Animating Characters: 5 Practical Tips for Beginners
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


  1. Learn the basics of animation
  2. Practice sketching and drawing
  3. Study anatomy and movement
  4. Use simple shapes for design
  5. Experiment with different animation styles and techniques

Have you ever wondered how your favorite animated characters come to life on screen? Or perhaps, you're interested in breathing life into your own drawings? Whatever your motive might be, animating characters is an exciting journey you can embark on with a little patience, practice, and passion. In this blog, we'll walk through five practical steps that will guide you from being a novice to creating your own animated characters in no time. So, let's jump right in!

Learn the basics of animation

Just like learning to ride a bike or cook your favorite dish, the best way to start animating characters is by understanding the basics. Here's a breakdown of some fundamental concepts you should familiarize yourself with:

Understanding Frames

Animation is all about creating the illusion of movement, and frames are the backbone of this illusion. Think of frames as individual pictures. When you play these pictures in quick succession, they create the impression of motion. If you've ever made a flipbook, you've already had your first taste of this concept. The more frames you use, the smoother your animation will be. However, remember that more frames also mean more work, so there's always a balance to strike.

Mastering The 12 Principles

Back in the golden age of animation, two Disney animators—Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston—outlined 12 principles that serve as the fundamental techniques in the art of animating characters. These principles, which include techniques like Squash and Stretch, Anticipation, Staging, and Follow Through, are still widely used today. So, if you want your animations to have that professional touch, these principles are your best friends.

Getting Familiar with Animation Software

While you can certainly animate by hand, animation software can save you a lot of time and give your work a polished look. There are plenty of options out there to suit different needs and budgets. Some popular ones include Adobe Animate, Toon Boom Harmony, and Blender. Each software has its own set of tools and features, so take your time to explore and find the one that feels most comfortable for you.

By getting a handle on these basics, you'll be well-prepared to start animating characters with confidence. Remember to keep experimenting and practicing—you'll be amazed at how quickly you can improve.

Practice sketching and drawing

Animating characters is a creative process that often starts with a pencil and a piece of paper. While it's true that animation software has made the process more accessible, having solid sketching and drawing skills can make a huge difference in the quality of your animations.

Start with the Basics

Even if you're not the best artist, don't worry—drawing is a skill that can be improved with practice. Start with simple shapes and lines, and gradually move on to more complex forms. This might seem trivial, but it's a vital step in learning how to express ideas visually.

Focus on Character Sketching

When you're comfortable with basic drawing techniques, it's time to level up and start sketching characters. Start with simple ones, like a stick figure. Slowly add more details such as clothing, facial expressions, and accessories. This will not only improve your drawing skills but also help you understand how to create distinctive characters.

Practice Regularly

Like any other skill, the more you practice drawing, the better you'll get at it. Carry a sketchbook with you and draw whenever you have free time. You'll be surprised by how much you can improve by constantly sketching and doodling.

With consistent practice and a bit of patience, you'll soon find yourself able to create engaging character sketches that are ready to be animated. Remember, every artist was once an amateur, so don't get discouraged if things don't come out perfect the first time—keep practicing, and you'll get there!

Study anatomy and movement

Animating characters convincingly involves more than just drawing figures; it requires an understanding of how bodies move. Studying anatomy and movement can help you create more realistic and expressive animations.

Master Human Anatomy

Knowing the basics of human anatomy can be a game-changer when it comes to animating characters. You don't need to be a medical expert, but familiarity with the human skeletal and muscular systems can help you animate characters that move in believable ways. For example, knowing how a knee bends can make the difference between a natural-looking run and a stiff, unnatural movement.

Observe and Analyze Movement

Observing how people move in real life can provide valuable insights for your animations. Take note of how emotions can affect movement — a happy character might walk with a bounce in their step, while a sad one might move more slowly. It's these small details that can bring your animated characters to life.

Use Reference Materials

Don't hesitate to use reference materials when animating characters. This could be anything from a video of a person running to a photo of a facial expression. Reference materials can help you capture the subtleties of movement and expression that might be hard to conjure up from imagination alone.

By studying anatomy and observing movement, you can create animated characters that feel real and engaging. So, grab a book, watch some videos, or even take a life drawing class — every bit of knowledge will make you a better animator!

Use simple shapes for design

When it comes to animating characters, starting with simple shapes is a great strategy. Why? Because it simplifies the complex process of character design, making it more approachable for beginners.

Start With Basic Geometric Shapes

Before you dive into intricate character details, start with basic geometric shapes. Circles, squares, and triangles can form the foundation of your character's body. For example, you can use a circle for the head, a rectangle for the torso, and ovals for the limbs. This method can help you get the proportions right and maintain consistency in your animations.

Create a Character Blueprint

Once you're comfortable with basic shapes, you can start adding more detail to your character. But, don't rush this step. Instead, take your time to create a character blueprint: a detailed sketch of your character from different angles. This blueprint will serve as your go-to reference throughout the animation process.

Keep It Simple

Remember: the goal is to animate characters, not to create a photorealistic portrait. Too much detail can be distracting and may make the animation process more complicated than it needs to be. So, keep your design simple and focus on the character's key features that will make them unique and recognizable.

By using simple shapes for design, you're not only making the character design process easier, but you're also setting yourself up for a smoother animation process. So, grab your sketchpad, draw some shapes, and start bringing your characters to life!

Experiment with different animation styles and techniques

Animating characters is like cooking; there are different recipes, ingredients, and cooking styles you can experiment with. One of the best ways to improve your animation skills is to try out different styles and techniques. Here's how to get started:

Study Different Animation Styles

From classic Disney style to Japanese anime, there are countless animation styles out there. Each style has its unique characteristics and techniques. To expand your animation toolkit, study different styles and incorporate elements you like into your own work. This will not only enhance your versatility as an animator but also help you develop your unique style.

Try Different Animation Techniques

There are numerous techniques for animating characters, each with its strengths and weaknesses. Traditional hand-drawn animation, stop motion, 3D computer animation — the list goes on. By trying different techniques, you can discover what suits your style best and what you enjoy the most. Remember, there's no right or wrong technique. It all depends on the story you're trying to tell and the visual style you're aiming for.

Experiment with Software and Tools

Today's technology offers a myriad of software and tools for animators. Programs like Adobe Animate, Blender, or Maya can open up new possibilities for animating characters. Don't be afraid to explore new tools and software. You might find some that make your animation process easier and more enjoyable.

In the end, the key to mastering the art of animating characters is to constantly experiment and learn. So go ahead, step out of your comfort zone, and start experimenting!

If you're excited about animating characters and want to learn more, don't miss out on learning from our 'Daisie Original Animation Course' with none another than Alex Jenkins who will you take you through his complete animation process. Dive in and take your animation skills to the next level!