masterclass

Our free masterclass is the perfect opportunity to do just that. You'll learn what you need to take your animation business to the next level.


Cartoon Rendering: Shadows

Cartoon Rendering shadows on a horse and man statue

GIF by alperdurmaz via GIPHY

A drawing's shadows are an essential component. Your characters may appear dead and bland without them. They also aid in giving a character's form greater depth and dimension, which can make it appear more three-dimensional.

When using Photoshop (or any program that you're currently using) grab the pencil tool or brush tool with a dark color as the tool's foreground color to cast shadows on various surfaces in your scene. Simply sketch over the parts that need to have shadows after that!

Cartoon Rendering: Practice!

hand practiceing drawing with a pen

GIF by Fran Borzea via GIPHY

One of the most crucial things to understand about animation is that reading a book won't teach you how to draw. Practice, practice, practice is required!

Receiving criticism from those with greater animation or drawing expertise than you do is the best method to improve as a cartoonist. Moreover, consider conducting your own research on various approaches to objects or scenes to see what is most effective in each specific circumstance.

Remember These Important Tips for Cartoon Rendering

man character with a beard and a cap holding peace signs and winking

GIF by Maxcolt via GIPHY

Render more than one piece at a time. One of the biggest mistakes seen in beginner cartoon rendering is that animators will render just one piece, or maybe two. This leads to very flat-looking images that lack depth and detail, which can be fixed by rendering more than one piece at a time. 

It also helps give your characters more dimensionality by giving them shadows and highlights on their faces and bodies - something that's crucial for making your character look like they're three-dimensional instead of flatly drawn on paper!

Use layers to create depth. You can use layers to create objects that are in front of and behind each other, which will make your animation look much more realistic.

Add light sources for shadows and highlights. Adding a light source helps make objects look 3D and also makes them easier to see when there's no background or other objects around them (like a lamp).

Practice more than you think necessary! The most important thing when learning how to improve your cartoon rendering skills is practice: practice makes perfect

Summing Up Cartoon Rendering

Girl cartoon rendering on her computer concentrating with her tongue sticking out

GIF by Paramount+ via GIPHY

Coworkers in animation, it's been an absolute blast sharing my insights on cartoon rendering with you! I hope this blog has served as a creative catalyst, inspiring you to experiment with different rendering approaches and techniques in your own animation productions. 

Remember, while there are no hard and fast rules in art, there are some helpful guidelines to follow. The key is to channel your inner artist and apply the right cartoon rendering approach to each project, unleashing your imagination and creating something truly amazing. 

So let's wrap things up by keeping it simple: Keep calm, render on, and most importantly, have a ton of fun creating your own cartoons!

For more information about cartoon rendering, 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”!

ben marvazi promoting webinars for freelance animators and studio owners

Looking to Elevate Your Business Skills as an Animator?

Our free masterclass is the perfect opportunity to do just that. You'll learn what you need to take your animation business to the next level.
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