Throughout the years professional animators have used mirrors to capture facial expressions, even the use of full body mirrors to capture all of the characters movement to assist them in their animation. The mirror is a very important tool for animators. Some might say an animators job is easy, and they just make it all up in their head. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Since the dawn of traditional animation animators have used mirrors to help them with their animation, not just to make funny faces but as reference for mouth shapes, eye expression, hair movement, body language, anything the animator could get out of their own acting ability.

In this day and age many animators will use devices that can record themselves, such as an iPhone, iPad, webcam, or video recorders. Then simply just import the video into the program of their choice then use the key frames or extreme poses that work best for them or print them out and use them as a guide when animating on paper. Which is called, “Photo Stats”. Below you will find some of the Animation Masters using mirrors and having a FUN time doing it!

Disney Animator Fred Moore
Disney Animator Fred Moore
Disney Animator Ward Kimball
Disney Animator Ward Kimball
Disney Animator Ollie Johnston
Disney Animator Ollie Johnston
Disney Animator Ollie Johnston
Disney Animator Ollie Johnston
Disney Animator Woolie Reitherman
Disney Animator Woolie Reitherman
Disney Animator Norm Ferguson
Disney Animator Norm Ferguson
Disney Animator Norm Ferguson
Disney Animator Norm Ferguson
Disney & Don Bluth Films Animator Gary Goldman
Disney & Don Bluth Films Animator Gary Goldman
Disney Animator Charles 'Nick' Nichols
Disney Animator Charles ‘Nick’ Nichols
MGM Animator Irv Spence
MGM Animator Irv Spence
Terrytoons and Hanna-Barbera Animator Carlo Vinci
Terrytoons and Hanna-Barbera Animator Carlo Vinci
Terrytoons and Hanna-Barbera Animator Carlo Vinci
Terrytoons and Hanna-Barbera Animator Carlo Vinci
Warner Bros. Cartoons Animator Ken Harris
Warner Bros. Cartoons Animator Ken Harris
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The Author

Lavalle Lee

Lavalle Lee

Lavalle has been making animated online cartoons since 2001 for his website flashcartoons.org. In 2009 Lavalle started learning from Don Bluth in his hand-drawn animation classes, as well as attending his Masterclasses in Arizona. In 2011 he started this website after seeing most animation sites were about all types of animation, not any specific to classical hand drawn animation. Lavalle also is the host of the popular online series. "The Traditional Animation Show". Lavalle is currently working for Don Bluth Films as a Production Manager and helped champion Dragon's Lair: The Movie Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign.

31 Comments

  1. April 12, 2016 at 4:58 pm — Reply

    Fraser MacLean

  2. April 12, 2016 at 4:58 pm — Reply

    Nope, but occasionally I do have someone video tape me doing certain actions for reference, and I also take pictures of parts of me, like my hands.

  3. April 12, 2016 at 4:59 pm — Reply

    Nope, not all all. All imagenation

  4. April 12, 2016 at 5:09 pm — Reply

    How’d you find that picture if me?! There are far more worthy animators whom you could have selected.

  5. April 12, 2016 at 5:10 pm — Reply

    Actually I video myself on QuickTime or Photo Booth and draw from that.

  6. April 12, 2016 at 5:12 pm — Reply

    Fotos e vídeos são mais empregados hoje em dia.

  7. April 12, 2016 at 5:23 pm — Reply

    yes

  8. April 12, 2016 at 5:30 pm — Reply

    So true!

  9. April 12, 2016 at 5:54 pm — Reply

    Yes. For facial expressions it’s a lot faster than reference photos.

  10. April 12, 2016 at 5:58 pm — Reply

    When I practiced frequently back in middle school, yeah.

  11. April 12, 2016 at 6:59 pm — Reply

    Guilty

  12. April 12, 2016 at 7:48 pm — Reply

    My desk is right beside my wardrobe and the doors have mirrors so… lucky me I have immediate support xD

  13. April 12, 2016 at 8:25 pm — Reply

    Extremely helpful for drawing mouth movements for lip sync. Also helpful to see which direction parts of your face (like eyebrows, cheeks, nose) move when expressions change.

  14. April 12, 2016 at 8:34 pm — Reply

    Güga M

  15. April 12, 2016 at 8:43 pm — Reply

    I do!

  16. April 12, 2016 at 8:47 pm — Reply

    Yes.

  17. April 12, 2016 at 8:53 pm — Reply

    No, but that’s because I don’t have a place to put it or hold it. I touch my face instead

  18. April 12, 2016 at 9:03 pm — Reply

    I did it in my school’s studio last week, in a dark corner in the reflection of a window

  19. April 12, 2016 at 9:40 pm — Reply

    sometimes i snap selfies of myself at different angles or making hand gestures to get an idea of what i’m doing

  20. April 12, 2016 at 11:15 pm — Reply

    I might try this old method

  21. April 13, 2016 at 1:09 am — Reply

    I was a background artist so…not very much

  22. April 13, 2016 at 1:45 am — Reply

    Not just animation- making faces when you’re drawing comics and storyboards is very helpful when you want a character’s expression to be really genuine. It’s like method acting! I think I learned this from Erik Wiese. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEklyiK0qWU

  23. April 13, 2016 at 3:45 am — Reply

    I do, yes.

  24. April 13, 2016 at 1:20 pm — Reply

    Not anymore

  25. April 13, 2016 at 2:30 pm — Reply

    I use a mirror when I animate! I remember buying one from Lightfoot

  26. April 13, 2016 at 5:42 pm — Reply

    Yes, have had it since school. Same mirror over 25 years.

  27. April 13, 2016 at 7:08 pm — Reply

    Mirrors are a great tool not used enough by artists.

  28. Rita Geraghty
    April 18, 2016 at 4:33 pm — Reply

    Nope, I can’t do it that way. I look at live models instead. I find them at Pinterest, Youtube, Google Image, etc.

  29. Rita Geraghty
    April 18, 2016 at 7:26 pm — Reply

    I collect videos of real people with interesting facial expressions. I get load of ideas there. I also collect videos on mime acting.

    MUST-SEE funny face acting

    Brilliant face acting by Luciano Rosso. See all his channels. You can never get enough of him.
    http://youtu.be/-gSYKgAMPBc
    http://youtu.be/CwCp67HweTA

    Dean Laurant, a gifted face actor.
    http://youtu.be/R_bx_9QYt7k
    http://youtu.be/i3mvIYeS964

  30. Tamsin Parker
    August 8, 2016 at 3:41 pm — Reply

    I film myself and then use the expressions as reference. I’m a very confident actress and I can throw myself into any role.

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