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Cel Animation Inspiration: Cool Hand-Drawn Motion Design

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Four examples of awesome hand-drawn cel animation.

If you ever created a flip-book as a child (or an adult) than you know how tedious the process of hand-drawn animation can be. For the patient and dedicated Motion Designer, this technique, called cel-animation, can yield incredible results that simply can’t be easily simulated in After Effects or Cinema 4D. It takes years, if not decades, to master the art of cel-animation, yet for the few who do dare to animate by hand the results are absolutely breathtaking. We love cel-animation a lot. So we thought it’d be fun to create a list of some of our favorite cel-animated pieces from around the industry. All of these projects have been “hand” selected from the team at School of Motion. Prepare to have your socks knocked off.

Cel Animation Inspiration


We’re going to kick off the list with one of the craziest pieces of art ever made. When it comes to cel animation (or Motion Design in general) Buck is pretty much the gold-standard for incredible work. However, when this piece dropped last year even we were surprised at how awesome it was. The piece is a mesmerizing composite of hand-drawn animation and 3D work. Also the color is so dang good, but we’re not talking about that today...


It takes a lot of hard work to create a cel-animated piece. So when we found out that this project was created by just one person our head literally exploded. The execution required to create a piece like this is inspiring. Great work from Masanobu Hiraoka.


One of our favorite cel-animators is Rachel Reid. Her work at Gunner is consistently fun and approachable. This project shows how fluid good cel-animation can be.


Today we leave you with perhaps the greatest hand-drawn animation ever made. Nevertheless, this project, created for the non-profit GoodBooks, is a wonderful example of the potential of hand-drawn animation. Without a doubt this project was created by dozens of the best Motion Designers in the world. But with some hard work and perseverance (and a little networking) you could make stuff this cool one day. Just go for it!

The Photoshop Animation Series

If you’re feeling inspired to create something after watching all of these awesome cel-animated projects check out our Photoshop Animation Series. The series, taught by Amy Sundin, jumps into the wide world of cel animation using Photoshop. Amy uses a Wacom Cintiq to create here animations but you could use a cheaper tablet to get similar results. We can’t wait to see your hand-drawn animations!


Dive into real-time 3D with our Unreal Engine beginner's course by Jonathan Winbush. Master importing assets, world-building, animation, and cinematic sequences to create stunning 3D renders in no time! Perfect for motion designers ready to level up.

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Unlock the secrets of character design in this dynamic course! Explore shape language, anatomy rules, and motifs to craft animation-ready characters. Gain drawing tips, hacks, and Procreate mastery (or any drawing app). Ideal for artists seeking to elevate their craft.

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Elevate your freelance motion design career with our guide to client success. Master a repeatable method for finding, contacting, and landing clients. Learn to identify prospects, nurture leads, and develop a thriving freelance philosophy amidst chaos.

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Rev up your editing skills with After Effects! Learn to use it for everyday needs and craft dynamic templates (Mogrts) for smarter teamwork. You'll master creating animated graphics, removing unwanted elements, tracking graphics, and making customizable templates.

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Stand out with Demo Reel Dash! Learn to spotlight your best work and market your unique brand of magic. By the end, you'll have a brand new demo reel and a custom campaign to showcase yourself to an audience aligned with your career goals.

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Illuminate your 3D skills with Lights, Camera, Render! Dive deep into advanced Cinema 4D techniques with David Ariew. Master core cinematography skills, gain valuable assets, and learn tools and best practices to create stunning work that wows clients.

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Master After Effects at your own pace with Jake Bartlett's beginner course. Perfect for video editors, you'll learn to create stylish animated graphics, remove unwanted elements, and track graphics into shots. By the end, you'll be equipped for everyday AE needs and more.

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Revolutionize your Premiere workflow with customizable AE templates! Master creating dynamic Motion Graphics Templates (Mogrts) in After Effects to speed up your team's work. By the end, you'll craft easily-customizable templates for seamless use in Premiere Pro.

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Not sure where to start?

If you’re a beginner, here are some great courses to help you get started:

After Effects Kickstart

Dive into the fundamentals of motion design with our most popular (and recently updated) After Effects course.


Photoshop + Illustrator Unleashed

Master the basics of Photoshop and Illustrator and gain invaluable insights in this introductory level course.


Design Kickstart

An introduction to the design principles behind all great work.


More Advanced?

If you’re a more advanced student looking to up your game, here are some great options:

Animation Bootcamp

Learn the art and principles of creating beautiful movements in Adobe After Effects.


Design Bootcamp

Learn to design for motion in this intermediate-level, project-based course.


Cinema 4D Basecamp

Learn Cinema 4D from the ground up in this exciting introductory C4D course.


Now is the time to learn the skills you need to advance in your motion design career: