The most important skills you must master to become an animator are the 12 principles of animation. These 12 principles of animation were developed in the 1930s by the fathers of animation, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, and originally appeared in The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation.

They follow the fundamental rules of physics and also take into account appeal and emotions. Despite being created initially for pencil sketching, the same ideas hold true for digital animation. They ought to serve as your ultimate manual for producing engaging and accurate character animations.

To make appealing animations, explore them, start to master them, and utilize them as a guide in your own work.

12 Principles of Animation in Animation Production

Timing and Spacing

Animation relies on timing and spacing to give objects and characters the appearance of following the rules of physics.
Timing is the time interval between two poses or the rate of movement. Timing would be, for instance, if a ball moved from the left to the right screen in 24 frames.

12 Principles of Animation in Animation Production
Timing and Spacing

If you’re operating at the film rate of 24 frames per second, it takes the ball 24 frames or 1 second to cross the screen. Timing can also define personality, mood, and emotion.

The arrangement of those individual frames is referred to as spacing. For instance, in the same illustration, the spacing would be determined by where the ball is placed in the remaining 23 frames. The ball goes more slowly when the distances are close together. The ball moves more quickly when the spacing is wider.

>>>Read more: 10 storyboarding tips for creating animation film learnt from Pixar film Coco

Squash and Stretch

The ability to stretch and squash is what makes objects flexible. Looking at a bouncing ball will help you to grasp how stretch and squash work. The ball will spread out shortly before impact as it begins to fall and gain speed. The ball squashes as it hits the ground before extending once more as it lifts off.

12 Principles of Animation in Animation Production
Squash and Stretch

Please be aware that an object’s volume remains constant. The breadth and depth of the ball must match up when it is compressed or stretched, for example.

In real life, there is a lot of stretching and squashing going on that you might not even be aware of. For instance, because the face is a relatively flexible area, there is a lot of squashing and stretching when someone speaks.

Animation can make this more pronounced. To add comic impact or additional appeal, squash and stretch can be used in a variety of animation contexts, such as for the eyes during a blink or when someone is startled or frightened.

>>>Read more: How do the Best Animation Studios use the Squash and Stretch principle?


Animation builds up the audience’s anticipation for an upcoming action, which is necessary to sell genuine actions.

12 Principles of Animation in Animation Production
12 Principles of Animation – Anticipation

A simple illustration of this is that in order to have enough energy to pitch the ball forward, a baseball player must first shift their entire body and arm backward. Therefore, an animated person must first move backward if they need to move forward.

Alternatively, the character must first pull their hand away if they are reaching for a glass on a table. This not only increases their momentum but also alerts the viewers to the impending movement of this person.

Another instance of anticipation is when a character glances away as a visitor enters the scene or when they are preoccupied with something they are about to do.

>>>Read more: How does an Animation Studio use the Anticipation principle?

Ease In and Ease Out

There must be a period of acceleration and deceleration as any item travels or stops. Movements become incredibly robotic and artificial without ease in and ease out (or slow in and slow out).

12 Principles of Animation in Animation Production
Ease In and Ease Out

A car doesn’t just accelerate to full speed as soon as it leaves a halt. It needs to accelerate initially. It doesn’t instantly go from sixty to zero as it comes to a stop. Instead, it starts to slack off before coming to a complete stop.

The same needs to be achieved in animation, and using the notion of spacing is the simplest approach to achieve ease in and ease out. The distance between each posture will initially be closer as a character stands up from a seated position so that they can get used to the movement.

At the conclusion of the activity, they will relax from the movement by separating the positions more apart. Everything would be quite sudden and jerky without this accelerating and decelerating of actions.

Follow Through and Overlapping Action

Follow-through and overlapping action are crucial for portraying realistic and fluid movement because, in real life, everything moves at different rates and at different points in time.

12 Principles of Animation in Animation Production
Follow Through and Overlapping Action

The concept of follow-through proposes that various body components will carry on moving after the character has stopped. The arms may go forward before settling in a down position once a character stops walking. Clothing items might also be affected by this.

Similar to dragging or leading and following, overlapping action entails the movement of various bodily components at various rates. When a character raises their arm to wave, the shoulder moves first, followed by the arm, the elbow, and finally the hand, which lags behind by a few frames.

This is also evident in the way that grass blades move in the wind. It moves in a waving motion because the base moves first and the remaining grass moves at varying rates in its wake.

In order to keep the animation from becoming “dead,” characters that are standing still must have some type of motion (blinking eyes, breathing, etc.). We refer to this as a “moving hold.”


In actual life, everything usually moves in an arcing motion. This animation technique should be followed to create fluid, lifelike movements since it isn’t natural for individuals to move in straight lines. The flatter the arc and wider the turn, the faster something is moving. A robot is the only thing that could move on a straight path.

12 Principles of Animation in Animation Production
12 Principles of Animation – Arcs

A character will lower his head down while twisting his head to produce an arcing motion. Additionally, you want to make sure that more delicate movements follow arcs. For instance, even the tips of a character’s toes should move in an arcing, rounded motion when they walk.


Exaggeration is utilized to make movements more appealing and should always be used to some extent in actions.
Extremely cartoonish motions, such as physical changes or supernatural components, can be produced by exaggeration.

12 Principles of Animation in Animation Production
12 Principles of Animation – Exaggeration

Alternately, exaggeration can be used with a little more restraint for behaviors that are more in line with reality. Even so, exaggeration can be used to maintain reality while making a movement more reading or entertaining.

As a result, you can slightly lower a character who is about to jump from a diving board before they do so. As an alternative, you can augment various actions or help sell the weight of a character or object by exaggerating the timing.

Solid Drawing

Solid drawing is the process of accurately capturing volume and weight, balance, shadow, and the anatomy of a pose in 2D animation.

12 Principles of Animation in Animation Production
12 Principles of Animation – Solid Drawing

When using 3D animation, animators must consider how to lay out your 3D character rig to guarantee proper balance, weight, and a distinct silhouette. Avoid “twinning,” which is striking a mirror image position (both hands in pockets or both arms in hips), since this results in a rather uninteresting and boring pose.


This idea really just boils down to giving your animation greater appeal (charisma), especially in the posing. However, the most obvious example is the attraction of the character design, as you want to create a character that the audience can identify with or connect with.

To make the character more distinctive and memorable in the eyes of your audience, you can select spots on the character to push and exaggerate. One illustration would be to just emphasize the jawline or the youthfulness of the eyes. Either of these can contribute to increasing attraction.

Keep in mind that villains also need to appeal.

Straight Ahead Action and Pose to Pose

Straight ahead action is animated frame by frame from beginning to end and is very spontaneous and linear in nature. By doing this, you may make each posture for the animation one at a time.

12 Principles of Animation in Animation Production
Straight Ahead Action and Pose to Pose

Therefore, you would create the positions where your character is standing, then the poses where he is starting to kneel down, and finally the poses where he is entirely crouched if your character is landing on the ground after jumping in the air. In order to make swift motion smooth and lively, you are essentially working your way through the animation.

The animation is significantly more meticulous when it comes to poses because just the most crucial poses are needed to effectively convey the plot. Fewer postures would be used to animate the character landing after jumping into the air (standing and crouched).

This is ideal for slow, dramatic, or emotional passages since it makes the work more straightforward and guarantees that the proportions and time are accurate before you add additional intervals later.

These two strategies are frequently combined to great effect.

Secondary Action

In order to give the animation more life and produce a more believable performance, secondary action refers to the activities that complement or emphasize the main action.

12 Principles of Animation in Animation Production
12 Principles of Animation – Secondary Action

It’s crucial to keep in mind that the secondary action should normally be modest and not interfere with the main action (perhaps even thought of as a subconscious action). Dramatic motions, therefore, take precedence over things like facial expressions.

Say a character is conversing with a different character in a waiting area. The primary action would be the two of them conversing, while the secondary action would be if one of them started tremblingly tapping their foot. Other instances include characters whistling, leaning against a wall, or crossing their arms as the main action is happening.


Staging is the process of putting up the scene, including the positioning of the people, the background and foreground objects, the mood of the characters, and the camera angle.

12 Principles of Animation in Animation Production
12 Principles of Animation – Staging

The viewer can clearly understand the animation’s goal thanks to staging. In order to prevent confusion among the audience, you should keep the audience’s attention on what you want to convey to them (and avoid providing extraneous detail).

>>>Read more: How do the best animation studios use the staging principle in animation?


Now that you are aware of the significance and intent of the 12 principles of animation, you may carefully put them into practice to produce beautiful results. But don’t stop there. By enrolling in Pluralsight tutorials, you can continue your animation education and develop all the necessary abilities to thrive in the workplace.

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