Cel Animation in Motion Graphics

A screenshot from DD26 Cesar Martinez’s broadcast package incorporating cel animation overlaid on footage.

Cel (or classical) animation has been on the rise in motion graphics and is now becoming ubiquitous. It’s that dripping wet, organic swirl of colour that leaves jaws on the floor and students scouring tutorial sites. That  fluid transition that meshes scenes into stories and engages viewers.  It can mean hundreds of drawings and lakes of coffee but the end result is always worth it. Where motion graphics used to trend towards being structured and clean, the industry has been undergoing an organic face lift. The combination of using traditional frame by frame, hand drawn animation alongside other techniques adds a refreshing fluid style that surpasses the structure and consistencies of key frames and motion paths.


Some of the most successful uses are combining 3D or live action with overlaid or integrated cel animation that enhances or even just references the footage. Motion powerhouse and trendsetter Buck has numerous stunning examples that will leave you scratching your head and wondering, just how did they do that?


Scaling down and going local, Giant Ant also produces work in a similar vein featuring a smooth, liquid animation style that emphasizes their storytelling.



Animating by hand can be an arduous process, especially for those without classical training, and more designers are experimenting with methods to replicate the look and feel, without all the work. Such a techniques are outlined at the excellent tutorial website Mattrunks, using After Effects and the plugin Trapcode Particular to create an organic cel shading effect.

Mattrunks Particular Cel Shading

Another fine example of exploring grading and using particles from plugin Turbulence FD to obtain a similar look from motion and 3D designer Kevin Gautraud.

Turbulence FD Toon Explosion

Motion Graphics Designer “And” uses a hand animated Manga style to enhance his motion for a Greyscale Gorilla competition.



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