Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, dreams are forever.” - Walt Disney

Mickey Mouse is probably one of the most famous characters ever created. Disney’s mascot is recognisable all over the world. Similarly, characters like Simba, Ariel, and Elsa are also very popular.

These characters define our childhoods and have inspired many to take up careers in animation.

So how can you get started with animation?

In this article, we’ve got the answers you’re looking for.

Animate on Acetate Cels

Before you start animating, you need to look at the different ways to animate. The techniques have changed a lot since the start of the 20th century.

How do you animate by hand?
Many animators work with the light source under their drawings. (Source: Victoria_Borodinova)

Animation was initially done on cels. The cels, or celluloid, was a transparent sheet of acetate celluloid that animators would paint on to create drawings.

An animation is made of several drawings that when played in quick succession form create the illusion of movement. This means that a minute of animation can require around 1,400 images.

Cels were often used to make the process easier. Thanks to the transparency, you could place it over the static elements and only animate the moving parts of the image. Static elements don’t change from frame to frame, after all.

This method is rarely used in big animation studios anymore. It’s often far too costly and time-consuming in comparison to modern digital techniques.

However, you can start by using this technique to better understand how animation works. You might want to start with translucent paper. Start by drawing a basic figure. Copy the majority of it by using the translucent paper to trace over it and change an aspect like the position of the arm, for example. Then repeat.

By doing this a few times and flicking between the images, you’ll start to see the figure move. This is the same concept as with a flipbook.
For more professional results, you might want to take a photo of each drawing and use video editing software to create the animation.

Find out how to get started with animation.

Creating Stop-motion Animation

Stop-motion animation is another traditional animation technique that isn’t very often employed any more.

Should you create 3D or 2D animation?
3D animation requires more work initially, but less once you start animating as you don't often have to redraw the whole character! (Source: BlackDog1966)

Do you remember the Wallace and Gromit films or Chicken Run?

The characters in these were models made from modelling clay. This is basically how stop-motion works. Rather than drawing the scenes, the animators sculpt them. It’s similar to having puppets, except they don’t move and you make them move by taking photos of them in a different position and playing them back quickly. You can use anything to make stop-motion animation like lego or action figures.

Set the same and then place your figures where you want. Set up a camera on the scene and make sure it doesn’t move. Take the first photo, change the position of the characters, then take another photo. Much like with hand-drawn animation, you just play the photos back in quick succession to create the illusion of movement.

This technique can also work with silhouettes and shadow puppets. Animation is at its best when the animator is being creative.

Find out more about the equipment you'll need to start animating.

Creating Animation with 2D Programs

There are plenty of programs and tools online to help people create cartoons and animations. Of course, a lot of these are far from the quality of professional-grade software but they are useful for making a short animation and seeing some of the concepts of animation and visual storytelling play out.


LightMV is an online video creation platform that can be used for animation. You can also install the program onto your computer if you won’t always have internet access. To create an animation, you can use characters from the program’s library.


Powtoon isn’t an animation program but it’s often used for interesting presentations and visuals. You can use it to animate the elements as you see it. Play around with it!


A bit like Powtoon, Moovly is a program that allows anyone to put together videos. Moovly can be used to create animated visuals and infographics or brighten up presentations with interesting animations.


Available for iOS and Android, this app allows you to create GIFs or MP4 videos of animations. It’s a good tool for beginners to try out animation.

Toontastic 3D

Toontastic 3D is an interesting way to make animations with your characters. There are quite a few interesting functions and tools if you need inspiration and a library of assets you can use.


Pencil2D is several levels above the other tools we’ve mentioned and some software that even professional animators use. This open-source software allows animators to use “onion skinning” to visualise several frames of animation at once.

Find out more about animation software and programs.

Learning to Draw Cartoon Characters

To make an animation, you need more than just the right equipment. You also need to put together a story and draw the people in it.

How do you create characters for animation?
You'll want an interesting bunch of characters and you'll need to be able to draw them from any angle and in any mood. (Source: hoperocketeer)

Those who create the people in animation are often referred to as character designers. It’s an incredibly important part of the whole process. To make an animation on the cheap, however, you’ll need to play this role yourself.

Don’t panic! There are plenty of resources available to help you draw characters. You can find books on the topic in your local library or book shops. YouTube is also full of character design tutorials.

To bring your characters to life, you need to learn about:

  • Form
  • Facial expressions
  • Movement
  • Etc.

You’ll then need to think of a style: Anime? Realism? Cartoony?

Find out more about making your first animation.

Learning to Draw Backgrounds for Animations

What would animation be without beautiful backgrounds?

Of course, you could always create an animation with the characters just floating in the void, but backgrounds can bring a lot to animation.

Much like with the characters, the background is usually done by a specialist background artist. They focus on the scenery and the worlds that the characters occupy. The concept artists also play a big role in the design of characters and backgrounds. A lot of them now with digitally to create marvellous fantastical or realistic backgrounds. There are also artists tasked with creating images of the work for promotional reasons.

Of course, if you’re doing it on your own, all these jobs will be yours. You can learn a lot about the fundamentals of background design online and in books.

How to Create Scenarios for Animation

Your characters must have something to do. The story needs to be coherent and gripping.

How do you create stories for animations?
Deciding what your characters get up to might be the hardest part of the process for some. (Source: Capri23auto)

A lot of plots were dropped by Disney in the early days because they wouldn’t make for a good film. Without a good plot, there wasn’t any reason to animate anything.

Much like with books and films, you’ll go through a few drafts before you’re happy with the final product. Don’t hesitate to get feedback on the plot or scenario from a friend or family member. If you know someone in the industry, even better.

Finally, don’t hesitate to attend animation festivals to see what the world of animation is producing. You’ll get plenty of inspiration for your animations and have the chance to meet professionals.

If you need help with drawing, animation, scriptwriting, or character design, consider getting help from one of the many talented and experienced private tutors on Superprof. There are tutors all over the country and around the world ready to help you learn new skills, prepare for exams, or take up new hobbies.

There are three main ways to enjoy private tutorials, face-to-face with your tutor, online, or in a group with other students. Each type of tutorial comes with advantages and disadvantages so it's down to you, how you like to learn, and your budget.

Face-to-face tutorials are the most common type of tutorials offered and are usually the most popular. With just you and your tutor in the class, you can be sure that the lessons will focus on your learning and your tutor will tailor every session to you and how you like to learn. As the tutor will require extra time to plan bespoke lessons, they usually tend to charge more per hour for the service. However, while face-to-face tutorials are usually the most expensive per hour, they're also the most cost-effective.

For those on a tight budget, group tutorials are a way to share the cost of the tutors time with other students in the class. These other students can be friends, family members, or even strangers. This does mean that the lessons won't be tailored just to you but you will usually pay less than you would per person for a one-to-one session.

Finally, online tutorials are useful if you can't find any suitable tutors that live near you or neither of you can travel. As long as you have a webcam and a decent internet connection, you can learn a variety of skills and study a range of topics from private tutors all over the world.

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A student by trade, Daniel spends most of his time working on that essay that's due in a couple of days' time. When he's not working, he can be found working on his salsa steps, or in bed.