cut out animation

What Is Cut Out Animation & Is It Effective?

Cut-out animation is not only one of the oldest but arguably the simplest of all animation techniques.  

In this article, we take a closer look at the concept of cut-out animation: a technique where pre-cut elements of the intended shape are moved frame-by-frame to allude to movement. The cuttings are usually from cards, paper, fabric, or even photographs.  

The pieces are cut out and used as puppets for stop-motion, with each piece divided into however many elements are needed to animate the object. 

When it comes to adding depth and complexity to this type of animation, figures are often depicted with joints consisting of a rivet, pin, or anchor when designed and simulated on a computer. These connect as mechanical links to create the subsequent effect of motion. Each body part corresponds to an independent piece that can usually be found at a pivot point. The pivot points must correspond with the natural motion of the body.

Let’s use an example: if you were looking to animate your character’s hand, the motion should follow the forearm, which should follow the arm connected to the shoulder. Ensure that this is the case to maintain logic and realism within your animation.

Each individual movement is subsequently captured on a single image taken by a camera. The collation of each motion creates the illusion of movement.

This humble technique can find its roots in shadow puppetry, an ancient form of storytelling that uses flat cut-out figures held between a light and a transparent screen. The difference here is that stop motion replaces the physically mechanical handling of the puppets. However, the use of silhouette style within cut-out animation is a key similarity between the two styles.

A Pioneer Of Cut Out Animation

Introducing… Lotte Reiniger!

In 1919, Charlotte’ Lotte’ Reiniger began to produce several short films surrounding the medium of cut-out silhouettes. Named after the black on white material she used to create otherworldly shadow effects deemed as mysterious, experimental, and innovative in her time. Reiniger’s first film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, makes shrewd use of animation to expose feats that could not be achieved in the real world. 

Cut Out Meets The Digital Age

Like any other artform, animation has highly adapted to our modern world of technology over the last few years. Ironically, cut-out animation is one of the few techniques within the medium that has changed very little with the times. Despite its old roots, filmmakers remain inspired by Reiniger’s quirky approach. Even in today’s advanced world of art and design, cut-out is still considered an excellent method for new animators, to begin with, due to its simplicity and effectiveness.

A prominent example can be found in Director Terry Gillam’s preference for animated inputs and sequences across all the Monty Python films. Gillam was accustomed to the otherworldly layer effect that cut-out animation imparted to his films.

Of course, there is one difference: the puppet figures are animated digitally on a computer software system, with the pivot points designed in 2D or 3D space and subsequent rotations automatically programmed by the software. This process is defined as Tweening Animation.  

Not only does this production technique save multitudes of money and time, but it offers up a specific style. Such can be found in the digital cut-out animation TV series South Park.

South Park is composed of controversial humor, an off-putting concept to many potential viewers. Though lots are likely also turned off by the limits presented in the animation style.

It might be an idea to hybridize multiple animation techniques with cut-out animation to really engage your viewers. This means you can find a happy medium between the limitations presented by cut-out and the advanced process of 2D or 3D animation.

Could Your Business Benefit From Cut Out Animation?

We should examine cut-out animation’s advantages and disadvantages to help shape your decision into whether you think it would be a suitable choice for your brand.


Here we have outlined some advantages of cut-out animation below for your reading pleasure:

Engaging & attractive

Cut-out animation with silhouettes is undoubtedly one of the most charming and jovial types of animation and is particularly engaging with children. It is a medium that is highly accessible. It is sure to put a smile on the face of your audience.

Fun Fun Fun!

Never mind the audience! Let’s not forget that whatever your age, creating moving images with the stop motion technique is satisfying as well as downright fun. 

Fans of crafts will simply thrive with this technique.

Simple stories can be brought to life

Cut-out animation can be a compelling way to communicate your story and bring it to life. Being able to design the cut-outs yourself is a personal touch. This allows the freedom of your imagination to be conveyed in a moving image by the final product. 


The most significant advantage of cut-out animation, especially for a solo animator, is that it requires far fewer drawings than full-scale cel animation. The animator can even use a single drawing, cut into pieces, to represent movement that would otherwise require hundreds of cels. 


Cut-out animation is so simple that it is often used for art projects with children as young as 3 years old! This means that the process has become a very popular form of animation included in educational curriculums for younger children. Combining the traditional art and crafts style seen in all schools with animation takes creativity to a new level. Teachers can combine art and digital in a creative and accessible way. All you need is some colored paper or card, scissors, a webcam and stand, some stop motion software, and, of course, your imagination.


Amongst all of the positives, this animation, like others, comes with its own drawbacks:

Tediously time-consuming

As with any form of animation, the length of the cut-out process is heavily based upon the intricacy of the design, the level of detail required, as well as the length of the intended finished product.

However, this process requires you to not only draw but segregate and organize each piece one by one. This, to many people who value their time, is nothing short of a terribly laborious endeavor. To nail traditional cut-out animation technique, you must be prepared to put in some time and effort.

You must have drawing skills 

It’s one thing to animate 2D characters, but another thing altogether to animate a cut-out paper.

As with any form of animating, the more advanced your skills in design are, the better the results. 

If you aren’t Picasso, that’s ok. It may be beneficial to outsource an artist. From their sketches, you can assemble the pieces and create the final product.

The animation is rigid and basic

By only animating your characters around the pivot points, they will most likely remain relatively static and always be seen from the same angle and POV.

In basic animation forms such as Cutout, you must really get your creative juices flowing in order to bring your characters alive.  

Wrapping Up

Cut-out animation can be a simple way to keep your animation budget down. While using unconventional styles to really make your project pop. Despite its simplicity, do not underestimate its quirky ability to tell a story.

We hope that this article has only just begun to pique your interest into the realms of possibility in the world of animation.  

Are you looking for help with your animation project?  Schedule a call today!

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