2D VS 3D Animation: How Can You Choose Between the Two?

If I play an episode of Tom and Jerry right now, would you sit and watch? If yes, you’ve seen more of 2D vs 3D animation. Most cartoon shows that we saw, from Mickey Mouse to Pokémon, all were 2D animation.

However, we’ve also seen a lot of 3D as that’s a lot more in use right now. In fact, a lot of 2Ds has been remade in 3D and worked really well.

Now, are these cartoons all that you’ve seen in animation? Think about it, what would you say for a movie like Transformers or the Chronicles of Narnia?

Machines and animals don’t talk, we all know that! This leads to a very basic question:

What is animation, if not the look and feel of a cartoon character?

Any object that exists in front of you is either still or animated. That’s where the word “animation” comes from: Making an object move. That object could be an animal, a machine, a tree or a human. In fact, just anything.

Even making a person stand still and talk is animation. That’s because the lips are moving. So, animation involves creating an object and making it move. Whether you make it look realistic or not, depends on your agenda.

2D VS 3D Animation: Examples from Films, Shows, Ads, and Games You Know

Before we get into the theory, let’s give you a more practical example of the two types of animation. Even if you’re a little kid, you HAVE SEEN BOTH.


There are some evergreen characters and shows that the world can’t stop watching. They’re made again and again as technology evolves. Apart from that, you have commercial ads and games that use animation too. We’ll give you a glimpse of both in all the 4 applications:


2D: It’s not that just the older animated films use 2D animation. Plenty of newer films have them too. Examples are The Illusionist, Paperman and The Princess & The Frog. The older ones include Aladdin, Pinocchio and Sleeping Beauty.

3D: Not just the most recent ones have 3D animation. They started airing first in 1995 with Toy Story. Other examples of famous 3D animated films include Kungfu Panda, Coco, Inside Out and Zootopia.

Both: How many versions of the Jungle Book have you seen? The first film came out in 1967, which was obviously 2D. The latest remake came out in 2016 which was a realistic 3D. More such examples include Beauty and the Beast, Tarzan and Lion King.

Cartoon Shows

2D: From the classic shows like Tom and Jerry, Scooby Doo, Powerpuff Girls and Ben 10 to the most modern ones like Doremon and SpongeBob, 2D animation doesn’t fade for cartoons.

3D: Some of the newer cartoons on TV are using 3D animation such as Star Wars, Sonic Boom and Space Racers.

Both: Mickey Mouse began the era of cartoons, right back in 1928. While that was obviously 2D, Disney channel also aired Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in 2006 which was 3D animation.

Commercial Ads

2D: Brands like Slack, Mastercard, Airbnb, Sunfeast, Glucon D and Amul have some amazing ads which people still remember – all in 2D animation.

3D: Brands like Appy Fizz, Vodafone, Fanta, Apple, Chevrolet and Motorola have used 3D animation; some in the form of cartoon while some giving a completely realistic effect.

Both: Brands like Monopoly, Mc Donald’s and 7up have used both; either in separate ads or combined in one.


2D: Some of the classic games you’ve played such as Snake, Bounce, Down the Rabbit Hole, Paper and Travel Portland were completely made with 2D.

3D: The modern video games like PubG, Temple Run, PlayStation games and Star Wars are made completely in a 3D animation software.

Both: Farmville released in 2009 as a sensation on Facebook. While the entire layout was in a 3D set-up, the actual farmer was a 2D character. More such games include Slipstream, Pokémon Black and White 2 and Drew and the Floating Labyrinth.

If this confuses you, let’s get to the theories to clarify.

What is 2D Animation?

2D refers to 2-dimensional. So, 2D animation is about moving a 2-dimensional character by drawing each and every second of its movement. Earlier, it was way tougher as pen and paper were used for doing so. Now, drawings are made in computer and animated using 2D animation software. Let’s see how it works.

2D Animation: Process of Going About It

You don’t have to draw each and every second of the scene now. Computers allow you to set a “keyframe” where you define the main movement. A keyframe defines the main movement while the other frames define the process of it.

  • The cartoonist plans the story: the characters, set-up, and movements.
  • He draws the beginning of the scene in the first keyframe.
  • Then, he moves to the next keyframe, where he changes the position of the character(s).
  • He continues the above until the scene is complete.
  • At last, he sets the time span between each keyframe, which automatically creates an image of the frames in between.
  • On testing, he checks if he got the desired speed of movement.
  • At last, he adds sound.

What is a 3D Animation?

3D is 3-dimensional: length, width, and depth. A lot more realistic than 2D, this type of animation creates a real space with 3D characters that can move around. You draw it once, then all you have to do is make it move.

How does it work?

There is plenty of 3D animation software which is used for films, games, and ads. Though they all have different features and ease of use, the basic working is common:

  • The artist creates the character(s) first.
  • Next, he creates the background set-up.
  • He gives color or texture to every object.
  • There is an option of adding light here too.
  • In every keyframe, he moves the object and adjusts the light.
  • He sets the speed to define the rest of the frames.
  • Then, he checks the speed and rectifies errors.
  • In the end, he adds sound.

What are the Differences Between 2D and 3D Animation?

Of course, the basic difference lies in dimension. While 2D has flat objects, 3D is a real one.  There are more differences in working:

2D Animation

3D Animation

You have to redraw the same character to show a different side.All sides are made in one go.
It can be done on both paper and computer.It can only be done on a computer.
You’ll find an outline on the character that says it’s a 2D.You’ll find a realistic dimension to the character to say it’s a 3D.
Today, it is mostly used in commercial videos.It’s used in almost every field apart from films and games, such as architecture.


What is Better: 2D or 3D Animation?

In order to decide that, we need to look at the pros and cons of both. Let’s start comparing.

Benefits of 2D Against Drawbacks of 3D

  • Cost of production: 2D is cheaper than 3D as it requires lesser skills.
  • Simplicity: It’s way easier to use 2D than 3D in terms of designing and control.
  • Innovation: Reality can be shot in the real world. When we animate, the creativity and the feel of a cartoon come with 2D. 3D has limitations here.
  • Time: 2D takes lesser time than 3D, particularly after computer software has helped out.
  • Focus: Priority is given to the character in 2D while in 3D you’ll end up focusing on showing off your set-up.

Benefits of 3D Against Drawbacks of 2D

  • Quality: Being the newer technology, 3D has way better picture quality than 2D.
  • Time: In a way, 3D saves time by not needing to create the same character for its different sides again and again unlike in 2D.
  • Re-use: The space created in 3D can be used multiple times after creating it once. For example, Kung Fu Panda has 3 films where the same spaces were used for a lot of different scenes. It takes longer with 2D animation has different dimensions are created again and again.
  • Ease of movement: Your character and set-up are made once in 3D. Then all you have to do is move. In 2D, you tend to draw a lot so it becomes difficult to work with more complex movements.
  • Scope: 3d has way better scope due to the size of space it can work upon and the feel it creates. Once the creation is done, you get to show everything.

2D and 3D Animation Together

Both animations have their own pros and cons. In the end, both are equally useful. Some characters have a better feel in 2D, like Tom and Jerry. If you make it move in a 3D space, imagine how much you’ll enjoy watching it.

Choosing between 2D vs 3D animation is really dependent on what you want to focus on and your budget to an extent. In the end, your audience needs to enjoy it. Isn’t it?

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