Many animators who learn digital rendering and computer-assisted 3D animation processes choose to study traditional animation techniques to broaden their career skills. While basic ink and paint cell creation has been supplanted by computer software, the study of 2D animation history and the mastery of its concepts often prove invaluable resources for new animators. One of the last feature-length films to use traditional ink and paint techniques rolled out of the studios in 1997.
Before digital effects, animators followed a process that involves initial storyboarding, model sheet design, acrylic, watercolor, and oil paint background and matting preparation, and the transfer to cellulose for editing. Animators often were involved in the entire process, rather than specializing in one skill or another as some are today.
Initially, the animated story is detailed in a series of sketches on the storyboard, organizing the sequences to match the instructions from a working script. Then the animator would create master model drawings for the main characters. These ink or pen sketches would be transferred to cells, layered atop background drawings and manipulated, frame-by-frame, to create the illusion of movement.
Once the individual sequence has been drawn onto the cells, the frames are arranged to fit the motion detailed by the storyboard. The cells are aligned and they're shot in sequence by the animation camera, creating a seamless film strip of the animated scene which can be attached to the greater length of the animation, or edited by the director. Animators also formerly painted characters or backgrounds directly onto cells holding images of processed film.