Different Types of 3D Animation With Examples

Apr, 25, 2023
Senior Account Executive


What do Toy Story, Avatar, Super Mario Odyssey, and the Doritos Super Bowl 2022 commercial have in common? First, they are all incredibly successful. Second, they all utilize different types of 3D animation to achieve that success. But how do they manage this?

To answer this question, we’ll explain how you can leverage various types of 3D animation to help your project. 

Before we begin, there is one thing we should make clear. Depending on whom you ask, the “type” of animation can mean different things. Some will tell you it is the techniques, e.g., motion capture or cel shading. Others might say it is the purpose, like an educational video or a cartoon. Finally, you might argue it is how the video looks in terms of artistic style: whether it reminds you of Tim Burton, Disney, or SpongeBob. There is no right or wrong opinion here, just various points of view. 

As a quick reminder, in our small corner of the world, types are synonymous with techniques. You can read more in-depth on this topic in our article on types and styles of animation.

With that out of the way, let’s jump right in to help you make the next century-defining piece of animation 🚀

Don’t want to read the theory and get to action instead? Contact Blue Carrot and get your 3D animation into the pipeline!


  1. What Are the Types Of 3D Animation?
  2. The Uses Of 3D Animation Types In Marketing And Learning
  3. What Is the Difference In Production Pipeline Between Different 3D Animation Techniques And 2D Techniques?
  4. Which Type of 3D Animation is Right for Your Project?
  5. Create Your Best 3D Animation With Blue Carrot
  6. Final Thoughts

What Are the Types Of 3D Animation?

Before figuring out what animation type to choose for your purpose, you need to answer a very fundamental question: what are the different types of 3D animation? To put it simply, there are tons of them, and we are not including all examples of 3D animation types. However, we will tell you about the most popular ones.

Digital 3D

Known as CGI (computer-generated imagery), this is the most popular type of animation. From the dynamic lightsaber combat in Star Wars to the fearsome sandworm in Dune, CGI is found in almost any modern media. The usage of digital 3D can be as simple as adding some motion graphics to enhance already existing footage or completely new pieces made from scratch.

While art certainly comes to mind first, digital 3D has plenty of uses in learning. For example, you can show your students the insides of a human body without needing to actually cut someone in half, sparing you from the moral and legal consequences.

Plus, if you are looking to promote something, boy can you fit special effects into an ad. You can go as hard as you want, from simply showing a model of your product to going completely crazy, like Verizon.

Interactive 3D

Interactive 3D is typically associated with video games, although it is not exclusive to them. The name speaks for itself, it’s a piece of 3D animation you can interact with in real-time. Their use is limited in marketing, but it is indispensable in learning, allowing you to make various simulations: from cars to planes or open-heart surgeries.

Here is an example of interactive 3D created by our studio for a hotel. This video helps to entertain children by giving them the opportunity to draw pictures and then see them on a video which tells the story about their hotel (read case study here:

👉 Interactive 3D animation offers a much better experience for the viewer/player, but it requires a lot more time for the developers to create a persuasive enough environment to achieve complete immersion.

Virtual Reality 3D

Virtual reality 3D is the natural evolution of interactive 3D technology. It offers a much more immersive experience, allowing viewers to interact with realistic objects in a 3D environment. This will enable users to better understand the depth of objects and space, giving them a much better gaming or learning experience. 

👉 As with interactive 3D, virtual reality 3D requires a lot of dedication, a lot more than its predecessor. However, the payout is incredible if done well.

Stop Motion

Stop motion animation includes a few subtypes that work on a very similar principle: it is a series of images of still objects that are played in rapid succession to create the illusion of movement

This can be used to a great degree in both learning and marketing. Compared to the more traditional CGI animation, stop motion takes much more time but has a very distinct art style. The price is comparable to CGI animation.

Claymation, as the name suggests, uses various clay figures in its animation process. The most prominent example of claymation is Wallace and Gromit. 

Puppet animation features, unsurprisingly, puppets. Award-winning Isle of Dogs utilizes this technique to great success.

Pixilation is motion capture’s equivalent to a live-action movie. It uses real actors and objects. Take a look at Slipknot’s music video for Vermilion, which uses this type of 3D animation technique.

There are also 2D subtypes of stop motion, like cutout animation. We won’t go deeply into them, but we felt it would be inappropriate not to mention them.

Cel Shading (Toon Shading)

Cel shading is a fascinating type of 3D animation that blends 2D and 3D into one. It takes 3D objects and renders them in a way that makes them look 2D as if drawn by hand.

One of the best examples of this 3D animation type is the award-winning Arcane animated series. It features a lot of different techniques, giving it its unique art style, but it all started with cel shading and evolved from there.

Motion Capture

Motion capture, aka mocap, is a type of 3D computer animation that records real actors and objects and translates them into animation. This is achieved by placing special sensors on the actors, recording the motions from these sensors, and then rendering that into a final animation.

This method is prevalent in movies and video games. For example, the award-winning God of War: Ragnarök uses mocap for almost everything. You would suspect they were using it for humanoid characters and some objects, but seeing the making of Fenrir really blew our minds.

Already decided what your animation should look like? Contact Blue Carrot and we will make it happen 😎

The Uses Of 3D Animation Types In Marketing And Learning

Now that you know the most popular types of animation in 3D, let us talk about the reasons for using them in the first place:

  • Clarity. Seeing objects in 3D can really boost the understanding of the product or the process. Watching and understanding a 5-minute educational video is much easier than reading a 5-page essay. Moreover, sometimes only a 3D video can properly show and explain complex concepts, making this variety of animation perfect for educational videos.
  • Scale. A 3D video allows the artist to show things of different sizes in as much detail as they need. A regular human? Check. Planet Earth? Another check. Microscopic organisms? Check again.
  • Reusability. Making 3D assets takes a relatively long time and requires a certain degree of experience. However, once you have an asset, it is infinitely reusable, saving you time and resources.
  • Branding. Coming from the previous point, asset reuse can be turned into branding. Seeing the same characters (mascots) over and over again is at the core of modern branding strategies.
  • Fidelity. Unlike in 2D, 3D animations can achieve unbelievable levels of fidelity. With enough resources and experience, you can achieve photorealistic animation, which can be a massive boon when live filming is impossible. Consider 3D if you need photorealistic ads, promotional materials, or educational animations.
  • Attractiveness. 3D animations are surprisingly attractive. Good animation requires a lot of time but looks gorgeous and attracts viewers. This is especially valuable for impressive ads or cartoons.
  • Credibility. The fact that 3D requires a big upfront investment suggests to viewers that whoever did or ordered it has enough resources to do so, and therefore, can be trusted.


🥕 How much does explainer video cost? 

🥕 How to create an animation pipeline production?

🥕 Video length best practices: How long marketing videos should be?

What Is the Difference In Production Pipeline Between Different 3D Animation Techniques And 2D Techniques?

Both 2D and 3D animation pipelines include three main steps: pre-production, production, and post-production. The pre-production stage is the same for both: you generate ideas, prepare the script, draw a storyboard, and create concept art. 

👉 The production stage is where it gets funky.

For traditional 2D animation, the artists will usually develop 2-3 key frames per second of animation (layouts) and then send them to the “in-betweeners” or “tweeners,” who will draw additional frames to make the animation appear smoother. The usual frame rate for 2D animations is 24 frames per second, although you can go higher or lower, depending on your artistic vision. This is now assisted with modern animation software, making the lives of artists easier. Finally, the frames get inked and colored, after which the post-production process begins.

3D animation is a fair bit harder than basic 2D, like cutout animation, but comparable with traditional 2D animation. It is also more time-consuming and resource-intensive. The production stage starts with creating the assets. You have to make the models, add textures to them, then hook them up to a rig, and only then can you animate. After that, the artists add VFX and lighting, and only then can they render the product.

👉 Post-production for 2D and 3D is arguably equally complex, although with different caveats.

The post-production for 2D starts with adding the backgrounds. Then additional VFX are added. The sound is the final stage, after which the product is considered finished.

The post-production stage for 3D starts, surprisingly, by adding 2D effects. This is not a compulsory stage and may be skipped if the artist sees fit. Then the color correction stage begins, which makes the product look more consistent. Finally, the sound is added.

Which Type of 3D Animation is Right for Your Project?

Now that you know everything you need to know about different types of 3D animation techniques, it’s time to make a choice. 

The bad news is that picking the type of animation can be quite challenging. They all have their uses. Of course, you can always default to digital 3D, but you risk lowering the impact of your video.

If you want to make an explainer video of a complex subject that requires you to have greater clarity or more hands-on experience, you should consider 3D animation. However, if you want a short and sweet promotion, you might opt for a more traditional 2D animation or an ad with little-to-no CGI.

In most cases, 3D is more expensive than 2D. If you are a small start-up or the animation is not a piece of evergreen content, you might want to decide on 2D. 

However, that is not always the case with longer animations. The longer your animation is going to be, the more cost-efficient 3D gets. This becomes more and more prominent with long-form animations, like animated cartoon series. 

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and there are no strict guidelines either. If someone tells you that you need specifically this or that for your purpose, they are either incompetent or do not have your best interests in mind.

The good news is that the choice is not that dramatic and will most likely not make or break your project. Usually, the choice is between “good” and “the best.” Moreover, if you want to know precisely what to choose, you can always ask an experienced designer or agency to help you 🏆

Create Your Best 3D Animation With Blue Carrot

This is the part where we tell you why you should select us to create the best 3D animations for your project. If you are here, you are probably already convinced that we know what we are talking about. However, to drive the point further, here are a few examples of our outstanding work.

🔹 Orca Helix

A startup project named Orca Helix asked us to make a promotional video for their crowdfunding campaign. They are creating an innovative toilet that uses sensors and modern sanitizing technologies, which naturally pushed us into creating a futuristic promo video.

🔹 Parallelo

Parallelo is a software that uses AI to help architects find the most space-efficient building layouts. They asked us to create an explainer video to clarify how it happens and its benefits. In this video, we went with a more futuristic approach to signify the innovative nature of the software.

If you are impressed by our work, feel free to drop us a line and we will get to work ASAP!

Final Thoughts

Different types of 3D animation have different applications and methods. Defaulting to the standard CGI techniques is an easy way out for many entrepreneurs, and it is a perfectly sane and serviceable solution. However, true masters of animation know what type of animation to choose to best deliver their message and can easily mix and match them for the greatest impact.

When working with other video artists or agencies, you can rely on their experience when deciding on the 3D animation type for your project. However, having a basic understanding of the topic will help you and your artists achieve the best results.


🥕  Check out what Blue Carrot has to offer. 


Fill out the form below and we’ll get in touch with you to answer all your questions regarding video marketing benefits and provide assistance for your video project 😉


What are the uses of 3D animation?

The uses of 3D animation are endless: you can make tutorials, promo videos, cartoons, video games, and anything in-between. How you use it depends on whether you are a promoter, filmmaker, or educator.

How many types of 3D animation are there?

There are many types of 3D animation that are rather niche-oriented and rarely used. However, the 6 main 3D animation types are digital 3D, interactive 3D, virtual reality 3D, stop motion, cel shading, and motion capture.

How do I understand what type of 3D animation is right for my project?

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. It is always easy to default to digital 3D and there is nothing wrong with it. However, knowing what will work better requires years of experience, so it is best to consult an expert.

What are the most popular 3D animation programs?

Different types of 3D animation use different software. The most popular are Blender, Autodesk Maya, Cinema 4D, Daz Studio, and ZBrush. However, these are usually only useful for CGI. Other types of 3D animation work differently on programming and artistic levels and, therefore, will require other software.

What are the types of lighting in 3D animation?

The four basic types of lighting in 3D are directional light, point light, area light, and spotlight. There are also more advanced techniques like ambient light, emissive light, diffuse light, and specular light, but these are far from the only types.

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