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How to Become an Animator? All You Need to Know

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To become an animator, one can pursue formal education in animation or gain experience through internships or personal projects. With the right training and resources, anyone can become an expert animator. Read ahead to learn how to become an animator and turn your passion into a thriving career.

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Who is an Animator?

The animator is an artist who creates the illusion of motion by creating and manipulating still images. Animators design, draw, sketch, or render individual frames that form the animation. They work on the movement and timing of the animation to make it look smooth and lifelike. Animators use specialized software like Maya, Blender, After Effects, Flash, Toon Boom, etc. to animate their drawings and designs. 

The work of an Animator typically involves:

Creating character designs, storyboards, and animatics to plan out the animation. This includes designing characters, backgrounds, props, etc., and figuring out shot sequences and transitions.

Drawing or rendering individual frames of animation. This can involve hand-drawing on paper, using a graphics tablet, or 3D animation software. The animator makes minor changes to the drawings or images in each frame to create the illusion of movement.

Determining the timing, pace, and flow of the animation. Animators control how fast or slow, loose or realistic the movements appear based on the number of frames used. More frames mean smoother movements.

Collaborating with team members like directors, producers, artists, etc. Animators may work as part of a larger animation team. They provide and receive feedback to improve the overall animation.

Using specialized software to compile the sequence of images into an animated film or video. The software helps layer the images, synchronize them to sound, add effects, color correct, etc. 

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How to Become an Animator? A Step-wise Approach

How to Become an Animator

An animator’s job is a daunting profession as it requires a combination of artistic talent, technical skills, and dedication to the craft. On a positive note, with the right mindset and resources, it is certainly achievable. To explore more about the expertise, one can follow the below-mentioned steps:

Develop Your Drawing Skills

The foundation of any animation career is a solid grasp of drawing and illustration. Animators bring characters and stories to life through sequential drawings and sketches. Start honing your craft by practicing the fundamentals of drawing, like perspective, anatomy, lighting, and proportions. Draw sketches of various animated characters to improve your skills. You can only draw a little, so sketch regularly and frequently. 

Learn Animation Techniques 

There are many animation techniques to master, including traditional 2D animation, 3D animation, stop motion, rotoscoping, and motion graphics. While 3D and stop motion animations rely more on software and models, 2D animation is still heavily dependent on drawing by hand. Study the 12 principles of animation which include concepts like squash and stretch, anticipation, staging, follow-through, etc. These core techniques will strengthen your animation skills.

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Master Animation Software

Today, most animation is created digitally using specialized software like Maya, Blender, After Effects, and Toon Boom Harmony. Pick one software to start with and learn how to model 3D characters, rig characters for animation, animate, render, and composite shots. Many of these tools offer free trials and tutorials to help you learn. Become proficient in a software program that matches your area of interest, whether 2D, 3D, or motion graphics.

Build Your Portfolio 

A portfolio featuring your best work is essential to land a job as an animator. Your respective portfolio should include a reel showcasing short clips of your animations, still renderings, storyboards, character designs, sketches, and illustrations. Moreover, share your work on websites like YouTube, Vimeo, and ArtStation to increase your visibility. You can also create small animations for clients to build your experience. Build a portfolio tailored for the specific animation roles you want, like character animator, layout artist, or visual effects artist.  

Earn a Degree

While not always required, earning a degree in animation, visual effects, art, or a related field can be helpful for your career. Bachelor’s and post-graduate programs teach foundational skills through a structured curriculum. You can also participate in internships and build connections in the animation industry. However, many successful animators are self-taught or learn on the job. So, a formal degree is optional if you have a strong portfolio and passion for animation.


Basic Skills Required to Become an Animator

Becoming a successful animator requires a blend of technical skills, creativity, and artistic abilities. Here are some crucial skills needed to excel in the field of animation:

Animation Software Proficiency: Familiarity with popular animation software like Adobe After Effects, Autodesk Maya, Toon Boom Harmony, or Blender is essential. These tools are used for creating animations, special effects, and 3D modeling.

Drawing and Illustration: Strong drawing skills are fundamental for animators. Understanding anatomy, perspective, and character design enables you to bring life to your animations.

Storytelling: Animators need to be skilled storytellers. Understanding narrative, pacing, and emotion helps in creating compelling and engaging animations.

Timing and Movement: A good sense of timing and movement is crucial to make animations appear realistic and dynamic.

3D Modeling and Rigging: 3D animators need to possess expertise in 3D modeling and rigging as it enables them to create and animate characters and objects within a 3D environment.

Computer Graphics: Understanding computer graphics principles, including lighting, shading, and texture mapping, is vital for creating visually appealing animations.

Finding Work and Thriving in Your Career  

Once you have the skills in place, the next steps are finding work, building your experience, and advancing in your animation career:  

  • Build connections with other animators and studios. Connect with animators on websites like LinkedIn and ArtStation and follow animation studios for opportunities.  
  • Apply for entry-level roles at animation and VFX studios. Roles like junior animator, character layout artist, production assistant, etc. are good for starting your career.  
  • Consider relocating to hubs for animation like Los Angeles, Vancouver, Montreal, Austin, etc. Your job prospects will be much higher in these areas.  
  • Gain experience by interning at animation studios. Offer your skills for free to work on productions and make professional connections. 
  • Work on freelance projects to build up your animation experience. Increase your rates as you gain more experience.
  • Advance to mid-level and senior roles over time like lead animator, VFX supervisor, creative director, etc. Promotions and pay raises will come through continuous experience.  

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Start Your Career as an Animator

With passion, patience, and persistence, you can build a successful career as an animator. Start honing your craft, create eye-catching animations for your portfolio, and look for openings at animation studios. The magical world of animation can turn into a dream career!

Starting a career as an animator is an exciting and rewarding journey into the world of creativity and imagination. As technology continues to advance and the demand for captivating visuals grows, animators play a crucial role in various industries. These industries include film, television, gaming, advertising, and digital media.

To embark on a successful career as an animator, it is essential to develop a strong foundation in art and animation principles. Building a portfolio that showcases your skills and creativity is crucial for standing out in a competitive industry. Whether you are interested in 2D or 3D animation, honing your skills in software tools such as Adobe XD Creative Suite, Maya, or Blender will be invaluable.

As technology continues to advance and new mediums for storytelling emerge, the future of animation appears promising. Animators are expected to continue playing a crucial role in the entertainment industry by creating engaging and immersive experiences for audiences.

  • As virtual and augmented reality experiences technologies become more widespread, there’s going to be a huge demand for animators who can create 3D models and environments that can be explored in VR and AR. Therefore, a brilliant creation of immersive and interactive experiences is in demand to transport audiences to new worlds.
  • The gaming industry is a thriving sector that is constantly evolving and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in the world of entertainment. Therefore, animators across the globe are striving hard to offer the best experience for gamers by creating compelling character animations.
  • Streaming services continue to dominate the entertainment landscape. There will be a need for animators to create original content for these platforms. From animated series to short films, there will be opportunities for animators to showcase their creativity and storytelling abilities.
  • In terms of job titles, animators may find work as character animators, 3D modelers, storyboard artists, or concept artists. They may also work in related fields such as visual effects or motion graphics.

Future of Animation

Animation is a continually evolving field. Constantly strengthen and diversify your skills to remain in demand as an animator. While software and tools will change with time, a foundation in the essential principles of animation will serve you well throughout your career. Stay passionate and never stop learning!

As an animator, you need to constantly improve your skills to stay up-to-date with trends in the industry. Here are some tips to strengthen your animation skills:

Tips to Strengthen your Animation Skills
  • Practice New Styles: Try different animation styles like cel-shaded, rotoscoped, or experimental styles. Step out of your comfort zone to expand your skills.
  • Learn New Software: Tools like Blender, After Effects, Invision Studio, etc. are constantly upgraded with new features for animators. Update your knowledge of animation software. 
  • Take Online Courses: Enroll in courses on animation, visual effects, modeling, etc. to pick up new techniques. Udemy, Pluralsight, and Digital Tutors offer courses for animators.
  • Follow Tutorials: It is pertinent to follow guided courses or tutorials to work on animation and learn more about software programs.UI/UX Design Tutorial for Beginners is one such tutorial that can help you significantly.
  • Stay up-to-date with Trends: Track the latest animation, VFX, and CGI trends to shift your work to match current styles. For example, styles like animesque, megastructures, and neon aesthetics are popular.  
  • Cross-train in Related fields: Take up complementary skills like modeling, rigging, visual effects, video editing, etc. to open up more career opportunities. Crossover experience will make you a valuable candidate for animation jobs.  
  • Practice Observational Drawing: Improve your basic drawing skills through gesture drawing, figure drawing, and drawing from life. Observe people, animals, and objects around you and sketch rapidly. Better drawing translates to better animation.

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Best Animation Tools and Software

Some popular animation tools and software in each category:

2D Animation Tools:

  • Adobe Animate: The 2D animation software facilitates the creation of interactive animations and vector-based graphics, encompassing an extensive array of functionalities while providing support for multiple file formats.
  • Toon Boom Harmony: This software is widely utilized by studios for its professional-grade 2D animation capabilities. It offers a comprehensive range of advanced tools for both traditional and digital animation, encompassing character rigging, special effects, and multiplane camera functionalities.
  • TVPaint Animation: Introducing a flexible 2D animation software that encompasses a traditional animation process. This comprehensive toolset includes various drawing and painting instruments, along with advanced functionalities such as onion skinning and animation based on a timeline.
  • Synfig Studio: An open-source 2D animation software that allows you to create high-quality animations. It offers a bone system for character rigging, vector-based drawing tools, and a robust timeline for animation control.
  • Pencil2D: A free and open-source 2D animation software suitable for beginners. It provides a simple interface and basic drawing tools for frame-by-frame animation.

3D Animation Tools:

  • Autodesk Maya: An extensively utilized software for 3D animation, providing a wide range of tools for modeling, rigging, animation, and rendering. It enjoys significant popularity among professionals in the film, television, and game development sectors.
  • Blender: An impressive and cost-free 3D animation software, recognized for its open-source nature and dedicated community of users. It offers a wide range of capabilities for modeling, animation, rigging, simulation, and rendering, catering to the needs of diverse industries.
  • Cinema 4D: An acclaimed software for 3D animation, widely recognized for its user-friendly interface and intuitive design. This software provides an extensive array of features for modeling, animation, texturing, and rendering, catering to the needs of motion graphics and visual effects enthusiasts.

Instructional Design Animation Tools:

  • Vyond (formerly GoAnimate): A web-based animation tool designed specifically for creating instructional and explainer videos. It offers pre-built characters, scenes, and props, along with a user-friendly interface for creating engaging animations.
  • Articulate Storyline: An e-learning authoring tool that enables users to produce engaging instructional animations with interactive elements. It provides a variety of ready-made templates, characters, and interactivity features to facilitate the creation of captivating learning experiences.

Salary of an Animator

Here is a general overview of the salary ranges for animators in both countries:

United States

  • Entry-level animators in the United States can earn an average annual salary of around $40,000 to $60,000.
  • Mid-level animators with some experience and expertise may earn between $70,000 to $100,000 or more per year.
  • Highly skilled and experienced animators working in prestigious studios or with extensive portfolios can earn even higher salaries.


  • Entry-level animators in India typically earn an average annual salary of around INR 2,50,000 to INR 5,00,000.
  • Mid-level animators with more experience and proficiency may earn between INR 5,00,000 to INR 10,00,000 or more per year.
  • Senior animators or those with specialized skills working in established animation studios can command higher salaries.

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As said earlier, the animator profession is a challenging but rewarding journey. Just requires a combination of artistic talent, technical skills, and dedication. Ultimately, with the right mindset and resources, anyone with a passion for animation can embark on a fulfilling career bringing characters and stories to life. With talent, hard work, and persistence, you can build a rewarding career as an animator. Let your imagination guide you to animating memorable characters, scenes, and stories for years to come!

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