Use the ‘squash and stretch’ technique to give your video projects a true sense of organic life.

Top image from Walt Disney Studios

When talking about animation, there’s probably no principle or technique more important than squash and stretch. If you’re not already familiar with the term squash and stretch, it’s a basic principle that says animated objects will squash or stretch depending on the direction they are traveling and the objects they are interacting with. Simple enough.

The most basic way to illustrate this technique is to use a bouncing ball. A bouncing ball that squashes when it hits the ground will look much more natural to the viewer than a ball that remains hard. Take a look at the example below. The ball on the left looks like an inflatable ball, while the one on the right is stiff like a bowling ball.

Bouncy Ball Squash and Stretch Animation

This tutorial from AlanBeckerTutorials is a wonderful overview of the squash and stretch principle of animation.

One awesome takeaway from Becker’s tutorial is the concept that, while the shape of your object may squash and stretch, the volume of the object must always stay consistent. It’s important to remember that squash and stretch doesn’t just apply to bouncing balls… it applies to everything from facial features to arm movements.

Bouncing Sketch
Image from Carolamadio

Squash and Stretch should be used anytime you want to give organic movement to an animation. For more information on squash and stretch, I highly recommend checking out The Illusion of Life by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. The book includes a very detailed section on the history and implementation of squash and stretch.

Squash and Stretch Example
Image from The Illusion of Life

Just remember, it’s important to have the mass of your animation at the front of your mind. The density of your subject will dictate how much they squash and stretch when interacting with the animated world around them.

How do you use squash and stretch in your animation? Got any additional old-school animation principles that you incorporate into your work? Share in the comments below!