Animation Exercises

These are three animation exercises I did to practice the basics. I’ve done a few of these exercises before, but it’s always a good idea to return to the foundational ideas. I made a short animation last semester for Digital Illustration with Kevin O’Neill, and I found that even stuff I thought would be simple was a lot more confusing than I expected! So here I am trying to get a solid understanding of the fundamentals.

The first exercise is called the magic dot, which I got from this video by Alex Grigg. The purpose of it is to get accustomed to how spacing effects the movement of an object. This exercise is done straight ahead, meaning that each frame is drawn in sequence, without planning out the key poses. This is in contrast to pose-to-pose animation, in which the key poses are drawn first, and the rest of the frames are filled in afterwards. The main goal of this exercise is to mess around and see what works, what doesn’t, and what effects can be achieved with various spacing choices. I also tried adding depth by making the dot larger and smaller, and adding a few smear frames when I wanted the movement to look the fastest. I highly recommend starting with the magic dot if you want to try animation, just because it’s fun. 

The second exercise is just moving a ball in a circular motion, but the trick is to do it from the side as well. The top view is simple—you draw a circle and then draw lines that divide it into even segments. A frame of animation will be placed where each line meets the circle. This results in sixteen frames. To achieve the side view, all you have to do is squash the guide down and place a frame at each sixteenth of the guide. From the top view, the ball moves in constant motion, but from the side view it appears to slow when it moves toward or away from the viewer. This is because the spacing of the frames gets closer together toward the sides of the circle. I got the exercise from this video by moderndayjames, which I recommend checking out because he goes into more detail and he explains how to do it much better than I did.


The last two exercises are from the same video as the orbiting balls. The first is a pendulum swing, and to be honest the section of the video explaining how many frames to create and how to space them totally confused me. Between the keyframes of A and B I placed one breakdown frame, C. From there I spaced the frames so that they are closer together the closer they get to either of the keyframes. The pendulum swing is an example of both easing-in and easing-out, meaning slowing to a stop and accelerating out of a stop. It is also a good example of an arc motion, which is everywhere in animation.

For the hammer exercise, the hammer accelerates out of a stop, making it an ease-out. It starts at keyframe A, and ends at keyframe B. However, this animation includes an overshoot, which I’ve labeled as breakdown frame C. Basically, in order for the hammer’s impact to look heavy and impactful, the hammer swings farther than is technically possible (the overshoot) and squashes before bouncing back into its resting position, keyframe B.   


I have so many more of these that I’d like to try practicing. Here are a few more videos on animation basics that you can take a look at if you’re interested: 

2D Animation: Walk Cycles by moderndayjames

The #1 Animation Principle (How to In-Between) by NobleFrugal Studio

How to Animate Blowing Hair (And the seaweed exercise) by Dong Chang

Beginner 2DFX Animation Exercises by Stylus Rumble (This channel has a lot on FX)

SBW – The art of Inbetweening: Timing Charts by Toniko Pantoja (This channel has lots about character animation and general stuff)

Here are the video tutorials I used for the exercises shown in this post:

4 New Ways to Practice Animation! by Alex Grigg

New to Animation? Start Here by moderndayjames

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