Which is more expensive, 2D or 3D animation?

You can’t decide which animation to go with; that’s why you’re here reading this article, right? Well, you’re definitely in the right place. We’ve covered all the basics, and more so you can make that decision with certainty.

Written by Jack Last

Let’s start by comparing 2D animation to 3D animation:

2D animation – Characters and objects used for manipulation are made up of height and width. They are less complex; therefore, they require less time and resources.

3D animation – Characters and objects used for manipulation are made up of the 3 dimensions, height, width, and depth. They are more realistic in comparison and therefore require more time and resources.

Now let’s look briefly at the 2D and 3D animation process:

2D animation.

Scripting – Writers and directors work alongside each other to put the script together.

Storyboarding – Animators will create a shot by shot, rough layout of what the video will look like.

Visuals – The creation of characters and other visual elements that will be used in the video.

Animation – Digital drawings of characters/other objects are then animated into moving characters.

Audio – Any and all audio is added to the video, including voiceovers, background noise, etc.

Edit and Review – The final product is edited and reviewed and ready to be used.

3D animation.

Script and Storyboarding – Planning out each part of the story and what is being seen.

3D Modelling – Characters are designed alongside any objects/props that are required.

Texturing – Modelers add texture to 3D characters by overlaying 2D images on 3D.

Rigging and Skinning – Creating a skeleton for characters or any other visual elements.

Animation - 3D models of the elements and characters are programmed to move.

Lighting – The best lighting is set for each frame, one by one to create realism.

Compositing – Combining different visual elements from various sources.

Audio – Any and all audio is added to the video, including voiceovers, background noise, etc.

Edit and Review – any necessary edits/changes are made, then the video is ready to render.

Rendering – The file is exported into a video format, ready to be watched and released to viewers.

As you can already see, there are a lot more steps involved in the process of creating 3D animations. This plays a crucial part when it comes to quoting prices for animation. The process is more time consuming; more employees are involved; more equipment is needed therefore more funding is required.

So, how to Decide?

1. Timeline. How long is the animation?

The difference between a 10 second animation and a 2 minute animation can have more of an impact on the price than you may think. Even adding an extra few seconds can change the price.

2. Complexity. How complicated will your animation/s be?

Whether its 2D or 3D animation, there are always contributing factors such as backgrounds, sound effects, scripts, along with others, that will determine the cost of the final animated project. The use of a storyboard could make your life that much easier by determining the complexity of the animation. (a storyboard is the visual representation of animation, frame by frame)

3. Characters. How many characters are you looking to animate?

It’s one thing to animate a single 2D or 3D character, but it’s another to have several characters animated. Each will take its own time to create, design and animate for future animations. And if you’re planning on having a complex character animated, then you should probably expect the price to increase as this will more than likely require more professional efforts to complete.

4. Design. How would you like the animated to look?

This question refers to how the environment/character and motion design will look. And of course, if you’re going to choose 3D over 2D then this is where costs will start to rise. The task will include the creating of 2D or 3D environments for the animation, to design those characters, to create the storyboard, to choose the colours, and other visual details. As you can imagine the difference in cost between 2D and 3D animation at this point will differ greatly due to 3D animations requiring more time and effort.

5. Extra effects. Will there be sound/script?

Before you budget for the project, you need to consider your options for music, sound effects, voiceover narration and scripts. Whether you decide to go with 2D or 3D at this point the costs will not differ much. However, do not underestimate the value that sound can bring to your animation.

6. Qualifications. Who will be designing and animating my project?

Last, but not least, is the question regarding who will animate your project. This can make a huge difference to the cost. If you want someone with a lot of experience then expect to pay for their time and quality of work.


When it comes down to the decision, bear in mind that if you are considering creating a recurring animated series, then you may find that 3D animation will be more cost effective over the long run. This is because many of the models created for the series can be reused over time, whereas with 2D animation this is not likely. OK Social are an motion graphic agency, our team of creatives have extensive experience with motion graphic creation. Get in touch for a free quote on your next animated project.

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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.