“Animation means to invoke life, not to imitate it.”Chuck Jones, Animator
Picture this: You’re an animator who has just opened up their services to the public. In no time, you attract your first lead, However, while in a video call that will help them determine whether or not you’re the right animator for the job, they ask you, “What makes your animated videos special?”
So, what is it? What makes your animated videos stand out in a landscape where technology and innovation are accelerating at such a rapid speed?
This is where your style of animation steps in. Every successful animator or animation studio has a distinctive animation style that defines them and imprints their audiences with a lasting impression. In the animation industry, your animation style refers to your branding as an animator.
Although, bear in mind that your style of animation doesn’t necessarily need to be yours alone. It can be inspired or influenced by different people or things, especially since we’re constantly surrounded by so many animation styles, techniques, and formats, each with its own set of characteristics.
There’s traditional 2D animation, digital 2D animation, 3D animation, mixed animation, stop-motion animation, cut-out animation, typography, and so on. You may devise your own style or experiment with the existing styles and techniques.
If you’re still starting out, chances are you are currently in the midst of discovering or developing your perfect animation style. Or maybe you already have a specific style but you’re looking to change it up because it doesn’t seem to be working for you anymore.
Either way, you’re probably uncertain about where to start.
In this blog post, we share with you why it’s so valuable to have a unique style of animation and how you can discover your own style.
What’s So Valuable About Having A Unique Style Of Animation?
Your Style Of Animation Gives You An Edge
In marketing, there is such a term as “unique selling point” or “unique selling proposition”. This is a marketing statement that presents how a company stands out from a sea of hundreds or thousands like them. It tells leads how they’re better than the rest.
The same applies to the animation industry. When leads take on an animator or animation studio, one of the things they look for is a unique quality. What differentiates your animation studio from others that sell their animation services or animated videos for the same or a much lower price – The answer to this would be your style of animation.
For instance, take the animation studio Studio Ghibli which produced many beloved animated films, such as Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. Youtuber and essayist Asher Isbruker published a video essay that touches on what makes Studio Ghibli so successful, despite the overwhelming popularity of other animation studios.
“Every visual element in the film must be created from scratch, there’s nothing there before it’s drawn. This is where Ghibli excels,” says the essayist in his video essay, “The Immersive Reality of Studio Ghibli”.
Discovering your perfect style of animation is your key to standing out from the competition. Furthermore, standing out will lead you to other advantages, such as increased visibility despite an oversaturated market.
It Builds Your Branding And Makes Your Animation Studio More Attractive
GIF via GIPHY
One of the fundamental things in helping your animation studio thrive would be to build your branding. Your branding makes your animation studio more attractive, which boosts its marketability.
Having great branding means having a unique identity and vision. From there, you would create animated videos that are consistent with your vision.
And an essential part of your branding would be your style of animation as it would serve as the foundation of your animated videos.
The advantages of having good branding are numerous. First, it will increase the awareness of your skills or your animation studio. Second, it will result in positive reviews and word-of-mouth marketing.
Third, it will lead to stronger client trust and loyalty. Fourth, it can improve your advertising, especially if you’re struggling at the moment. And fifth, it will lead you to have happier animators who are proud and excited to work for you.
But those are only a few of the advantages that come with having good branding.
According to an article in Forbes, the rise of social media with new content and online businesses being put out every day means your branding may be more important now than ever.
“There is a huge amount of competition today, so businesses need to go the extra mile of ensuring they stand out in a crowd. To do this, you should invest in creating a strong brand that will get and keep people’s attention.”
Therefore, the value of your style of animation can be reflected in your branding. If you possess a style of animation that’s aligned with the vision of your animation studio, then you're bound to have good branding that’s attractive to your target audience. The rest of the advantages will then follow.
It Serves As Your Signature As An Animator
How are you defined as an animator? No, it’s not necessarily by how many clients you can pull, how much money you’re making, or how popular you’re animation currently is – that’s how you’re defined as a businessman.
On the creative side of things, you are defined by the style of animation you make. This is because your animation style is an amalgamation of how long you’ve been animating, what motivates you, and who inspires you. It reflects the influences you’ve been surrounded by since you decided to pick up that pen and work on your first animated video.
Additionally, because your style of animation never stays the same for too long, it shows the journey you’ve been through as an animator. Through the minor tweaks you make and the improvements you add, your creative growth can be seen in your animation style. This includes the developments and changes you’ve made and how far you’ve gone since first starting out.
In the same sense, the value of your animation style not only lies in the business side of your animation studio, but it’s especially clear in your artistic sense. That’s why it’s so important that you discover your perfect style of animation – It is your identity.
With that, you shouldn’t rush yourself. Instead, consider taking it one step at a time, a gradual mastery of different animation styles until you find one that suits you just right.
And while uncovering your identity can be a challenge, it can truly be refreshing once you’ve figured it out and can finally present to the world a style of animation that reflects who you are and what you stand for.
You Can Present Your Capabilities With Your Animation Style
GIF by bakudesignacademy via GIPHY
When your animation leads go to your social media platforms or website, the first thing they’ll want to see is your style of animation, and whether or not it’s good enough for their needs. They want to know what you can bring to the table.
This doesn’t mean you have to go all out with your animation style (sometimes being simple and subtle is better), but it does mean you have to put your best foot forward. Your perfect style of animation is a reflection of what you do best.
This point is especially valuable if you’re a more advanced animator who has mastered a number of skills and techniques by now. Your style of animation presents your current level of skill.
So if you’ve been an animator for quite some time, you have the option to go for a more complex animation style, such as 3D animation or a mix of both 2D and 3D. That way, it would be clear to your target audience that you’re a diverse, experienced, or advanced animator who knows how to get the job done.
Now, it’s time to take advantage of this discovery period by doing your research, learning from the pros, and mastering the different animation fundamentals until you find your style of animation.
How Can You Discover Your Style Of Animation?
Learn The Basics In Animation
GIF by barbara_pozzi via GIPHY
Before you can step out of your comfort zone and experiment with all sorts of tricks and techniques, it’s important you first master the basics. More specifically, the 12 principles of animation.
The 12 principles of animation originated under Disney animators Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas. They consist of the following:
- Squash and stretch
- Straight-ahead action and pose-to-pose
- Follow-through and overlapping action
- Slow in and slow out
- Secondary action
- Solid drawing
By working on these principles, you will be able to create immersive and entertaining animations that are still grounded in the real world. In other words, they remind you to take the laws of physics into consideration while animating. Without them, your animations won’t come out as believable and your leads might get turned off.
Therefore, as you discover your style of animation, you must incorporate the 12 principles. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can even try bending some of the rules just to see what works best for you.
Mastering the basics is the key to unlocking your full potential. However, the basics encompass just the 12 principles and the fundamentals. It refers to every small step in the animation production pipeline, from creating layers to choosing the right color palettes to add proper lighting.
Because of all the deadlines and tight schedules, animators sometimes tend to forget how crucial it is to be patient and learn about such basics. But if you want to test your creative limits and make the most out of your style of animation, then plan ahead so you won’t overlook these things.
Watch Many Animated Videos
Sounds like fun, huh? That’s because it has to be. Look into the animators and animation videos that inspire and evoke strong emotions within you. Enjoy the content but also aim to determine why you like a certain animation. Is it their storyline? The style? The format? What makes an animated video stand out for you?
You can then attempt to copy it or even incorporate it into your current style of animation. Take note that this is just a part of your process, and you shouldn’t completely steal an animator’s own unique style.
There’s nothing wrong with replicating inspiring art styles. Sometimes, people do it as they hone their creative craft. Other times, they do it just for fun. However, you must draw the line between copying to learn something (part of your creative journey) and copying to make a profit out of someone else’s hard work (stealing other people’s animation styles).
By copying different animated works, you can pick apart the details and techniques that work best for you, combine them, and use them to your advantage. Build on what you know and learn in order to make something that’s truly yours.
The objective here is to liberate yourself from your usual techniques and past routines. Try not to feel too restricted by what you know. By watching as many animated videos as you can, you are allowing yourself to be inspired by different animators. In the process, you’re also understanding how they utilized different concepts and techniques.
Thankfully, the internet has a large number of resources and gives us access to tons of art styles. You can browse YouTube, Netflix, Pinterest, Behance, and even your own social media timelines.
Draw Everything You See
GIF dsousailustra by via GIPHY
This is important whether you’re a beginner or a more advanced animator. Drawing everything you see is a great way to find inspiration while simultaneously working on your craft.
The beauty of this step is that it doesn’t have to be complicated for you to do it well. All you need is a pen and a sketchpad or your drawing tablet, and you’re good to go. It doesn’t have to be a perfect or detailed sketch; simple yet complete ones will suffice, as long as you know what you’re doing.
Don’t think too much about what you have to draw. Just draw whatever you see, whether it be the full scene in front of you, the people within the scene, or a particular object.
You can simply sit down in your favorite coffee shop and sketch the baristas on the counter. Or you can stay in the living room at your house and sketch your parents watching Netflix. Or you can draw a vase of flowers in your room.
When drawing, observe the way you create the shapes and lines in your art style. This will help you understand your current art style. How well do you draw? Do you fixate on the little details or do you prefer making large and exaggerated sketches of familiar elements?
This kind of drawing is sometimes referred to as "observational drawing". It’s good practice for you animators to improve your drawing skills as it encourages you to look into the different perspectives, shapes, patterns, shadows, contours, and how they all come together.
Bonus points: You can also use real-life scenes and characters as references for future animated videos.
Start With A Style Of Animation You’re Familiar With
The idea here is to just start something, to have a base model that you can work on. Whether it be inspired by the animated videos you’ve consumed or your real-life references, you must have some idea of your current style of animation by now.
You can do this by creating your own animated character. Just draw your character in a way you’re familiar with. And once you have your base model, you can start improving and refining it along the way.
Maybe you don’t like the way you drew their eyes, so work on making more visually-appealing eyes. Maybe you prefer a more realistic body shape, then your next goal would be to practice sketching more believable bodies. Maybe you finally have an idea of the style of animation you want to focus on, you can then incorporate it into your animated character.
Gradually, once you’ve perfected your style of animation, you will get your animated character to look exactly how you want it to. Stay consistent and you’ll discover your animation style in no time.
If you’re still rather unsure, don’t pressure yourself. It takes time. What’s important is you’re in the learning process, and a big part of it is to put what you practiced into action. So if you’re still struggling, give yourself the freedom to simply draw whatever you feel like as long as you remember to make your fair share of improvements and revisions as you go.
Give Yourself Short Breaks Every Now And Then
GIF via GIPHY
Let’s face it, it can feel exhausting to find the style of animation that suits you best. All that researching, sketching, and revising only for you to end up unsatisfied with your progress.
Or maybe you feel as if you’ve hit a creative block, and no amount of visual inspiration can inspire you to create something that makes you happy.
Either way, in instances where you’re feeling uninspired or hollow from working yourself too hard, it’s important to take breaks.
But when should you go on a break? A few signs can be when you’re finding it difficult to focus on a single task, you’ve lost the motivation to continue, or you feel like your mind is too cluttered. You can even go on a break when you feel hungry.
Breaks may refer to a quick walk around the park or a month of a breather. You can incorporate a couple of 30-minute breaks into your daily routine or you can plan in advance for a trip away. Allow yourself some space from the quick-paced animation industry so you can focus on your other priorities, such as your friends, family, or any other hobbies.
Remember, your world does not need to revolve around animation. Treating it as such will only lead to animation burnout, which can easily take down months of hard work and motivation.
But if you feel like it, you can still sketch a little for fun during your break time. Your break time is your opportunity to do whatever you feel like, as long as it doesn’t involve the business side of your animation career.
Taking breaks will increase your productivity and ability to focus. So that once you come back, you’d be feeling more refreshed and ready to take on your responsibilities. Maybe, the moment you come back from your break, you’d have envisioned a new style of animation to try out.
So What’s Your Perfect Style Of Animation?
Discovering your style of animation is a process that requires a lot of trial and error, but its value is undeniable so it’s integral in shooting your animation studio to the top.
The truth is no one gets it right in just one go. But there are a couple of things you can do to help you learn about who you are as an animator, thereby leading you to uncover your animation style.
First, you must master the basics. Second, watch as many animated videos to inspire you. Third, keep drawing. Draw whatever you stumble upon. Fourth, start sketching with an animation style you’re already familiar with. And fifth, don’t forget to take breaks every now and then.
By being consistent and going back and forth through the process, you’ll eventually learn the style of animation that works best for you. From there, you can build your animation studio better than ever.
For more tips on developing your business skills as a freelance animator or animation studio owner, you can join our informative free masterclass, download a copy of our free marketing handbook, and check out our blog on “How to Start an Animation Studio”!
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