How Are Animated Cartoons Created?

Animators make traditional two-dimensional (2D) cartoons by creating a series of drawings that are filmed or scanned and then played in quick succession to create a moving image. Three-dimensional (3D) animation relies on artists using computer software to create character models and scenes, which artists animate using the same programs and render into a final video.

The oldest method to create animated cartoons requires drawing individual pictures, often with separate layers for moving characters and static backgrounds. Each image represents a single frame, and either 24 or 30 frames, depending on if the medium is film or video, create a single second of animation. Animators either hand-draw or create images using a computer, and each one depicts a slight movement in the characters or scene. When viewed in rapid succession, the individual images create a moving video.

Artists use computers and software to create modern animated cartoons with 3D characters and environments. The artists make a character with an invisible skeleton or “rigging” inside the character that can be manipulated to move it. Rather than drawing individual frames, animators set the beginning and ending positions for major movements over the course of a given time or number of frames, and the software creates the in-between motion. Animators then make adjustments for fine-tuning the movements so they seem more natural and fluid, and the animated scene is rendered into a viewable video.