What Is the Difference Between 2D and 3D Animation?

Modern animation has come a long way since its early beginnings. There are now various types of animation that cater to different needs. Two of the most commonly used types of animation are 2D and 3D. Both have their unique benefits, but which one is suitable for your project? Here is a breakdown of the differences between 2D and 3D animation.

What Are 2D Animation and 3D Animation?

 2d vs 3d animation

An animation is a form of art that simulates the movement of inanimate objects. 2D animation refers to a movement that occurs in a two-dimensional space. A 2D shape or space is essentially something that has two sides – a length and a width. 

Movement in 2D animation could be of characters, backgrounds, and/or creatures. Animation involves creating the illusion of motion. Typically, this is accomplished through editing photos, but it can also be done using other techniques, such as music or movement.

Some popular 2D motions would be Cartoons like Looney Tunes and TV shows like The Simpsons.

The art of creating a movement in a three-dimensional space is known as 3D animation. 3D essentially refers to any shape or space with three dimensions – length, width, and height. 3D animation is currently used in various industries such as medicine, gaming, and marketing.

To achieve 3D animation, objects are built with 3D models and are later manipulated in 3D software. 3D motion examples include several movies by Pixar, such as Toy Story and Frozen.

Process of 2D Animation

2D animation is the process of creating two-dimensional images or graphics and animating them over time. This can be done either by hand, using traditional animation techniques, or digitally, using computer software.

The first step in creating a 2D animation is to create the artwork. This can be done either by hand, using traditional methods such as pencil and paper, or digitally, using a computer. Once the artwork is complete, it is scanned into the computer and stored as an image file.

The next important step is known as storyboarding, which involves creating sketches that are very similar to comic books. These sketches typically indicate the movement of the characters in every scene. Storyboards are rough sketches that help animators decide how to do the animation process.

The final step involves creating the animation itself. This is done by creating a series of individual frames, each showing a slightly different image. These frames are then played back in sequence, creating the illusion of movement.

Some of the final steps include inking, coloring, visual effects, and sound design.

Examples of 2D Animation

We have already discussed some of the famous examples of 2D animations. Here is a list of the 10 most popular examples of 2D animation:

  1. Family Guy
  2. Rick and Morty
  3. The Lion King
  4. BoJack Horseman
  5. SpongeBob SquarePants
  6. Adventure Time
  7. Fairly OddParents
  8. Hercules
  9. Aladdin
  10. The Little Mermaid

Process of 3D Animation

3d animation example

The process of 3D animation can be divided into three steps: Modeling, Layout and Animation, and Rendering.

Modeling is the process by which 3D objects are developed. This can be done quickly by using a modeling tool or scanning objects into a computer. Both these methods have their advantages. Scanning helps you save time, while modeling gives you more flexibility with the design.

It is essential to add textures that give objects a realistic look in this process. Once this step is completed, the process moves to layout and animation.

Once the model is complete, it needs to be textured. This is the process of adding color and other surface details to the model. Texturing can be done manually or with the help of specialized software.

After the model is textured, it needs to be lit. This step determines how the object will look when viewed in different light conditions. Lighting can be done with real-world lighting data, or it can be simulated using computer programs.

The next step is rigging, which is the process of adding bones and joints to the model. This step is necessary for character animation, as it allows the character to be moved and deformed realistically.

Once rigging is done, 3D animation can begin. This is the process of creating the actual movement of the objects in the scene. Animation can be done with keyframing, motion capture, or both.

3D animation is a complex process, but it can be used to create stunning visual effects. With the right software and some creative flair, anyone can create 3D animations.

The final stage, rendering, revolves around generating the scene into a finished image. This is done through specialized software; it is a lengthy process and can take up to hours to complete.

Examples of 3D animation

Here are 10 movies that are popular for their use of 3D animation

  1. Despicable Me
  2. Shrek
  3. How to Train Your Dragon
  4. Transformers (robots)
  5. Jurassic Park (dinosaurs)
  6. Avatar
  7. Tangled
  8. Kung Fu Panda
  9. Moana
  10. Bolt

Difference Between 2D and 3D Animation

The primary difference between 2D and 3D animation lies in the fact that 2D involves only height and width while 3D has an additional dimension which is depth. As a result, 3D characters are much more realistic when compared to two-dimensional objects.

Another distinction between the two is in terms of traditional drawing methods for 2D vs. 3D animations. 2D animation is typically created by drawing each frame by hand. This can be a time-consuming process, but it allows greater control over the final product.

3D animation is typically created using computer software to manipulate objects in a three-dimensional space. This can be a faster process, but it can sometimes result in a less realistic final product.

In addition, 2D animations focus more on frames while 3D motions have movements at their focal point.

Another distinction exists in terms of cost. 2D animations are relatively cheaper compared to 3D, which involves a high cost for the process of rendering.

Moreover, 2D is used mainly in cartoons, while 3D animation is mainly used in gaming, movies, and even in the medical field. Lastly, while 3D is great for conceptual designing, 2D is not.

2D Vs 3D Animation Cost

Depending on your needs, the average cost of 2D animation services for a film 60-Seconds starts at $1,000 and can go as high as $5,000.

Depending on the 3D animation provider you select, the price can start at $7,000 or go as high as $10,000, depending on the extent of your 3D movie requirements.

2D animation vs 3D animation Platforms

Traditional drawing techniques are used to create 2D animation. Artists either create pencil sketches of their characters or digitally illustrate each frame of their motion. Adobe After Effects and Adobe Animate are two examples of 2D animation applications that aid in adding movements digitally.

On the opposite hand, computer software is used only for 3D animation. It entails a number of previously covered tasks, including modeling, rigging, and texturing.

How to Learn 2D and 3D Animation?

study 2d and 3d animation online

If 2D and 3D animation have piqued your interest and you want to learn more about it, use the various online training. We have shortlisted two top-rated online courses from Udemy, which you can enroll in and start your journey towards becoming an animator.

If you hope to explore 2D animation, “Learning 2D animation: The Complete Guide” is your best option because it has been titled “hot and new,” which means that it will not only guide you through the latest ways of 2D animation but is also gaining a lot of traction by students.

This course is a complete guide, so it is excellent for any level. Moreover, it is priced at $9.99, which is a great price considering that the course will teach you a lot.

We went through the course description and outline and concluded that with 4.5 hours of videos and 65 lectures, the course would take you 4 hours and 35 minutes to complete. We believe that the course is ideal for anyone who wants to become proficient in 2D animation.

The course has a rating of 5.0/55.0, which shows its popularity among the students who have taken it. This is further supported by the reviews on the website. Most of the comments were positive. One review that particularly caught our eye was

Great in-depth 2D animation course. Clear and concise. I like the to-the-point explanation for each topic; it makes me understand the brief concepts but still leaves some space for me to explore it myself.”

Since the course is new, it has only 24 students so far. But we still believe it will be an excellent course for you to learn 2D animation. We also have a list of other great 2D animation courses. Perhaps you might find those interesting as well.

If you wish to discover 3D animation, we have just the right course for you. ‘The 2022 Blender Primer: 3D Modeling, Animation, and Rendering’ course is great for any level, and based on the course content, we have concluded that it will help you learn how to use the Blender to create 3D animations of your own.

The course is currently priced at $9.99, which is a great catch considering the learning experience it will offer. The course contains 18.5 hours of videos and 182 lectures.

2d 3d animation courses by udemy

Moreover, the course is pretty popular. 5356 students are already enrolled. The course has a rating of 4.7/5.0, which indicates why it is such an excellent course to opt for. We also analyzed the reviews and saw positive feedback like “The best overall Blender tutorial series I’ve experienced. Answers every question I’d ever had about the software.”

Overall, it is one 3D animation course you should not skip. If you want to check out other top-rated 3D animation courses, we highly recommend checking out our list of the best sculpting online courses.

Use Case of 2D and 3D Animation

2D and 3D animation are used in various industries, including film, television, video games, advertising, and web design. 2D animation is typically used for traditional, hand-drawn animations, while 3D animation is used for more complex animations that require computer-generated graphics.

2D animation is often used in advertising and marketing, as it can be very effective in grabbing attention and delivering a message. It can also be used for educational purposes, such as in textbooks or online tutorials.

3D animation is often used in movies and video games to create realistic-looking characters and environments. It can also be used for medical purposes, such as in surgery simulations or to visualize complex data.

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2D Vs 3D Animation – FAQs

Is 3D or 2D animation easy?

Neither 2D nor 3D is more complex. However, 3D animation is much faster than 3D because it involves computer software, while 2D is more focused on pen and paper sketching.  You will require a lot of illustrations for 2D, while 3D is more mechanical. In present times, both 2D and 3D require equal amounts of work.

Is 3D better than 2D?

There is no simple answer to whether 3D animation is better than 2D animation. Both have their advantages and disadvantages that make them suited for different purposes.

3D animation is often seen as more realistic and lifelike than 2D animation, which can appear flat and lifeless. 3D animation also allows for more creative freedom in camera angles and special effects, ideal for action-packed scenes or for creating detailed, realistic environments.

However, 2D animation can be more efficient and cheaper to produce than 3D animation, and sometimes its simplicity can be an advantage – for instance, when creating characters that need to be highly expressive or when trying to evoke a specific retro aesthetic. Ultimately, it comes down to what kind of look and feel you want to achieve with your animation.

Are cartoons 2D or 3D?

Cartoons can be both 2D and 3D. Several famous cartoons like Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny from Looney Tunes, Little Mermaid, and Mowgli from Jungle book are cartoon characters developed in 2D. Similarly, cartoon characters like Shrek, Elsa from Frozen, and Moana are developed in 3D.


2D animation is created by drawing each frame on a flat surface. Animators use software to create the characters and backgrounds, layered one on top of the other to create the illusion of movement.

3D animation is created in a 3-dimensional space, with animators using computer software to create objects that can be viewed from any angle. 3D animations often look more realistic than 2D animations because they create the illusion of depth and realism.

So what’s better?

Well, that depends on where you wanna apply your expertise. If you want to build a career as a cartoonist or work in marketing, 2D animation is perfect for you. If you want to build 3D models for gaming, medical, movie, and other industries, you should consider becoming a 3D animator.