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Animation Design for Kids

Ever noticed your child may have a knack for drawing and a passion for animation? Here at PIEX Education, we understand how animation design and animation programs for kids can be highly beneficial for their present and future endeavours!

What is Animation Design?

Animation design combines the use of art and technology to create images that move on a screen, where computer software and creativity skills join together to create animated graphics in the form of texts, characters, logos or objects in 2D animation or 3D animation (Learn.org, 2022). As such, animation design can be used for a variety of industries, including film, television, and marketing (Learn.org, 2022).

2D vs 3D Animation Design

2D Animation Design3D Animation Design
2D animation design involves creating flat graphics (seen in the form of cartoons or used in advertisements)3D animation design involves computer-generated images or ‘CGI’ to create more realistic looks.
To animate 2D means to use height and width on a 2D (dimensional) or flat space, like on a piece of paper.Animating a 3D object, character or text is done on a surface where a shadow is cast, and length, width, depth or weight is used.
Artists put scenes and characters, objects and text in this 2D flat space using foreshortening (cropping) and perspective to create depth.If you don’t include other types of 3D animation design, such as stop-motion or clay animation, objects and characters are designed with volume and can be seen in 360 degree camera rotations and angles.
2D animation represents more of a flat imageAppearing more lifelike, 3D animations can be lit from different directions, have textures to appear solid and placed into live scenes and elements using different computer-based animation programs and software (Tyler, 2022).
2D Animated Videos Are Cost-Effective3D animation design, the process is much more time-consuming because the animator has to consider all the different views and multiple angles which means every side of the object or character has to look good, in proportion, etc.
2D Animations Are Faster to ProduceFor 3D animation for beginners we use Autodesk, Blender and Maya
2D Animations Can Be Adapted and Expanded to Print and Web-BasedMaterials
To animate 2D images, you only need to worry about one side
For 2D animation the software that beginners use is Opentoonz, Pencil 2D and Synfig

What are the 12 Elements of Animation Design?

The 1981 book, The Illusion of Life by Disney animators Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas is an imperative guide for all aspiring animators, young and old alike, introducing and outlining the twelve principles of animation design (Ritchie, 2017).

These 12 principles when it comes to 3D and 2D animation design are widely recognised as the theoretical staple for all artists and animators and include (Ritchie, 2017):

Squash and Stretch

– The force of motion of when an object like a ball for instance, squashes flat, and because an object like a ball needs to maintain its volume, it also widens or ‘stretches’ when hitting the ground. This ‘effect’ gives animation design an “elastic life-like quality”.

– ‘Squash and stretch’ is all around you, and thus, every shape, object, etc can be distorted in some way or another when “acted upon by an outside force”.


– This step involves preparing for the main action. For example, when a player strikes a ball, that would be the main action that occurs, and then the “follow-through” of the leg that kicks the ball follows after. And this is what describes the ‘anticipation’ in animation design.


– Staging is the next and one of the most overseen, yet important principles that directs the audience’s attention towards the most important elements in a scene that effectively advances the story-line when you animate 2D or do a 3D animation design.

– This step/principle builds from the problem to the realisation, to the shared understanding, and finally to addressing the beginning of a solution in visual storytelling.

Straight Ahead Action and Pose-to-Pose

– ‘Straight ahead action’ is where you draw each frame of an action one after another.

– In ‘pose-to-pose’ you draw out or animate the beginning and end parts of the action of the story of your character or object, and then go on to the middle frame. From there you start to fill in the frames in-between.

– Being able to do both of these techniques/steps and combining them as well, becomes the best way most successful animators do an animation design, because you can get both structure and spontaneity.

– In addition, this principle is also just as important in computer animation programs, where molding a pose for instance at each frame of the visual storytelling, especially in 3D animation, is the equivalent of making a drawing when you animate 2D objects or characters.

Follow Through and Overlapping Action

– When a moving object or character such as a person comes to a stop, parts might continue to move in the same direction because of “forward momentum”.

– The parts of the character or person such as hair, clothing, mouth or jaw of the face, or body parts like the stomach, arms, and so on, is where you can see the next steps of ‘follow-through and overlapping action’.

– The secondary parts of the character or person you draw or design, such as their hair and clothing for instance, ‘follow-through’ on the primary element (your character or person) when your character or person moves, which is then what is described as ‘overlapping’ with the character’s action or movement.

Ease In, Ease Out

– Here, you carefully control the changing speeds of objects to create an animation design that is critical in either 2D or 3D animation, and is equivalent to when you start a car for instance, which normally you start slow at first, and then you speed up afterwards as your car moves.


– In this principle, you must always remember that life in general doesn’t move in a straight line, and neither does it in animation design.

– Most living creatures, like us as human beings, move in “circular paths called arcs” (Ritchie, 2017).

– ‘Arcs’, as such, work along a curved line that adds the “illusion of life” to any animated object, character or text in action, and without ‘arcs’, your animation design would be rigid and robotic which is not reflective of life itself and how we as living creatures generally move.

Secondary Action

– ‘Secondary actions’ are movements that support the main action to add more depth particularly to character animation design.

– This step gives more personality and insight to what the character is doing or thinking .


– Timing is another crucial part to animate 2D or in 3D, where you use a timeline to put each frame of action in your animation design.

– This often includes adding sound early in your frames (whether it is music, voice, sound effects, or all of them together) because the ear is more adapted to acute details of timing than the eye is in most cases of animation and visual storytelling.


– This is another principle in animation design that showcases a character or object’s features and actions in extreme or exaggerated forms for “comedic or dramatic effect”.

– Exaggeration can involve distorting facial or body features for instance and or even the character’s very own movements when you animate 2D or in 3D style.

– This is a great animation design technique to increase the appeal or likeability of a character especially, thereby enhancing the visual storytelling of the animation.

Solid Drawing

– ‘Solid drawing’ is all about ensuring that in the animation design process, the characters or objects you create in a 2D or 3D animated space are designed in various repetitions.

– When you start your character off with a basic shape and then build upon this ‘solid drawing’ shape of your character, then add different clothing items, hair styles, accessories and so on to your initial ‘solid’ or base design of your character and then take them to different aspects of their lifespan and growth as a character.


– Your animated characters should be pleasing to look at and have a “charismatic aspect” to them (Ritchie, 2017); this even applies to the antagonists of your visual storytelling.

– You can give your character a better chance of being appealing by giving them an attractive quality to them, by playing around with different shapes and proportions of characters.

– Creating enlarged eyes for example, is the most defining feature of a character that can go a long way to giving a character personality, while striving for a good balance between detail and simplicity also helps towards this ‘appeal’.

Why Animation Programs for Kids are Beneficial?

When it comes to learning animation design, and as an “audio-visual medium”, it’s highly beneficial as it keeps kids engaged physically as well as mentally. This adds to the development of their technical and creative problem-solving skills (Karandikar, 2021). Also, in the process of learning animation design, kids will have a better understanding of the limitations of the tools they get to use to animate 2D or in 3D, and will be able to plan the development of their animation, all while growing their creativity skills (Karandikar, 2021).

In addition, animation design and animation programs for kids can enhance kids’ technical skills which are extremely beneficial for their school projects, university presentations and endeavours and future career prospects (Karandikar, 2021).

Is animation design a good career for the future?

Animation design is a highly in-demand career path as animators can work in any entertainment-based industry that uses either 3D or 2D animation programs or processes. As such, there are numerous game and animation studios across the globe in need of talented and passionate animators. The video game industry, as a result, needs people with animation design experience to help render concepts and ideas in the production of various games. Furthermore in film production studios, animators are always needed for the creation and production of animated films, or to work on producing CGI and special effects on live-action movies (Tyler, 2022).

In addition to the above, animation design is even in high demand in certain scientific and technical industries. These include web design firms, software companies, the architecture and building technologies industry, science and medical laboratories, colleges and universities, as well as product design firms and manufacturing firms in retail, home and tools. There’s even careers for those with animation design backgrounds in aerospace and for environmental agencies, automotive companies, government agencies, forensic laboratories, and interior design agencies (JMC, 2017).

Recommended animation books for your kids

If your kids wish to start their journey into the animation world. These are the animation books we recommend to them:

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