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How To Make Illustration Animation

ben marvazi 2020

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Introduction to Illustration Animation: A Breath of Life

The digital age has piloted a new wave of storytelling, with illustration animation at the forefront. Digital animation seamlessly matches traditional art with technology, and even more so when using digital tools to turn static illustrations into animation.

By infusing static illustrations with the breath of life, illustration animation transforms them into mesmerizing visual narratives, teeming with emotion, movement, and depth.

Delving deeper into the digital era, our engagement with various online platforms has become an intrinsic part of our daily routines. This includes our interaction with social media, websites, or streaming services.

Within these platforms, illustration animation plays a pivotal role, enhancing user experiences, conveying complex ideas with clarity, and adding a touch of magic to the mundane (not that illustrations are by default mundane, but you get the idea). 

Moreover, the versatility of illustration animation allows it to convey stories, emotions, and ideas without the need for words. This makes it an invaluable tool in today's globalized world

In this blog, we'll journey through the intricacies of illustration animation. We’ll give you an overview of how to make illustration animation, so you can turn illustrations into animations like a pro.

Cover GIF by GIF IT UP via GIPHY

Choosing the Right Illustration

a moving renaissance painting of a woman pulling a flower from behind her ear


Embarking on the journey of creating a mesmerizing illustration animation necessitates starting with the ideal illustration. Beyond mere visual appeal, it's imperative to select illustrations that are inherently adaptable to animation.

Delve into the intricacies of the design. While highly detailed artworks might pose challenges in animation, overly simplistic ones might not convey the desired impact. The palette of colors chosen can set the ambiance, evoking specific emotions and atmospheres. 

Furthermore, it's paramount to ensure that the chosen illustration resonates with the core message or story you aim to depict through the animation. You can’t polish dirt, so make sure you start with gold!

Tools and Software for Illustration Animation

a painter sketching a smiling animal on a blank canvas

GIF by tobycooke via GIPHY

The realm of digital artistry is packed with tools designed to transform your illustration visions into animated masterpieces. 

Adobe After Effects, with its extensive features, has long been a staple for professionals in the industry. Conversely, Animate CC provides a more user-friendly experience, making it an ideal choice for novices venturing into illustration animation. 

These are but a glimpse into the vast array of software available, each tailored to cater to specific needs, preferences, and expertise levels. What’s more, choosing the “right tools” isn’t nearly as important as choosing the tools that are right for you.

Basic Animation Principles

four red balls following different movement paths

GIF by Wink Animation Studio via GIPHY

Animation isn’t just about making illustrations move. It's the art of narrating tales through movement. Fundamental principles such as squash and stretch introduce a sense of realism and dynamism to objects and can enhance illustration animation significantly. 

The principle of anticipation sets the stage, creating a buildup to significant actions, while staging directs the viewer's attention to the crux of the action. Mastery of these principles ensures that your illustration animation strikes a chord, resonating with viewers on a profound level. 

The takeaway? Don’t forget the basics of animation, or it’ll look like you just animated an illustration. Wait, is that not the point? Continue reading!

Break Down the Illustration

a wave made up of sticky notes on a whiteboard curling up and slashing down

GIF by The Hydrous via GIPHY

An illustration, at its core, is an amalgamation of various elements. To achieve fluidity in illustration animation, it's important to deconstruct the illustration into its constituent components or layers, rather than just making the whole thing move.

This could range from the gentle sway of tree branches to the nuanced expressions in a character's gaze. Animating these elements independently paves the way for a more layered and lifelike animation experience, so don’t forget to break down the illustration into its functioning parts before starting with animation.

Vector vs. Raster Illustrations: What You Need to Know

a vector animation of an endless sheet of newspaper traveling through printer rollers

GIF by gfaught via GIPHY

Before immersing yourself in the animation process, a foundational understanding of the type of illustration at hand is crucial. 

Vector graphics are digital art rendered by a computer using a complex formula. Constructed using paths, vector graphics boast the advantage of infinite scalability without any degradation in quality. This makes them especially favored for illustration animation projects. 

Raster images, on the other hand, are made up of tiny pixels, making them dependent on the project’s resolution and best used for creating photos. Raster graphics, built from pixels, risk pixelation when enlarged. The inherent adaptability and sharpness of vector illustrations guarantee that they maintain their clarity, irrespective of the magnitude or intricacy of the animation.

Again, it really depends on the project, but ultimately vector graphics are usually the way to go when working on illustration animation.

Animating with Keyframes

a bird flying up and down with the help of animation keyframes

GIF by SVGator via GIPHY

Keyframes serve as the pillars of your animation narrative. They demarcate the commencement and culmination of any animated sequence. 

By modulating the spacing between keyframes, animators can fine-tune the pace and rhythm of the illustration animation, crafting sequences that engage, enthrall, and other very impressive words starting with "E"... like effects!

Adding Effects and Transitions

an animated ghost stirring a pink potion in a pot

GIF by lunarpapacy via GIPHY

Talking about transitions, beyond the foundational movements of animation lies the realm of effects and transitions. These elevate an animation from good to exceptional. Incorporating elements like fades, zoom-ins, and particle effects can add layers of depth and intrigue. 

Transitions, meanwhile, weave together disparate segments of the animation, ensuring a fluid and harmonious viewer experience.

Sound and Music Integration

a smiling tape jumping into a portable smiling stereo player, emitting sound waves as it lands


An illustration animation devoid of sound is akin to a heart without a beat. Sound infuses depth, emotion, and context into the visual narrative. Be it the ambient sounds of nature, the rustle of leaves, or a poignant musical backdrop, audio elements amplify the impact of the animation. 

Meticulous synchronization of sound with the animated sequences is vital, orchestrating a harmonious dance between sight and sound. And just like that, there's sound AND movement. You're halfway to your own big animation hit. But first...

Exporting and Sharing Your Animated Illustration

a cat pressing down its face into bags on a bag production line

GIF by Yomaomao via GIPHY

Finally, the world awaits the unveiling of your illustration animation project. The export process is pivotal, necessitating the selection of the optimal format

Whether the destination is a website, a social media platform, or a presentation, it's essential to strike a balance, optimizing file sizes without sacrificing the pristine quality of your illustration animation. After all, every frame, every movement, every note of your animation deserves to shine in its full glory.

The Power and Potential of Illustration Animation

a hand flipping a coin into a piggy bank


As we've journeyed through the dynamic world of illustration animation, it's clear that this art form is much more than just moving images. It's a testament to the limitless potential of creativity when paired with technological advancements

From understanding the significance of choosing the right illustration to mastering the nuances of keyframe animation and the integration of sound, it’s important to properly consider the multifaceted process that brings illustration animation to life. 

These renowned animation techniques, coupled with the powerful tools and software available today, have redefined the boundaries of digital storytelling, offering a canvas where imagination knows no bounds.

For freelance animators and animation studio owners, the key takeaway is this: mastering illustration animation not only puts you in touch with the core of animation but leaves you on the edge of innovation. It's all about telling stories that resonate with people, elicit emotions, and leave a lasting impact on audiences. 

And it’s more than just making pictures move (but you knew that already).

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, those equipped with the skills and knowledge of illustration animation will undoubtedly lead the charge, crafting narratives that captivate, inspire, and transform

If you want to embrace the art, harness the technology, and let your animations tell the stories the world needs to hear, consider joining the Animation Business Accelerator Program. With on-demand video lessons, live mentorship calls, and a supportive community, you'll gain the tools and knowledge to thrive in the animation industry. 

Check out our blog on How to Start an Animation Studio to kickstart your animation career today or give our free Masterclass a try first if you’re curious.

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