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What Are the Different Types of Animation Art?

M.R. Anglin
M.R. Anglin

In general, animation art can be separated into three categories: pre-production art, production art, and post-production art. Pre-production art is art that was used in the development of a film or short, and production art was used in its making. Post-production animation art are those produced after the film or short was completed and were not used the making of it. Examples of pre-production and production art include original production cels, background art, storyboard art, animation drawings, and model sheets. Examples of post-production animation art are sericels, limited edition cels, publicity cels, and reproduction backgrounds.

Under the heading of pre-production and production animation art, which some may lump together as original animation art, may be several subcategories. For example, background art can be separated into key master set up and the original background. An original background is the painted art used to depict the setting in an animated film or short. A key master set up is the original background as well as any cel or cels that had been layered on top of it to produce an animation frame. Put together, the key master set up would represent a real frame in the final film or short.

A flower drawn by an animation artist.
A flower drawn by an animation artist.

Some other examples of background art are presentation backgrounds — also known as hand painted backgrounds — preliminary backgrounds, and reproduction backgrounds. Presentation backgrounds are post-production art created by a third party artist as a backdrop for a cel on display. Reproduction backgrounds are copies of the original backgrounds used in a film or short and are also considered post-production art. A preliminary background is a background made during production but not used in the final film or short.

Claymation is a form of animation art.
Claymation is a form of animation art.

Similarly, animation drawings can be separated into two subcategories: rough drawings and clean-up drawings. Rough drawings were drawn by an animator and show the character at key moments in the film. Clean-up drawings were those done by assistant animators. These assistants would take the rough drawing and create a cleaner version of it. The clean-up drawing was then used to create animation cels.

Some post-production animation art may have been created for a specific purpose. For example, publicity cels were given as gifts for publicity reasons, and limited edition and sericels have been created for collectors. Limited edition cels are cels that have been reproduced from original drawings and are released in a small number. Sericels are post-production cels made by the serigraphy, a process that applies each color on the cel via silk-screening. They are also made in a limited amount but are released in greater numbers that limited edition cels.

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Discussion Comments


@browncoat - I know if you go onto the Coraline website they have quite a lot of stuff about the making of it there and you can explore the fictional location at least.

I'm just glad they still make these kinds of films instead of relying completely on CGI. I was sorely disappointed by the decision to make Tangled that way instead of in the traditional animation style as they were originally going to do.


@clintflint - It probably helps that they see the film as the finished product rather than an individual scene. And they will often be able to make long lasting individual figures as well, since films often release various toys and models for sale.

It is magical how much work goes into it though. I always thought it was done on a fairly small scale until I saw a documentary about how they made Coraline. They had a massive stage with the entire setting made up at about one third size, so they could move the puppets from one place to another without having to swap around the background at all. I do wonder what they ended up doing with that set in the end. It would be cool if it was in a museum or something where kids could go see it.


It always astonishes me how much work must go into a claymation, particularly when you consider that it doesn't last. The characters have to be made to be moved, or they wouldn't be able to shoot them in a short amount of time, but making them so that they can move generally means using clay or something that won't stay in shape forever.

So every frame of a claymation movie is an intense exercise in art and sculpture that took hours to set up and will never be seen except in that split second on the screen.

I get upset if my mother throws out even a single painting I did in an afternoon as a kid. I don't know how those artists are able to do so much work for it to be routinely destroyed for the next shot.

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    • A flower drawn by an animation artist.
      By: lenka
      A flower drawn by an animation artist.
    • Claymation is a form of animation art.
      By: Yermashkevich Pavel
      Claymation is a form of animation art.