10 Different Types of Animation From Traditional to Modern

If you want to make a career in animation, it’s important to learn about the different types of animation. There is a lot you can do with an animation degree. The history of the animation process shows how this art form holds the audience’s attention. It easily transforms static images and complex concepts into more entertaining and digestible formats by creating movement. Marketers, educators, and businesses use computer animation to create memorable content. These include feature films. This content:

  • is aesthetically pleasing
  • easily explains complex concepts
  • tells stories

Popular types of animation include:

  • GIFs
  • Video marketing
  • TV commercials
  • Infographics
  • Cartoons
  • Educational content
  • Short films
  • Animation methods for live action movies

In this article, we have listed 10 different styles of animation for you to explore. A look at the different types of animation styles methods may help you understand which field you want to choose for specialization. 

Featured Programs

#1 Traditional Animation or Classical 2D Animation 

Traditional animation example

Traditional animation is sometimes called cel animation or 2d animation. It’s a traditional style of animation. It involves using pencil and paper by animators to draw each frame by hand, one at a time, to create an animated scene. This is a very time-consuming process since it involves numerous drawings, all hand drawn. When we think of the types of 2D animation, Walt Disney may come to mind.

However, Charles Emile Reynaud was first to show the approach in 1877 when he used an apparatus that improved on zoetrope animation to show moving drawings. Also called 2D animation, it was the basic animation technique until computer animation was invented. The uniqueness of this method is that these basic illustrations have only two dimensions – height and width. After drawing a series of images, these types of animators play them fast in a sequence to create a motion illusion. 

They create many drawings in this process. Then, they feed them into plastic cells, hand paint them, and create an animated sequence on a painted background image. It is a time-consuming process, but special programs are available now that can simplify the task. Traditional animation provides the foundation for developing all other popular animation techniques. We’ll talk about some of these in this article. 

  • Some popular traditional animation examples include Walt Disney films like:
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Peter Pan
  • Bambi
  • Aladdin
  • Bugs Bunny.
  • Early children’s cartoons are another good example. The first series of the Tom and Jerry cartoons was also created manually. 
  • Other uses of traditional or 2D animation can be found in explainer videos, advertising and promotional videos, marketing content, and branded cartoons like The Simpsons and Family Guy.

Traditional types of animation styles form the basis of all animation, including American animation. Most on-campus or online animation programs include classical 2D animation in the coursework. This provides a solid foundation for students. 

Related: Top Online Animation Degrees

#2 Motion Graphics

motion graphics animation student

Motion graphics or motion design involves adding an illusion of smooth motion to various graphics. Also known as mographics, this type of animated graphic design first appeared in 1960 and has continued to grow in popularity. It is one of the widely used animation methods for video and content marketing. Animators use this technique to add life or motion to any kind of:

  • graphics
  • text
  • shapes
  • typography

  • The animation method is best suited for businesses with a formal personality like animated logos. Here, other types of animation styles involving creating characters and cartoons may not be a good match. 
  • Animators and graphic designers use motion graphics to explain challenging ideas and complex processes using still images. 

By doing so, they can explain complex concepts quickly and in an interesting manner. It is now a universal technique that is used for many marketing tasks. We can find the use of motion graphics in:

  • Commercial advertising
  • Movie and game screensavers
  • Explainers
  • Promotional videos
  • Storytelling videos

It is one of the most expansive and hi-tech types of animation styles in existence. This form of animation allows for more creativity and experimentation in animation projects. 

#3 3D Animation

3D Animation Example

3D animation is considered a major breakthrough in the animation industry. It first appeared on the scene around 1961 and is used to create more realistic animations in a digital environment. 3d animation is synonymous with computer animation. This is because the style occurred after the development of visualization software and computer graphics.

The first animated 3D clip appeared in 1972. Since then, the style has improved with better technology and tools (i.e., a character rig) to assist animators in creating:

  • digital characters
  • character’s body parts
  • objects

3D animation has come a long way from the first animated hand to creating:

  • high-end medical imaging
  • mechanical animation
  • gaming videos

Animation films with three-dimensional animation or 3D use motion to add more life to 2D animation and make them realistic. They also have a better frame rate. We can find the use of 3D animation in fields like:

  • Medicine: Used to show how organs and systems work, or how drugs can affect the body
  • Entertainment: Used to create anything from an animated short film to full-length cartoons series and movies like Toy Story
  • Production: Used by various industries like automobiles and retail to develop unique designs; can also combine 3D models with augmented reality
  • Architecture: Used to show various phases of a building under construction accurately 
  • Advertising and media: Used to show how a product looks or works 

The advanced form of this animation is now used to create computer-generated imagery (CGI), which we can see in movies like Avatar. Specific traits like skin weight and expressions in animated characters come to life with 3D. 

Related: Top Bachelor’s Programs in Film Studies

#4 Typography Animation 

Animation Graphic

Typography animation is an animation technique dates back to 1899 in France. This is when the first ad containing moving alphabets was created. Typography animation is also called kinetic typography or moving text. This style of text animation techniques became very popular after Alfred Hitchcock started using them extensively. It is often used in business presentations and within the concept of explanation video. It is often used to show statistics or other information, thus better engaging and involving the audience. It is a popular method for training employees or for e-learning instead of long and boring lectures. Examples of typography animation include: 

  • Letters shrinking, expanding, slowly moving away or closer together, or morphing into an image, etc
  • Letters turning into characters or images 
  • Use letters and numbers to show an animated timeline 

These animation techniques help to add an element of storytelling to any GIF, video, and other visuals to make them more attractive. While they seem to be ideal for business needs, they add a diverse flavor to various forms of media and entertainment too. 

Related: Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs

#5 Stop Motion Animation 

Animation Student Learning Stop Motion

The stop motion method is one of the earliest forms of animation techniques. It’s been used for more than 150 years and still remains popular. In the stop motion style, animators take several photos by moving real objects like clay figures around in the composition one frame at a time, thus the name stop-frame animation. Once these types of animators have successfully glued the photos into one track, they create a continuous video clip to capture movement. Sometimes called flipbook animation, stop motion is a simple manipulation of physical objects to create an illusion of movement. It is popular because it can lead to amazing creations without the use of expensive equipment and facilities. Some examples of this style being used to create animations include: 

  • Classic Christmas specials like Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  • Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town
  • Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey

Many modern animation software have features that allow animators to integrate stop motion animation with modern solutions to enhance the effects. The result is engaging and impactful animation that helps every project gain more traction than ever. 

#6 Cut-Out Animation 

Teaching Cut-Out Animation

Now that we know what stop motion animation is, it will be easier to use another form of it – cut-out animation. This style originated in the 18th century and is still used as one of a variety of options by animators. Cut-out animation was popular in shadow theaters. This is where characters are created from:

  • cardboard
  • paper
  • stiff fabrics
  • photographs

They were then superimposed on each other to create the effect of movement. Present-day use of this style includes:

  • Explainer videos and storytelling 
  • Animated films and TV series 

In these cases, the paper characters are scanned. Then, the scanned prototypes are used to create animation projects using special software. They not only save production time but also help in creating attention-grabbing animated projects. There is a lot of connection with puppetry here which can be called an early form of this type of animation. 

#7 Sand Animation

Sand Animation Learning Activity

Sand animation is a unique animation style that is used to create real shows as well as animated cartoons and films. Invented in 1969, the process can be a little more complicated than other kinds of animation. The process involves drawing with sand but is more like pouring sand onto a bright surface to create a 2D image. Along with live shows and films, the style is used in business for various storytelling and presentation purposes. Some popular sand animators include names like:

  • Ferenc Cakó
  • Co Hoedeman
  • Caroline Leaf
  • Alexandra Konofalskaya
  • Eli Noyes
  • Ilana Yahav

#8 Whiteboard Animation 

Whiteboard Animation Student Example

Whiteboard animation is a more recent form of animation compared to the above styles. It was found in the late 2000s and early 20s. It is best used for explainer videos where marketers want to show how a product or service works. It is primarily a video in which a hand with a pencil or pen draws something on the whiteboard while a voiceover explains each step. More and more marketers have moved on to increasingly vivid and flexible motion graphics animation styles. These are more attractive and cost the same as whiteboard style animation. 

  • In most cases, the animators record themselves drawing an illustrated story on a whiteboard using marker pens. 
  • A narrated script accompanies the animation process instead of simple background music. Today’s software makes this process even simpler with explainer video templates and interactive design options. 

Some popular whiteboard animation examples include:

  • Adobe explaining their Echosign product in detail
  • PadMapper.com explaining how to find a new place to live without hassle
  • Ultracomm animation video, which takes the complex subject like payment card compliance and explains the technology in a most alluring way 

#9 Clay Animation 

Clay Animation Example

Clay animation is a highly creative and complex animation technique using moving objects. It can lead to unique project results. In this method, animators create characters from clay and then record their movements on camera. Also called claymation, it is another type of stop motion animation. 

  • While in cutout animation, animators use cards or paper. In this style, they use characters and backgrounds made of malleable or formable materials like clay to create animation sequences.
  • Modern-day animation software allows animators to use reverse engineering. They can create the characters using software and then use various features to embed them in the scenery. 

Clay animation is often used by businesses for storytelling to sell children’s products. 

#10 Augmented Reality Animation

Augmented Reality Animation Teaching Module

Augmented Reality (AR) Animation is a more modern form that involves the use of animated objects to complement an AR experience. It’s widely used in game development, usually combining AR and 3D technologies. 

  • A widespread usage of the style is via the app Snapchat. Users can employ animation photo effects to add ears, animal faces, or mustaches to selfies. 
  • It is used for AR games for a feeling of complete immersion
  • It is also used to make 3D models and characters look lifelike
  • eCommerce and retail businesses use it to create virtual fitting rooms apps or interiors of homes to see how the new purchases fit

In this article, we have provided an overview of different types of animation styles. They range from traditional animation to hi-tech AR-driven animation. As we have seen, there are several forms of animation to choose from. No matter which style you go with, animated videos are interesting and engaging ways to connect with viewers. One can use them to create memorable and impactful:

  • product demonstrations
  • presentations
  • videos, and more

Most online animation programs include experiential projects or internships. Students can partner with professional animation studios or animators to learn how to create engaging and unique content. Different kinds of animation styles communicate different tones or various purposes. One of the most critical steps in the animation production process is choosing a style. Then, animators can create content to share with the target audience.

Highly talented animators and artists create different kinds of props and objects that are used in a video. The amazingly realistic effect of stop motion animation makes it highly effective and appealing for both creators and viewers. These forms of animation are often so effective that people may find it hard to differentiate between computer-generated visuals and physical reality. They not only make all illustrated videos interesting and unique but unforgettable and impactful as well. 


  • Animation Magazine 
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • U.S. News & World Report