12 Principles of Animation


Animating with the 12 Principles of Animation

The Twelve Basic Principles of Animation are the basic techniques of animation, originating from the work of Disney animators Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas in 1981, “Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life.” These rules are widely adopted and used in animation production, affecting the production of various animation types.

Squash and Stretch

The squash and stretch technique exaggerates the natural physical phenomenon of a moving object, showing its weight and texture. The key point is to keep the consistency of the object's volume. Otherwise, they will look like two completely different things.



The Anticipation principle prepares the audience for what's happening next. You can break the action into three parts - the anticipation of an action, the action, and the follow-through. Some understanding of physics is useful to draw the right poses.


Straight Ahead Action and Pose to Pose

Straight Ahead Action is an animating method in which an animator draws from the first frame to the last one. The Straight Ahead Action is ideal for animating actions that have no obvious physical patterns, like explosions or flames.


Pose to Pose, on the other hand, requires animators to create a keyframe first and then fill in using inbetweens. Pose to Pose is a structured method. It allows animators to control the path of action and maintain the same volume of the character.


Follow Through and Over Lapping Action

The Follow-through is the action that takes place after the main action. The follow-through principle reflects the inertia power of the moving part. For example, when a pitcher throws a ball, the arm swings even after the ball left his or her hand.


Overlapping means overlapping the actions of the parts of the main character. For example, overlapping the action of a jumping dancer and the swinging tutu dress. The Overlapping principle makes the animation more lively and fluid.

Slow in and Slow out

Even the best sports car takes seconds to accelerate and decelerate. Applying the slow in slow out principle makes the animation realistic. Please use the onion skin and check if the drawings are showing speed changes.



Many movements follow a natural arc path. For example, when we walk, our arms swing in an arc pattern. Even smaller actions, like a head-turn, follow a circular arc. The faster the movement is, the flatter the arc path is, and vice versa.



Timing is one of the most important factors in animation. Timing presents the speed of a physical movement and forms emotion and tensions. In a big-budget production, each second of the animation is composed of 24 frames. In TV series, each second of the animation is composed of 12 or even 8 frames. In these cases, frames are filmed multiple times to save time and effort.



Exaggeration spices up the performance in animations, but we don't want the performance to become too comedic. The purpose of exaggeration is to convince your audience. Preserving recognizable details and some reality will help you engage your audience better.


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