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Animation Art Glossary

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Animation Art Glossary

Alice in Wonderland

Winnie the Pooh

The Pink Panther

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(additional art shown below)

Sericel Animation Cels

The Pink Panther.

What is a cel?

A cel, derived from the word "celluloid", is the transparent material on which a cartoon character is painted. Prior to 1940, studios used cels made of nitrate, then switched to the more durable acetate cels. In full-length animation features, there are 24 frames per second, compared to contemporary television cartoon practice, which have fewer frames per second. Each cel represents one frame of the film.

Warner Brothers Frog

What is a production cel?

A production cel, which is always hand-painted, is the cel that has actually been used in the production of an animated film. The character on the cel, whose outline has been inked or xerographically transferred to the front of the cel, is then turned over. The "painter" then paints, from foreground to background, the image of the character. The painted cels are then placed atop a painted background and photographed one at a time. The series of frames in the film create the illusion of movement.

The Road Runner

What is a Limited Edition Cel?
Although a Limited Edition cel can be hand-painted, it won’t be used in the making of a film. The Limited Edition cel is created for the purpose of fine art and is very recognizable, as it usually consists of classic characters in classic poses. It is generally numbered and often signed by the artist and laid upon a lithograph or photographic background.

Sylvester and Tweety

What is a sericel or "serigraph"?
Sericels are cels whose characters have been transferred to the acetate by a silk-screen printing process known as serigraphy. They are never hand-painted. Some are issued as Limited Editions whose edition sizes can vary from 200 to 7500.

Daffy Duck

What is color model cel?

A color model cel or color model drawing is a cel, or drawing on animation paper, that the lead animator creates for the animation team to use as color reference. The characters are usually posed or may only consist of portrait images. Drawings may even list coded abbreviations to let the animation team know which color paints to be used.

The Simpsons

What is a production drawing?
A production drawing is the initial artwork that is done prior to the creation of a cel. An animator must first draw the individual characters or images to create each frame in the film. Head or "lead" animators draw the most extreme movements of the character's motion and then pass the drawings to "in-betweeners" who fill in the remaining drawings.

Charlie Brown

What does the term "hand-inking" mean?

At one time, hand inking, was the only process used in animation. The "inker" would take one drawing at a time, place a clear cel atop the drawing and then trace the outline of the character onto the cel. The process is very laborious and tedious. Highly respected, it often makes use of many colors and produces a fine, yet bold outline. It is also very collectible and sought after because of its age and quality.

The Simpsons

What is the meaning of "Xerography"?

A process that was designed by the Walt Disney Studios and the Xerox Company in the late 1950's, where the outlines of the characters are Xeroxed onto the cel. This process cuts out the tedious and very expensive job of inking. Unlike hand inking, these outlines are single-colored, usually black and somewhat sketchy. This process is now common practice for most studios.


Sericel - Bamby


Sericel – Speedy Gonzales


Sericel - Goofy


Sericel – Gumby and Pokey


Sericel – Bugs Bunny


Sericel – Cabaret Betty


Sericel – Pink Panther


Sericel – Classic Betty

 Sericel - Disney Villains

Sericel - Disney Villains

 Sericel - Garfield The Great
                              Frame Up

Sericel - Garfield The Great Frame Up


Bugs n Friends

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All artwork images and logos are the property of their respective studios.  The publishers retain the right of reproduction and/or Copyright.