2D animation has influenced many creative aspects of our society for decades. Many films, television shows, and online videos feature 2D animation. Animated 2D videos can be used to communicate messages on any platform.
Learning animation is not just a trend. In fact, 2D animation is everywhere. Besides its use in cartoons, it has also long been used by businesses for advertising and promotion. 2D animation is usually easier and cheaper to create than other types of animation.
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Across many platforms and industries, 2D animation continues to make an impact. This cartoon style remains popular among content creators despite technological advancements opening up new forms of animation.
What Is 2D Animation?
The art of 2D animation involves creating a moving image out of several drawings in a sequence. There was a time when 2D animation was done only through hand-drawn images. However, technology has now made it possible for them to be generated digitally.
Many cartoons and anime series still use 2D animation and there are many dedicated 2D game engines. Even with the option to create more realistic, 3D drawings, some artists still prefer to create in 2D. Now, it is possible to use software to draw instead of drawing on paper.
2D animation only uses two dimensions, height and width, so that it appears to be a flat image on paper. Usually, these animations are created using 24 unique drawings per second.
What Is 2D Animation Used For?
A 2D animation is used for a lot of things. It is not only limited to films and entertainment. It is also used by many companies as part of their overall multimedia strategy. This is especially true of advertising agencies, which often feature 2D animations in their print ads and commercials.
Below are the various ways in which 2D animation is used.
- Animated films. Although most animated films are made in 3D these days, there are still some that opt to use 2D.
- Television series. Some of the most popular animated series in the US still employ 2D animation. This is usually a conscious choice by the creators.
- Educational materials. Young students often respond better to lessons that use strong visual aids. 2D is a reliable way for educators to capture the attention of their students.
- Ads and commercials. Many commercials use 2D animation to help improve a brand’s popularity. If a brand is looking for minimalism with a big impact, 2D is a good choice.
- Marketing and infomercials. As 2D animations are not too complicated, they are a good way to communicate information. It is also cost-effective.
Best Programs for 2D Animation
There are several types of animation software that you can use to learn 2D animation by creating frame-by-frame drawings.
Using the best 2D animation programs will help you improve your character designs. Whereas traditional animation requires manual drawings by hand, this software is more streamlined and allows digital drawings and edits.
Synfig is free for download on Windows, Mac, and Linux. If you are a beginner, this is the right program to use while you start learning 2D animation. It is also an open-source program, so there are codes available for you to use and modify.
Adobe Animate or Animate CC
Adobe Animate is a paid software recommended for those aiming to become professional animators. With it, you can create several types of animation, with a particular focus on 2D. It is widely used by animators, so learning it will be advantageous.
OpenToonz is one of the most reliable 2D animation platforms and is used by animation companies such as Studio Ghibli. It is known for its GTS scanning tool, which is of particular use to animators who still prefer using hand-drawn illustrations. OpenToonz is open source so you can easily modify the codes as you prefer.
Pencil2D is a free program that allows you to create 2D animations and videos. It is known for its ability to seamlessly switch between raster and vector. This switch allows you to quickly go from sketching to painting.
MOHO is for anyone who wants to get into professional 2D animation. There is always a new feature coming out that you can use to expand your skills as an animator. However, this program is not beginner-friendly.
Learning 2D Animation
For many students and beginners, learning 2D animation is the first step to learning other types of animation.
Learning 2D animation should be your first step if you want to become a professional in the industry. Even if your goal is to learn a more complicated form of animation, you will still need to start with 2D.
How Long Does it Take to Learn 2D Animation?
Animation is a lot easier to learn now than it was even a decade ago. Now, there are more free and open source applications available to you. There are also free video tutorials for these programs on YouTube.
You can learn the basics of animation in just a few weeks or months. Mastering animation would require more experience and dedication. So, if you have the opportunity to take on a project that will help you build up your skills, you should go for it.
How to Learn 2D Animation: Step-by-Step
Nothing is set in stone when it comes to learning, especially if you are going at your own pace. If you want to follow a traditional path to learning how to draw cartoons, you can study the 12 principles of animation.
On the other hand, you may want to just learn through trial and error. Whichever form of study you choose, we have put together some basic steps you can take to learn 2D animation.
- Download 2D animation software. Before you start browsing tutorials and resources, you need to choose a software that you are comfortable with using. There are free programs for beginners, but you can download an advanced one if you already have some experience.
- Look for tutorial resources and videos. If you are self-motivated, you can try to learn 2D animation through online tutorials. YouTube and other streaming sites are filled with instructional materials. Some websites feature written step-by-step processes.
- Enroll in classes on 2D animation. You can choose whether you want to sign up for a class in college or through an online platform. If you feel that you need guidance from an instructor, then taking a class in person is the best option.
- Start a 2D animation project. Even if these are small-scale, personal projects, learning through experience is always a good idea.
- Apply for internships or mentorships. Working in a professional setting will test your skills. You may also want to learn from a mentor directly if you need more hands-on guidance.
The Best 2D Animation Courses
There are numerous animation courses available online. If you would prefer to learn 2D animation from the comfort of your home and on your own schedule, then these are your best option. Some of these courses are free, while others require a payment.
Pluralsight: 2D Animation Courses & Tutorials
Certificate: Not available
This page of Pluralsight compiles several free tutorials on 2D animation. They range from basic to intermediate videos. They cover a variety of software, such as Unity, Photoshop, and After Effects.
As for Pluralsight’s paid courses, you can choose to learn After Effects CC or Maya. The cheapest subscription plan for the website’s basic package is $29, and it will give you access to all of Pluralsight’s resources.
CG Spectrum: Advanced 2D Animation Diploma
Price: $1,185 monthly
A full-time commitment is required for this course, which lasts nine months. It is a diploma program for advanced 2D animation. It is specifically designed for individuals who want to venture into filmmaking and game development.
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The course will cover advanced skills that you must learn to land a job at a major studio. It uses the software Toon Boom Harmony as its main animation software. With this course, you will be in for a serious 2D animation journey.
CGMA: Foundations in Modern 2D Animation
This is a nine-week course on how to create 2D animations using Adobe Animate CC. Beginner- to intermediate-level students are welcome to enroll. Students are expected to produce an animated short film by the end.
Each week, the class will cover a new topic related to animation and Adobe Animate CC. Every specific step of the animation process, such as walk cycles and lip-syncing, are included in this course. There will also be weekly practice assignments.
Animation Mentor: 2D Animation for Beginners
Beginners are the target audience of this class, so you can come in without any animation experience. It runs for six weeks, so make sure you can commit to the timeframe. This class takes a project-based approach, so expect a lot of activities.
One of the unique things about this course is that it emphasizes communication between students and mentors. You will get feedback each week on your project via video recording. Toon Boom is the main software used in this course.
Coursera: Game Design: Art and Concepts Realization
Price: $49 monthly
This course focuses on game design. It goes beyond animation and will teach you how to create stories and visuals. You will still learn the basics of 2D animation, but will also gain additional knowledge on how to become a successful game designer.
You will learn about enriching concepts and building a narrative for a game. By developing your own project, your creativity will be challenged.
Best 2D Animation Books and Resources
Aside from video tutorials, you can also learn about animation from books. The texts on 2D animation listed below are must-reads if you want to immerse yourself in the topic. They include introductory guides to book on specifics like timing and sketching.
The Animator’s Survival Kit, Richard Williams
This book is a great read for all aspiring animators because it was written by Academy Award-winning animator Richard Williams. In it, Williams discusses his experiences as an animator in the hand-drawn era until now.
Williams also defines the principles of animation. Whether you are a beginner or expert, this will be a good read.
Timing for Animation, John Halas, Harold Whitaker, & Tom Sito
This book is a to-the-point, no-nonsense guide on how to get your timings and frames right. It reveals some of the tried and true techniques that the authors developed while working in the industry.
Sketching for Animation, Peter Parr
As sketching and drawing are important parts of animation, you will need to study it and improve. This book is a comprehensive guide to the different styles and approaches to drawing. It also includes sketching exercises to test your skills.
Should You Study 2D Animation?
As the foundation for all types of animation, 2D is not going anywhere. Many great animation styles are rooted in 2D. It has developed along with modern times and has remained relevant through its diverse uses in multimedia content and business.
Beginners should always start with the basics. Mastering 2D animation is the first step toward becoming a professional in other forms. However, you may also want to pursue work as a professional 2D animator, if that is more suited to your style.
With the right software and resources, you’ll be able to master animation in no time.
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