Thanks to their versatility and reliability as effective marketing tools, animated video explainers have gained a ton of popularity over the past few years. So, it’s hardly surprising that artists and designers regularly working with this type of content have honed a handful of animation techniques that pair exceptionally well with explainers.
However, different types of explainer videos can benefit more from some styles than others, so it’s worth understanding various animation styles to choose the best one for your project.
In this guide, we’ll unlock the secrets of some of the most experienced video production studios to take a closer look at several of these styles, explore what makes them unique, and how they synergize with the different types of explainer videos you’ll come across.
Here’s why you’ll want to use animation in your explainer videos
By and large, most businesses and content creators use animation to capture their audience’s attention and stand out among other forms of content. But beyond just being visually appealing, animated content offers unique advantages.
- Animated videos can provide an effective way to attract viewers. Colorful, moving visuals, interesting characters, and dynamic transitions are eye-catching and interest-grabbing, compelling users to watch.
- There’s a certain freedom to animation that live-action productions usually make cost-prohibitive. With animation, you can make your characters fly, dance, or travel through time and space without impacting your bottom line. Moreover, this versatility can also help you make complex and intricate matters easy to understand.
- Lively animated characters can trigger strong emotions in viewers because they can be designed to be easy to relate to. You can add them to create a unique atmosphere that appeals to the emotional side of your audience and makes it easier to engage them on a personal level.
8 animation styles that you want to consider for your next explainer video:
Explainers can benefit from any number of animation styles, as different projects, products, and brand aesthetics will mesh better with some styles than others. Today, we’ll focus on the ones that have proven to consistently synergize well with this type of content across multiple niches and styles.
1. 2D animation
2D animation is the art of creating movement using characters, backgrounds, and special effects drawn in a two-dimensional space.
This style doesn’t require too much production time or cost, but it can feel a bit static. Actions like a car rolling or characters making intricate movements are hard to produce because you need to redraw them from several angles.
To overcome this disadvantage, 2D explainers rely on storytelling. While other styles can be visually impressive, this technique is about using your characters, objects, and the backgrounds they’re placed in to convey meaningful messages.
2. 2.5D animation
This trending design style is all about layering 2D objects and implementing visual effects and animations that provide the illusion of three dimensions in an otherwise bidimensional composition.
The most complicated step in the 2.5D animation process is breaking the layers of your scenes apart and working with effects and perspectives to simulate 3D assets without coming across as jarring.
It can take a lot of time to work with this style, but in the end, you can create visually interesting pieces that use these assets as the focal point of attention, which can help you to emphasize certain products or characters.
3. Motion graphics
Motion graphics compositions are achieved by taking text, simple shapes, and other static elements and adding movement to them. UX and brand design principles take advantage of this animation technique to bring layouts in websites and apps to life and build better interface experiences.
The hardest aspect of animating elements like shapes and grids is that you have no natural references to follow. In other types of animation like 2D, for example, you can look for inspiration in real life to decide how your characters move. This style, however, tends to lean toward abstractions.
A good practice when working with the motion graphics style is to draw inspiration from different types of movements, accelerations, and speeds in nature—like the flow of water and the effects of the wind on an object—as these interactions will help you animate static elements in more natural and visually interesting ways.
4. Kinetic typography
The Kinetic Typography animation style is about adding movement to text, making it more attractive and entertaining.
By manipulating typography, you can emphasize the most important parts of a text or play with your reader’s attention. That said, you have to be sensitive with the way you animate, as viewers should be able to read these messages with ease.
Keep those who have color sensitivity or other disabilities in mind. Kinetic typography should be used as a way to highlight elements without distracting readers from the core usability of your designs.
5. Whiteboard animation
Whiteboard animation is a popular style that revolves around showing images being drawn on the screen and how they change and progress to build a fluid visual narrative. It’s also a widely used style in educational explainer videos, as it helps to convey complex ideas to viewers.
Given the whiteboard’s limited visuals, your explainer’s script and voiceover must go above and beyond to engage your viewers by synergizing your animations with the described actions and concepts.
Plan the pace and tone of your story and make sure the flow of illustrations feels natural without making it too much for the viewer to handle or leaving them waiting for the next thing.
6. Isometric perspective animation
The isometric perspective illustrates interiors, exteriors, and objects from a 3D viewpoint, making viewers feel like they’re looking down at objects from an elevated corner. This style allows you to see the intricacies of an environment, but it can be tricky to animate when you add dynamic characters.
Everything in the foreground has to be scaled in perspective, or it will result in a distorted appearance. To avoid that, a common practice is to animate characters and dynamic objects in 3D space, as it’s easier to adjust their perspective. Making a 3D model will take more time upfront, but it will save effort when placing your objects in the background.
7. Stop-motion animation
Stop-motion videos are achieved by capturing images of an object while making small movements, one frame at a time. When the series of images is quickly played back, the objects or characters seem to move on their own. This relatively low-budget technique can result in creative, original 3D productions without having to break the bank.
The downside here is that it can be very time-consuming to work with this style, as you have to carefully move your objects and take shots of each frame, and it requires painstaking attention to detail. That said, the right tools can make this job easier, like DSLR cameras, which come with a live view that allows you to see a preview of the animation as you go.
8. 3D animation
You can achieve this animation technique by creating 3D models that animate in a three-dimensional environment.
The software needed to create 3D animation is usually both costly and difficult to master, and once you’ve gotten the hang of how to do it, the process is also extremely time-consuming. Finding the program that fits your specific needs can be a way to save time.
If you’re looking for a tool that lets you control details to create emotive characters that audiences identify with, you can go for Adobe Character Animator. Meanwhile, if your focus is on high-quality FX effects, then Autodesk Maya can be a better choice.
Finding a style that suits your video’s goals
As we went over, computer software has broadened the possibilities for animation. When your imagination is the only limit, it can be daunting to figure out the right technique for your project.
Here are some questions to ask yourself in order to narrow down the right style for your animated explainers.
- Who is watching? Knowing who you’re trying to appeal to is key to making effective animations. Take some time to browse through different websites and social media accounts and find out what type of landing page design your target audience enjoys and responds to.
- What’s your budget? An animated video’s cost usually averages anywhere between $7,000 and $15,000, but if you choose complicated and time-consuming techniques, like 3D animation, that price may go up.
- How much time do you have? Are you working under pressure to complete tasks before a product launch? If so, you should stick with 2D computer animation or a whiteboard explainer. Frame-by-frame animation styles like Stop-Motion and 3D animation can take up to months to complete.
Diving into the world of explainer video animations is challenging, with all the different styles, visual techniques, and practices. But as you can see, each has its particular benefits and challenges, and understanding them will make the job easier.
It all comes down to what you or your clients need for their projects!
Different types of explainers might benefit more from one style or another, so it’s up to you to learn about them all and figure out the right tool for each job. Hopefully, by reading this far, you’ve found some inspiration on the styles that can help you the most and are much better equipped to do just that!