Types of Animation Styles You May Use for Your Next Marketing Project
Looking for the best animation style to create your next video? Here are all the options you have to choose from. In this article, we have compiled a list of more than 30 animation styles with simple explanations, vivid examples, and materials for further studying so you can be fully informed.
Types and Styles of Animation
1. Traditional Animation
Traditional animation first appeared more than 140 years ago in 1877, when Emil Reynaud showed the world an apparatus for demonstrating moving drawings.
As the name now suggests, traditional animation means creating each frame manually using a pencil and a piece of paper. Of course, this is a very time-consuming process, but now there are special programs that exponentially simplify the task.
The first series of Tom and Jerry cartoons were created manually more than 70 years ago.
Sometimes you’ll hear the opinion that traditional animation is dead, but this is not entirely true. Traditional animation gave impetus to the development of every other types of animation all of which we will talk about in this article.
Before we move on, you can learn more about this style from the following sources.
Useful resources on traditional animation
- How to Make Animated Films: Tony White’s Masterclass Course on the Traditional Principles of Animation by Tony White, 2013
- Animation from Pencils to Pixels: Classical Techniques for the Digital Animator by Tony White, 2012
- Principles of traditional animation applied to 3D computer animation by John Lasseter
2. 2D Animation
2D animation doesn’t need a long introduction or explanation – simply recall the first cartoons produced by Walt Disney. The uniqueness of 2D animation is that images have only two dimensions – width and height.
It is believed that the first animated 2D cartoon was created back in 1906, but the style gained popularity much later, thanks to the work of Walt Disney. At the moment, this is one of the most popular and sought after types of animation for advertising and promotional videos, explainer videos, and branded cartoons.
Examples Of 2D Animation
Books and resources that detail the work involved in 2D Animation
- 2D Animation: Animal Walk Cycles by Dermot O’ Connor, 2017
- Character Animation: 2D Skills for Better 3D by Steve Roberts, 2012
- Sketch-Based Skeleton-Driven 2D Animation and Motion Capture by Junjun Pan, Jian J. Zhang, 2011
3. 3D Animation
3D animation is synonymous with computer animation since this style arose thanks to the development of computer graphics and visualization software. The first attempts to create a three-dimensional image were made in 1961, and the first-ever animated 3D clip appeared in 1972. Here it is.
Yes, this is just the animated hand of the creator of the video, but it was a major breakthrough in the history of this style. This video accidentally determined the directions for using 3D animation – for example, medical imaging.
Now, 3D animation is used:
- in medicine, to show the work of organs and systems visually or to show the effect of a drug on the body
- in architecture to show a building under construction in the most accurate form
- in production – for example, Porsche uses 3D models (in combination with augmented reality) to develop unique car designs
- in advertising to demonstrate how a product works or how it looks from the inside (such as a complex mechanism)
- in full-length cartoons, either for entertainment or marketing.
Examples Of 3D Animation
Sources on 3d animaiton
- 3D Animation: From Models to Movies by Adam Watkins, 2001
- 3D for the Web: Interactive 3D Animation Using 3ds Max, Flash, and Director by Carol MacGillivray, Anthony Head, 2005
- Animated Expressions: Expressive Style in 3D Computer Graphic Narrative Animation, 2009
4. Typography Animation
Typographic animation or kinetic typography is a style of text animation. The origins of this method go back to 1899 when, an ad containing moving letters was created in France. However, the style became popular only after another 60 years, largely due to the efforts of Alfred Hitchcock.
In business, this style is often used to show statistics or other information in an involving way. This is a good method for e-learning, as well as for training employees as an alternative to long and boring lectures.
Here is an example of how the kinetic typography style may work within the concept of explanation video.
Examples Of Typography Animation
Sources on typography animation
5. Motion Graphics
Motion design originated in 1960 and has now become one of the most popular animation techniques in video and content marketing. In fact, the use of motion design is everywhere – motion graphics production is used to create movie and game screensavers, commercial advertising, promotional videos, explainer, brand, and storytelling videos. In other words, it’s an almost universal technique that can solve almost any marketing task.
For example, look at the Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell YouTube channel, which uses short videos to explain the most popular scientific questions.
Motion Graphics Video Examples
Useful Resources on Motion Graphics
6. Flipbook Animation
This is one of the original techniques where each plot element is drawn on separate pages of a notebook. Once the drawing is finished, the pages turn quickly and create a “manual video” due to the quick frame change. In general, flipbook animation is an echo of a praxinoscope – a device for demonstrating moving pictures.
Flipbook Animation is not quite suitable for marketing as such but is great for quick storytelling and entertainment for the target audience.
Here is a video with a lot of good examples.
Examples Of Flipbook Animation
Sources on flipbook animation
- Flipping Out: The Art of Flip Book Animation: Learn to Illustrate & Create Your Own Animated Flip Books Step by Step by David Hurtado, 2016
- The Animation Bible: A Guide to Everything–from Flipbooks to Flash by Maureen Furniss, 2008
7. Stop Motion Animation
Stop motion is one of the most popular, sought after, and old animation techniques. The first attempts to create something similar to animation using this approach were made more than 150 years ago. In short, the essence of the technique is that the creator takes several photos by moving objects in the composition. After gluing photos into one track, a continuous video clip is created. The advantage of that approach is that it does not require expensive equipment and facilities.
Examples Of Stop Motion Animation
Sources on stop motion animation
- Stop Motion Animation: How to Make and Share Creative Videos by Melvyn Ternan, 2013
- The Advanced Art of Stop-Motion Animation by Kenneth A. Priebe, 2011
- Sketching with stop motion animation by D Fallman, 2011
8. Mechanical Animation
Mechanical animation is used to show how a complex device works from the inside out. All the details and mechanisms are drawn with mathematical precision. Most often, this style is used together with 3D animation to achieve maximum visualization.
This technique is very popular in the production of technical equipment because it allows you to make changes to the yet undeveloped product, significantly saving money on its creation from reducing the likelihood of error. Here’s how it looks. Complemented with a voiceover, a mechanical animation video can make a great explainer video.
Examples Of Stop Mechanical Animation
Resources On Mechanical Animation
- Physics for Flash Games, Animation, and Simulations by Adrian Dobre, 2012
- Illustrating How Mechanical Assemblies Work by Niloy J. Mitra, 2010
9. Audio-Animatronics and Autonomatronics
In its simplest explanation, animatronics are artificially controlled mechanisms that can take the form of a robot, animal, or any other non-existent creature. The main idea is that they can be controlled remotely, creating the effect of a “living being”.
As with many other techniques, Walt Disney has done a lot to develop this. Here’s how animatronics work at Disneyland entertaining visitors.
As for use in cinema, this approach is applied when it’s necessary to create a completely fictional character or to make the production cheaper. Here is more on this topic:
- Lecture Notes on AutonomatronicsTM: Simply, Enabling Audio-Animatronics to be Independently Responsive and Reactive to External Stimuli by Alfredo Medina Ayala
- Advances in New Technologies, Interactive Interfaces, and Communicability by Francisco V. Cipolla Ficarra, 2011
This style was invented by the creators of the series Action League Now! It combines stop motion animation and fragments of real footage. A distinctive feature of this technique is that physical objects are thrown into the frame. Chuckimation is not widespread, so it makes more sense to talk about object animation; when the movements of physical objects, such as dolls, are animated. Here is an example.
The most obvious and logical way to use this style is to promote a kids’ toy store.
Here is a book to read more.
The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows by David Perlmutter, 2014
11. Puppetry Animation
Puppetry Animation is a style at the intersection between puppet theater and 2D or even 3D animation. Simply put, this is the introduction of puppet heroes into a digital environment. It is generally accepted that this style originated in 1960, however a number of researchers say that the first Puppetry Animation film was shown in 1906 at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg.
This genre developed mainly thanks to Russian animators. Soyuzmultfilm Studio has created a huge number of cartoons in this style over its 85-year history. Here is one of the most famous.
As for marketing applications, it works for cartoons for children and adults, creating easily identifiable heroes and creative storytelling.
- 3D Puppetry: A Kinect-based Interface for 3D Animation by Robert T. Held, 2012
- Puppetry, Puppet Animation and the Digital Age by Rolf Giesen, 2018
12. Zoetrope Animation
The first mention of this style of animation dates all the way back to 180 BC! A device called a zoetrope is at the heart of this technology. It’s a kind of drum without a cover with special slots inside which there is a ribbon with drawings. During the rotation of the drum, the drawings form a continuous animation due to the phenomenon of persistence of vision.
This approach is rarely used in marketing because it requires a physical zoetrope. But you can see how it was implemented at Disneyland in California.
Examples Of Zoetrope Animation
- Animation: Animation, Zoetrope, Adult Animation, History of Animation, List of Music Videos Using Animation, Educational Animation, 2010
13. Cut-out Animation
Cut-out is a form of stop motion animation. Its feature is that the characters are created from paper, cardboard, or photographs, and then superimposed on each other creating the effect of movement. This style originated in the 18th century when shadow theaters were popular. Now videos in this style are created using special software, and paper characters are replaced by their scanned prototypes. Cut-out can be used for explainer videos and storytelling. The TV series Archer (among others) was created using this approach.
Further materials to study this style
14. Sand Animation
Sand animation is one of the animation techniques that can be used both for creating animated cartoons and for real shows. The idea of the technique is very simple but quite complicated in execution – it requires pouring sand onto a luminous surface to create a 2D image. It can also be drawn with the same methodology.
The idea was invented in 1969. The main use of sand animation has typically been a live show, but for marketing it’s possible to use it for storytelling in certain situations; for example, to show the evolution or development of something.
Here is Four Seasons by Vivaldi, complemented by sand animation.
More Resources on Sand Animation
- SandCanvas: new possibilities in sand animation by Rubaiat Kazi
- Stop Motion Filmmaking: The Complete Guide to Fabrication and Animation by Christopher Walsh, 2019
15. Paint-on-glass Animation
This is a very complex animation technique, and this is one of the reasons why it’s unfortunately not very popular. Drawing on glass as an animation method was invented in 1976 by the Canadian animator Carolyn Leaf. Her short animated film “Street” using this technique was nominated for an Oscar.
The peculiarity of this style is that each frame is created directly in front of the camera using glass and oil paints. Each frame is a real animated picture, the creation of impressionist artists, and lives only a fraction of a second before being replaced by the next frame.
Examples of Paint-on-glass animation
Sources to find out more on paint-on-glass animation
- Paint‐on‐glass animation: the fellowship of digital paint and artisanal control by Tom Van Laerhoven, 2011
- Fluid Frames: Experimental Animation with Sand, Clay, Paint, and Pixels by Corrie Francis Parks, 2020
16. Drawn-on-film Animation
Nowadays, this way of creating animations seems either too outdated or too original. Its essence is that animation frames are created directly on cinematic film, which may already contain some kind of sketch, or be completely blank. The first mention of this style takes us back to 1912. Despite its unconventional way of being created, this is a fairly cheap way to create animations since it does not require a camera or sophisticated software. Let’s see the end result. This is a creation of Caroline Leaf, whom we have already mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Useful Resources on Drawn-on-film animation
- A study of drawn-on-film animation technique by digital production method by Lee, Kwang-Hoon, 2016
- Experimental Filmmaking: Break the Machine by Kathryn Ramey, 2015
17. Experimental Animation
Experimental animation is somewhat similar to modern art – each viewer sees his own meanings and experiences his own set of emotions. This is the main goal of experimental animation. In this genre, the artist often comes up with new ways to say something important. The origins of this trend go back to the beginning of the 20th century, and since then many abstract artists have contributed to the development of this style. Let’s see a famous example of how Walt Disney worked with experimental animation.
As for its application in video marketing, it’s worth remembering that there’s always a chance experimental can create an unexpected result. But the easiest and most economical way to try things out with this style is to create GIFs and show them to users.
Studies and Resources
- Animated experientia: aesthetics of contemporary experimental animation by Husbands Lilly, 2014
- Experimental Animation: From Analogue to Digital by Miriam Harris, 2019
18. Erasure Animation
This is a style in which the author uses white paper, a simple pencil, and an eraser to create stories. Erasure animation is a rather original style that can become an interesting addition to your video marketing strategy. Here’s a fun example.
19. Pinscreen Animation
Here’s an unusual one. In order to create a pinscreen animation,you’ll need to use a vertical soft screen and many needles. When pressed, the needles protrude and repeat the shape of the object, creating an interesting play of shadows that allows you to achieve a voluminous image.
Historians of this style say that the invention of the “needle screen” in 1930 became the prototype of computer graphics, with the needles acting as analog pixels. This device was invented by Alexander Alekseev, and here is one of his works created with its help.
- French Animation History by Richard Neupert, 2011
20. Whiteboard Animation
The essence of whiteboard animation is exactly what it sounds like from the name. This is a video in which a hand with a pencil draws something, and a voiceover explains the drawing step by step. Thus, this animation style is ideal for explainer videos when you need to simply and clearly show how your product or service works. This is a style that appeared in 2009. At that time, it was an experimental marketing move which reached the peak of popularity in 2012-2013. It has since lost much of its appeal, since its cost is almost equal to the much more vivid and flexible motion graphics animation style.
Here is a good example of a whiteboard explainer video.
Useful Resources on Whiteboard Animation
- VideoScribe: a Beginners Guide to Whiteboard Animation Software by Tracie Rollins, 2013
- The Lean Explainer Video: A Video Production Handbook for Startups and Entrepreneurs by Dan Englander, 2015
- Do-It-Yourself Whiteboard-Style Physics Video Lectures by Scott Samuel Douglas, 2017
21. HUD Animation
For the most part, HUD animation creation is a part of video game development. It’s generally implemented provide users with information and guidelines within the game. It’s also used in cinematography and advertising to provide supplemental overlayed information.
If that sounds a bit confusing, it’s much easier to show than to explain.
Sources to find out more about hud animation
- Virtual World Design by Ann Latham Cudworth, 2014
- Learning 2D Game Development with Unity: A Hands-On Guide to Game Creation by Matthew Johnson, 2014.
22. 360 Animation
360-degree video is much more than just 3D. This is a type of video used in virtual and augmented reality, opening up endless possibilities for video marketing. For example, this type of video can be used by retailers in their virtual fitting rooms, or furniture sellers so that customers can immediately understand how a certain piece will complement their interior. House builders can create virtual tours of home plans- even if they are still at the design stage.
This type of video is a great opportunity to show the product in conditions as close as possible to reality.
Here is an example you should look at.
Here’s an informative publication on this technology.
- System and method of creating a 360-degree movie animation of a vehicle by Robert Longo, 2004
23. Plexus Animation
Plexus animation is the creation of flat images from dots and lines. The simplest example is the textbook image of the solar system. Most often, this approach is used in after effects – for example, after the end of a game, the end of the movie, or if a program switches to standby mode. This technology is simple but allows you to create fascinating patterns that can make a good addition to the main product.
It’s another style that’s much easier to grasp with an example.
24. Rotoscope Animation
This approach was first tested in 1914. In order to create this, You’ll need a video with real actors, which will then be transformed into animation. To do this, the artist purposefully draws each frame of the video from the cinema film. Prior to the invention of the rotoscope, tracing paper was used for this.
Now rotoscoping is used to create crowd scenes in films, as well as for commercials when it’s necessary for the drawn object to interact with the environment exactly like a real character. In addition, this technique significantly reduces the cost of 3D production because it makes it easy to duplicate objects. Rotoscope animation is also well suited for engaging storytelling
25. Clay Animation
This is a fairly creative and sometimes complex technique. However, the result is very unique and often funny. Do you remember the movie Chicken Run (2000)? This cartoon was created using clay animation.
The essence of the technique is that the characters are created from clay and then their movements are filmed on camera. Sometimes everything happens the other way around – characters are created using software, and then “embedded” in the scenery.
This technique is suited for businesses whose target audience is children because very often clay characters are specially created with a kind of “child carelessness.”
Here are some publications on this topic.
Examples Of Clay Animation
Publications on Clay Animation
26. Augmented Reality Animation
Augmented Reality Animation means using animated objects to complement an AR experience. Here is the simplest example – Snapchat photo effects such as the ability to stick a mustache or cat ears to your selfie. However, this is not the only application of AR animation.
It’s widely used in game development, usually employing 3D technologies too. 3D and augmented reality are the best match because 3D models and characters look more real-life. That is why augmented reality animation is mostly used in AR games development to provide users with the feeling of complete immersion.
As for another application of augmented reality animation, it is impossible to create an AR app without it. For example, virtual fitting rooms apps for eCommerce and retail are created with AR animation. It’s also a great solution for furniture sellers since customers may immediately see how something will fit their interior.
Here’s how it works in IKEA.
Useful Resources on Augmented Reality Animation
27. Realistic Cartoon
Did you recognize them? Yes, it’s SpongeBob and Patrick, in, let’s say, a somewhat realistic picture style from our world. A realistic cartoon is a style on the line between a classic cartoon and a film where roles are played by people. In other words, this is either an attempt to humanize cartoon heroes or “implant” real heroes into a cartoon environment.
28. Japanese Classic Manga
Have you watched Death Note? That’ classic manga style. The history of this began with comics, which later became a popular animated series using 2D technology. In the classic approach, manga should be black and white. However, using other colors is also allowed.
This is a specific style for a specific audience. For example, if you have an international business and you plan to develop your market in Japan, then this style will be an excellent bridge for potential consumers. It’s definitely possible to create a promotional video or tell a story within this style.
The 20 best examples of Manga are here.
Resources to learn more about classic manga in animation
Chibi drawing is a substyle of classic manga. The only difference is in the way the characters are drawn. In this case, the heroes have a round face, round eyes, small stature in order to appear as childish as possible.
As for the application, it’s got a wider appeal than manga since chibi does not have as strong of an association with Japan. Heroes made in this style can be used in any promotional and explanatory videos, especially for businesses whose end users are children.
Resources to learn more about classic manga in animation
30. Minimalistic Style
Minimalism is a trend in modern web design, and it has also penetrated video marketing.
As the name implies, this style strives for maximum simplicity. This is ideal for explainer videos and very often it’s a real art to explain something complicated with simple words and images. Minimalistic videos can work well for online services, applications, and software. When you’ve got a complicated service or product, the simpler its explanation, the better result you’ll get.
Resources to learn more about classic manga in animation
31. Tim Burton’s Style
Yes, you know this style. Tim Burton’s designs are popular and easily recognizable. His first film was actually made in 1984 but was released eight years later. Tim Burton’s unique style can now be easily identified, even if you aren’t in video production.
Additionally, other directors and animators now create videos in this style with their own characters. The distinctive features of this style are dark colors, a thoughtful contrast of light and shadow, and of course heroes who have big eyes, thin arms, and angular facial features.
Here is how it looks.
As for the use of this style in video marketing, this can be a rather creative approach suitable for a thematic business. For example, using it in a video to advertise a haunted house or escape room.
The world of animation is very diverse to say the least. In addition to the 31 styles we’ve mentioned here, even more variations exist by mixing these styles with each other. Which ones stand out to you? Tell us what your favorites are!