An animation artist gets to breathe life in imaginary characters, bringing ideas into reality so that others can enjoy them. But whether it is creating stunts scenes in a Spider-Man series or characters for a new Toy Story movie, animation requires talent and skill.
Anyone who hopes to build a successful animation career needs to have a few essential skills. What are those skills and what educational background is required for animation, we unpack below.
What is the job of an animation artist?
An animator or multimedia artist creates 2D or 3D animations (learn the difference here), models and visual effects. They make frames, which are multiple images that give the illusion of movement of when shown in rapid sequence.
How these frames are created can change, depending upon the animator’s style and the field. The field an animator can work for can vary from video games, televisions, movies to more.
As an animator, some of the things you will get to do are:
- Research projects to make realistic animations.
- Build a storyboard to map out entire animation scenes.
- Create graphics and animations through illustrations and programs.
- Work with teams of other artists and animators included in the project.
- Tweak visual effects or animations based on feedback from clients or designers.
In short, the job of an animator is labour intensive. It also requires a lot of teamwork with other people.
What animation course is required to be an animator?
More than a degree, companies look for a good portfolio and strong technical skills in animator. That said, most artists enrol in an animation course to build basic skills.
The best animation institute equips you with the creative and technical skill necessary to land a job. Anyone who has passed 10+2 can join one. You have the choice of full-time and part-time courses.
Besides an animation certification like that from an Arena animation institute, a bachelor’s degree in art or animation is also an option. But keep in mind degrees take longer and are more expensive than a course.
Read more: how to pick the right animation course?
What skills are needed to be an animator?
Most people think that to excel in the craft of animation you just need creativity. It is not true. Creativity does help animation artists to come up with original ideas and give them life. But a master animator needs more than that.
1. Artistic talent
Some raw talent for art is necessary to be an animator. You don’t have to be a maestro. Just have an artistic ability. A good animation course will compensate for all other shortcomings.
What is included in artistic talent? Understanding of light, shadow, texture and colour theory. Since all animation uses colours to express, you must know how to leverage them for your characters. You should be capable of thinking which hues and shades will express an emotion or feeling the best.
2. Analysing skills
With games, movies and television series now available in 4K resolution, the level of detail has increased. The more pixels on a screen, the more attention you need to pay to the little things.
So, the next skill you need to be an animation artist is analysis. You should be able to pay immaculate attention to small details and analyse how to bring them to life. Where is the character looking? How fast should the eye blink? How slow should the figure move? It is these minutiae that make all the difference.
When an animator fails to pay meticulous attention, audiences pick up on it automatically. Using your analysis skill, you must comb through every frame. Observe what more needs to be added and what needs to be edited out. Even something as simple as which direction the blades of hair move when the wind is blowing can greatly impact the complete animation.
3. Technical skills
The most important skill an animation artist must have is technical. These are practical skills that blend with your artistic and creative ability to give each character life.
Foremost, you must master the 12 principles of animation. These form the foundation and are the core techniques you will use throughout your animation career.
Just as important are your computer skills. Most animators and multimedia artists rely on computer programs to make most animation. These include software such as Maya, 3D Studio Max, Adobe Flash, etc.
Some familiarity with graphic design is also helpful because it is graphic motion that brings an element of life to any animation. It is how you know to create figures and add visual effects like how a body moves in real life.
Some tools animators must be skilled at:
4. Communication skills
The job of an animator doesn’t happen in isolation. They work with many different departments, which means the film, series, or game is a collaborative effort.
For example, say you are working on an animation scene that has many sequences. Each sequence is animated by a different person. To make it appear as if one person has made the entire scene, everyone must communicate with each other.
Therefore, the next prerequisite skill to be an animation artist is solid and reliable communication. You should be able to explain your idea or concerns to others clearly and succinctly.
5. Time management skill
Time management is an important skill for animators. Even though it is often swept under the rug. Why? Because most animation studios work on very tight deadlines and for long hours. You should be proficient at juggling a lot of work in a short time. Without effective time management, you’ll simply fail to meet deadlines.
Do you need to know how to draw to be an animation artist?
The one question people ask frequently is – do animation artists need to know how to draw? The answer to this is slightly complex.
Drawing skills are not necessary if you want to be a 3D animator. 3D animation is less about being a great artist and more about creating a puppet that moves as you tell it. If you have a strong grasp of the 12 animation principles, you’ll be good at animation. It doesn’t matter if you can draw well or not.
Having said that, drawing is vital if you want to get into 2D animation. You don’t need fantastic drawing talent, but you should know how to do it. More importantly, your foundation of animation has to be strong.
A 2D animator can draw a stick figure and make it look stunning just by adding the right animation effects. Similarly, a 2D animation artist can spend hours drawing a character, and it’ll still look lifeless if not animated properly.
So, please don’t ever let the ability to draw get in your way. If you want to have a career in animation, go ahead and join a course. They will teach you the skills necessary for it.
Practice is essential for an animation career.
Skills and education have their place. But a brilliant animator is one who practices constantly. No one becomes an animation artist overnight. It takes learning, trial and error and a lot of practice.
You’ll create a thousand bad animations before you get to an amazing one. That’s why besides joining an animation institute to gain the right skills, you need to practice.
Keep implementing the animation principles repeatedly. Push your boundaries in your demo reels, and you’ll be creating for big names soon enough.
Know your animation career path
An animation career path is one that takes a great deal of passion, dedication and love. You don’t get to animate for Avengers in just one day. It takes completing a good animation course, great soft skills, mastery over technical skills and months of practice.
But that is true for any profession. The more you learn and experiment, the better you get. So, we give you one final piece of advice. Know the path you want to take before you learn how to be an animator.
Do you want to go into gaming? Do you want to work in animated movies? Or do you want to work in a series like WandaVision? It is vital because each industry has a different animation style. Your goal will decide which style you should focus on after you learn the basic and essential skills.
Is a career in animation worthwhile?
We’ve spoken about who is an animator, what education qualifications are needed to be one and what are the necessary skills. We leave you with one last answer. Is an animation career a good choice?
How much does an average animator earn?
Yes, it is. Animation in India is booming thanks to platforms like Netflix, Hotstar and Amazon Prime Video. Plus, production studios from the US and the UK are outsourcing their animation needs to us.
It means there are plenty of opportunities available with a very good starting pay! In short, there will be no better time to be an animator.