Animation Art Terminology

A mini dictionary to explain common terms you will hear on the road of your cel/animation art collecting journey.

Background (背景)

Backgrounds are usually drawn and painted with watercolor or gouache paint. Acrylic is not normally used for backgrounds because it has a nasty habit of sticking to itself and thus might stick to and damage the paint on cels. Backgrounds are a specialized field of animation. They require a lot of talent and a good understanding of blocking.  Even though modern day animation has switched to digital many studios still utilize hand painted backgrounds. While some can be pricey they generally will not cost as much as you would think.



Original Background from Saiyuki Reload: Burial OVA Episode 1, Sanzo's Chapter

Cel (セル画)

Cels (celga/セル画) are the finished product of the animation process.  A cel is made from transferring dougas (finished pencil drawings) onto a clear sheet of acetate by various methods such as xerox or more rarely they may be hand painted. They are then painted on the back with cel paints using a master color key for the character (s) as a guide.  Most cels are farmed out to offshore studios that churn them out in bulk commonly leading to mistakes. Every cel that goes under the camera must be checked by someone to check for errors. Mistakes such as incorrect paint colors and disappearing objects from frame to frame can lead to entire cuts getting reanimated. 

Production Cel Types

A further breakdown of the types of cels you will run into and what people are generally talking about when they are talking about them.

Production Cel Types

Opening (OP) Cel, Ending Cel (ED)

These are the cels that make up the opening of the show. Most shows have 1 opening that is animated per season and then the sequence is reused for every episode. The same applies to End credits. Only one set of cels is made for each opening or ending.  These cels are generally the most sought after as most fans of the show find them easily recognizable.  They also tend to be super pricey as well so they are often a target for for fakes and reproductions being sold as the real thing, so watch out!

This is an example of the SDFM Macross TV series opening credits.  Artwork from this sequence is very rare and expensive.

Production Cel Types

END cels / "A1 END" cels / Tome (止) Cels

An END cel (marked with either END/ E/ or the kanji 止) is the last cel in an animation sequence. A1END cel setups are sometimes referred to as Tome/止 cels. When a cel is marked with a letter A/B/C/E..+ 1 + END/E/止 then that means it is the only cel for that particular animation sequence. So an A1END cel setup starts and ends with only that frame. Since there is only a single frame in this type of setup it will generally bring up the value of a cel/setup depending on the quality of the image.  In the case of a multiple cel setup, a B1End/止 will increase the value of the setup, because any other setups with the A2 or C3 for example will always be missing that B1End/E.

Below are examples of how an A1 end cel can be labeled


1st is "END"


2nd is "E" with a circle around it


3rd has the kanji "止" 

Production Cel Types

Key Cel

Production Cel Types

Bank Cel

A bank cel refers to a cel that is used/filmed repeatedly rather than remade for every instance that it is needed. A good example is a cel used in a opening or ending sequence.  Other notable uses for bank cels are for the transformation or attack sequences in Sailor Moon. Rather than redraw the cel each time they just reuse the same bank cels. 

Production Cel Types

Eyecatch Cel

In many anime series', there is a commercial break about halfway through the episode (depending on its length).  To demarcate these breaks, sometimes a quick animation will play. These are often repeated throughout a season.  In some cases—Sailor Moon is an example—there is an animation both before and after a commercial break.  In other shows (Fullmetal Alchemist is one), there is simply an image that flashes, and they are different for every episode.

Production Cel Types

Book Cel

Book cels usually refer to a full setup of multiple layers including backgrounds.  The setup will include the main background, the characters or character involved in the scene, and then another layer that is actually part of the background. The example below shows the background including the trees, blue sky, and building, two separate layers of the characters Sakura and Yukito, and finally notice how the bench arm is in front of Sakura's arm that is the top background layer.  This setup helps to give 2D animation the illusion of depth.

Weird JD Note: I never thought book made much sense I always personally called them sandwich cels cause you have two layers of background around a nice cel center. ^_^;;