Frame-by-Frame Animation


Frame-by-frame animation is a technique that has been around for over a century and still attracts audiences today. It is not just a simple matter of moving a digital image with a button click.It is a detailed and artistic process of creating each frame of a motion in an animation sequence, such as traditional animation or stop-motion animation, by hand or by capturing each frame separately.

Frame-by-frame animation can be done with different mediums, such as hand-drawn illustrations, paper cutouts, plasticine models, or digital images. 

Have you ever marvelled at the smooth, lifelike motions in your favourite cartoons or stop-motion films? In this blog post, we will explore the secret behind this captivating illusion, which lies in frame-by-frame animation. In this meticulous process, static images combine to create movement’s magic.

What is Frame-by-Frame Animation?

At its core, frame-by-frame animation creates the illusion of movement by presenting a series of individual images in rapid succession. Each image, or frame, captures a slight change in position, expression, or environment. When played back quickly, these frames blend seamlessly, creating the perception of continuous motion.

But animation isn’t just about motion; it conveys emotion, narrative, and humor. Frame-by-frame animation grants artists unparalleled control over every nuanced detail, from the subtlest flicker of an eye to the explosive dynamism of an action sequence.

Why order is important in animation: “The Symphony of Sequence

You can think of animation as a quiet symphony, with each frame being a delicate note. In this case, the animator is the director whose job is to combine these stills into a story that makes sense and is fascinating to watch. One important thing is the order of the images that make or break this music.

Pictures in order are super important for frame-by-frame animation because they determine how smooth and realistic the motion looks. The animation will be choppy and confusing if the images are not in the right order. The pictures’ order also affects the motion’s speed and direction. For example, if you want to animate a bouncing ball, you need to draw the ball in different positions and heights in each frame and then play them in the correct order.

How to master image order? It is a complex skill that involves:

Storytelling with pictures: Every frame has to add something to the story arc and help the watcher understand and care about it.

Tension and anticipation: The order of events can be changed to build tension, slowly reveal details, and keep viewers interested.

Rhythm and pacing: Changing the speed between frames can make you feel rushed, calm, or funny based on what you want to achieve.

How Frame-by-Frame Animation Works

Frame-by-frame animation is a traditional animation technique where each frame is created individually. These frames are then played sequentially at a high speed to create the illusion of movement. Here’s how it works:

The Building Blocks:

  • Frames: Imagine a flipbook. Each page is a frame, and flipping through them quickly creates the illusion of movement. Similarly, in frame-by-frame animation, each frame captures a slight change in the animated element’s position, expression, or state.
  • Keyframes: These are the crucial frames that define the significant movements or poses. Think of them as the storyboards of your animation.
  • Intermediate Frames: Once keyframes are established, additional frames are created to fill in the gaps between keyframes. These intermediate frames help smooth out the motion and transitions between poses. This process is called “in-betweening” or “tweening“.

The Process:

  1. Planning & Storyboarding: The animator visualizes the movement, often through sketches or storyboards, defining key moments and timing.
  2. Creating Keyframes: The animator draws or positions the object in its starting position (keyframe 1). Then, they move it slightly to the next pose and draw another keyframe (keyframe 2). This continues for each major movement.
  3. In-betweening: This is where the animation comes alive! The animator meticulously draws or positions the object in countless frames between the keyframes, creating the illusion of smooth movement. This can be incredibly time-consuming but crucial for realism.
  4. Cleanup & Finishing: Any inconsistencies are fixed, backgrounds are added, and special effects might be incorporated.
  5. Playback & Adjustments: The animation is tested, and adjustments are made for timing, fluidity, and overall effect.

Types of Frame-by-Frame Animation:

Frame-by-frame animation isn’t just one thing! It’s a broad umbrella covering a variety of techniques and styles, each with its unique flavor and use cases. Let’s take a peek at some of the most common types:

Traditional Hand-Drawn Animation: This is the classic form of animation where each frame is drawn by hand, either on paper or digitally. It requires skilled animators to create fluid movements and believable characters.

2D Digital Animation: Technology has transformed traditional hand-drawn animation into a sleek digital experience. Animators now use software like Adobe Animate, Toon Boom Harmony, or TVPaint to craft their frame-by-frame masterpieces, gaining efficiency and flexibility.

Stop-Motion:  In stop-motion animation, tiny miracles happen frame – by -frame. Physical objects or puppets are posed in different positions, captured one frame at a time, and then strung together to create the illusion of movement. Think claymation, puppet shows, and even cut-out animation all under this magical umbrella.

Pixilation: Pixilation is a variation of stop-motion animation where live actors are used as the subject matter. Actors are posed and photographed one frame at a time, creating surreal and often whimsical movements when played back at regular speed.

Rotoscoping: Rotoscoping involves tracing over live-action footage frame-by-frame to create animated sequences. It can be used to achieve realistic movement or to stylize live-action footage more artistically. Early animation pioneers like Max Fleischer used rotoscoping extensively in their work.

Experimental Animation: Animators often push the boundaries of traditional animation techniques, exploring unconventional methods and styles. Frame-by-frame animation in experimental animation can include techniques like direct-on-film animation, scratch animation, or even animation created through unconventional materials and processes.

Flipbook Animation: Flipbooks are a simple yet effective form of frame-by-frame animation. Each flipbook page contains a slightly different image, and when the pages are flipped rapidly, the images appear to move in sequence. Flipbooks are often used as a learning tool for animators and can be created easily with just pen and paper.

Frame Rate Basics:

  1. What is Frame Rate?
    Frame rate is how fast you show the frames (pictures) one after another to make them look real. It is usually counted as frames per second (fps). Most animation uses 24 to 30 fps, but some things like video games or HD video use more.
  1. How to Make Animation Smooth: The more frames per second you use, the smoother the animation looks to your eyes. This is because more frames per second move look like it does not stop or jump. Less frames per second may make the animation look rough or shaky, especially if the movement is fast.
  2. How to Plan the Animation: Before making the animation, you must know what you want to show and how. You can use a storyboard to help you. A storyboard is a bunch of drawings or sketches showing the animation’s leading parts and actions. This planning step is crucial for making the story and the pictures look good and match.
  3. Why You Need a Storyboard: A good storyboard helps you with animation. It lets you see how the action goes, what problems or things you need, and how to keep the characters and backgrounds the same. You may make mistakes with a storyboard or remember what you wanted to do with the story.

Where You’ve Seen It

In frame-by-frame animation, you draw or make each frame by yourself, showing small changes in movement or face to show motion. Then, you play the frames fast, one after another, making the motion look smooth. It takes a lot of time, but frame-by-frame animation lets you control every part of the movement, making the animation rich and detailed.

Animation is the art of making inanimate objects appear to move, and it has a long and rich history that dates back to the ancient world. 

Here are some facts and examples of different types of animation that you might find interesting:

  • Old-school drawings are also known as traditional animation or cel animation, and they involve drawing or painting each frame of the animation on a transparent sheet of celluloid. This technique was used by many famous studios, such as Disney and Studio Ghibli, to create some of the most beloved animated movies of all time, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), The Lion King (1994), Spirited Away (2001), and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004).
  • Going digital refers to the animation industry’s transition from paper to computers, which began in the late 20th century and continues today. Computers allow animators to create more realistic, complex, and diverse animations, using techniques such as computer-generated imagery (CGI), motion capture, 3D modeling, and digital compositing. Some excellent tools that help animators create awesome stuff include software like Maya, Blender, Adobe Animate, and Toon Boom Harmony and hardware like tablets, scanners, cameras, and motion sensors.
  • Cool tools that help animators create awesome stuff

There are many cool tools that help animators create awesome stuff with computer animation. Some of these tools are online, free, or easy to use. For example, Visme is a powerful online tool that allows anyone to create animated charts, graphs, infographics, presentations, and more. It has a user-friendly interface, a variety of templates, and a lot of customization options. Another example is Animaker, a video infographic software that helps create visually outstanding data stories with animated maps, charts, and icons.

Pros and Cons

Frame-by-frame animation is a traditional technique where each frame is drawn or photographed one at a time. While it requires meticulous attention to detail and considerable time investment, it produces high-quality results with a unique, artistic flair.

Good Stuff

  • Unmatched creative control: Unlike other animation techniques that rely on software or rigging, frame-by-frame animation grants animators complete control over every aspect of movement and visual style. This empowers them to create nuanced expressions, dynamic actions, and one-of-a-kind visual effects.
  • Distinctive artistic expression: The manual nature of frame-by-frame animation lends to unique creative expression. The imperfections and variations inherent in hand-drawn frames imbue the animation with a unique charm and character, often sought after for projects aiming for a classic or hand-drawn aesthetic.


  • Time-consuming and labour-intensive: The meticulous nature of creating each frame individually makes frame-by-frame animation time-consuming and labour-intensive. This can pose challenges for projects with tight deadlines or limited budgets.
  • Potential quality trade-offs: To save time or resources, animators may use techniques like animating “on-twos” or “on-threes,” which means drawing only every other or third frame. While this can expedite the process, it inevitably compromises the smoothness and quality of the animation.

Awesome Examples

Animation is a beautiful art form that can create unique worlds, characters, and stories. Many examples of animation have impressed and inspired audiences over the years. Here are some of them:

Old School Hits

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was the first full-length animated feature film in history, released in 1937 by Walt Disney. It was based on a German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. It was also the first film to have a soundtrack album released alongside it.

Fantasia” was a groundbreaking experiment combining animation and classical music, released in 1940 by Walt Disney. It featured eight segments, each with a different composer, conductor, and various animation styles. Some segments were inspired by myths, legends, and literature, such as “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “The Rite of Spring”.

New Cool Stuff

The Secret of Kells” is a 2009 animated film inspired by Irish mythology and Celtic art. It tells the story of a young apprentice who travels to a remote monastery to help a legendary illuminator with a magical quest. The film is an Irish-French-Belgian co-production animated by Cartoon Saloon, which premiered on 8 February 2009 at the 59th Berlin International Film Festival. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature but lost to Pixar’s Up.

Loving Vincent” is a 2017 experimental adult animated biographical drama film about the life of the painter Vincent van Gogh, particularly about the circumstances of his death. It is the first fully painted animated feature film. Each of the film’s 65,000 frames is an oil painting on canvas, created using the same techniques as Van Gogh by a team of 125 artists drawn from around the globe. The film, written and directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, is a Polish-UK co-production funded by the Polish Film Institute and partially through a Kickstarter campaign. The film premiered at the 2017 Annecy International Animated Film Festival. It won the Best Animated Feature Film Award at the 30th European Film Awards in Berlin and was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 90th Academy Awards.

What’s Next for Frame-by-Frame Animation?

Frame-by-frame animation is a technique that creates the illusion of movement by drawing or photographing each frame of a sequence separately. It is one of the oldest and most expressive forms of 2d animation but also the most labour-intensive and time-consuming. However, with the advancement of technology, frame-by-frame animation can be enhanced and enriched by using cool tech such as augmented reality and virtual reality.

Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that overlays digital content in the real world, creating a mixed reality experience. AR can create immersive and interactive animations that blend with the environment According to Queppelin, interactions with AR-enhanced products yield a 94% higher conversion rate.  and respond to the user’s actions. For example, AR can create animated characters in the user’s room or animated effects that enhance a physical object. AR animation can be made using software like Adobe Aero, which allows animators to build, view, and share AR experiences on mobile devices.

Virtual reality (VR) technology creates a simulated environment for users to explore and interact. VR can be used to create immersive and realistic animations that transport the user to a different world. VR animation can be made using software like Quill 2.02, which allows animators to draw and animate in VR, or game engines like Unity or Unreal, which allow animators to create 3D environments and characters.


Imagine those old cartoons where everything moves one picture at a time. Cool, right? Well, guess what? They’re getting a high-tech upgrade! Fancy glasses and special helmets are letting us step right into these frame-by-frame animations, making them feel new and exciting. And that’s not all! These tools are helping artists create even crazier stories and pull viewers in like never before. 

If you want to learn more about frame-by-frame animation and how to use cool tech like AR and VR, check out our website for the latest news and blogs.


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