Difference between 2-D and 3-D animation

The traditional way of presenting images as moving objects is manually painted on transparent sheets but after the evolution of 2D and 3D animation features, objects can be presented in movable sequence using CGI (Computer Generated Interface). Most of us have come across animated games in our childhood like Mario Games, South Park, Nick toons unite, etc. With the development of technology and more advancement in the animation domain, games that are designed in such a way it is made available on online platforms either free or paid versions.


Animations are used everywhere in the multimedia industry to make an image move according to the frame sequence. Disney characters are animated in the early stages when the animation industry started its journey in 1981 by Thomas and Johnston. This production has got a huge fan base and more Disney, cartoon characters are processed to present as animated series or movies on film channels. Animations play a major role not only in multimedia but also in gaming, education, marketing, etc.

2D Animation

This is also called the traditional method of creating animations with two dimensions as X and Y axis. Images are divided into frames, as 24 frames can be processed in one second. Images are presented as frames with one different from the next sequence that is viewed as the motion of different poses. Here flipping process develops the illusion of the images that are added to the frames.

As stated earlier, in the traditional method drawings are drawn or painted on plastic sheets that are transparently called cells, and images drawn on these sheets are combined into one and executed as 24 frames for one second.

In later years, advanced techniques are inbuilt into the software applications, to create the 2D animations and clustering images to the single unit can be done by the developer and this reduces the manual energy and time and is also cost-effective. This software is designed to support multiple platforms and provided services to developers as free or paid versions.

2D shapes drawn has no depth and consists of only length and width as flat representations in X and Y axis. A few examples of 2D representations are shapes like triangles, squares, circles, and polygons. All these shapes are drawn as an image with their specific properties of the area, angles, perimeter, etc.

3D Animation

As the name, 3D animations use X, Y, and Z axis as three dimensions. These pictures have length, width, and height so the characters or objects can be moved into 3D space with some depth value. Images can be rotated in 360 degrees and each image that is modeled as a 3D image are as considered an object. So, animators can perform advanced options like lighting, shadow, texture effects, etc. to add liveliness to the video objects.

Examples of 3D shapes are spheres, pyramids, cones, prism, and cylinders.

The table below defines the major differences between 2D and 3D animation

Basis of Difference

2D Animation

3D Animation


Objects are in form of two dimensions as X and Y axis.

Objects have 3 dimensions X, Y, and Z axis.


The flat image depends on frames.

Looks like a realistic image and is animated as movements.

Implementation methods

Uses traditional methods (painting and sketching) and now software for rendering.

Uses sketching, modeling, vector representation, texturing, wrapping, etc.


Lower when compared to 3D.

Higher cost than 2D applications.

Software features

2D application software has fewer features so can be learned easily by the animator.

Advanced features like texture, lighting, shadowing, etc are added to make objects livelier and this takes more time to become an expert in 3D modeling.

Creation time

Needs less time as the application supports minimal features.

Takes more time to create, animate, specify transition effects, and execute.

Used for

Presentations, online marketing platforms, commercial websites, advertisements, etc.

TV shows, Cartoons, video games, Disney movies, etc.

Software’s used

Adobe Photoshop, PicsArt, Toon Boom Studio

Blender, Daz Studio, ZBrush, Autodesk Maya

Few popular examples

Looney Toons, The Lion King, Jungle Book, Super Mario games, etc.

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Toy Story, Call of Duty, and much more


2D has two dimensions (X and Y axis) with a flat appearance, where images can be drawn or painted at a faster rate of 24 frames per second. 3D supports three dimensions (X, Y, and Z axis) with objects that look realistic and can be viewed from different angles, and advanced features can be added.

When there is confusion on which type of animation to choose to build movies, games, TV shows, online marketing, etc. then a few factors to be considered like who are the target audiences and how frequently they usage, the skill set of the developer, and an affordable budget to buy free or paid animation software.

People who are artistic towards the work choose 2D as they love to sketch or paint each frame of the image and technical persons go for 3D animations to examine each property of the object.

In some cases, both 2D and 3D animations can be combined using professional paid software available in the market to add more features to the project.

Updated on: 14-Apr-2023


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