51 Great Animation Exercises to Master


Quickest way to improvement? Practice. It’s a simple bit of advice that rings with absolute truth. Articles, tips, mentors, and study will never get you as far as rolling up your sleeves and getting down to work, be it animation or any other skill. Today we’ve compiled a list of exercises, like animation push-ups, that will get your art skills buff and toned.

Maybe you still need convinced of how important the “Art of Doing” is? Look no further than the early days of animation, especially at the Disney studio. Here were a group of animators (before being an animator was even a thing) who HAD no books to read, or websites to visit, or even experienced animators to ask. They learned via the age old art of hands-on training, experimenting and discovering as they went. And some would argue they created some of the greatest animation to ever be seen. Masterpieces like the dwarfs dancing in Snow White or the terror of the Monstro scene in Pinocchio. So be like them! Get out there and do animation!


Some of these exercises you may have done or seen before; some maybe not. Consider doing each of them, even if you did once previously, because returning to an old exercise to see how much you’ve progressed is a very valuable experience.

Level 1 Exercises

(Do not discount their simplicity! Here you have the principals of animation, which all other animation is built on. They are worth your time and effort.)

  1. Ball Bouncing in place, no decay (loop)
  2. Ball Bouncing across the screen
  3. Brick falling from a shelf onto the ground
  4. Simple character head turn
  5. Character head turn with anticipation
  6. Character blinking
  7. Character thinking [tougher than it sounds!]
  8. Flour Sack waving (loop)
  9. Flour Sack jumping
  10. Flour Sack falling (loop or hitting the ground)
  11. Flour Sack kicking a ball

Level 2 Exercises

  1. Change in Character emotion (happy to sad, sad to angry, etc.)
  2. Character jumping over a gap
  3. Standing up (from a chair)
  4. Walk Cycle [oldie but goodie!]
  5. Character on a pogo stick (loop)
  6. Laughing
  7. Sneezing
  8. Reaching for an object on a shelf overhead
  9. Quick motion smear/blur
  10. Taking a deep breath [also tougher than it sounds!]
  11. A tree falling
  12. Character being hit by something simple (ball, brick, book)
  13. Run Cycle

Level 3 Exercises

  1. Close up of open hand closing into fist
  2. Close up of hand picking up a small object
  3. Character lifting a heavy object (with purpose!)
  4. Overlapping action (puffy hair, floppy ears, tail)
  5. Character painting
  6. Hammering a nail
  7. Stirring a soup pot and tasting from a spoon
  8. Character blowing up a balloon
  9. Character juggling (loop)
  10. Scared character peering around a corner
  11. Starting to say something but unsure of how
  12. Zipping up a jacket
  13. Licking and sealing an envelope
  14. Standing up (from the ground)
  15. Pressing an elevator button and waiting for it

Level 4 Exercises

  1. Character eating a cupcake
  2. Object falling into a body of water
  3. Two characters playing tug-of-war
  4. Character dealing a deck of cards out
  5. The full process of brushing one’s teeth
  6. A single piece of paper dropping through the air
  7. Run across screen with change in direction
  8. Sleeping character startled by alarm then returning to sleepy state
  9. Opening a cupboard and removing something inside
  10. Putting on a pair of pants
  11. Opening the “world’s best gift” and reacting
  12. Any of the above exercises using a very heavy character/object next to a very light character/object. Enhance the differences the weight change makes!

Things to keep in mind:

  • Reading these exercises will do as much for you as reading about push-ups would do for your physical muscles: NOTHING. If you want the benefit, you must animate them. Take a deep breath and just do it.

 

  • Do not forget the famous words of Ollie Johnston: “You’re not supposed to animate drawings [3D models]. You’re supposed to animate feelings.” If a character isn’t thinking, they aren’t alive, and the animation has failed.

 

  • Keep it simple! There is no reason to over complicate any of these exercises. Going back to push-ups, would push-ups be harder if while doing them you also recited the Gettysburg Address? Yes. Would they be any more beneficial? No. Keep things nice and simple and clear.

 

  • Do your best. There is no reason to do these exercises poorly. Give it your all. You don’t have to show anyone, these are for you. You owe it to yourself to try your very best. Something not quite right? Take the time to fix it.

 

  • As always, have fun. Push ups are not fun. Animation is supposed to be. Be joyful in your work!

Have any questions about the exercises above? Leave a comment below and we’ll answer them the best we can! Someone else may be wondering the exact same thing, so you’ll help them too. Likewise if someone is looking for possible exercises, why not share a link to these and give them a hand?

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ZZDas
Guest

Amazing list…and tough too..
It’s well organized, i was hoping to find more words to put here but you’re danm right: I must start doing them instead..
[saved and printed]

Peter
Guest
Peter

Great list! And really great example for “not sure what to say”. You should do more of the animated examples like that.

jeffO
Guest
jeffO

Nice list, lot of good ones on there. Did you get some from the 11 second club?

Earl Vespiti
Guest
Earl Vespiti

thanks for the article. Really Cool.

kboogie2323
Member

Totally awesome, and totally gonna be done!!

Rayk
Guest

This is just what i needed! Challenge accepted!
i’ll try to complete the entire list, and post every exercise on this blog http://animacaco.tumblr.com/

Josh
Guest
Josh

Thank you ever so for your article. Really looking forward to reading more. Keep writing.

Jeca
Guest

Just found your website and I’m obsessing over it. I love the articles you post!

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[…] animator workout was posted on Animator Island the other day and I’m all over it. I’ve started doing them all 2D not sure if […]

Chris
Guest
Chris

THANK YOU FOR THIS LIST!!

I always have such a hard time starting on a new test. I end up making it too long and complicated. I am going to do every test on here and push my skills. I will post them on Youtube and send a link when I get started

MUCH APPRECIATED!

fast man
Guest
fast man

I truly have to ponder just how useful doing such simple things can be. If one wants to be a professional animator at the likes of Pixar or Dreamworks or Lucasfilm we will be doing much more complex items than just bouncing balls or brushing teeth (when was the last time anyone in a film brushed their teeth!) Instead rather you should practice complex exercises copied directly from actual films so that you will be prepared for the real world. These are all silly school exercises and school is nothing like the industry I think. You never see a bouncing… Read more »

Jonah Sidhom
Guest

They’re useful because you learn the basics and foundations of animation through varied and diverse forms of movement, not because you’re preparing because one day you *might* have to animate someone brushing their teeth.

And I can’t think of many bouncing balls in films, besides maybe Toy Story, but that’s not the point. The point is that the principles behind the bouncing ball are applied to many different forms of movement, such as walks. They are not in the same form, obviously, but the same principles (squash and stretch, timing, spacing) are all there.

Peter
Guest
Peter

That is the stupidest thing ever. Copy movies because that is what you will be animating? When will you ever animate the exact same thing again? If you animate like Stitch dressed up as Elvis playing guitar you will never use that again becauses every character is totally different! That is why like they are saying you need to know the principals not just only be able to animate a few scenes and nothing else!

Syvvie
Guest
Syvvie

How can they be useful? I will say something that is not to be taken as gloating but for credibilaty. As an animator i make sure to take all opportunities to make myself better at the craft. Ive taken a Pixar Masterclass taught by Andrew Gordon and Matthew Luhn. Ive gone to the Pixar benefit where me and a good friend got incredible advice from Mark Walsh and Ronnie Del Carmen. Currently I am taking animation workshops taught by the animators from disney such as Michael Woodside and Marlon Nowe. Guess what? they all said what is said right in… Read more »

Suze
Guest
Suze

When I saw the link to this page I thought it was going to show me how to do it. How to animate a ball bouncing.

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[…] colleague of mine pointed me to this article, a collection of animation exercises to work on and improve with. I will be updating this page with […]

Dr. B
Guest
Dr. B

The whole community is thankful to you I’m sure! Good to see so many exercises in one spot. Look forward to seeing more.

Prince Charming
Guest
Prince Charming

It never fails to astound me just how lacking people are in practice so having this number of exercises is invaluable to all. As you said now we must simply complete them. Otherwise it will all be fornot.

hunter
Guest
hunter

great list, thanks

pika pii
Guest
pika pii

I’m really inspired along with your writing abilities and also with all the huge list of exercises. Keep up the nice high quality writing, it’s rare .

na syra
Guest
na syra

This should be in a published book!

Chorizo
Guest
Chorizo

Excellent list. Already passed on to my students.

Another one – a little complex, but involves timing, spacing, acting, thinking character, etc: A walk across screen where the pacing changes. For example: moderate walk pace, then a pause for a thought or glance at a text on a phone, slow walk as the thought is processed or the text is read, then a faster walk offscreen as the thought is completed or as a reaction to what the text message said. Three different walks, and transitions between for thinking time. Have at it! :0)

Jess
Guest
Jess

Brilliant thanks! I’ll get on these straight away! Looking forward to the challenges.

Jordan D.
Guest
Jordan D.

I appreciate you sharing this post. Really great.

corny cal
Guest
corny cal

An intriguing list is definitely worth comment. Time to get animating!

Noxmoony
Member

Woah this list is AWESOME! Time to get crackin! Thanks for the list! 😀

acme
Guest
acme

I love your blog.

Surly
Guest
Surly

Bookmarked!! I really like your website!

mhauss
Guest

This is my first try… when you begin it you can’t stop…
and when you finish you just want to retry…
here is:
https://vimeo.com/mhauss/videos

Thank you “anyway” Mr. J.K. Riki

John H.
Guest
John H.

I’m amazed, I have to admit. I am very happy I stumbled across this in my hunt for animation excersizes!

Krystin
Guest
Krystin

Very good list, thank you for posting it.

CHRIS
Guest
CHRIS

Friend linked me to this. Fantastic set of exercises, many thanks.

Yu
Guest

This is awesome, I’m gonna try do every one of them.

Russ
Guest
Russ

Fantástico!

neetereto
Guest
neetereto

Great list, thanks a lot.

Regine
Guest

Thank you for posting this list! I found this through the ASIFA group on linkedin.com

I’m going to do every one of this exercises and hopefully I’ll improve.

Dan Garcia
Guest
Dan Garcia

Wonderful article! This is the kind of info that is meant to be shared around the web.
Thanks =)

Rifters55
Guest
Rifters55

Wow wow WOW this is good stuff!!! THANKS!

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

This is great. I’ve been having fun playing with these.
I started only ever attempting animation once or twice while at school so this is pretty new to me.
But with the combination of this list and this video( http://vimeo.com/80851591 ) I think i’ve made some okay progress.
Just about to start number 10/11(gonna try to combine them).

If anyone wants to have a look at what i’ve done so far you can check it out here:

http://www.aaronsfirststeps.tumblr.com

More than happy to receive any relevant feedback/criticism. 🙂

Thanks again for the list!

gilbert l.
Guest
gilbert l.

These are fantastic! I am going to try to do some right nwo.

ian chaffardet
Guest

Hey, I just want to let you know that a few of my friends and me are going to start the 51 exercises and we are going to share it with everybody in this blog http://animationfiftyone.blogspot.com/
Thanks for Such an awesome List.

Cassandra Brogan
Guest
Cassandra Brogan

That’s super cool Ian! I wish I had time to join you!!

rich
Guest
rich

These are terrific. Definitely going to try them all.

mark
Guest
mark

This list is genius! I am going to try some of them straight away.

Nicole
Guest

I think this is a really great list. I’ve done a lot of these as assignments in classes and I think they are really useful. The only thing is that I was interested in why in Level 1 you put the flour sack exercises after the character exercises. I would have thought the flour sack would have been better to start with as the inexperienced animator might choose a really complex character design to use and thus become overwhelmed by the exercise. The flour sack also has no face so that’s a few less things to think about when creating… Read more »

lina valdez
Guest
lina valdez

great

settingSuun
Guest
settingSuun

Hi there! I just wanted to say thank you for the great list of exercises. I am going to try them all! It will probably take a long time I am just learning.

Matt
Guest

Its a great post indeed. I like the kind of information provided here.

vijayan
Guest
vijayan

there is no exercises for fire,water,smoke.why?

Yue Shen
Guest
Yue Shen

I love what you guys are usually up too. This type of article exactly! Keep up the awesome works guys I’ve included you guys on our blogroll. 😉

Jones
Guest
Jones

I’m excited to get to work on this. And you chose good words of encouragement throughout! Might have to hang a few of these on the wall for later motivation (your name credited of course).
Thank you for sharing this with all of us 😀

Preston T.
Guest
Preston T.

In the grand pattern of life it’s details like this that make all the difference! Thank you for an excellent list, I will recommend it to every animator I know! Too often we don’t practice we just “create” and that is no good for us!

Hayden
Guest

How do I do these practices in Anime Studio Debut 10 software? And if I cant do it that way, is there a good way to do it on paper?