What Is Cut-Out Animation?

Cut-out animation is a type of animation that involves the use of paper, cardstock, or other flat materials to create animated characters and scenes. It is a unique style of animation that has been used in various forms throughout the history of animation, and it continues to be a popular choice among animators and animation studios today.

Cut-out animation, also known as stop-motion animation or puppet animation, is created by photographing a series of still images of flat, two-dimensional objects that have been cut out and assembled into characters, backgrounds, and props. These images are then played back in sequence to create the illusion of movement.

The History of Cut-out Animation

The earliest known example of cut-out animation is the work of Lotte Reiniger, a German animator who created a series of short films in the 1920s and 30s using paper cut-outs. Her most famous work, “The Adventures of Prince Achmed,” was released in 1926 and is considered the first feature-length animated film. Reiniger’s films were characterized by their intricate designs and use of shadow and light to create a sense of depth and movement.

In the same era, another animator named Emile Cohl was using cut-out animation to create short films that were some of the earliest examples of animated cartoons. Cohl’s films featured simple, geometric shapes that he cut out of paper and moved around a light source to create simple animations.

Cut-out Animation in Advertising:

In the 1930s and 40s, cut-out animation became popular in the world of advertising. Companies such as Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, and General Motors used cut-out animation to create animated commercials that were inexpensive to produce and eye-catching.

One of the most famous examples of cut-out animation in advertising is the “Crash Test Dummies” campaign created by the ad agency Leo Burnett in the 1980s. The commercials featured two anthropomorphic dummies named Vince and Larry who were used to promote car safety.

Cut-out Animation in Television and Film:

In the 1950s and 60s, cut-out animation began to be used more widely in television programming. Shows such as “The Gumby Show

and “Davey and Goliath” used cut-out animation to create their distinctive visuals.

In the 1970s and 80s, the technique became popular in Europe and Canada, where it was used to create television series such as “The Magic Roundabout“.

In the 1990s, cut-out animation began to be used in feature films such as “The Nightmare Before Christmas“.

Cut-out Animation Today:

Today, cut-out animation is still used in a variety of ways. It is a popular technique in independent animation and is often used by animators who are working on a tight budget. The technique has also been adapted for digital animation, with animators using software to create digital cut-outs that can be manipulated and animated in real time.

One example of modern cut-out animation is the Cartoon Network series “Craig of the Creek,” which uses a mix of traditional hand-drawn animation and cut-out animation to create its distinctive visuals.

What Techniques Are Used in Cut-out Animation?

There are many different techniques used in cut-out animation, each with its own unique strengths and limitations. One of the most popular techniques is the use of paper cut-outs, which are often used to create simple, two-dimensional characters and backgrounds. Paper cut-outs can be created by hand, using scissors and other cutting tools, or they can be created using digital tools such as Photoshop or Illustrator.

Another popular technique in cut-out animation is puppetry, which involves the use of three-dimensional puppets that are manipulated by hand to create movement and expression. Puppetry can be used to create highly detailed and realistic characters and settings, but it can also be time-consuming and labor-intensive.

In recent years, digital tools have revolutionized the world of cut-out animation, making it easier than ever for animators to create high-quality animations using a variety of materials and techniques. Many animation studios now use software such as Adobe After Effects and Toon Boom Harmony to create cut-out animations, allowing animators to work more quickly and efficiently while still achieving high-quality results.

What Is Cut-Out Animation? - №1

Key Advantages of Cut-out Animation

One of the key advantages of cut-out animation is its versatility. Because cut-out animations are created using flat, two-dimensional objects, they can be easily manipulated and repositioned to create a wide range of movements and expressions. This makes cut-out animation ideal for creating characters and scenes that are highly expressive and dynamic, but also easy to control and manipulate.

Cut-out animation also offers a unique aesthetic that is unlike any other form of animation. Because the characters and backgrounds are created using flat, two-dimensional objects, they have a distinctively graphic and stylized look that is both charming and visually appealing.

However, cut-out animation also has its limitations. Because the characters and backgrounds are created using flat, two-dimensional objects, they can be limited in terms of their depth and complexity. This can make it difficult to create highly detailed or realistic characters and settings, which may be better suited to other forms of animation.

Despite its limitations, cut-out animation remains a popular choice among animators and animation studios today, thanks to its unique aesthetic, versatility, and accessibility. Whether you’re a seasoned animator or a beginner looking to explore the world of animation, cut-out animation is a fascinating and rewarding style that offers endless creative possibilities.

Cut-out animation is also a cost-effective option for animation studios, especially those on a tight budget. Unlike traditional 3D animation, which requires expensive software and hardware, cut-out animation can be created using simple materials like paper, cardboard, and glue. This makes it an attractive option for independent animators and small animation studios that want to create high-quality animations without breaking the bank.

One more advantage of cut-out animation is that it can be easily combined with other forms of animation, such as traditional hand-drawn animation or 3D computer animation. This allows animators to create hybrid styles that combine the best elements of different animation techniques to achieve a unique and compelling visual style.

Another key challenge of cut-out animation is ensuring that the movement of the characters and props remains smooth and natural-looking. Because cut-out animation involves moving flat, two-dimensional objects around in space, it can be difficult to create convincing movements and expressions without careful planning and attention to detail.

To overcome this challenge, many animators use reference footage or live-action footage as a guide, studying the movements of real people and animals to create more natural-looking animations. Others use motion-capture technology to capture the movements of actors or performers, which can then be applied to the movements of the cut-out characters.

In addition to the technical challenges of cut-out animation, there are also creative challenges involved in creating compelling characters and stories. Because cut-out animation tends to have a more stylized and graphic look, it can be difficult to create characters that are both visually appealing and emotionally engaging.

To overcome this challenge, many animators focus on creating characters with distinct personalities and quirks that make them stand out from the crowd. They also work to create compelling stories that draw the audience in and keep them engaged throughout the animation.


Cut-out animation is a unique and fascinating style of animation that offers endless creative possibilities. From its early roots in the paper cut-outs of Lotte Reiniger to its current use in feature films and television series, cut-out animation has evolved and adapted to new technologies and artistic styles over the years.

While it may have its limitations, cut-out animation remains a popular and accessible option for animators and animation studios looking to create compelling and visually striking animations. With its versatility, cost-effectiveness, and distinctive aesthetic, cut-out animation is sure to continue to be a favorite among animators and animation fans for years to come.