Animation for beginners:  A short guide

Animation is everywhere on the internet. Open a page and you’ll find animated assets: logos ad banners, whiteboard explainer videos, kinetic typography, animated short stories, … you name it! With such high demand, the future for animators and other motion design professionals is bright. If you’re thinking of dipping your toes in the world of animation, now is a great time. Let’s go over a few fundamentals to get you started!

Animation Software

There’s an animator software for everyone out there. If you’re more of a weekend warrior or you want a quick and dirty animation for your business without going through too much of a learning process, you can use online video animation tools like Powtoon, Animaker, or Vyond.

At the other end of the spectrum is Autodesk Maya, which is pretty much the industry standard. It’s used by animation professionals to create 3D animation, modeling, environments, character creation, etc. You can see Autodesk Maya at work in many big-name productions like Finding Nemo, Avatar, and most CG animated films in Hollywood. Unless you’re a student, Autodesk Maya will cost you an arm and a leg.

A cheaper and more widely used alternative in the commercial world and the internet are Adobe Animate and Adobe After Effects. Animate is used for vector graphics, while After Effects is a more comprehensive tool and industry standard for compositing, visual effects, and motion graphics. If you’re familiar with the Adobe ecosystem, then both should be relatively easy to learn and use.

What Animators Do

Animators are artists, storytellers, consultants, and software specialists. They understand design, story, and movement. They create frames using digital or hand-drawn images, or even puppets. They then animate those images using a variety of techniques, such as frame-by-frame, 2D, 3D, modeling, or computer-generated animation. 

But there’s more to it. Animators are often involved in the project management, ideation stage, contract negotiation, client consulting, storyboarding, campaign design, etc. Because animators wear so many different hats, they should tap into many different skills, such as creativity, attention to detail, computer skills, and management skills. According to Glassdoor, animators get paid on average $74,000 a year.

Types of Animator Jobs

Animators can find work in many different industries: web design, computer games, marketing, and of course the film industry. While there is a high demand for salaried professionals, most animators are self-employed so it’s important to find a niche and build a reputation

Some of the most popular career paths for animators in 2021 are within (mobile) video game development, advertising, character animation, and visual effects. Other niches you might want to look into are UX wireframe design and prototyping, 3D modeling, motion graphics, stop-motion animation, compositing, forensic animation, character animation, cartoons, effects animation, texture creation, storyboard design, render wrangler, etc.

With so many interesting career paths on the rise, the key is to find one that you are passionate about and in which you excel. In the end, it’s all about art and your art is what you do better than others with relative ease. Whatever you choose, have fun with it!