What is the Squash and Stretch

What is the Squash and Stretch Principle in Animation?

Table of Contents

One of the 12 animation principles, Squash and Stretch, is also a drawing principle used by all character artists, whether they work in 2D or 3D. This principle is used to give the appearance of weight and flexibility. Its absence in any animation can give the impression that the characters are stiff, and the motion is rigid.

One basic principle at a time! So, let’s begin with squash and stretch animation. To become the best animator, you must know what the squash and stretch principle is, why you should know it, and how to use it. Let’s delve deeper!

What Is Squash and Stretch?

The animation principle known as Squash and Stretch, or S&S for short, involves applying a contrasting change in shape to give an animation a sense of flexibility and vitality. Otherwise, the motion can look stiff or unyielding due to the lack of stretch and squash. Transitioning from a good Squash posture to a Stretch pose, or the other way around, disrupts the flawless solidity that computer-generated imagery CGI frequently gives to things.

Why Do Animators Need Squash and Stretch In Animation?

Squash and Stretch are incredibly useful in animation because they can give inanimate things or characters a dynamic, flexible appearance. Animation squash and stretch can be used on specific bodily parts (fingers, limbs, eyes, etc.) or even character postures. For this reason, every animator needs to be familiar with and proficient in the application of S&S in character and object postures. This is also the reason why, in order to learn how to give any movements or objects a sense of life, every animator in training has to pass the flour sack exam.

Character Structure

It is essential not to overdo the stretch and squash animation effect, but more of the beginners do so. However, if the S&S effect is overdone, the audience will no longer feel a connection to the character, which is a backfire.

For many animators, squashing and cartoon stretching are best approached with a “feel it, but don’t see it” mentality. The aim is to apply S&S just enough so that, at a look, it evokes a genuine “feeling,” but not so much that you “see it with your own eyes.” The animators may have overdone the effect or overshot the timing of the motion if it was too obvious. 

Character Structure
Source: Vecteezy

In order to use broad S&S and provide the desired “feel it, not see it” effect, animators must ensure that the object or character swiftly recovers from extreme squashes or stretched states, returning to a neutral shape. Because of this, the movements have a “bounce” and smoothness that enable the viewer to “feel it” without having to watch the poses for an extended period.

Maintain The Volume of The Object

In squash and stretch animation, “maintaining volume” is another crucial component. Animators should be aware that the “neither created nor destroyed” rule should be adhered to while squeezing and extending an object’s shape. The animators’ failure to properly maintain the volume is the reason why viewers of the animation may sense that the object is starting to acquire or lose bulk and size.

Source: Prototypr

To keep the movement realistic, S&S will extend the object in one direction in addition to squashing it perpendicularly.

How To Master Squash and Stretch?

Probably one of the worst mistakes a beginner animator makes is to overuse S&S; this usually makes a walking animation awkward. Everyone wants to play with and flaunt the entertaining gadget that comes in the package. Take care not to overdo it to the point where your character becomes unbelievable or appears damaged or off-model.

Many animation companies have a motto that goes something like this: “Feel it, but don’t see it.” With the animation playing back at 24 frames per second, the idea is that you can feel but not actually see the S&S. You would only be able to view the S&S by going through the frames. When playing back, if the S&S is too visible, it indicates that you are either using too much or that the timing is too long.

Remember to recover from excessive S&S poses rapidly (transition back to the neutral shape) while utilizing broad S&S but aiming to accomplish “feel it, not see it.” This provides the S&S with wonderful snappiness while preventing the audience from noticing and becoming sidetracked.

Final Takeaway!

The squash and stretch principle for animators is crucial to comprehend (and perfect) out of the 12 principles of animation that Walt Disney and his collaborators devised.

Stretch and Squash have a “superpower” that, when appropriately used to animate an object or character, gives the image vitality and a more flexible, dynamic feel.

But as with other things in life, bigger does not always equate to better. The effects could be counterproductive if the animators employ S&S excessively. Therefore, animators need to have a thorough understanding of object movement and know when to employ squash and stretch to give the viewer a vivid impression without being overtly evident.

Furthermore, if you are looking for excellent animation solutions, Anideos is here to assist. We, as a leading animation studio, ensure to provide you with the best services.

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Aleena Gill

Aleena Gill

Aleena Gill is a copywriter and content specialist with years of experience in the digital industry. She has a knack for blending creativity with strategic insight that leads businesses of all sizes and niches, particularly animation and tech, to success. Her persuasive and impactful content not just informs, but engages, resonates, and drives results.