The first-ever film-based animation, “Humorous Phases of Funny Faces,” made by J Stuart Blackton, released in 1906. However, Mickey Mouse, created in 1928 by Sir Walt Disney, is probably the most popular cartoon character ever.

Since then, character animation has come a long way. 3D Animation films like Frozen, Toy Story 4, and How to Train Your Dragon have achieved cult status. Animation techniques have far-reaching applications in advertising and media today, venturing far beyond the corridors of films and entertainment.

If you want to learn how to animate, it’s important to understand that animation is not just about drawings moving. It’s about the illusion of life. The best animators are able to create organic movement that feels like something you’d see in the real world.

It is a great time to contemplate a career in character animation as the Animation Market Size was around USD 372.44 billion in 2021 and is predicted to grow up to USD 597 Billion by 2030, with a CAGR of 5% in the period of 2022-30. This sustained rise predicted in the near future bodes well for this century-old exciting industry.

Adobe is a leading player in the Animation Space. Therefore, learning the basics of character animation using After Effects would be a great option in your journey of learning character animation.

It is a good idea to attend a character animation boot camp at a reputed institution to start designing characters for animation. The boot camp will help you implement animation techniques to design characters using Adobe After Effects.

5 Techniques for Character Animation

In this article, we will briefly discuss five character animation techniques

1. Squash and Stretch

Squash and stretch is one of the most important concepts in character animation. It is used to exaggerate the body’s movements, making them more expressive, and it can be used in all styles of animation. Be it hand-drawn, stop motion, or CG animation.

2. Anticipation

Anticipation is an animation technique that creates anticipation for an upcoming action. In other words, it is a type of anticipation where something has happened before the action. This can help to create a more realistic and believable animation as well as add weight and timing to your actions.

Anticipation techniques can also be used in comedy animations to create comedic effects.

There are many different types of anticipation you can use when animating characters, depending on what you want to achieve with your animation:

  • Weighted Anticipation
    • This type of anticipation uses gravity or other forces acting upon an object in order to make them appear heavier than they actually are prior to their movement.
    • It results in objects moving slower than expected because these forces act against them initially before they begin moving forward at full speed.
  • Timing Anticipation
    • This type of anticipation happens when timing factors, such as rhythm, tempo, velocity, acceleration, deceleration], trajectory angle, and elasticity, work together harmoniously without colliding each other during one single motion track (in case of multiple tracks) or sequence (in case of looping).

3. Staging

Staging is a crucial aspect of character animation that you must master in order to create a believable and engaging story.

Staging will help you communicate the actions, emotions, and environment that best support your narrative. It also helps to give your audience an understanding of what is happening in the scene so they can be fully immersed in every moment.

A few tips for staging:

  • Use subtle motions to show emotion or mood changes
  • Use acting to show movement instead of just moving from pose A to pose B with no meaning behind it
  • Use blocking when characters are interacting with each other or props (this will make it easier for you during animation)

4. Straight Ahead and Pose to Pose

Straight ahead and pose to pose are two animation techniques that can be used in a variety of ways.

Both methods use the same principles, but straight ahead is often used when you are working on an animated scene with a lot going on and want to keep up with things quickly.

Pose to pose, however, is better for scenes where not much is happening or if you need a more controlled approach. Straight ahead is also good for storyboarding your shots. It allows you to move through your story quickly without getting hung up on details or camera angles too much.

Pose to pose can be very useful when there are many characters in an animated scene, and each one needs their own unique movements. It is harder to get all those different poses in if you are using straight ahead instead of pose to pose because there’s less time between frames (the amount of time between each frame varies depending upon the length of each frame).

5. Follow Through and Overlapping Action

When an object stops moving, it will continue to oscillate slightly after the kinetic energy has been lost. This phenomenon is called follow through. In animation, follow through can be used to make your character look more realistic and believable.

Use overlapping action to show that two objects collide in one frame but then continue on in different directions.


If you want to create good character animation, there are two major rules. One, don’t make your characters look stiff, and two, try as hard as you can not to let the rig show.

The techniques mentioned above can be used to create beautiful, organic animation. They are easy to learn, and they don’t take too much time to implement into your workflow once you have mastered the basics.