What is 2D Animation - A Comprehensive Guide | BuzzFlick (2023)

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What Does 2D Animation Mean?

Before we get into 2D animation, let’s first understand what is 2D. A 2D shape is a figure or object with two dimensions, namely length, and height. All 2D shapes lie on a flat surface, putting them in the category of plain shapes or plain figures. 2D shapes have an area, but they don’t have any volume.

In 2D animation, every aspect of the video including characters, objects, and background are rendered in two-dimensional, flat space.

Any shape that has exactly two dimensions is a 2D shape. If you want to understand or conceptualize what 2D is, then think of a plane, which is a perfect example of such a shape.

Not only shapes, but figures can also be 2D. A 2D shape will only be one if it has a length and a breadth. The number of sides of these shapes can be as many as you want and its sides can be curved as well as straight.

In mathematical terms, concepts like 2D and 3D are geometric settings. In 2D, you require two values, and in 3D, you require 3 values in order to know an element’s exact position in geometry.

Now that you know what 2D is, understanding 2D animation becomes very simple.

The word animation traces its roots back to Italian anatomist Luigi Galvani’s experiments, where he tried to stimulate the legs of frogs through electric impulses and they then “twitched”. This became the reference point for the word Animation i.e. Animal motion.

2D animation means any moving art that’s created to work in a two-dimensional space. In it, individual drawings are put together in a sequence and when they are played together, it gives off the illusion of a moving film. This has allowed animators to create moving art without involving humans or natural scenery and create any type of characters, creatures, and backgrounds as they wish.

As the name suggests, 2D animation deals with 2D objects and figures, which can only be measured by their height and width.

2D animation videos are used as an artistic medium for story-telling and conveying messages through characters and objects that move in a two-dimensional environment.

The key aspects of 2D animation services include:

  • Sketching designs
  • Designing characters
  • Developing storyboards
  • Creating special effects
  • Animating scenes
  • Transitioning backgrounds
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The goal of an animated video is to clearly communicate a story or message and engage the audience by creating a coherent visual experience.

How Is 2D Animation Created?

There’s a diverse animation process that you have to follow to create engaging videos. We’ll be majorly focusing on the 2D animation process that you can follow to create a 2D animation video.

2D animation requires the use of specialized 2D animation tools and it follows a set process including aspects like Storyboarding, animation, layout, audio, visuals, etc. The animators are an integral part of the whole process, doing everything from creating rough sketches of initial ideas to the finalization of the video.

This job is just one part of the production pipeline, which is divided into three parts: pre-production, production, and post-production:


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Pre-production marks the first stage of creating any kind of animation. At this stage, a team of animators works with writers to lock down a story and the script of the animation.

Next, they design the characters of the video, create a storyboard, choose a color theme, and create the background of the video.

With all of this, the team lays down the building blocks for the main process.

There are a few important things to remember at this stage. The script you’re working with should be directing the visual actions and the video storyline. This helps create a storyboard, which represents the sequence of events that the video is supposed to follow.

For creating the characters and backgrounds, the design process is usually done in two steps. First, the design team creates a simple sketch of the characters and other elements. Once the team is happy with the initial sketches, these are then turned into detailed designs and images.

Once that is done, the team chooses a color theme for the video, keeping in mind the objects and elements and the lighting strategy for the video.

This completes the pre-production phase of creating a 2D animation.


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During production, the goal is to gather the elements that were created and bring them together to produce the animated scenes.

From painting the backgrounds and animating character actions and activities to designing the scenes and making rough animations are part of the process.

For more complex jobs, animation tracing and inbetweening are also done during production.

Here’s what these two processes entail.

Tracing involves the cleaning up of the rough animations either on a new animation layer or directly or over the same layer with different colors.

On the other hand, Inbetweening is like greasing a machine. Inbetweening involves the addition of transitional frames between two mainframes to make the animation look smooth.

Furthermore, minor tasks such as adding color to the designs are also completed at this stage.

In order to successfully complete these tasks, animators can create exposure sheets with complete scene-by-scene instructions. This sheet is divided into 5 parts:

  • Animation Layers
  • Backgrounds
  • Timing and Actions
  • View Perspective
  • Background Dialogues and Music.

The next stage is to combine the elements according to the exposure sheet. This is called the compositing process. Here, the team will add the backgrounds, sound, effects, frames, highlights, and any other thing they require to complete the scene.


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In post-production, the animation team conducts all the final editing of a 2D animation. In this phase, the main focus is on enhancement. From sound effects to frame lengths, to ensure that the impact of the video’s message is clear and impactful, giving your audience something worth engaging with.

Once everything is finalized, this version is then rendered and compressed into a video file for different formats.

For beginners, this is a surface-level breakdown of the animation process. Each of the tasks mentioned above involves complex techniques that you can learn to kickstart your journey into the world of 2D animation.

The Difference Between 2D and 3D Animation

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What Is 2D And 3D Animation?

The main difference between 2D and 3D animation is that the latter is more realistic as it has more detailing of the objects in the video with regards to height, depth, and width. In 2D animation, visuals are built in a flat, two-dimensional space.

The difference between 2D animation and 3D animation has to do with dimensions. A 2D object can only be measured by its height and width and is projected on a surface, such as a wall, paper, or screen.

On the other hand, 3D objects have their own surface and can be measured by their length, depth, width, and height.

To understand this difference, you can visualize the difference between a square drawn on paper and a cube in your hand. While the square is 2D, the cube is 3D. So the difference between the 2D and 3D animations is simply the kind of objects you’re dealing with.

2D animation requires techniques such as foreshortening and perspective to create visual space and depth perception in the animation.

Some of the most iconic TV shows, such as The Simpsons, are typical 2D animations. In its application, 2D animation requires drawing images and photographing them one image at a time to create an illusion of movement.

On the comparative, 3D animation can only be done on a computer. 3D animation includes techniques that are impossible in 2D animation, such as rotation angles and object volume due to their two-dimensional limitation.

3D animation is closer to reality, where you work with objects that are more lifelike. There’s more room to work on. For example, camera angles, object textures, and lighting are a few things that are much denser and more complicated to do on 3D objects than on 2D objects.

Is 2D Animation Or 3D More Attractive?

The answer to this question is very subjective, depending on your target audience, the purpose behind your video, and what you’re animating.

2D animation and 3D animation have unique use cases, advantages, and disadvantages.

Let’s take a look at what they are.

2D animation use cases

  • 2D Explainer Videos
  • Whiteboard Explainer Videos
  • Product demos
  • Advertisements and Brand Videos
  • Infotainment videos
  • TV shows and films

3D animation use cases

  • Game development
  • TV shows
  • Movies and Films

Though it is worth noting that 2D game development is also possible and the use cases can overlap but the above-mentioned use cases are based on the more common-place use of 2D and 3D animations.

Depending on these use cases, you can decide which animation style is more attractive to your audience and fits your requirements best.

The advantages of 2D animation are

  • Cheaper cost of Production — When compared to 3D animation, 2D is a cost-effective alternative.
  • Rapid production — 2D animations are quicker to produce, making video content generation fast.
  • 2D animation is less complex– 2D animation is less technology and software-dependent, making them easier to produce than 3D animations.

Disadvantages of 2D animation

  • 2D animation can become boring — 2D animation heavily depends on its supporting effects to ensure it is engaging and can often become boring for viewers.
  • Less demand — As 3D animation rises in popularity, the demand for 2D content in the film industry is taking a hit, with major 2D classics being remade in 3D.

The advantages of 3D animation are

  • Communication is stronger — 3D animation provides animators with a lot more flexibility with character movements, which can better portray emotions and feelings.
  • Visual appeal — 3D animation is more life-like and realistic, which is especially important for game development and the gaming community.
  • In demand — The demand for 3D animation is on the rise in the media and entertainment industries.

Disadvantages of 3D animations

  • Constraints and Limitations- 3D animation is incredibly machine and software-dependent, meaning there is less room for out-of-the-box experimentation.
  • Complex and hard to learn — Compared to 2D, it requires a lot more time spent on watching tutorials to get a strong grasp of 3D animation.
  • Profitability— 3D animations take time, effort, and money. Although, sometimes, it may not give back a pleasing return on the investment.

Popular 2D Animation Types

There are different types of 2D animation that brands leverage on a continuous basis. Here we are going through an overview of some of the more popular of these types.

2D Explainer Videos

2D explainer videos are one of the most popular 2D animation styles that help simplify concepts or services that would otherwise be too boring for people to read.

Explainer videos are made for public awareness about a product or a service, why they should use it, how to use it, and showcasing the service’s unique proposition to potential clients.

Animated Whiteboard Videos

Whiteboard Animation Videos are also a medium for awareness and are often used for two things.

  • Exhibit how a product was made
  • Raise awareness about a product and how to use it.

There are other use cases as well, but these are the most popular ones. Animated Whiteboard Videos use an old-school pen and whiteboard feel, giving viewers the nostalgia of their old classrooms while using a creative script to deliver a message or raise awareness.

Product Demo Videos

Product Demo Videos are pretty self-explanatory by their title. They are used to introduce a new product or platform to potential users to give them insights into the value it can add to their lives. Mostly used to exhibit the unique problem that the product can solve, these videos are an effective tool to get your clients interested in a new product you’re releasing.

If you’re ready to launch a new product into the market, product demo videos can help create be used for marketing purposes to create pre-launch hype to increase your revenue through more user engagement and downloads.

2D Animation Tips and Tricks

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Is 2D Animation Easy?

However, if you’re a beginner, you can easily use video ad makers to help you create promotional videos on Facebook and other social platforms. These video advertisement makers are easy to use and effective for marketing.

While it may look simple, 2D animations are complex and time-consuming tasks. Multiple aspects are involved, like storyboards and audio integrations and the painstakingly time-consuming task of creating the actual animation without stutters.

Now that we’re done with the basic understanding of 2D animation and where it stands compared to 3D animation.

Let’s dive deeper into the world of 2D animation. The question we’re answering here is, “how can you make 2D animations more lifelike and real?”

To answer this question, we’re looking at the expert opinion of Disney animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston and their 12 principles of animation:

  1. Squash and stretch– This technique helps create the illusion of weight and volume to characters by compressing and expanding their bodies as they move.
  2. Anticipation– Anticipation is all about using movement to create a setup for a major action that is about to take place and using the initial movement to cue the major action to the audience.
  3. Staging– Make the intention behind every movement or action clear to your audience.
  4. Straight-ahead action and pose-to-pose– These are two separate animation techniques: In the first one, animators draw the key poses of a character and then add the transitional poses. Pose to Pose, as the name suggests, requires the creation of every single scene one after another.
  5. Follow through and overlapping action– When animating your characters, it is important to ensure that their movements aren’t static. Take inertia into account to make sure that when your character stops moving, some parts of their bodies will keep moving for a short while, or some parts of the bodies during certain actions, such as hair, will move quicker than the character’s body, making it look more natural.
  6. Slow in and slow out– Draw more number of frames at the beginning and at the end of the motion while drawing fewer middle frames to make actions look more realistic.
  7. Arc– add slightly circular arcs to body movements during the actions of the characters for actions to look smoother.
  8. Secondary action– Use secondary actions to enhance the main action and reinforce it by adding more dimension to the character’s movement for a natural feel.
  9. Timing– Adjust the scene’s timing to make them look smooth and slow or fast and crisp.
  10. Exaggeration– exaggerated movements and reactions help establish a point or emphasize on the message you’re trying to deliver.
  11. Solid drawing– Though 2D animators work with 2D characters and objects, they should always try to add weight to the characters to make them seemingly 3D.
  12. Appeal– Focusing on character aesthetics is crucial to make sure your audience is appealed by them on-screen.

Best 2D Animation Software In 2023

This section entails our best choice of 2D animation software. The criteria for this is based on our own experience of this software, its usability, its value, the quality of work, and the user-friendliness of the UI.

  • Adobe After Effects
  • Adobe Animate
  • Moho

Though for many animators, this question boils down to preference, which is why there is no one correct answer.

The best 2D animation software in 2023 is choice-dependent and need-dependent. Still, for our team, which has extensive knowledge of the Adobe environment, these software are considered the best due to their wide variety of applications and a user interface that shortens the production cycle.

Is 2D Animation Dead?

Many people think 2D animation is dead, and Disney’s announcement set this in stone, but the reality is that 2D animation is only dead on the big screens and in the movie industry.

2D animation is still widely used for explainers, product demos, and corporate animated videos of different types.

The short and simple answer to this question is no. While there is a recent rise in the demand for 3D animation videos in the entertainment industry, 2D animation still has great potential in different niches.

From 2D games to more business-oriented videos, the 2D animation industry is far from dead. According to Hubspot, as of 2018, 54% of consumers want to see more video content from the brands they support.

Video content is not going anywhere; it’s engaging and interactive and provides a great alternative for users who hate reading long articles (the irony is not lost on me).

What is The Future of 2D Animation?

It looks like the future of 2D animation is a lot more corporate than before. A 2019 Wyzowl report suggests that 87% of marketers use video content as part of their digital strategy.

2D animation is a strong force in marketing, with video content becoming viral thanks to social media. Videos are shareable, and 2D videos come in many shareable shapes and forms, such as:

  • 2D Explainer Videos
  • Corporate Videos
  • Animated Whiteboard Videos
  • Social Advertisements
  • Infotainment Videos
  • Product Demos
  • Teaser Videos

There is much potential within the 2D animation industry, creating video content that is targeted for channels that make video content go viral.

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