The answer is from scratch and with the help of mentors.

Animators dream of making whimsical, out of this world scenes where a group of characters talk, interact and do all sorts of acrobats. While the dream is worthy, it is still a dream for beginners. The trick to learning animation is first to dip your toes in. Don’t dive deep. That way lies disaster.

How do you start learning animation?

Good animation consists of many different things, from world-building to character design, from acting to physics. It means even professionals need to break down the workflow.

That’s how you start learning animation. You move through it step by step.

Tip 1:

When you are beginning to learn animation, work on just one aspect. Why? Because when you practice the same thing over and over again, it’s easier to master it.

Tip 2:

Practice is great, but it only helps if you know what is right or wrong. That brings us to the second tip of learning animation. Find a mentor or teacher – someone with experience who knows the mistakes you’re making. They can guide you on the right path.

Tip 3:

Find a community of students who are also learning animation. Sometimes, your peers teach you better because they face the same hurdles. Chances are they’ve figured out the tricks to design better characters or create better body language, which they can share with you.

Let’s recap. You pick an aspect of animation. You practice it. You get feedback and then improve. What’s next? You work on the 12 principles of animation.

Where to start learning animation?

It is highly advisable to enrol in an animation course. That’s where every person should start learning animation. Barring that, the stepping stone is the 12 principles of animation.

The principles created by Disney’s Nine Old Men were first described in the book The Illusion of Life. Who were the nine old men? They are the legends behind:

  • Peter Pan
  • 101 Dalmatians
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • The Jungle Book

What are the 12 principles of animation?

Think of the principles as a guide to creating the best animation. A formula that every animator uses. Once you have mastered them, you can take your animation to the next level.

1.    Squash and stretch

This principle helps you learn how to include the illusion of mass, flexibility, gravity and weight. It’s how you create a correctly bouncing ball.

2.    Anticipation

This principle makes animation more realistic. It’s how you prepare the viewer for what’s going to happen next.

3.    Staging

This animation principle helps you learn how to guide the eye of the viewer and draw attention to the important part of the scene.

4.    Straight ahead action and pose to pose

These are the two ways you can draw animation. With straight-ahead action, you use frame-by-frame. It’s best for fluid movements. With pose to pose, you first draw the beginning and end frame along with a couple of keyframes between them. Then you draw everything else. It is best for dramatic effect.

5.    Follow through and overlapping action

This principle helps you learn how animation flows realistically. For instance, a moving object comes to a standstill in stages. The feet stop first, then the hands.

6.    Slow in and slow out

This animation principle is about giving more life to a character. For instance, a car starts moving slowly and then builds up speed. To show this, you add more frames at the beginning.

7.    Ark

This principle is about learning the law of physics. In life, moving objects like an arrow shot from a bow always follow an ark. Your animation must mirror the same path to make it look real.

8.    Secondary action

This animation principle adds dimensions to your characters. It teaches you how to create facial expression or hair movement when a person runs.

9.    Timing

This principle reflects the pace and speed of real objects. It teaches how quickly or slowly to move a character, so it’s believable.

10.  Exaggeration

This animation principle is about making objects more dynamic. If you stick too true to life, animation appears boring – not something you want. Exaggeration adds character.

11.  Solid drawing

This principle is the fundamentals of drawing like 3D space, lights and shadow, volume and weight. If you don’t know how to draw, you can’t be a good animator.

12.  Appeal

The last principle makes animation more appealing to the viewer. It teaches you how to lend personality and strong character. It also includes an easy-to-read design and solid drawing.

Learning animation & workflow go hand-in-hand

So, to revise. You learn animation by practising one aspect, and you begin at the 12 principles.

Having said that, animation is art and art needs a workflow. The better your workflow, i.e., the process of creation, the better your animation.

To that end, we leave you with the four stages of animation workflow every beginner must follow. First, plan the concept. Second, roughly block it out. Third, refine the details. Last, polish the nuances.