12 rules of making 3D animation


These 12 rules are the rules stated in the book The illusion of life by Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas. Both were members of Disney’s Nine Old Men. Nine old men of Disney were the main animators of Disney, some of whom later became directors. The Illusion of Life book is based on the experiences of famous Disney animators. The twelve principles outlined in The Illusion of Life explain the physical laws for smoother, more natural movement and animation. This book is used as a reference by animators. Animators need to learn these twelve principles and rules well.


Squash and Stretch


Compression and stretching is the actualization of the feeling of weight for bodies and objects in animation. It is better expressed with the help of compression and elongation of gravity. Observance of this rule depends on the volume and attention should be paid to the ratio of volume and the effect of gravity. Compression and stretching means changing the shape of objects. Compression and stretching should not be seen directly by the viewer because it makes the animation artificial and should only be felt.

If it is not followed, the movement does not have proportionality and strength. A little subtlety in this rule goes a long way in bringing the characters to life. It is the most important rule of the 12 rules. It is important to maintain body volume while following this rule. When it is stretched, it should be thinner and when it is compressed, it should be wider.





Anticipation prepares the viewer for what is about to happen. Anticipation helps the viewer prepare for what is about to happen. A forecast, when followed, has the effect of making it realistic. Projection makes the animation more realistic. An example that can be said is that when the character falls down in the animation, the hands and knees must hit the ground first. This is a kind of expectation and prediction. Another example is that it is impossible for the character to jump without bending the knees and pulling back the hands. Compliance with this rule is important. Or like the picture, when he wants to cut the tree, he has to move the ax back.


Staging Staging


Staging means that the viewer’s eye becomes focused on the main scene and pays less attention to other details of the scene. The eye movement moves with the movements of the main parts and does not remain fixed. Staging in animation is very similar to composition in works of art. You should use movement to guide the viewer’s eye and draw attention to what is important in the scene. Focus should be kept on what is important in the scene and take away or reduce the focus from anything that is not important or less important.


Straight ahead action and pose to pose


Straight forward movement and state to state have their own rules, but most of the time they are combined together. Straight forward movement involves designing the frame from start to finish. Straight forward movement is very important to make the movements look realistic. State-by-state technique means design the initial and final frames in the first step. The next step is to design the key and important middle frames and finally design the remaining frames. This technique gives you more control in the scene and helps your movements have more impact.


Follow through and overlapping action


When a body or character is moving and suddenly stops moving, all the parts do not stop in harmony with it. When objects go from motion to rest, different parts of the object stop at different speeds. Let’s give an example for better understanding. Suppose it is moving like the image of a squirrel and then it stops. Or a box is thrown and hits somewhere and stops, but the ribbon on the box stops later than it moves. The movement speed is also different when the character runs the arms and legs move at different speeds.


Increase and decrease the speed Slow in and slow out


Understanding this rule and implementing it in animation helps to make the animation look realistic. It is done by adding more frames. The movement does not happen suddenly and more frames are needed in the movement sequence. The best example to understand this rule is moving and stopping a car. The car is slow before moving and speeding up. The picture is when the car brakes. This effect is achieved by adding more frames at the beginning and end of the movement.




Obey the laws of physics. Objects follow an arc when moving, and this rule must also be observed in making 3D and 2D animation. An arc is the motion of an arc that goes through when an object is thrown. An example that can be given to better understand the arc of the character’s punch and hit is like the image below. The path is curved and not straight. Or like a slingshot that has the movement of an arched arrow.


Secondary action


Secondary movements are used to support the main movement in the scene. The secondary action supports the main action of the character or object. It should be noted that this should be done carefully and delicately. If it is not done carefully, the viewer’s gaze will move away from the main action and movement. Adding secondary actions helps add more dimension to characters and objects. Secondary action or movement helps the main action to be more visible to the viewer.

Adding secondary movements gives more dimension to the animation parts. For example, the separate movement of the little girl’s hair or the ribbon on the gift box helps to make it look real. It should be noted that the secondary action does not make the main action and movement invisible. Another example that idol

It’s like, Vaughn said, a character pushing a heavy box. The secondary action here helps to show that the box is heavy. For example, let the character breathe. Or, like the image that the scientist feels with the help of secondary action, he thinks.





Timing refers to how long an action takes from start to finish. The task of this rule is to create movements that follow the laws of physics and give more effect to the animation. When an object or character is moving, the timing and speed of the movement is artificial if it is too much more or less than reality. It doesn’t matter what program you use, the schedule must be observed in any case. Timing refers to how long a movement or action takes. If the timing is too slow or too fast, the animation will not look realistic.

Consider the real world to better understand timing. For example how long it takes to run an app on your phone. Observe the same time in the animation. You may think how important a few seconds can be, but these few seconds have an effect in making the animation more realistic. Sometimes when exaggeration is necessary, timing can be omitted. For example, the character may move very quickly.


Exaggeration Exaggeration


Exaggeration is one of the 12 rules of animation. Exaggerate your most enjoyable work principles. Animation needs exaggeration to be more interesting. Making animation becomes boring if it is too realistic. Exaggeration is necessary for the animation to be more attractive. As the animator, it is up to you to determine how much of this rule is needed.

The amount of use depends on your animation style. Animation is the art of bringing characters to life and is based on realism. But exaggeration helps make the animation more interesting and gives the animation a soul. As an animator, you have control over what the viewer sees, and with the help of exaggeration, you can emphasize the main or important action. The simple and usual movement may not seem attractive and can be given a tone with the help of exaggeration.


Solid drawing design


This rule generally refers to the ability to design a 3D character in a 2D space and give it weight, depth and balance. It has been very useful in traditional animation. A traditional animator must have the ability to draw a character well from any angle. Beautiful and original design is effective in attracting viewers. Having a good design means that the form, anatomy and shadows should be observed well. Animation becomes much more attractive due to exaggeration.

It is not necessary to follow all design rules, but for deconstruction, it is necessary to learn the basic principles of design. Gestures should be well designed according to the mood. The design is not only specific to the traditional method and also includes the design with software. In the design of poses, the line should pass through the whole body to integrate the pose.




Appropriate characterization and good design add to the appeal of the animation. In animation, animators use the rule of attraction to captivate the audience. Animation does not mean being beautiful in every way, but rather a clear visual design that attracts the attention of the audience. Attraction is the idea that makes your animations more interesting for the viewer to watch. It’s not just about being interesting for the main character. All sections should be interesting. The context, the main character, the villain and the story should have their own charm. You have to find your own style to make the animation more interesting.