Animation Trends in 2021: Popping and Intriguing Animation Ideas

Update 2022: Animation Trends 2022: Experimental and Open-Minded

In this article we will look at the animation trends and predictions for 2021 – it will be an exciting year, with lots of colors, glow, texture, and rounded shapes to please the eye!

You may also be interested in How to Get Easy Animation: From Beginner Animation Tools To Hiring a Professional.

Before we dive in, a quick list of the 9 animation trends in 2021:
1. 3D style
2. Live-Action and Animation Mix
3. Use Textures
4. Don’t Underestimate Sound FX
5. Unique Characters and Illustration styles
6. Realistic Expressions
7. Glow and Shine Effects
8. Retro/Vintage Style Animations
9. Storytelling

You may also be interested in Graphic Design Trends 2022, check them out.


1. 3D Style – Always evolving and exciting

3D animation is not a new animation trend, but it’s constantly evolving and designers and creatives are yet to surprise us. The 3D effects are becoming even more complex to execute, but what we notice is an urge for simplicity, rounded shapes, purity, and futuristic elements. Along with the futuristic designs, we will see a lot of nature-inspired elements – nature is again on trend in 2021.

The 3D surely deserves a top spot in our list of animation trends and predictions, since realistic, 3D forms, combined with motion, always catch the eye before anything else does.

Example: Amazon Halo

Example: Crazy-Arcade


2. Live-Action & Animation Mix – The more real – the better

A mix of live-action and animation is something fresh we will see this year. You’ve probably noticed a lot of scribbles, animated elements, and quirky designs in music videos in the past years. Well, this year, the animations are becoming bolder, livelier, more colorful, and popping! After all, the animation needs to be interesting, exciting, and to attract your attention.

Weird shapes, writing, and science icons/elements will set the scene – they all add symbolism to the live-action footage (background). Don’t be surprised to see this, not only in music videos but also in explainer videos, fashion commercials, advertising, and more.


3. Use Textures – Achieve realism and add interest

Animations with texture will be always more enticing because they add realism even to the most strange designs. Also, people are tactile creatures and wired to recognize different textures and to like them. That’s why using and creating interesting textures is at the top of our list with animation trends and predictions for 2021.

Textures in animation and other creative work can evoke different feelings in the observer. Think of a simple plain ball, for example, and one covered with fur. Which one would you like to touch and which creates a cozy feeling?

Not in the last place, textures add depth to your animation and can help in creating a unique look for your animation.


4. Don’t Underestimate Sound FX – It’s half of the story told

Audio quality and sound effects are important. No matter how good your animation is if you don’t have solid Sound FX, you’ve done your job only halfway.

Again, sound can make your animation stand out and enhance your story. You can even assign emotions and certain feelings to your characters by adding sounds.

Imagine a glass shattering or someone eating a piece of cake – you immediately associate these scenes with sounds, right? Or think of a horror scene and how much the sound effects add to the atmosphere and the experience.

Example: Awkward
Here is another cool example: Airalo – Brand Animation


5. Unique Characters and Illustration styles – Offer versatility

In 2021 the animation trends and predictions are marked by strange, unique characters. There are many different illustration styles that will appear on stage. Futuristic characters, popping colors and round shapes will be setting the trend.

Geometric shapes, play dough like characters, cartoon characters, realistic characters with some kind of uniqueness to them are top picks in 2021.

Example: Cyclists

Example: Spotify Asia


6. Realistic Expressions – Believable characters

We mentioned several times that realism will be a big part of the animation trends this year. That’s why it is important to achieve realistic facial expressions of the characters in your animations.

Great software for non-designers is Adobe Character Animator which uses facial tracking (your own facial gestures). It translates your facial movements onto a cartoon character’s face of any style. You can familiarize yourself with the software with our beginner’s guide to Character Animator.


7. Glow and Shine Effects – A big part of the Animation Trends in 2021

In 2021, we can’t stay in our comfort zone and continue using the good old animation tips and tricks. Well, we can, but if we want to be in-trend, we will have to include more juicy and modern effects. For example, you will be dazzled by light leaks, camera lens effects, shine and glow.



8. Retro/Vintage Style Animations – A classic come back

Retro will always be modern. Pun intended. Retro textures, comic-book, and graphic novel styles are making a huge return. Although they pay a tribute to styles of another time period, today’s animations are a modern take on the classics.

You will also notice outlined characters, stylized characters, and backgrounds. Also, the use of flat colors and some kind of texture is common. Other elements you will see are speech bubbles in highly-contrasting colors, dots and grain.


Example: Alien

Retro animation example in 2021

Example: Staying Alive

Example: MAN 2020


9. Storytelling – It will always be “the key”

No matter what kind of animation you’re going for, storytelling will always be the most important ingredient of your animation.

Our brains are wired to understand, remember and to look for stories – that’s why, make sure you impress the audience with a rich narrative!

One of the ways to connect with your audience is to tell the story of a character, that they can relate to. Create a character and describe his/her social status, emotions, problems and needs. You can see how it’s done in the following animation example:

What do you think about our animation trends and predictions for 2021?
Do you have a favorite from the inspiration list or maybe even we can add your favorite to the list?

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Lyudmil Enchev

Lyudmil is an avid movie fan which influences his passion for video editing. You will often see him making animations and video tutorials for GraphicMama. Lyudmil is also passionate for photography, video making, and writing scripts.

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