What is stop-motion animation?

Stop motion was the first form of animation and has been used in many films. It was a technique used in early cinema, particularly in horror films. One of the most famous stop-motion monsters was the giant ape in the 1933 film King Kong.

Paper King Kong climbing tall buildings

Paper King Kong climbing tall buildings

Another pioneer of stop-motion film was Ray Harryhausen, who used it in films such as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958),  Jason and the Argonauts (1963) and Clash of the Titans (1981).

Sinbad Fights the Skeleton

Sinbad Fights the Skeleton 1957

Ray Harryhausen (1920–2013)

The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation

More recently Aardman Animations have used stop motion techniques to make their films which include the Wallace and Gromit series, Chicken Run and Flushed Away.

  • Have you ever wondered how these films were made?

Gromit: Oceans 1 (Deep Blue)

Gromit: Oceans 1 (Deep Blue) 2018

Faculty of Engineering, University of Bristol

University of Bristol

How it works

Stop motion is a filmmaking technique where objects or models move a small distance at a time. Each individual movement is photographed and then each individual photograph is put together to make a moving image or film.

Ray Harryhausen made his models from rubber on flexible metal frames. Aardman models are made from a range of materials including plasticine, latex, foam and wood.

The great thing about stop-motion animation is that you can use any medium you like! We will be using cut-out paper and 2D materials to create our short films.


You will need:

  • a tablet or smartphone
  • Stop Motion Studio app available on iPad, iOS, Android and Windows devices
  • collage materials and scissors
  • drawing materials
  • a selfie stick, tripod, tablet or phone-holder (or a pile of books!) to keep your camera steady
  • optional: a printer for printing images from the Art UK website

Before you start

Set up your workstation

You will be working in 2D so will need a flat surface such as a table, desk or floor to work on. Support the tablet or phone with a tripod or stack of books, and make sure there is consistent lighting, for example from a lamp.

For this activity, we will be animating a sculpture by artist Robert Adams called Three Forms Beech (1955).

Lastly, download the Stop Motion Studio app which is free to use, without add-ons – it is on Google Play and on the Apple App Store, plus there is information for Windows users.

Gather your crew!

It might be fun to work with friends or classmates as a team to create your animation. You will need a director (to organise things and make sure everything goes to plan); an artist or model maker (to draw or create the character and props); someone to move the images and elements during filming; a camera operator to take photographs; and an editor to create the animation in the app once you have finished filming.


Step 1: be inspired by the sculpture

Look at Three Forms Beech (1955). What is your response to it? 

Three Forms Beech

Three Forms Beech 1955

Robert Adams (1917–1984)

Kirklees Museums and Galleries

Think about its form, materials and character. If you are working as part of a team discuss the sculpture together.

  • What is it made from?
  • Describe what it looks like
  • Is it a single solid form or is it made up of different shapes?
  • Do the shapes remind you of anything?
  • What personality might it have?
  • Can you imagine the sculpture in different settings? How would this change it?

Step 2: first thoughts

Start thinking about how you will animate the sculpture. For example:

  • you could add things to it (by collaging shapes or drawing on the image)
  • you could cut it out and put it against a painted, drawn or photographed background
  • or you could cut up your image of the sculpture and make different bits move or change shape.

If you are working as part of a team, share and discuss your ideas.

Step 3: plan your animation using a storyboard

It might help to use a storyboard to plan your animation. A storyboard is used by filmmakers and animators to plan the different scenes of their films. 



This video helps explain what a storyboard is and how you can use it to plan your animation. Use the storyboard template above to draw and note down each scene in your animation.

Step 4: prepare your character and props

The next step is to prepare the character, backgrounds and anything else you will include in your animation.

  • Do you need to cut out your sculpture?
  • Do you need to create some backgrounds?
  • Do you need to make any collage elements to add to your sculpture to change its appearance or make it into a character?

Step 5: get animating!

Make your animation.

Here are some reminders and tips:

  • Move your sculpture image or add something to it and photograph each change.
  • Keep moving or changing your sculpture image until the sequence is finished.
  • When you are taking a photograph, try to keep your hands out of the scene!
  • If you are using a background, tape it down so it doesn't move when you are filming
  • Keep your camera, tablet or phone still when you are photographing your animation.

Here are some we made earlier…

Here are some examples of animations made using Three Forms Beech.

  • How has the animator changed the sculpture?
  • What have they added or taken away?
  • What materials have they used?

Do these animations inspire you to have a go at more animation projects?

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