2D vs. 3D Animation: Which Is For You?

2D and 3D are the most common animations. Knowing the core differences between these two types is crucial if you want to develop a career in cartoon and anime animation.

This post will discuss the basics of 2D and 3D to provide more insights into their differences. Based on the information provided, you can determine which category is more suitable for your skills and preferences.

Continue reading, and we will show you.

What Is 2D Animation?

The art of creating the characters, FX, backgrounds, or creatures’ movements in two-dimensional space is 2D animation. Most famous cartoons such as Tom and Jerry use this animation style.

The moving animations you see on the screen are not really “moving.” They are just a sequence of individual and standing still pictures put together. These individual pictures are nearly the same, with a minor difference.

When the sequence is displayed at high speed, it creates the illusion that the images are really moving. In general, it needs up to 24 individual pictures just to create one second of 2D animation.

However, the number can vary based on the animation style. The more pictures or frames in one second, the smoother the animation becomes.

In the past, the artists and film creators used to draw pictures and put them in sequence. Nowadays, machines and tools are advanced enough to perform this task, helping save tremendous time and production costs.

An Example Of 2D Figures

What Is 3D Animation?

Similar to 2D, 3D animation is also the creation of moving images and figures, but they come in three dimensions. 3D animation typically involves three main processes: modeling, layout and animation, and rendering.

  • Modeling: This process generates the figures and objects by scanning the figures and objects in real life and putting them into the computer. You can also use special tools to model real objects.
  • Layout and animation: After the objects and figures are generated, the creators will put them in sequence and animated scenes using machines and software
  • Rendering: This is the last process that finishes the animated images and film. The creators use software to render and improve the animation’s quality (Making it more realistic and sharp, for example).

Unlike 2D Animation, which resorts to handwriting pictures, the 3D images are a sequence of machine-produced frames. The creators mainly resort to machines and software to perform all these processes.

An Example Of 3D Figures

Key Differences

The last section has covered the basic features of 2D and 3D animation. So if you decide to become an animator, which field should you focus on?

Here are some factors to consider when choosing between these two careers.


Our survey conducted in the US indicated that 2D and 3D animators make an average of about $63,970 per year. But the real numbers can range between $36,930 and $113,600.

The 2D animators and artists earn around $40,000 to $128,000, making an average of about $79,695 annually. Meanwhile, the 3D animators earn slightly higher on average, which is about $87,606 on average.

However, the more noticeable thing is the range of salary a medium and top 3D animator could make. If you are at the top of the fields, you can earn up to $250,550. Meanwhile, the lowest salary point ranges between $44,000.

In general, 3D animators still earn significantly higher salaries than 2D artists, even if they just possess average skills. If you are at the top of the field, 3D animating is a much more lucrative profession.

Job Opportunities

As a 2D artist and creator, you can create animated characters and storyboards to tell the stories. In addition, 2D artists can create two-dimensional effects for cartoons, films, advertisements, and video games.

You can choose to work freelance or join an animating team. Some career options to consider are working for motion pictures, video studios, or a marketing agency.

A 3D creator can sometimes perform the task and work of a 2D animator. Some career options are 2D and 3D design and modeling, animator, or game designer.


2D animation is easier. However, it depends mainly on the tasks and works the animators do. Don’t expect the workload will reduce working as a 2D animator.

To draw the 2D frames and background, it takes equal or not more time and effort to create the 3D animations. In addition, you have to possess the great hand-drawing ability, so not everyone can become a 2D animator.

For 3D animation, machines, tools, and software handle every task and process. Therefore the workload will reduce, and you can save more time and effort.

After all, it boils down to your skills and work performance that decides the difficulty of a job. If you are efficient at the task, both 2D and 3D animating should be fairly easy.


A 2D animator needs to master various animating software and rendering tools such as Adobe After Effects and Photoshop, for example. Also, the ability to hand draw, use the computer to draw, and have a good sense of art is needed.

Depending on the work, the skills needed may vary. Besides the mentioned skills, you should be good at story-telling, communication skills, and visualizing.

As 3D animation involves mainly working with computers and tools, you don’t necessarily have to be good at hand drawing. Some popular tools are Autodesk Maya, Houdini, and Maxon.

You should possess extensive knowledge in the 3D space and some soft skills like communication, teamwork, visualizing, story-telling, and creativity.

Rendering Skill

Comparison table

2D Animation3D Animation
Skills– Animation software and rendering tools.
– Adobe After Effects and Photoshop.
– Hand drawing ability.
– Autodesk Maya, Houdini, and Maxon.
– Working with computers and tools
Job OpportunitiesWork for motion pictures, video studios, or marketing agencies2D and 3D designer and modeling, animator, or game designer.
DifficultyHand drawing is time-consuming and harderThe software can reduce the workload with higher costs.

Which Is For You?

If you are good at hand drawing, a career in 2D animation is more suitable as the demand is higher. It depends on your skills, job perspective, and preferences.

If you love using the software for animating and rendering, then 3D animation is ideal. We recommend you try out the jobs in two fields to make a better decision.

Thank you for reading!