Types of animation art
The world of animation art is full of terminology that is often not familiar to everyone. Below is an explanation of some of the most widely used terms. If you have any questions about any of the animation art that we have please send us an email using our contact us page.
The clear sheet used to create animation cels, more stable than nitrate.
A cel (short for celluloid) is a sheet of clear acetate or nitrate which is hand-painted and then placed over a background and photographed. The outline of the character (hand-inked or xeroxed) is applied to the front of the animation cel. The colors are hand-painted onto the back of the cel.
Original Production Art
Any animation cel or drawing created for the production of an animated film. This does not necessarily mean that the piece appears in the film. Edited, colour model, and preliminary art are all production animation artwork.
Traditional animation required thousands of drawings and hand-painted cels to create an animated film, and after the production process most were destroyed, as the studios had not yet recognised what they were destroying would later be treasured by millions. As so few vintage pieces survive, important and historical animation features such as Disney’s "Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs” can cost tens of thousands of dollars. By the late 1970s, the value and importance of this art form was widely recognised and many studios began to save and market their production art.
With the advent of animation going digital by most studios after 2002, hand-painted cels and backgrounds are no longer being created, which makes this art form all the more RARE and SPECIAL. Some animated productions combine traditional and modern techniques in what is referred to as “digital ink and paint”. In this form of filmmaking, animators create traditional pencil drawings, which are scanned into a computer to be digitally colored and output to film. As a result, no painted cels are created. But drawings are still made in most productions and are special because the animator’s hand creates the drawing.
Original Production Drawings
Original production drawings are one-of-a-kind pieces of animation art. Prior to the creation of cels each character pose and action had to be drawn in pencil. These drawings are the artistic backbone of the film or television show and are much in demand by collectors. While they lack the vivid colour of cels, drawings are very desirable for two main reasons. Many collectors prefer drawings because it is at this stage that the animators have really exercised their talents and brought the characters to life. Another appealing aspect of drawings is that they generally cost significantly less than a comparable production cel. Original production drawings are a wonderful addition to any animation collection and a great way to enjoy the artistry behind your favourite characters.
Original Animation Cel Setup
An animation cel or group of cels usually combined with a production background. A cel setup may have one or more levels of cels overlaid on the animation background.
A painting over which a series of animation cels are photographed to make up a scene in an animated film. During the scene, the background remains constant, whereas the cels, which are placedover the background and photographed, create the action. Original production backgrounds are rare. Two background examples are shown below.
Key Master Setup
An animation cel or cels paired with their original matching background as they appeared at the same moment in the actual animation film.
A cel or cels are paired with an animation background from the same film but they do not appear together in the film at the same moment.
Hand-Painted Limited Edition Cels
Hand-painted limited edition cels offer fans and collectors the opportunity to own a classic moment from some of the greatest cartoons ever made! The studio recreate these moments on cels by using the same materials and techniques that were used in making the original cels. Some limited editions are exact reproductions of frames from the films they represent, while others are based on contemporary interpretations of great characters and scenes. One great advantage of a limited edition over original production art is that you are able to combine all the best aspects of a scene into a single cel and provide art of great scenes where original production art was destroyed. In either case, the animator’s drawing is transferred onto acetate cels, then each is meticulously hand-painted by studio artists. Each piece is hand-numbered in an edition size (worldwide), and after 1992 the majority of limited editions have studio seals and are issued with a studio certificate of authenticity. In some cases the finished cels are then signed by the animator, director or creator of the character(s).
Serigraphy the printing term for the silk-screen process is a fine art process in which limited editions are created by meticulously screening the colors of an image onto the back of an acetate animation cel or the surface of fine art paper or canvas - one color at a time.
From the French term for “spray of ink”, giclee printers lay down millions of microscopic ink droplets with such precision that the original image is reproduced with amazing accuracy in color and detail. No other printing technique can consistently reproduce art so close to the original. Giclees are created on fine art rag paper or canvas, which are coated for protection. They are generally done in editions of no more than 500 pieces and are often signed by the artist. Some artists add paint (hand-embellish) on top of the printed canvas giclee.
Color Model Cel
An animation cel created by the Ink and Paint department for accurate colour-referencing during animation production. Colour test cels have colours different from the final characters. Also referred to as a Color Test. These are one-of-a-kind pieces and extremely RARE and highly prized by collectors.
Storyboards are the first step in the animation process. The production team use them to determine exactly how they want the film to look and a massive creative effort is put into the storyboards. These pages are crammed with hilarious insights into the making of the show along with full script annotation and even deleted scenes that never made it to the screen. These unique storyboards are an integral part of the production process. Two storyboard examples are shown below.
Standardised renderings of characters created by directors or lead animators that once approved, photographic stats called model sheets would be printed and distributed to all of the artists working on a production. This would ensure consistency between the sketches drawn by the various artists. Limited editions that feature a character on a cel layer with a model sheet background have been very popular among collectors. Two model sheet examples are shown below.
A non-production animation cel created by a studio for promotional purposes of a series, and the characters are usually depicted in an "ideal” pose. Slides and transparencies are created from this art and sent to magazines and newspapers in order to gather interest in a series. Photos are also sent to fans who write into the studio requesting a photo. Publicity cels such as these are EXTREMELY RARE and were NEVER made available for commercial sale, and are highly desirable for collectors.
The image at the beginning of a cartoon depicting the title of the production. Title cels and the production backgrounds over which they are placed are very rare.
12-Field Cel or Drawing
An animation cel or drawing measuring 10.5" x 12.5” inches.
16-Field Cel or Drawing
An animation cel or drawing measuring 13.5" x 16.5” inches.