The 12 Rules of Animation

9. Balance

Balance is crucial for an animation to be truly convincing. Your characters must be drawn in poses that look real and sustainable. You can do this by drawing a centre line through your character and making sure that you have equal mass on either side of the line. Balance will change according to the weight of an object; heavy objects will generally take longer to pick up speed. They will also take longer to stop moving than light objects because more resistance is needed to slow them down.

10. Timing

In The Illusionist, the wild motion of the singer in the band The Britoons seems more dynamic as it contrasts with the limited movement of his bandmates

Timing is not exactly a rule, but it is the most important aspect of animation and is what sets it apart from other drawn art forms. So much of animation is about timing. Messages or feelings that cannot be portrayed by a still picture can be communicated with the addition of timing.

One classic example that you see not only in film but also in real life is the dramatic pause. Think of when somebody whispers a secret to a friend. There’s a moment, just before they spill the beans, when they hesitate, looking around to make sure no one’s listening. This moment makes the anticipation of the secret greater. Exaggerating a dramatic pause can make an event in your animation funnier, more poignant or more intense.

11. Rhythm

A good understanding of rhythm will help you work out the timing of your animations. If music is provided as part of the project, you can use this to define the rhythm of the piece.

If the project doesn’t require music, I often use a soundtrack to help time my animations and then delete it once the animation is completed. Choose a piece of music that conveys the mood you want to convey. You’ll be amazed at how the rhythm of the music improves the feel of the whole animation.

12. Camera movement

The man on the left is standing upright. The character on the right is leaning to one side, and in this case you need to make sure that his body adjusts to create balance. Notice that the man on the right has moved the barbells more to his right to compensate for his body leaning the opposite way. He is also sticking his leg out to compensate. Think about balance not only when depicting human characters but also with text or other objects in your animations

Camera movement can lend filmic conventions to your animation. Interesting camera angles and animated camera movement can help to represent the point of view of a character. It can add dynamism to an otherwise static scene and can give the viewer a sense of being more involved in the piece.

Stills from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and of Tigger are copyright Disney Enterprises. Images from Toy Story 3 and Cars 2 are copyright Disney/Pixar. Stills from Ice Age 4, Rio and The Simpsons are copyright Twentieth Century Fox

Angie Taylor

Angie Taylor ( is an art director, animator, illustrator and motion-graphic designer. She has produced animation, visual effects and motion graphics for television, film, video and the web. Examples of her work can been regularly seen on the BBC and Channel 4 in the UK, and across Europe.

This article was adapted from a chapter in Angie Taylor’s new book Design Essentials for the Motion Media Artist, published by Focal Press. This authoritative guide will help you master the fundamental concepts and principles of motion graphic design. Learn how to manipulate and bend the rules to create something unique that will also achieve your communication goals.

Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn't affect our editorial independence. Learn more.

Elsewhere on IDG sites

Read Next...