Animation styles and designs contribute significantly to the appeal of your animated videos. However, in order for the final video to reflect it, the animation clean up must be implemented and perfected. One of the final and most crucial stages in the animation production pipeline is animation clean up. But if you believe it’s the same as doing rough sketches, think again.

For one thing, you must maintain a high level of perfection while cleaning. Fortunately, we’ve supplied a few pointers to assist you.

What Is An Animation Clean Up?

What Is An Animation Clean Up?
What Is An Animation Clean Up?

The animation clean-up, also known as “tracing,” improves your animated videos by giving them a seamless aesthetic that matches your and your client’s vision. It’s the last step in transforming your crude cartoons into immersive and unforgettable experiences for viewers. In other words, one that is spotless.

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

Why Is The Animation Clean Up So Important? 

Why Is The Animation Clean Up So Important? 
Why Is The Animation Clean Up So Important?

Can you imagine viewing your favorite cartoon with all of its circles and scratchy lines? Imagine witnessing strange shapes move around your laptop screen. While there’s nothing wrong with preferring a messier or more line-heavy animation style, it must nevertheless appear acceptable and consistent.

Clients will not pay for lines and elements, thus you must perfect the animation cleanup. However, cleaning up animation entails more than merely closing gaps and drawing fine lines. It’s a totally new skill in and of itself.

The animation clean-up will display your animated video’s final look and design – the one that you and the client agreed on beforehand.

As a result, it takes a lot of practice. Some animators may even find it difficult. That is why large animation studios advertise for a clean-up animator; they want someone who can perform the animation clean-up procedure flawlessly in order to accurately depict the animated video’s final look.

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How to Clean up Animation?

How to Clean up Animation?
How to Clean up Animation?

The animation clean-up is only one component of the animation production pipeline, but in order to understand when and how to perform it, let’s divide it into two parts: rough drawings and clean-up.

The Rough Drawings 

As an animator, you understand the importance of leaving room for errors, revisions, and tweaks in your animation designs. Your client may abruptly change their mind about a style, or you may discover an animation style that is better suited to meet your client’s aim.

You might spend hours creating an animated figure just to have your client scrap it the next day and want something more innovative.

Needless to say, everything is still subject to approval at the beginning. And, because you can’t devote too much time and focus to one area of the animated video, you start with preliminary sketches. This is the first installment.

Keep in mind that each animated video has its own individual style and art direction, which necessitates a significantly different treatment and has an impact on the final design. Some utilize rougher, sketchier lines, while others use smoother, finer lines, yet others don’t use any lines at all, instead relying solely on colored forms.

Knowing what type of art direction you or your client desires for the animated video is an important step toward improving the animation clean up.

When you start working on an animated video, you only have your storyboard or animatic. An animated storyboard is referred to as an animatic. So envision your storyboard’s graphics moving in the correct order, accompanied by sound effects or background music. This will assist you in visualizing how your animated video will seem.

Your animated story will then be divided into sequences or frames, from which you, as an animator, can begin working on roughs. These will be rough details, sloppy shades, and overlapping lines to give your animated characters and backgrounds shape and movement.

This is done on every frame and sequence to allow for adjustments and redraws because, let’s face it, the design of your animation subjects is bound to change as you work through your animated video. You don’t want to spend too much time on a character pose that is still being approved.

You can begin adding details to the animation sequence once everything has been finalized and approved by your team and/or your client.

The Animation Clean Up

When you’ve finished and refined all of the roughs in your animation sequence, you may begin the cleanup phase.

If you’re working conventionally, you’ll need the following equipment in your animation setup for a more efficient clean up: If your budget is limited, use your animation desk, a backlit animation disk or a lightbox, a peg bar, punched animation bond paper, or regular copy paper.

Typically, animation clean up artists begin the cleaning process with the roughs on each keyframe — these are the most visible animation poses in the sequence. Place a preliminary design on your peg bar, followed by a blank animation sheet. Remember to precisely mark the blank sheet and trace the timing chart in.

The most important thing to keep in mind while cleaning is to maintain your pencil sharp. Then, using your wrists, start tracing your roughs in short, quick strokes. Taper your lines and keep the edges small to achieve the look of a single smooth line in each of your animated characters or backdrops.

How To Perfect Your Animation Clean Up

How To Perfect Your Animation Clean Up
How To Perfect Your Animation Clean Up

Consider the different ways to can hold a pen or stylus

To optimize your animation cleaning process, adjust your grip or how you hold your pen. For example, the farther your hand is from the tip of the pen, the more comfortable you’ll be in creating larger and more organic shapes and forms, which is ideal for cleaning up the hair of your animated figures.

Holding your pen closer to its tip will allow you to create more intimate details in your animations.

Have a good knowledge

You must understand why your rough designs perform the way they do and incorporate those positive qualities into the cleaned-up version.

This way, you won’t just be tracing lines and closing gaps, which risks making your animation clean ups look dull and lifeless in comparison to the rough drawings. This means you’ll be able to feel your character’s energy, movement, and form much more accurately when cleaning up the animation.

You should also be familiar with line weight and pressure. The amount of pressure you apply to a line will depict its weight, the lighting surrounding it, as well as its depth and intensity in relation to the scene.


Another thing you must have is confidence when sketching the lines for your animations. This entails drawing a tidy line with a confident and consistent single stroke rather than messy scratching.

Take advantage of your digital tools

Finally, the final advice for implementing your animation clean up is to make use of your digital resources.

We are lucky to be surrounded by technology that can automate tiresome jobs, so why not take advantage of it? Line stabilizers are tools in animation software that can help you make consistent lines throughout the animation clean up process.


Having said that, the one thing you must always do is practice. As previously stated, animation clean up is more than just another facet of animation. It’s a completely new skill. So, if you want to improve and perfect it for your animation studio, you must put in the effort of practicing.

  • First, the consideration is the equipment. You’ll need your animation desk, a backlit animation disk or a lightbox, a peg bar, punched animation bond paper, or regular copy paper if you’re working with pen and paper.
  • Second, begin the animation cleanup process with the keyframe roughs. 
  • Third, think about how you may hold your animation pen in different ways to make the animation clean up go more smoothly.
  • Fourth, learn the design concepts as well as the 12 animation principles. 
  • Fifth, practice drawing clean lines with confidence and have a solid sense of line weight and pressure. 
  • Sixth, if you’re working digitally, make use of the many digital animation tools and software.

Remember those strategies and techniques as you practice animation cleanup. That way, you may master the technique quickly and avoid making costly mistakes with your animation style.

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