We’ve come a long way from the times when, as Walt Disney put it, the hardest part of a cartoonist’s job was to “develop the cartoon’s unnatural but seemingly natural anatomy for humans and animals.”
Now there are animation styles that pioneers probably couldn’t have dreamed up in a million years (Liquid-Motion animation? Experimental animation?) It’s an exciting time to want to be a dreamer, and even more so to be able to bring those dreams to life.
Studios are now even mixing different styles to create mind-blowing sequences like in Sony Pictures’ latest animated movie, the epic Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse!
But as fun as it would have been to just choose the coolest-looking animation style, it’s more than that. Sure, your animation style should be to your liking, but it’s important to balance creativity with practical considerations like target audience, story complexity, and budget.
Here’s your handy, bite-sized guide to 5 different animation styles with examples.
5 Types of Animation For Your Creative Journey
Did you know that there’s research from 2021 shows that the motion, quality, and characters of animated visuals are most likely to grab people’s attention? So, you know that putting some extra thought and effort into choosing the perfect animation style will be worth it.
Then, you can outsource your animation project like a professional, knowing the animation studio you’ve decided to work with is well-versed in its craft.
1. Motion Graphics Animation Style
Motion graphics is a fun way to present moving text logos and illustrations in amusing forms. Motion graphics can be found virtually everywhere these days, from commercials and explainer videos to website design elements, news, and social media channels.
Who’s it best for?
Motion capture is traditionally known to look less like “animation” than any of the other styles do. So the style’s best for explainer videos (platform navigation, website videos, presentations, etc.) and marketing material.
Overall, low-budget projects that don’t need smooth movements for their videos will find motion graphics a suitable style.
2. Stop Motion Animation Style
Stop-motion (or Stopmo) videos tend to be a real hit on the web, and while making them can take some effort, the results are usually worth it. (The Nightmare Before Christmas is a classic example!)
Animators start by setting up the camera and arranging puppets, clay figures, or anything they wish to animate. Then, they capture individual frames and make slight changes to the scene after each photo.
It’s common practice to mix stop-motion animation with a range of techniques, each suited to capture different types of objects like puppets, clay toys, or paper cut-outs.
Who’s it best for?
Stop-motion animation is a highly creative and collaborative process that often needs a great deal of teamwork. So it’ll take a lot of work to create one from scratch, especially considering how the objects need to be manually crafted first.
On the other hand, it’s almost impossible for Stopmo not to look unique and endearing. If you want to stand out in an industry where CG has become the “common” look, Stopmo’s for you.
And unlike what many assume, Stopmo doesn’t cost much more than good CGI. Although, budgets change depending on your project’s specific requirements and how it’s shot. The stop-motion style’s cost can also vary depending on the materials used to capture the scenes. From among the techniques mentioned below, Claymation costs the least, and custom-made puppets the most.
Claymation is a type of stop-motion animation technique that uses malleable characters made from a substance called plasticine. The best examples of clay animation include Chicken Run and Kubo and the Two Strings!
In the cut-out animation style, characters and objects are created using paper or any other cut-out shapes. This lets the scene and characters have movable parts and joints, although cutting pieces of cutouts can often be challenging.
With each frame meticulously moved and photographed, cut-out animation delivers unique visuals that usually look 2D. (A popular example of this would be South Park.)
Puppet animation is another type of stop-motion animation. It’s incredibly fun to watch but the presence of strings makes shooting scenes rather difficult. So keep in mind that making this animation is better not left to beginners.
3. Anime Style
Anime is a stylized animation form originating from Japan and known for its distinct character designs and eyes so large they defy the laws of nature. (Think Sailor Moon!)
Anime isn’t your run-of-the-mill cartoon. Unlike traditional cartoons, anime uses a “limited animation” style. It’s like an artful dance where every movement is intentional but limited to show character movements.
Who’s it best for?
While some of the decade’s most tragic narratives are animated in the Anime style, it’s still very extreme, colorful, and cartoonish. So, this style might not be suitable for marketing or business-related videos, unless your brand’s personality is that fun, like Discord.
Also, teenagers and youth adore Anime. It’s a given that this statement doesn’t apply to all youth, but if you’ve done your research and know there might be weebs (AKA anime lovers) among your audience, then consider anime.
Anime’s production costs can also vary depending on the techniques used. For example, a CGI-animated movie like Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children’s production costs amounted to 100 million dollars while a simple 2D movie like The Perfect Blue cost only about 830,000 USD.
4. Experimental Animation Style
Experimental animation defies traditional storytelling conventions. It embraces a subjective and non-linear approach and focuses on philosophical and spiritual themes that the artists want to convey.
Defining experimental animated cinema is challenging since doing so goes against the genre’s very essence. It mixes styles, changes what we know them as, and adds personal touches to create something custom.
Famous examples include “The Perfect Blue” (which is also an Anime) and the ninth episode of the third season of the popular Netflix anthology series “Love, Death, and Robots.”
Who’s it best for?
The answer to that question is as difficult to nail down as the style itself. Even production costs can vary greatly depending on the video’s techniques. Experimental animation is also known for mixing different styles, which makes it even harder to categorize for different purposes.
What we know for certain is that experimental animation is not suited for any video that’s meant to sell, explain, clarify, or present something in a straightforward manner.
5. 2D vs. 3D Animation Style – Which One’s For You?
2D Animation Style
You’ve seen 2D animation in classic TV shows like The Simpsons or SpongeBob SquarePants. Traditionally, 2D animation is categorized into 4 groups: Frame-by-frame (hand-drawn), Cut-out, Rotoscoping, and Computer animation (CG).
Nowadays, frame-by-frame animation is often done using computer software. But back in the day, artists would spend hours meticulously illustrating each frame by hand, creating 24 unique images for every second of the video.
When played together, these frames form a fluid motion that brings characters and their world to life. Although, many 2D animations actually only animate every second frame, meaning no more than 12 unique images.
William Gadea, Creative Director and Founder of IdeaRocket, categorizes 2D animation into three primary groups:
2D animation is very versatile, so anyone who likes that motion-graphic flat look but wants their animation to look more natural and fluid can choose 2D.
Although 2D animation style is usually a more affordable style than 3D, it can still be costly depending on what techniques you wish to use. For example, hand-drawn and shaded animations are more expensive than vector graphics animation styles.
2D animation is most commonly used in educational and marketing videos. And even though we tend to associate 2D with old school, the technique is still pretty popular in animated series and TV shows.
3D Animation Style
3D Animation adds realism and depth to animated characters and the world around them. Studios like Picotion bring these objects to life by skillfully rendering them as three-dimensional entities. 3D creates an immersive experience, which is why it’s so popular in entertainment.
Indeed, 3D is the bee’s knees for blockbuster feature films. The style is also very popular in TV shows and short films. You’ve probably seen 3D animation style in action in animated movies (like The Everlasting Story), video games (like Tekken 7), and live-action films.
Today, this technique can be made even more believable with technologies like Mocap.
3D is rather intricate, so it requires technical expertise and effective collaboration across departments to create the models and character rigs. Naturally, this makes 3D a much costlier alternative to 2D.
Motion capture takes the realism of 3D animations to a whole new level. By recording real-world movements and translating them into 3D digital models, motion capture lets animation studios create scenes and characters that couldn’t be there before.
Scenes look more natural, movements are more fluid, and character expressions become on-point.
This technique has been used in groundbreaking movies like Avatar and popular video games like L.A. Noire or GTA V. Actors bring scenes while wearing special bodysuits embedded with distinctive sensors.
Remote motion capture is the latest evolution in Mocap. The technology is still relatively new, but it’s safe to call it a revolutionarily useful one since it allows you to have full creative control without being present in the studio.
As a matter of fact, Picotion is one of the few international companies that can tackle it at a great production capacity! Drop us a line if you’d like to hear more and we’ll be in touch.
How Do I Choose One Type Of Animation For Your Project?
Choosing the right animation style for your project can greatly impact its overall success. Here are some tips to help you make the right choice:
- Consider your brand’s tone, colors, and general vibe. For example, some styles can show sophistication and academia much better than others.
- Know your target audience’s age, interests, demographics, and cultural background. Knowing who you’re animating for helps you choose a style that resonates with them.
- Different animation styles require varying levels of time, resources, and expertise. Assess your budget and choose a style you can afford without compromising on quality.
- Every video project has an emotional atmosphere about it. For example, you can’t pick the motion graphics style simply because you’re making an explainer video. Some explainer videos are supposed to be cool while some are warm and friendly.
- Evaluate story complexity and message delivery to choose a suitable animation style. E.g., if your message is simple and straightforward, a minimalist or iconic style might work.
- Look for inspiration by exploring various animation styles and analyzing successful examples in your industry.
The world of animation is vast, and each style brings its own flair and charm. It’s up to you to explore different styles and choose one that matches your intent. The goal here is to find one that complements your creative vision and breathes life into the project’s atmosphere.
Do note that each animation style has varying costs and time requirements, making some unsuitable for short-term projects and some just too expensive. Here’s hoping that this article helps you make up your mind about your next course of action!
Rely on Picotion as your creative ally to bring your vision to life.
Find the Picofolio here.