Animation tips for beginners: Where to start your creative journey

If you’re new to the world of animation, there are few marketing mediums that offer the same degree of creativity, innovation and energy. ‍

Written by Jack Last

We may be biased (as a motion graphics agency filled with professional animators, and a long-held love of the craft), but animation offers a wealth of unique benefits. These span everything from helping companies to increase engagement levels, to strengthening brand identity and reputation.  

In this article - to help newbies share in our excitement - we’ve shared some key animation tips for beginners. 

Whether you’re looking to get into animation design, find out more about the process more generally, or find out whether animation offers the best fit for your brand, we’ve covered all the basics you need below. 

What exactly is animation and where do you begin?

Let’s start at the very beginning. 

Animation is the process of illustrating elements, and then bringing them to life through movement. Animations are video-based pieces of content, which feature a collection of visual elements (characters, settings, objects, typography and events), and audio elements (voiceovers and sound effects) all working together in harmony. 

The process of animation involves writing a script, then designing the accompanying visual elements to match the events that will occur in the video. Then, these components are given movement (through a process of creating frames and keyframes) and audio elements are added. The result? A sleek, engaging and precise piece of animated video content. 

Animations can be used across a wide range of marketing channels and purposes. These include social media content, explainer videos, digital out of home advertising, training or educational aids, product videos, and many more. 

What’s more, animation can also be produced using a huge variety of methods and animation styles. These include traditional 2D vector animation, 3D animation, retro animation, 360 degree animation, cut-out animation, typography animation, rotoscope animation, whiteboard animation, cut-out animation, augmented reality animation, and many more. 

So, the next question that naturally springs to mind is, how can you get involved? How can you start the process of learning more about (and getting involved in) animation? 

The fundamentals that we recommend - to start sharpening your knowledge of animation - include: 

  • Understanding and grasping the core concepts of animation - explore and understand the key stages of animation, so that you understand how all the different steps and elements come together. 
  • Familiarising yourself with tools and software - there is a wide range of animation tools out there, each of which offer their own unique strengths. So, spend some time researching and testing out all these tools, to see what possibilities they unlock.
  • Selecting a starting point - there is a huge variety of animation methods and styles out there (in this blog, we covered 21 of them, and we only really scratched the surface!). So, spend some time exploring your options, and identifying the styles that you’re most interested in. Although you don’t have to stick to this choice long-term, it’s a great way to help you start refining your searches. 
  • Learning about the key principles and techniques - from there, you can start to explore the principles and techniques that animators use to create this type of content. These approaches vary hugely, to encompass everything from the science that goes into 3D mechanical animations, to the labour of love that makes stop-motion such a beloved animation style. 
  • Practising (if necessary) - sometimes, getting stuck in is the best way forward! Simply trying your hand at a rough attempt is one of the best ways to learn about the ins and outs of the animation process. But, whether or not this is necessary will depend on the time you have available, and the reasons why you want to learn more about animation.
  • Seeking the support of learning materials and resources - the internet is full of high quality learning materials and resources, which can help you to build the foundations of your knowledge. Our insights page is a great place to start, and within each article, we’ve included numerous links to other YouTube channels and content creators that share their guidance. 
  • Gather feedback - speak to people within the industry. Over a coffee or a Zoom call, ask them about their approach to animation, and for their advice on the best ways that you can learn more and develop your skill set. 

Top 10 animation tips when starting out

Once you’ve started building the foundations of your knowledge - and got to grip with the fundamentals of what animation is, and the production process that it follows - we recommend diving right in! 

Of course, you’re not going to be able to craft a whole, multi-pronged animated video campaign. But, trial and error is often an extremely effective way to learn. In the case of animation, these rough attempts allow you to start experimenting with software, seeing how adding movement works in practice, and understanding how all of the elements come together and support one another. 

So, to help you get the highest possible value out of these early investigations, we’ve shared our top tips for starting out with animation. 

  1. Start with simple projects - don’t run before you can walk! Although it may be tempting to pour all your visions and creativity into this first project, try to save your ambition until you’ve mastered the basics. Focus on simple projects and goals, and keep mastering each stage in turn, until you move onto the next.
  2. Understand keyframes - keyframes are the bricks and mortar of an animation. These are what give the animation its movement, and securing smooth, realistic movements requires plenty of practice working with keyframes. So, while experimenting with character design and scene illustration may be more fun, it is just as important that you perfect this process. 
  3. Practice timing - another commonly forgotten component, timing is an equally ‘make or break’ part of an animation. Pacing, ordering events, structuring moments of conflict and resolution, and timing all of your video’s events are all key parts of producing an engaging, high quality video. 
  4. Study the 12 principles of animation - the twelve basic principles of animation were first coined and published by Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas, in their book The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation. These principles outline the approach that Disney’s animators have used ever since the 1930s. Still to this day, these principles are widely used as the key to super-realistic character movements, and creating characters that achieve true emotional resonance. 
  5. Storyboard your ideas - as is the case with almost any creative discipline, great animations are the result of careful, precise planning. Storyboards are the cornerstone of the animation planning process, particularly when you are working to harness the skills of multiple people, and the insights of numerous stakeholders. So, even if you’re just starting out with animation, practice storyboarding all of your ideas.
  6. Use reference materials  - to ensure that your video’s elements are true to life (and so, believable), keep referring to images or videos of real aspects. These visual aids will help you to go beyond simply assessing whether your video is aesthetically pleasing, to determining how realistic, believable and immersive it is.  
  7. Experiment with bouncing ball exercises - this is a fantastic way to help you grasp motion and the concept of animation. This simple exercise is commonly used by animators, to help them practice their ability to display motion. The bouncing ball exercise involves illustrating a simple ball, then creating the animation’s keyframes, and pinpointing its timing, arc and trajectory, as well as the shape of your ball as it hits the ground and then bounces off it. It is a careful process of observing, editing, adjusting and then repeating the process, which teaches you a lot about the fundamentals of realistic animation. 
  8. Stay organised - again, it might seem at odds with the energy and creativity that defines animation, but organisation is a crucial skill to develop. Keeping files and assets organised will prove invaluable when you are working on a project, especially as you start to manage all the different elements involved, and ensure consistent version control. 
  9. Seek feedback - no matter how long you’ve been animating, you’re never too good to stop benefitting from feedback. But in these early stages in particular, feedback is one of the most effective ways to improve your skills. Speak to another animator (even if it’s just reaching out to someone online, and asking for their guidance), and share an example of your work with them. Then, ask them for their honest feedback. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the animation? Is it believable? How could the movement(s) be improved? What is missing, in order for it to be more effective?
  10. Learn your animation software - animation software is a challenge in and of itself. These tools are pretty complex to master (after all, they’ve got to perform some pretty complex magic!). So, don’t underestimate the time you’ll need to dedicate to learning the software, how it works, and the most effective way to use all of its features. 
  11. Practice character design - creating fun and personable characters is, usually, easier said than done. Coming up with a well-rounded, entertaining, relatable and original character is certainly no mean feat! So, spend some time sketching character designs, and practicing the process of creating a video character from scratch. You’ll find that, with practice, it gets a whole lot easier! 
  12. Storyboard for dialogue - for many animators, dialogue presents one of the biggest challenges to animation. It’s an entirely different creative discipline from illustration, and is far less mathematical a skill than animating itself. So, use your storyboard to support your dialogue-writing. Continuously review the dialogue, in terms of how effectively it fits with all of the scenes in your video. Does it sufficiently describe the key events? Is it the right length for the scene? Does it match the tone that you’re trying to achieve in this moment?
  13. Experiment with different styles - after you’ve spent some time researching the different animation styles that are available to you, experiment with your favourites, to discover what styles suit you best. This will then help you to identify your creative niche, and start the journey of developing your own unique skill set. 
  14. Study your favourite animations - whether they’re brand campaigns or adverts on the TV, when you see an animation that you like, apply a critical lens to it. What do you like about it? What do you think makes it successful? How could it be improved? What made it strike an emotional chord with you, or made it memorable to you? If no animation examples spring to mind just yet, check out our selection of 20 captivating explainer videos
  15. Keep patient and persistent - remember, this isn’t an overnight process. This is a craft that takes time, and it may take a while before you feel like you’re producing truly engaging, entertaining videos. So, stay patient throughout the learning phase, and keep trusting in the process! 


We hope that our animation tips help you during your creative journey. 

When you’ve understood the nuances of the discipline, and mastered these techniques, you’ll find that animation is an immensely rewarding process. It unites a wide range of creative skills, and results in bold, fun-filled content, which really stands out on the digital stage. 

Why work with an animation agency like OK Social?

OK Social is a motion design studio, with extensive experience designing and producing knock-out animations. 

Our skilled team of animation specialists have been chosen to produce content for some of the largest brands in the world. Our client base includes the likes of Coca-Cola, Ford, the BBC, KFC and many, many more. 

We are renowned for our bold approach, creating content of aexceptional quality, which brings something entirely new to the advertising table. 

So, to find out more about our animation services, and how they can be used to give your marketing a new edge, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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I’m Jack, the Motion Director here at OK Social. I’ve been working in the world of motion design and animation for nearly 10 years. I had the pleasure of working with leading agencies and brands around the world, such as Samsung, Ford, Shell, Deliveroo, and Starbucks, to name a few.

From a young age, I’ve always been interested in animation, from making stop-motion films in my room as a kid to learning animation on my first computer. It started as a passion and still is to this day. Part of what I do now is more than just animation. I help craft the narratives of the stories we tell to ensure they make an impact to the audience and remain worthy of their attention.

So how do I do that? It starts with asking the right questions, leading to solving the right problems. First, diagnose what the problem is. Then, we can start to see if we can help. I believe that communication plays a key role in delivering a smooth and successful project. Looking into the future, I’m excited to expand my knowledge into creating more engaging stories that make a difference.