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    Animation tips

    Animation Tips
    -- by Sandra Gilbert


    Just like any art form, when it comes down to it, it isn’t the tool being used, it is the artist and his/her knowledge/skill. Animation is no different. While a fancy program with lots of cool tools can make an animator’s life easier, the animation will still fall flat if not done properly.

    It has long been held in the animation industry, that there are 12 basic principles of animation. You can find them written, re-written and paraphrased all over the net. With the advent of Blender’s new animation features, it is a good idea to review these principles before we all get animating.

    That’s right, here is another incarnation of the golden animation rules.

    At a glance, here are the 12 Basic Principles of Animation:

    1. Squash and stretch
    2. Anticipation
    3. Staging
    4. Straight Ahead Action and Pose to Pose
    5. Follow through and Overlapping Action
    6. Slow In and Slow Out
    7. Arcs
    8. Secondary Action
    9. Timing
    10. Exaggeration
    11. Solid Drawing (same or different as Weight)

    Appeal Squash and Stretch

    One of the most important elements to master as an animator. It gives the illusion of weight and volume to characters, facial animation and objects such as a bouncing balls. It can alos be useful while animating dialog. One thing to remember when using squash or stretch, is to always maintain the same volume. Think of it as a balloon filled with water. Squish your balloon, the water moves to different sections of the balloon, but always maintains the same volume. Tools in blender that can help in your use of Squash and Stretch are lattice deformations, Software bodies and Shape Keys.


    Anticipation the act of starting a movement before the movement actually starts. Generally staged as a backward movement just preceding the forward movement. It can be done broadly or subtly, depending on what effect you are going for, with broad anticipation usually used for cómic effect.


    Staging is the animated equivalent of photography composition. Use staging to convey your actions clearly. Proper use of close-ups, medium and wide shots can help direct your audience to the tone, mood and action of your scene. Be sure to plan your shots and scenes out carefully so as not to confuse your audience.

    Straight Ahead and Pose to Pose Animation

    Straight ahead animation goes from frame to frame, allowing complete control over movement. Pose to Pose is the use of KeyFrames at set intervals, allowing the computer to fill in the missing frames. Both methods have their uses and most likely you will use a combination of both. In blender it is easy to set Pose to Pose with KeyFrames at your set intervals and then fine tune those actions on a frame by frame basis using IPO manipulation.

    Follow Through and Overlapping Action

    By observing the world around you will notice that objects in motion never stop all at once. In animation this is called Follow Through and Overlapping Actions. Most obvious examples hair flowing and settling into place once the character has stopped. An animal with loose skin, different parts are all moving, but at different speeds and stop at different points.

    Slow-Out and Slow-In

    Slow-out and slow-in will soften an action and render it more life like. The basic concept for setting them up is as follows. You bunch up the KeyFrames toward the beginning and end of each action with only one or two in the middle of the action. More KeyFrames creating slower actions, fewer KeyFrames creating faster actions.


    Remember your math teacher saying you’ll use this someday, here it is. Most all movements are on an Arc. A software semi circular motion that gives a more natural feel to the movements. Test it yourself, raise your arm and move it around, there is your arc. Look for arcs in movements all around you.

    Secondary Action

    Secondary action provides the extra little details that make a performance more believable. Adding arm movements to a walque cycle, head bobs, and dialog all are examples of secondary action.


    Timing can make or breaque an animation. It is one of those things that is best learnt through trial, error and experience. A stopwatch can greatly increase your grasp of timing. Go into a room, shut the door and act out your scenes, using a stopwatch to record when the actions start and stop. Don’t forget to overlap actions from different characters and objects.

    Grab a friend and play out your scenes that involve more than one character


    In computer animation it is very easy for your movements to look stiff and staged, minor exaggeration of features and movements can soften your movements and make them more fluid. But be careful with how much you exaggerate, unless you are going for a very cómic look.

    Solid Drawing

    Solid drawing covers the basic principles of giving form, weight, and volume solidity to your objects. This actually applies more to traditional hand drawn cell animation, but should be kept in mind even for CG animators. Make sure that your characters and objects have the look and feel of a solid object. Chek from all angles to ensure that you haven’t forgotten something.


    Often we get so caught up in all the mechanics of animation that we forget all about appeal. The whole reason for making the animation was to tell a story, is your character believable, will it connect with the audience? These are questions you need to keep in mind when creating your characters. Make sure they have personalities, even if they are evil ones.

    Okay now we have covered the very basic of the basic principles. It gives you the ideas and concepts to improve your animations, but like all things in life, this is a subject that requires further study and a lot of practise

    Hi, my name is Sandra Gilbert, (aka dreamsgate). I have been using blender for a little over five years. I currently live in Nampa, Idaho, USA and work as a graphic designer for a small print shop.

    I am married and have 2 children, which leaves not near enough time for feeding my growing blender obsession. Yet somehow I always manage to find the time to explore new features, keep up on the latest news and start new blender projects. Some of them I actually even manage to finish.

    by Sandra Gilbert

    Source: and Blender Art Magazine

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