What Is Paper Cut Out Animation?

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What Is Paper Cut Out Animation?

There are many forms and variations of paper cut-out animation, which is among the oldest and simplest animation techniques. Fundamentally, paper cut-out animation consists of the construction of animations using 2-D characters, props, and scenes cut from materials such as card or paper (in some cases fabric and various other supplies). 

To achieve the illusion of movement, animators carefully divide characters into smaller pieces, assembling the pieces and moving each part in small steps, taking photographs at each frame. This, in time, creates the illusion of movement.

It is quite a challenge to direct lip movements of a character and have them coordinate seamlessly with the audio. Consequently, paper cut-out animation is commonly used for mimed or silent stories or those with a narrated voice to tell the tale.

If you are seeking animation that features voice-over or narration (as opposed to dialog and conversation between the characters themselves), paper cut-out animation may be one of the most practical routes to take since it is both engaging and inexpensive on a budget.

Meet Coco

Here is a (sorry – the cutest ever!!!!) example for paper cut out animation.

Katherine Mahong made this video inspired by her feelings of missing her dogs as she moved abroad to study. We love the attention to detail: particularly the eye and ear movements of Coco and the natural motion of the clouds in the sky.

How Do You Go About Making Your Own Paper Cut Out Animation?

You Will Need:

  • Cutting mat
  • A pad of bristol board
  • Gaffer’s tape
  • Scissors
  • A knife
  • Pencil
  • Thread
  • Paint, markers or material of choice for coloring your figures
  • Optional: pointed tools and pens

Step One: Sketching

Firstly, you need to sketch out your characters and props completely. It is important here to be consistent with sizing of the final version so that they can be repeatedly used as a template.  

After sketching the full version, draw each of the segments individually, giving the heads, arms, and legs overlap. It is a good idea to also create different angles of the character: front, back, and profile. This will allow your character to move around more dynamically.

Finally, make sure to color all the components, and please, get creative!

Note: sketching can be done by hand or on digital software such as Adobe Photoshop.

Step Two: Assembling

Connect the individual body parts to each other with pieces of aluminum wire. It’s important to make sure that the wire isn’t stronger than the glue used, or it will encourage wrinkling or tear in the paper upon animating. If you are using glue, avoid lumps at all costs.

Remember that segmentation of body parts must go even as far as facial features so that these too can be animated within the sequence.

Make sure the wire is secure to the paper parts, and place your character flat on the background.  

Step Three: Animating

This step can be closely compared to stop-motion animation. Make sure that the characters maintain their positions long enough so that the audience can convey their intentions and emotions.  

After this, you can then move your character frame by frame, following the famous principles, as coined by Disney animators Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas, of anticipationease in and out, and follow-through. You can read more about the 12 Principles of Animation in our article Animation Tips for Beginners and Beyond.

Make use of the initial sketches you made from different angles and transition between front view, back view, and profile view for a natural effect.

Wrapping Up

So there you have it! A simple step-by-step guide supplying you with the basics of paper-cut-out animation!

A long-winded process, we know. Creating this type of content for yourself can be tricky; Animation Explainers is here to help!

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