What is the difference between 2d and 3d animation

Movement and change are the key concepts of animation, which adds action to static pictures. Animators employ various methods of producing the impression of a moving picture on an animated clip. The two main categories of animation are 2D and 3D animation, with most animation work in between these two extremes.

So in this blog let us have a closer look at the techniques, the processes involved, the looks and feels of each, where and why they are used, and the like. Keep on reading to discover all the differences between graphic 2D and 3D animation works.

What is 2D Animation?

2D or two-dimensional animation is what makes moving images out of two-dimensional artworks. The images or frames are depicted, illustrated, or painted on a flat locality or surface. When these frames are linked in series and shown side by side at very high speed, it appear to bring about the illusion of movement and action.

Some common 2D animation techniques include:

- Traditional hand-drawn animation: Sequential painting where one paints an object, a scene, or a character at different stages using paper, pencil, or other artists’ gadgets to achieve the next scene or stage. Some of the examples of such films include Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs animation and Spirited Away animation.

- Vector animation: Drawing pictures with the help of such computer programs as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, etc. The images contain no overlapping layer, and structure, and shape are filled with color. Some examples would be the children’s show Arthur or web animations.

- Cutout animation: Subtle transformation of material such as paper, cloth, or photographs shot by shot. An example is South Park.

- Rotoscoping: Overlaying the recorded movies and painting over them to make animated movies. It is illustrated in the Heavy Metal film and Disney’s animated movie of Snow White and Seven Dwarfs.

- Flipbook animation: Namely, to make different sketches in sequence on the edge of a flip book, where if one turns the page fast enough it produces an illusion of movement.

What is 3D Animation?

3D or Three-dimensional animation involves using graphics where objects are created in real 3D space and can be moved in and out using animation. This makes the animators operate freely and have full control over objects and scenes by controlling the perspective and depth of field from any angle through movement, rotation, panning, and zooming to create realistic perspectives of objects and sceneries in animation.

Unlike the traditional concept where animators would draw single 2D pictures, 3D animators construct real 3D models of characters, objects, backgrounds, and other effects including atmosphere. Special 3D animation and modeling software are used to create these assets with:

- Polygons and geometry in 3D
- It involves texture, lighting, and the surface properties of the object.
- An internal rigging system within the digital domain to govern motion.

Some examples of 3D animation styles include:

- 3D computer animation: Animation of the video based on keyframes and utilizing motion capture to be created inside a 3D environment without even using 2D drawing. Eg. Toy Story, Frozen.

- CGI (Computer-generated Imagery) animation: Sometimes an advanced form of 3D that in the context of VFX is applied to designing environments, fauna, and magical or fictional creatures and elements for live-action movies, adverts, and videogame scenes. Eg. Avatar, the dragons are in the Game of Thrones.

- 3D stop motion: Real people with armatures/joints are rigged and posed frame-by-frame then a scene is photographed to obtain a 3D stop motion look. Eg. Wallace and Gromit films.

This paper aims at comparing two-dimensional and three-dimensional animation to understand the differences between the two.

We now know what both terms mean so here is a clear distinction between the two forms of animation.

Observations 2D Animation 3D Animation

Creative Medium - Drawn or crafted on a - Created as digital
two-dimensional, 2D plane Flat, 2D surface |3D models inside CG software

Technical Process: Drawing by hand or with a computer – Constructed, designed and images sequenced and animated via frame-by-frame to 3D computer simulate movement graphics and technology

Environment - Animators operate in a - Animators operate Second, the shared 2D project workspace located in a virtual 3D workspace

Character/Asset - Depicted or enhanced - Built Creation Process through Two-Dimensional media using 3D polygons. geometry and digital sculpts

Coping & - Angle and - It can be said Control Over control was thus exerted perspective was shaped and managed Other possibilities include: Watching Angle: Possible to watch 2D artwork from any angle.

- Not very innovative - More Innovative freedom over freedom over camera movements camera movements
The first one is scene dynamism where the dynamic nature of the scenes indicates that the action has shifted from one scene to the other.

Style & Appearance – Original hand-drawn - The highly realistic and digital 3D computer graphics look. aesthetic with some or all the surfaces easily seen and free from abrupt changes in contour. brush and pencil and lighting
strokes and size of the aperture
Visual Style

- B) More often formalized - B) More often ornamented realistically

Animations - Appearance of - Objects and
Capabilities movement acquired totals have locational
thanks to the clever 2D appearance that gives the brand a real-life presence.
artworks’ manipulations them to be moved
convincingly in 3D

Production Timeline - Faster pre- - Slower asset
production and creation but enables
total animation total control of
workflow flexibility over

Cost Efficiency - Generally more cost-efficient in utilizing resources among organizational layers than organizations that do not implement them.
adequate for 2D expensive for
equipment and media, software, and asset 3D
and staffing creation and

Applications - 2D animation and - 3D animation and
animations for visual effects for movies and videos
internet, news, announcements, video & computer games, XR and 360/VR

Of them, which one do you have to use?

The decision to use 2D or 3D has consideration on the project objectives, target audience, cost, and use.

These guidelines can help decide which animation style makes sense:

- 2D animation is applied if you want to get a hand-made touch, have actual/ temporal limitations on costs or time, or are targeting kids who easily understand cartoon graphics.

- Use 3D if you want the freedom to position your camera, and light, set the physics and virtual camera movement, or create a feature film or a cinematic video game.

It is important to note that both styles have their advantages and can be used in combination, for example, when solving such a complex problem as the movement of intricate 3D characters, we can use 2D animation principles. It all comes down to the creative vision that the individual or company has for their designs and how they will create them.

Over to You

We believe this comparison was helpful for everyone to understand the differences between 2D and 3D animations which belong to two different domains of the animation industry. Both are indispensable in translating visual spectacle into spectacular visual narratives.

These core differences are vital to understanding how creative choices can be made to expand the potential of visual narrative.