How to Make Animated Cartoons

by Contributor

You can make animated cartoons by casting finger shadows on walls or with any number of animation software programs; the approach is fundamentally the same no matter which route you take.

Plan your animation. You can sketch out a few ideas, but most animators begin with a storyboard. A storyboard is a series of drawings that depict the basic scenes and visual transitions in the animation.

Sketch your characters. Most animators sketch their characters in a variety of views, most often full figure, profile and three-quarter profile. You can work with a figure model if accuracy is important. These will be the basis for your animated drawings.

Write any dialogue. You never want to wing dialog, especially if you will be lip-synching to your characters. Keep the word count as short as possible. The fewer the words, the easier the animation.

Draw your animation frames. You can create your images in most animation software, or import them from graphics programs like Photoshop. Begin with background (or matte) drawings that are used over and over. Add your characters and moving objects on separate layers.

Record your dialogue with a sound editor. You will need to import the files into your animation software and cue them to the animation frames.

Export your animation to a format that can play back from a CD-ROM or on the web.


  • check If this is your first animation, start simply with one or two characters, a simple plot and little or no dialogue. As your skills improve, add complexity.
  • check Study lip-synching. Some programs, such as Poser, have lip synching capabilities built in, but others will require you to draw mouth shapes to match vowel shapes. You can create the mouth shapes on a separate layer and synch them manually to the sound track.
  • check Most animation programs allow you to tween, or generate in-between frames from key frames that define an objects shape or position. This allows you to save time by not drawing every single animation cell by hand.

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