When it comes to animation, there's a huge scope of different styles. To help navigate these options, we've put together this list featuring 20 different animation styles, with examples we love. Summarising the main options you could choose from when creating a marketing or advertising campaign of your own.
2D Vector Animation
2D animation is flat in nature and often uses crisp block colours. The style is often referred to as being "clean". A vector line tends to have a smooth, defined edge. Some 2D animations are very simple and minimal, like this example we produced for NSPCC.
Why not type "vector" into the search bar on our work page to see other projects that fall under this category.
2D traditional cel animation
Cel animation takes its roots from the earliest form of animated films, pre-digital animation. Traditional 2D cel animation is created by hand drawing onto sheets of transparent plastic called “cels”. Each cel features one drawing with an outline on one side of the plastic and the colour is filled in on the other. These ‘cels’ are then placed over a background and photographed in sequence. When played back, they create the illusion of movement.
The modern (digital) form of cel animation uses the same principles of hand-drawing cels frame by frame. However, in the digital age each cel can be created on a computer, avoiding the need to photograph physical frames of action. Even when produced digitally, cel animation is time-consuming but the fluidity and quality of movement that can be produced is well worth the effort! As illustrated by this short animation produced here at F&E.
Animations which have a continuous flow can be truly mesmerising and memorable. Animation lends itself to a continuous technique, with clever transitions being key to creating this feeling of non-stop motion. We absolutely love this linear animation created by animation agency Giant Ant, where a linear animation technique creates a seamless and magical narrative.
Computer-generated animation is also known as three-dimensional (3D animation). Where 2D animation is created on the X and Y axes, 3D animation uses the X, Y and Z axes. Objects are modelled on the computer and 3D figures are rigged with a virtual skeleton. 3D animations can look hyper-realistic or take on a more cartoony feel. As illustrated by the example below from animation company Moth, 3D animations allow the camera and objects to move around in 3D space, creating a more realistic feeling of movement.
Character driven work is great for humanising a brand and building trust. Adding characters to an animation is a highly effective way of telling a story and engaging emotionally with the audience. Characters can be created in 2D, 3D, handmade as puppets or even created using stop-motion animation. We love animating characters at Fred & Eric. Here's an example of a whole cast of characters we created for a training film commissioned by Netflix.
Stop-frame or Stop Motion Animation
Stop motion or stop-frame animation is a technique where real objects are physically moved in small increments. Each movement is photographed so they appear to move when played back. Any kind of object can be animated using this technique, but puppets with movable joints (puppet animation) or plasticine figures (claymation) are most commonly used. Puppets, models or clay figures are built around an armature (a movable skeleton) to create realistic movement. Here's a beautiful example of a stop-motion animation featuring felt puppets, created by director and animator Anna Mantzaris for Global Women.
Take a look at some of Fred & Eric's stop-frame animations HERE.
Pixilation is a stop-motion technique where live actors are used as a frame-by-frame subject in an animated film. Using this technique, the actor becomes a living stop-motion puppet. Often pixilation animations are shot from above, to enable gravity-defying sequences and adding unexpected dynamics to the piece. Like in this music video directed by Oren Lavie, Yuval and Merav Nathan.
Live Action Puppetry
We know, this isn't strictly animation... But in the process of creating and crafting sequences using puppetry, there's a big cross-over of techniques. We love this title sequence produced by BUCK featuring hand-sewn puppets and painted geometric backdrops.
Another thing to note is that puppetry isn't always character-based. Illustrated by this series of award-winning promos produced for Channel 4 where we used puppetry techniques to build a narrative featuring hand-crafted objects. All shot in one take.
Collage is a form of artwork made by assembling different cut-out textures and imagery to produce new compositions. This illustration technique works particularly well in animation. Varying scale and textures can create interesting and unexpected results. Take a look at this bold graphic interpretation by Tom McCarten.
Mixed Media Animations
Mixing media and animation techniques is an exciting way to work and is something we love to do here at Fred & Eric. Whether it's combining stop-motion puppets with a 2D illustrated background or integrating live-action with graphic embellishments, there are no limits. This example for Inches Cider shows how effectively different techniques can combine to produce stand-out animations. This TV spot was created by Leon Washere and Anna Ginsburg at Strange Beast and Otherway London.
Type "Mixed Media" into the search bar of our work page to see the variety of animated projects which are included under this category.
Using typography in animation can help to enforce meaning as well as creating a striking visual style. Whether the typography picks out key words or is used to narrate the VO, animating typography can simply create straight-to-the-point communications. We love this creative use of typographic animation for a Honda commercial directed by ManvsMachine. Typography appears at a pace that should be unreadable. However, due to the combination of timing, placement and sound design, it is perfectly legible and fitting for the commercial's messaging.
Unlike animations featuring typography, kinetic typography (the technical name for "moving text") mixes motion and text to express ideas. This text is animated in a way that conveys or evokes a particular idea or emotion. Using the words and how they appear to create emotional connections between the words and their meaning. This animation we produced for Oxfam International shows how effectively kinetic typography can create urgency and meaning within urgent communications.
Animations created using simple outlines can have a striking impact. The simplicity of a well-illustrated line like this project we worked on alongside Bother, can produce effective animations which have a strong impact on a variety of screen sizes.
In contrast, the beauty of how the flowing forms of a hand-drawn line can create elegance and fluidity of movement like this cel-animated short produced for Dechert Law (click HERE to view).
Another popular animation technique is continuous line animation like this spot for Dove directed by HelloSavants. Movement transitions from illustrations to more abstract line movement in a beautifully expressive interpretation of the narration.
Compositing Animation into Live Action
Combining live-action footage with animation can bring a new dimension to real-world scenarios. Animation could simply be flourishes and shapes to accentuate action, or be more interactive by introducing animated characters into the mix. This example we produced for the International Rescue Committee in collaboration with Pal TV is an example of this technique.
Zoetrope & Phonotrope Animation
A zoetrope is an early form of animation technology. The zoetrope is a cylinder with slits cut vertically in the sides and a row of images on the inside of the cylinder. When the viewer looks through the slits, because the images are sequential they appear to be moving.
A phonotrope is a modern interpretation of this technology and creates a really exciting visual experience. Using an in-camera technique, the images or 3D objects appear to move, without the need for viewing through slits. Jim Le Fevre originally developed this concept, since inspiring countless in-camera and digital interpretations of the same visual styling.
Cut-out animation is a popular animation style due to the tactile nature of the visuals. Whether cut-out animations are created digitally or made by hand and shot in-camera, the effect creates an appealing handmade look. Here's an example we produced for Bear Nibbles, featuring a combination of photographed papercraft cut-out illustrations combined with digitally created elements, to produce a handmade advertising extravaganza!
We've already covered a range of handmade animation techniques in this list. However, creating animations from unconventional materials, especially when they relate to your brand can produce truly memorable creatives. We love this embroidered animation directed by Nicos Livesey & Tom Bunker, illustrating how animation really has no boundaries if you've got the imagination (and time)!
This term describes the process of creating animated sequences by tracing over live-action footage frame by frame. The way in which the re-drawn footage is interpreted can be wide-ranging; whether it's painted, line drawn, collage... the techniques are endless. The final result has realistic and fluid movement created by closely following the real footage. Here's an example we created for Google.
An infographic animation brings information or data to life in a visual way. Presenting sometimes complex concepts in an easy to understand representation. Infographic animations are especially effective when tailored to a brand's palette and design guidelines. Simplicity in design and clever visualisation of concepts can produce striking and memorable animations such as this example directed by Alex Perry.
We decided to end on something a little more experimental. Strata-cut animation, (also spelt strat cut or straticut) is a form of multi-layered animation. It's one of many forms of stop motion animation but we think it deserves its own category because it's so unique. Strata-cut animation is most commonly a form of clay animation in which a long bread-like "loaf" of clay, internally packed tight and loaded with varying imagery, is sliced into thin sheets. The camera then takes a shot of the end of the loaf for each cut. Eventually revealing the movement of the internal images within.
The world of animation is very diverse, to say the least. In addition to the 20 styles we’ve mentioned here, there are countless others (but we had to end somewhere)... We hope this list has given an insight into some of the ways animations can be produced and perhaps even inspired you to follow a creative route you may never have considered before!