Which is more difficult, 2D or 3D?

I’m often asked: “What’s more difficult, to make 2D or 3D?”, almost always referring to budgets and timming, with the classic comments, such as: “Surely it’s cheaper to make 3D, because it’s done by computer”. (We, in the studio, have a button that says “pixar films”, you press it, choose the theme and you get a beautiful film!) The other usual comment is: “2D is much more complicated to make”. If you’re someone in the industry and you’ve worked with both techniques, you probably know the answer, but this article is for some of my colleagues outside this world, who, knowing that I work in animation, every time they see me they ask me how I handle “…that comic book thing”. The first 7 years I was still trying to explain the difference. For the next 13 years I just tell them that my most personal work is Watchmen and that they can find it in the Fnac! I let it out and …. hey, I educate them a bit at least!


Well, let’s go back to 2D and 3D for dummies. The basic difference between these two animation techniques is that 3D animators animate virtual puppets while 2D animators animate by drawing. Obviously the production processes are different because the method itself is different, but in essence they are exactly the same. And if we were to talk about stop motion, which I don’t know anything about, I’m sure it would be very similar. Next day I promise to interview Sam, from Conflictivos productions, and Pablo Llorens, from Potens, who are the best exponents of stop motion in Spain. (Note to my friends: these are the ones who are dedicated to “comics”, but in plasticine).

(Yes, I know…! I could have used a more modern image…), well people! this is now done on Cintiq, very cool screens for drawing and it saves you paper and annoyance.

On the right screen you can see the controls (synoptic) to manage the expressions of the characters.


In my experience with Hampa Studio productions it is exactly the same.2D Preproduction consists of preparing Story, Concepts, Colour scripts, Character design, Props and Backgrounds, Animation test, Animatic and Layouts.

Whereas, in 3D it is all this, plus Modelling, Textures, Shaders (materials) and Rigs (skeleton of the characters and props). This makes 3D pre-production much longer, much more technical and much harder.

However, when it’s time to animate, the process is “very fast” in 3D, “only” consists of posing the character, pulling him like a doll (blocking) and smoothing the intercalations (polish or refine, each one calls it in a different way, in fact those of one side and those of the other meet at night to stick each other, well this is not true, it only happens in my mind).

The one who is hitting is of the “Polish” tendency, the one who is dodging is clearly of the “Refine” tendency.


In the 2D technique, the first thing is to make the Animation (key drawings), then the Clean-up of these key drawings (that is to say, to clean them so that the lines do not vibrate and it looks nice), later the smoothing of the animation (Intercalation), then Clean-up of these intercalations and finally ink and paint, which is to give colour both to the fill and to the contour lines (something optional, but I recommend you, if you want to propose to your producer to paint the lines of the characters, you should go to talk to him/her with one of those suits worn by the tedax, if you want to stay alive). All this drawn frame by frame by several different hands, with the difficulty that this entails, (although not for a friend outside of this, that when she was in the studio and saw the light tables with the drawings, she told me “ahh, but you trace, that way it’s super easy!) Well, except for her :/, for the rest of mortals the problem and the danger of 2D with big equipment is to go away from the model of the character (just look at Beauty and the Beast, there are shots that show beauty and in others there is beauty’s distant cousin, who is seen to have come to visit or something).

Here we can see a clear example of how much fun Bella and her 45 year old cousin are having.


So, in the end, 3D and 2D, in terms of time and costs, are the same. Yes, it is true that in the final steps of production 2D is lighter, since 3D needs lighting and rendering, but on the other hand in 2D the backgrounds have to be painted by hand with their light and colour, something that also takes a lot of time.

To give you an idea, at Hampa studio it cost us the same to make Margarita (2D) as The Shadownsters (3D), in terms of time and budget, although in terms of Almax and Omeprazol we spent more on Margarita, to be honest!

Alex Cervantes / Ceo – Director / Hampa Studio

Alex Cervantes

Author Alex Cervantes

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