What are the 12 principles of Animation (Explained)

If you want to be working in the Animation industry or you are a college student looking to pursue Animation as a career, then you should familiarize yourself with these rules. You’ll do well as a trainee in Animation or seeking to accomplish a career in this field if you want to keep to the rules and work.

As an integral part of the animation field, the principles introduced by the twelve stages have become widely acknowledged by animators working on animated video projects.

By understanding these principles of animation, you can increase your animation skills. So lets Start.

In order, the principles of animation Consists of

  1. Squash and Stretch
  2. Anticipation
  3. Staging
  4. Straight Ahead Action and Pose-to-Pose
  5. Follow Through and Overlapping Action
  6. Ease-In, Ease Out
  7. Arcs
  8. Secondary Action
  9. Timing
  10. Exaggeration
  11. Solid Drawing
  12. Appeal

1. Squash And Stretch

The core concept of animation is squash and stretch. It involves altering the shape of animated objects to highlight their speed, momentum, weight, and mass.

The extent to which an object squashes and stretches reflects its mass. More squash and stretch indicate a softer object, while less squash and stretch signify a stiffer object.

Things To Keep In Mind

It’s important to remember a simple principle: the object’s distance should stay the same. This is a common mistake beginners make in squash and stretch – they tend to lengthen the ball while it’s in the air, but then shorten it when it touches the ground.

Don’t do this! The ball’s overall volume should remain consistent, meaning that as it gets longer, it also gets narrower. And as it gets flatter, it gets wider. Remember, the ball doesn’t have to stretch completely while in the air – only when it’s about to hit the ground. So avoid using squash and stretch in this way. This principle also applies to characters.

2. Anticipation

The second principles of animation is known as anticipation. This is when a character prepares for an action to provide the audience a clue to what’s going on and whether or not it will happen soon. Also, it makes it more convincing for the action in question.


An example would be when a character is about to leap. Before he jumps into the air, he has to crouch down to gather his energy.

It’s a sort of spring that coils up before releasing. Consider the different characters jumping with no anticipation. It seems unrealistic because it is an automatic jump without any necessity for preparation.

Things To Keep In Mind

Anticipation helps establish expectations and prevent disruption to the audience by being ready for the next action. This can happen in many ways, such as if a character is about to take something out of their pocket.

They make their hand very visible and in the air before going into the pocket. Otherwise, the audience might miss it and question how they got that object in the first place.

3. Staging

Stories are told clearly and thoroughly when they are staged. Earlier, this was a very broad principle because it included a lot of areas of animation. It could apply to acting, timing, camera angle, and positioning, among others.

Things To Keep In Mind

During the animation process, it is crucial to maintain absolute control over the audience’s gaze. Essentially, you are commanding them to focus on specific areas.

When filming a scene, carefully consider camera placement and actor direction. Determine their actions and positions strategically.

These decisions collectively contribute to what we refer to as staging, a fundamental concept in effectively guiding the viewer’s attention.

4. Straight Ahead And Pose To Pose

The fourth animation principle, known as straight ahead and pose to pose, encompasses two distinct approaches to animating drawings. The first method, straight ahead, involves sequentially drawing each frame starting from the initial drawing.

The second method, pose to pose, entails sketching the key poses at the beginning and end of each action and then filling in the intermediate frames later on. Both methods offer unique advantages.

Things To Keep In Mind

Pose to pose provides greater control over actions as you can visualize the desired outcome early on in the process. By determining the character’s final position at the outset and working backwards, you can avoid inconsistencies in size or level throughout the animation.

On the other hand, straight ahead animation allows for spontaneous and unforeseen motion effects, such as flames, water drops, dust clouds, or smoke.

5. Follow Through and Overlapping Action

This phenomenon involves certain body parts falling behind the rest, resulting in the suspension of the entire body.

Follow-through and overlapping actions are frequently incorporated into a related technique known as drag. These terms essentially denote the identical concept, albeit with distinct implications.

6. Slow In & Slow Out

The principle known as slow in and slow out is essential for achieving lifelike motions. It refers to the gradual acceleration and deceleration of motion, mimicking how most objects start slowly, build speed, and then slow down again.

Without incorporating this principle, movements can appear mechanical. This is particularly important in robotics, where parts often move slowly compared to other objects.

Things To Keep In Mind

In 2D animation, animators use scaling to create extreme poses and then draw in-between frames accordingly. The number of slow in and slow out frames depends on the animator’s choices.

In 3D animation and motion graphics, slow in and slow out effects are achieved by altering motion curves from linear to spline using Bezier handles. This allows objects to transition smoothly from being slow to fast and then gradually slowing down over time.

It is crucial to apply this technique appropriately; for instance, a bouncing ball would not have a delay when touching the ground but would have one when bouncing back up towards a target. Similarly, while a bullet leaving a gun should not have any time delay, recoil movement should be added.

7. Arcs

So few organisms evolved moving in a way that has precise manmade in and out or up and down. The most common living creatures move in a circular path, typically referred to as a circle. Animations must reflect the laws of nature.

Most objects follow an arc or a path when they’re in motion, and your animations need to model this. For example, when a ball is thrown up, it follows an arc because of the movement of gravity acting on it.

8. Secondary Action

Secondary action refers to additional gestures that enhance the animated character’s depth and complement the main action.


For example, if a character is about to strike a door, the secondary action can convey the type of door and the character’s emotions. A clenched fist may indicate anger, while a delicate touch suggests humility and cheerfulness.

If the character hesitates before striking with their head shaking, it implies a desire not to be discovered. Additionally, secondary actions can include facial expressions or other objects reacting to the primary action without distracting viewers from the main scene.


The 9th principle of animation emphasizes the impact of frame frequency on the visual appearance of animation. Essentially, the more frequent the insertion of frames, the longer the animation will take.

Conversely, when frames are close together, motion appears faster. The speed of movement is directly influenced by the number of drawings utilized. In movies, the standard frame rate is 24 frames per second.

Things To Keep In Mind

When one drawing is created for each frame, it is known as drawing at once. On the other hand, drawing on twos refers to making one drawing for every two frames. This technique is commonly employed due to its ability to reduce steps by half and create smoother slow movements compared to individually drawn frames.

However, when precise details are required or there is a flurry of activity, it becomes necessary to include additional drawings between poses. Thus, individuals have the freedom to determine how many drawings should be included based on their desired level of motion and desired visual impact.

10. Exaggeration

Any action, pose, or expression that’s taken to the next level can increase its influence on the audience. If a character is unhappy, make him more unhappy.

Make him cheerful and make him brighter. Anxious, make him more worried. Wild, make him wilder. Exaggeration does not mean exaggerated at all, but more interesting and convincing.

11. Solid Drawing

Before you can start animating a personality, you need to ensure it feels as though it is one in three-dimensional space with volume weight, and balance. One component that helps create animated figures easier to understand is that you don’t need to redraw them from various perspectives.

Achieving this type of knowledge takes time and practice. The principle of solid drawing applies to 3D animation as well. In regards to portraying weight and balance in the pose of a character.

12. Appeal

Characters that you create should be pleasant to watch. Their personalities should in some way be engaging or appealing. This doesn’t just apply to heroes in the story, but also to villains and other characters that you create.

An appeal doesn’t always mean beauty. It may also mean uniqueness. Thus, the villain should be fascinating to look at as heroes are remarkable by default.

Summing Up

In conclusion, the 12 principles of animation are a set of guidelines that have been used by animators for decades to bring characters and stories to life. Whether you’re an aspiring animator or simply interested in the art form, understanding these principles can greatly enhance your appreciation for the work that goes into creating animated films and shows.

From squash and stretch to anticipation, these principles provide a solid foundation for creating believable movement and captivating storytelling.

So next time you watch your favorite animated film, take a moment to appreciate the skill and creativity behind it, and perhaps even try applying some of these principles in your own animations. Happy animating!

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