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The 10 Animation Tips and Tricks to Master

    Undoubtedly the best place to start when you’re learning how to animate is mastering the classic 12 principles, which are often referred to as “the Bible of animation.” If you see a bad animation, there’s a good chance it’s not following these principles.

    Learn about the history of the principles and how to incorporate them into your work.

    1. Use Squash & Stretch to Avoid Stiff Movement

    Squashing and stretching an object as it moves can create the illusion of flexibility and life. It can also give the viewer information about how hard or soft the object is (softer objects should squash and stretch more). If your animations are looking too rigid, try adding squash and stretch to the movement and see how that improves things.

    2. Add Anticipation to Your Movement

    An object rarely just starts moving forward—there’s usually some sort of preparatory movement in the opposite direction. Think of throwing a ball: You pull your arm back before thrusting it forward. Adding anticipation gives the viewer a hint of what’s to come and prevents your movement from feeling like it’s coming out of nowhere.

    3. Make Sure All Movement Has Follow Through

    Anticipation is all about how you start your movement—follow through is about ending it. When an object stops, it doesn’t usually stop all at once, so adding small movement after the main action ends will create a more realistic look.

    4. Add Arcs to Create Natural Movement

    Pretty much nothing in nature moves in a straight line—try waving your hand or moving your arm, and you’ll notice there’s an arc to the movement, even if it’s a subtle one. If you feel like your animations are looking off, try softening the path of the movement with some arcs.

    5. Ease In and Out of Your Movement

    When an object moves, it doesn’t immediately start at the fastest speed, or stay the same speed the whole time, but a lot of bad animation will do just that. That’s why, according to the animation principle of slow in and slow out, you want to make sure all of your movement has a natural acceleration and deceleration. You can incorporate this into your own animations by adding more frames at the start of a movement, fewer in the middle, and more at the end.

    6. Use Your Frames to Create Intentional Timing

    If you’re wondering how to animate smoothly, pay close attention to the animation principle of timing. Timing relates to how many frames your action takes, and how closely those frames are placed together. By editing the number of frames, you can adjust the perceived speed, weight, and smoothness of an animation. Generally, you want to include a mix of timing in an animation to make it feel more interesting and realistic.

    7. Make Use of Secondary Action

    Secondary actions are any movements that aren’t essential to the scene, but help support the main movement and add more dimension to the scene. If your animations are feeling flat, try adding some secondary action to them.

    8. Don’t Be Afraid to Exaggerate Your Movement

    While a lot of animation is about creating believable movement, what often makes a good animation great is adding exaggeration. Actions that are too subtle could easily be missed by the audience, so—especially when you want to highlight something or add dramatic effect—try pushing the animation outside the bounds of real movement.

    9. Visually Highlight the Most Important Elements

    Staging is all about directing the audience’s attention towards the most important elements in a scene. If you feel like it’s hard to know what to focus on in your animation, add small movements or other visual highlights to draw the viewer’s eye.

    10. Choose the Right Animation Strategy for Your Scene

    There are different techniques for animating frame-by-frame: straight ahead, where you start at the beginning and animate scene by scene, and pose to pose, where you animate the beginning and end of your movement and then start to fill in the gaps to get there.

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