Which is harder 3D or 2D?

Have you ever wondered what kind of animation is more difficult to create? Is it 3D or 2D? You’re not alone if you’ve ever asked this question. Many people who want to start learning how to make animations often ask this question. 

In this article, you’ll learn about what it takes to create animations in 3D and 2D. You’ll also learn which of these methods is harder. 

First, let’s begin with the basics. 

What is 2D animation? 

Do you remember The Little Mermaid? Or Snow White and the Seven Dwarves? Or Rick and Morty? You do? Great. Those animated movies or cartoons are creations from 2D animation. 

2D animations are widely known for creating characters and movements in a two-dimensional space – with only height and width. 

The process of creating characters in 2D involves making individual drawings that are layered on top of each other over time. Before, it was not uncommon to see animators use pencil and paper to create these 2D animations. However, with the advance in technology, animators can now use software and other digital means to create characters and movements that still have a 2D feel. 

What is 3D animation? 

3D animations made its big break on big screens around the world with the release of the Toy Story animated movie. Since then, other movies have been created, and even video games have been made with 3D animations. 

3D animation is the technique of creating motion in characters and bringing them to life. This time, the animation involves more than the height and width. 

With this kind of animation, animators need to create a framework or character skeleton that allows any 3D object they create to integrate seamlessly into the world around them. This framework usually involves character height, weight, and even bone size. 

Having this framework is an important part of a 3D animator’s work. This is so because, without it, their characters might feel out of place. Thorough research is carried out to make sure that the created characters move, pose, and look like their real-life counterparts. 

Along with the framework, 3D artists also need to take into account other external elements that make up the animated movie. These elements include backgrounds (like the sky or buildings), special effects (like explosions, dust, and water splash), and also lighting. 

What makes 3D different from 2D animations? 

Generally, 2D animations are more time-consuming and complicated than 3D animations. Why? This is because, in the case of 2D animations, creators/animators need to make a frame by frame drawing. Most times, these drawings can number up to 24 in a second. Imagine making 24 or more drawings for a single second of animation. 

Aside from been time-consuming, 2D animations also require top-notch skill and expertise to pull it off. You would need to be an expert in drawing and anatomy. Since the 2D animations are in frames, the artist would need to know how to draw the characters so that the story and movements flow seamlessly. 

As mentioned earlier, you’ll need to create multiple drawings for each movie frame if you’re using 2D animations. However, you don’t need to draw with a pencil or paper for each frame with 3D animations. 3D animations involve the use of software that animates the characters for you. 

Another difference is that with 2D animations, you only need a light source and a peg to hold your paper – as there is no need for heavy digital tools. On the other hand, you’ll need more than just a light source if you want to create 3D animations. You’ll need to own a computer system that has the specifications to run heavy animation programs and software. No doubt this makes 3D animations more expensive than 2D. 

The time it takes to create animations is yet another difference between these two kinds of animations. Aside from drawing each frame by hand in 2D, you’ll also have to manually turn pages to get an idea of the entire storyboard and movements of your characters. 3D animations take all that stress away. Most 3D software creates the details between frames by themselves, thereby saving you time. 

So, which is harder? 2D or 3D animations? 

The truth of the matter is that one animation method is not necessarily harder than the other one. While they have their differences as you’ve seen earlier, they also come with their unique pros and cons. 

For example, let’s look at 2D animations. One big advantage of 2D animations is that it is easy to set up and start. You can start creating a story on a piece of paper with a pencil. You don’t need to make 2D animations using a computer system or software (even though most animators now use the software). 

Because of the low barrier of entry, many consider it to be easier than 3D animations. 

However, that is not always the case. 

Even if you could start a 2D animation with just a pencil and a piece of paper, you would need more than that to carry on – that is if you intend to make an animated movie out of your drawing and it’s not just a hobby. 

To make 2D animations into a movie, you’ll need to make multiple drawings numbering into the thousands of the same character. These drawings have to be similar so that the animation stays on the model. 

As you would expect, this takes up a lot of time, even if the artist uses animation software. The artist will still need to clearly draw out certain key movements and poses that will allow the software to generate some of the details in between. 

Another thing with 2D animations is that a lot of changes happen during the pre-production stage. If there is a change in the storyline or direction of the movie, artists would have to redraw characters again from scratch. 

Many who argue that 3D is easier do so for one main reason. They believe that with 3D animations, the creators do less work because the computer or software creates the characters and does all the work. 

The truth is that 3D animation software (or anything created from such software) is as good as the person operating. Just as you wouldn’t expect every graphic designer to have the same level of Photoshop expertise, so too does the experience and skill with 3D artists differ. 

Many creators have to spend countless sleepless nights learning about how best to use a certain kind of software. Surely these creators will tell you that 3D animations are harder than 2D animations. 

Aside from the time it takes to learn how to use the software, you’ll also need to own high-end computer systems to run 3D software smoothly. 

What would it take to learn 2D and 3D animations? 

Learning 2D and 3D animation require almost the same level of effort and commitment. 

You can learn the animation skills on your own or you could decide to attend an animation school. You should bear in mind that many of these schools are expensive but are often worth it. This is so because you’ll be learning from experts and have a chance to meet with artists from top film companies. 

Still, on the matter of cost, 3D schools or courses generally cost more than 2D courses or schools. 

If the costs are too high, you can always learn from “YouTube University”. Many artists believe that you can start learning animation and grow to become world-class all from YouTube videos. 

It will also help if you use the right software for learning. Animation software comes with different features and functions. So you need to choose based on what you want to do with the software and the kind of project you want to handle. 

The best kind of software for learning 3D animation includes Maya, Blender, and 3d max. For 2D animations, the best software includes Synfig, Pencil 2D, and Moho (Anime Studio) Pro. 

It also does not matter what kind of animation you create as long as your idea is communicated clearly. Whether it is 3D or 2D, you need to have a solid story else; your work might fall flat on its face no matter how hard you try. 

For example, even though the Rick and Morty show is the result of 2D animation, it is still a fantastic piece of work. The same goes for 3D animations like Frozen, Toy Story, and The Incredibles. 


Animation, in itself, is not easy. Artists need to constantly improve their work and practice to become better creators. 

As to the question: Which is harder between 2D and 3D animations? The answer is that it depends. 

Yes, 2D might have a lower barrier for entry, and 3D might be less time-consuming, but it is not enough ground to say one is harder than the other. 

But ultimately, it depends on the preferences of the creator, the artist’s level of skill and expertise, and the art form the artist wants to create.