How To Become An Animator (With Tips For Career Success)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 19 January 2023

Published 4 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Animation is a popular career choice with numerous job opportunities. An animator creates 2D, 3D or stop-motion animation, computer graphics and visual effects for commercials, television shows, films, video games, magazines and mobile applications. If you are interested in a creative career that offers lucrative pay and flexible working opportunities, you can consider becoming an animator. In this article, we share a step-by-step guide on how to become an animator, discuss different career paths in animation and share tips on how you can improve your animation skills.

Related: What Is An Animator? Definition, Qualification And Skills

How To Become An Animator?

Follow these steps to learn how to become an animator and begin your career in this field:

1. Obtain a bachelor's degree or post-graduate diploma

To obtain the required educational qualifications, you can choose between a graduate degree or diploma course in animation or other allied subjects. The minimum eligibility requirement for an undergraduate animation programme is 10+2 or equivalent. The duration of these courses can range from six months to four years. Several private and government universities and colleges offer various courses in animation. Some popular courses include:

  • BA in animation and multimedia

  • Bachelor of visual arts (animation)

  • Bachelor of graphic design

  • BA in digital filmmaking and animation

  • BSc in animation and VFX

Related: A Guide To Animator Careers (Including Jobs And Salaries)

2. Complete certification in animation

If you are contemplating a career shift to animation, you can enroll in an online or offline animation course or certification to acquire the basic skills. You can take these courses along with your regular job. It is an easy and affordable way to learn the basics of animation and decide if it is a career choice that interests you. You can choose different online animation courses depending on your familiarity with the subject and current skill level.

3. Gain professional experience

Having prior work experience in animation can give you an advantage when applying for jobs. An internship can help you gain practical knowledge of how the animation industry works and provide you with networking opportunities that can help you build your career in the field. Another way to gain experience is by volunteering for non-profit organisations. You can include internship and volunteering experience on your resume to differentiate your application from other applicants.

Related: How To Write A Graphic Design Internship Resume (Examples)

4. Impress interviewers with a demo reel

Aspiring animators usually submit a demo reel along with the resume and cover letter while applying for jobs. A demo reel is a compilation of various animations you have created over the years. It is an excellent way to showcase your animation skills and styles. While creating a demo reel, you can include snippets of different animations or make it a short excerpt of your best animation yet. The easiest way to share a demo reel with recruiters is by uploading it online and including the link to it in your job application.

5. Build a portfolio to showcase your skills

An animator's portfolio is a collection of their best work samples in the form of an online album, website or video. It is an excellent way to showcase your skills, range and style to prospective employers. It can contain still images, videos or a combination of both. Include your best work at the beginning of the portfolio to engage recruiters as soon as they view it. Ensure an end card with your contact details so that the recruiter can connect with you to schedule a follow-up interview.

Related: How To Make A Portfolio: A Step-by-Step Guide

6. Prepare for the interview

The final step to securing a role as an animator is to prepare for the interview. Make sure your research the company and the job role thoroughly. Prepare to answer questions that test your technical knowledge and working style. Some recruiters may also require you to create a short animation snippet or drawing as a test so that they can evaluate your skills in person.

Related: How To Prepare For A Job Interview

Tips For Building A Successful Career In Animation

If you plan to build a career as an animator, these tips can help you differentiate yourself from your peers and accelerate career growth:

1. Develop soft skills

Besides technical skills and artistic abilities, animators require a range of soft skills to carry out their responsibilities effectively. Animators generally work as part of a team. Hence, strong communication skills, time management skills and team spirit can help you work seamlessly with other animators and digital artists. Animation can be time-consuming, and it may even take weeks to create a short animated sequence. So, skills like patience and perseverance can help animators carry out their tasks efficiently without feeling discouraged or demotivated.

2. Be aware of the production process

Animation is a diverse field, and there are several sub-industries like television, film, publishing and gaming. Understanding the role of the animator at the different stages of preproduction, production and post-production can help you get a clear idea of your preferred industry and position. Irrespective of the field you choose, having a good knowledge of video editing can be an advantage to working as an animator.

3. Practice drawing

Irrespective of your skill levels, regularly practicing sketching can help you improve your drawing and painting skills. Try different drawing techniques like composition, perspective and colour design. Besides, experiment with various objects like plants, animals, cartoons, human anatomy and work with diverse mediums like watercolour, oil paints and digital arts to improve your drawing skills across subjects.

Related: 12 Types Of Drawing Tools Essential For Artistic Careers

4. Improve your observation skills

Animators require strong observation skills to replicate the details of life in their animations. So, paying attention to details can play a crucial role in your work as an animator. Notice people's facial expressions and how they talk, walk and move. Also, notice how objects around you move when the wind blows, how the waves crash onto the shore and other natural movements. Try to sketch everyday things and people to improve your realistic drawing skills.

5. Improve your software skills

Successful animators are usually experts in both traditional and digital drawing and sketching. You can improve your digital drawing competence by using the right software tools. Some of the standard animation software include:

  • Maya

  • Procreate

  • After Effects

  • 3D Studio Max

  • Adobe Premiere Pro

It is not essential to invest in all these software programmes as many have a similar interface. So, once you understand how to use one, you can self-learn how to operate the others. Choose the right software tools that suit your working style and focus on improving your drawing and animation skills.

Related: What Is A 3D Animator? (Job Description And Requirements)

6. Identify and focus on your niche

Animation is a large industry with several specialised niche roles and skills. Some of the popular jobs include:

  • 2D animator

  • 3D animator

  • Special effect animators

  • Graphic designers

  • Multimedia artists

  • Background artist

  • Digital ink and paint artist

  • Character animator

  • Layout artist

  • Storyboard artist

  • Lighting artist

  • Image editor

  • Texture artist

  • Rendering artist

  • Modeller

  • Rigging artist

  • Keyframe animator

As an aspiring animator, it is a good idea to identify your strengths and weaknesses and choose a specialisation that best fits your interests, passions and skills. Once you identify your niche, you can improve your skills in that domain by taking up additional courses or interning under an experienced animator. You can also take tips and inspirations from video tutorials and by following the works of other animators on social media.

Related: 12 Popular Animation Careers (With Job Duties And Salaries)

7. Be aware of industry trends

Animation is a dynamic industry, and new technologies and software solutions are regularly available for animators. Staying up to date on the latest developments in the field can help you improve and optimise your performance. You can read animation blogs, magazines, journals or attend webinars and conferences to stay updated. Alternatively, you can also participate in online communities that help you connect with other animators and gain industry insights.

Career Path For Aspiring Animators

It is common for animators to work as freelancers for video game studios, motion picture studios, advertising agencies, publishing houses, cartoon companies, web design agencies and mobile technology firms. Alternatively, you can also take a full-time position at production companies or animation studios. Generally, animators begin their career with entry-level positions like junior animators, storyboard artists, modellers or junior compositors.

Once you gain experience, you can advance to mid-level positions like concept artists, compositors, character designers, layout artists, background designers and senior animators. With adequate knowledge and expertise, mid-level animators can move to senior positions like head of the story, art director, special effects director and animation technical director. Skilled animators can advance their careers to become movie directors or producers if these roles interest them.

Related: 43 Animation Interview Questions (Plus Example Answers)

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are associated with Indeed.

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