How to become a animator

Do you have a vivid imagination? Do you love drawing and developing characters? Would you love to see those characters come to life? Then, you could be the next groundbreaking animator. Cartoons and animations touch every aspect of modern life. These days opportunities don’t just start and end with children’s programming. There is a growing demand for animators powered by an increasing use of the medium in a wider field of uses. Animators use hand-drawing and computer-generated drawings to create moving illustrations. They work using a combination of traditional and modern tech methods. You can find animators work in children’s cartoons, computer games, feature film special effects, online advertising, and many other capacities. What for many people starts as a hobby has the potential to evolve into a positive and rewarding career.

If you are a passionate creative person, a visual story-teller, and you have a tech geek side to your personality. Then, becoming an animator could be your dream job. Check out the steps you need to take to realise your dreams and to find a course to perfect your skills. 

Step one: Consider a specialisation

While animators don’t have to choose a specialisation before getting started. It is worthwhile considering the available directions first. Many courses will have a slightly different emphasis or focus on different skill sets. Therefore, if you have an idea of the direction you would like to take further down the line, you can better select the course which will best prepare you.

Video Game Artists

If you love video games then you might relish the opportunity to animate them. Video game artists create 3D worlds and take animation into the next realm. You don’t just create animations for people to watch, you create world and character for people to interact with and experience. The role requires you to create and to master the technical skills needed to animate in 3D.

Special Effects Animator

In this specialisation your focus moves away from characters and towards the other elements of animation. In real terms, this means you could be animating weather elements such as snow, wind, fire, rain. Or you might animate natural landscapes, the background details of the imagined world, or other elements like vehicles, machines or buildings. If movements and patterns and how elements interact together (how does fire react in the wind?) fascinate you this specialisation will make a good choice.


Working specifically in cartoon format you enjoy tradition forms of expression, drawing. Cartoonists focus on illustrations which tell a story, a commentary or humour. Traditionally you find your work displayed in magazines, newspapers, books. In short, in a static format. However, in recent times cartoonists have found a new medium on the internet and we are increasingly seeing cartoon style animations in use online.

Step two: Choose a course

There is a range of different animation courses available, and each one has a different emphasis. When choosing your course bear in mind your strengths, interests and the area you would like to specialise in, in future. For animators, committing to a course is an important step to take towards realising your dream. This is because you will need to develop your technical knowledge and software savvy before beginning to apply for work.

Step three: Apply for membership of professional animators

You do not have to apply for membership with professional animator bodies. However, membership of these kinds of organisations can help you to land your first job and raise people perception of you. At the same time, they can act as a valuable source of information, and as a professional network, you can tap into.

Step four: Apply for your first job

After you have completed your training you can apply for your first job. You may need to start with an entry-level position to build on your experience. When applying for work remember to tailor your resume and cover letter for each application. Moreover, don’t forget to highlight your qualifications, personal strengths and any relevant experience you may have.

Step five: Gain experience

Once you have your first job (well done you), you can focus on building on your experience. As you develop your skills and build up your portfolio of projects you can eye up career progression, or your target specialisation.

What do Animators Do?

The daily tasks and responsibilities of an animator can vary a lot, depending on their chosen field of work. However, in general, they will follow the same formula. Firstly, they begin a project with research for an idea or client brief. Then, they develop ideas by making plans and sketches. Meanwhile, they refine the sketches and built upon the ideas to make a storyboard for the animation. After this, the animator may present the storyboard to the client, or animation team. Next, the team gives feedback. Then, they develop the design further or confirm and begin the final work. Once they have developed ideas and details into a clear concept the animating “proper” begins. In large-scale projects, a large team develops the animation, in smaller projects a smaller team works together.  Once the team has completed the animation, they produce the audio and synchronise it with the animation.


  • Designing concepts and models for characters
  • Synchronising the audio with the animation
  • Creating the background detail for scenes
  • Liaising with the art department and crew

Skills for Success

Animation is a creative field and to succeed you need to be a very imaginative visual person. You will come up with and develop your ideas into whole worlds and character. To successfully do this you need to be able to visualise ideas then translate those imaginings into illustrations. As well as creativity you need a technical side to get to grips with the software you will use as your animating tool. You must pay attention to detail so the completed work is consistent. At the same time, you need to add flair and originality to the animations. Animators generally work as a part of a team, so it is important to communicate well, to listen and to take on board views other than your own. Meanwhile, you may also spend considerable time working at the computer on the animation, so you also need to enjoy working alone. 

Skills and attributes

  • Creative with a strong imagination
  • Able to work as a team as well as to spend time working alone
  • Pay excellent attention to detail
  • Skilled with computers
  • Excellent drawing skills

What is an animator salary in Australia?

In Australia, animators earn a median wage of $55,462 per year. This varies according to a number of factors and is intended as a reference only, from Payscale 05/’18.

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