The Day-to-Day as a 2D Animator
2D Animators develop storyboards, characters, and backgrounds to bring stories to life in 2D. Some 2D Animators create animations and visual effects for mobile devices, video games, advertisements, and other forms of media. 2D Animators almost always work with a team unless they work freelance. They work with Art Directors, other Animators, Game Designers, and other staff. They can find work at motion picture and video studios, marketing agencies, a tech company, or a software company. More than half of all animators are self-employed and freelance or contract opportunities are abundant for this skil lset.
Each day, animators work on small tasks that will add up to a larger, final product. Numerous animators work many hours to complete even a 30-minute cartoon television show. Some projects require only one animator. This is typically a smaller animated component for commercial work and is often done by a freelancer. The 2D Animator’s daily life might involve tasks like drawing, painting, modeling, brainstorming, concept work, reviewing deadlines and development timelines, attending dailies and giving or receiving feedback, meeting with their team, meeting with actors, scripting, storyboarding, or assisting with background designs.
What Skills Should 2D Animators Have?
2D Animators need to be proficient in many different softwares and these may vary at each employer. Most 2D Animators rely on Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere Pro, Photoshop, and Cinema 4D. They should be skilled in hand-drawn animation, computer animation, and computer-generated animation as well.
2D Animators do more than drawing and modifying those drawings with a computer, though. Depending on their position, they’ll also work on character development, storyboarding, character layout, color theory, texture development, and more. They’ll need to have strong story-telling skills, even if they plan to freelance and make only graphics for computer software. Story-telling is a huge part of everything an Animator does.
Animation jobs almost always require working on or with a team. Communicating with that team, time management to meet deadlines, and learning leadership skills will be imperative for this job and for moving up in the industry. Being able to take critical feedback and check your ego at the door will make you a top-notch Animator when working on projects for other people.
Learn the Skills You Need to Become a 2D Animator
Photoshop is a software application created by Adobe for image editing and photo retouching on Windows or macOS computers. Photoshop can be used to manipulate and retouch photos. It can also be used to create compositions, collages, design comprehensives, and more.
After Effects is a computer software application developed by Adobe used to create visual effects and motion graphics. After Effects is used in the process of creating films, video games, television series, and other videos. It is most commonly used for keying, tracking, compositing, and animation.
Premiere Pro is a timeline-based video editing software application developed by Adobe. Premiere Pro is used to edit videos for film, tv, and the web.
Cinema 4D is a 3D software suite created by Maxon. It is used for 3D modeling, animation, nad rendering in motion graphics, modeling, and texturing. It is most commonly used by small teams and solo artists.
Motion graphics are pieces of digital footage or animation that create the illusion of motion. They are usually combined with audio and used in multimedia projects. Adobe After Effects is the most popular motion graphics software.
2D Animator Salaries
A 2D Animator in the United States makes, on average, $43,096 annually, according to Indeed.com.
Salaries for 2D Animators vary by region within the the United States. Listed below are some 2D Animator salaries for specific areas with the United States compared with the average national salary:
- U.S. Average $43K source n/a
Los Angeles, CA
Orange County, CA
New York City
- U.S. Average $43K source n/a
Typical Qualifications to Become a 2D Animator
A degree is not required for most animation positions, although it may be preferred. Most potential employers care far more about an applicant’s demo reel than their degree level. Many Animators have a bachelor’s in fine arts, computer animation, illustration, digital arts, media arts, or communications. Some Animators even have a master’s of fine arts in animation or visual effects.
Searching for 2D Animator Jobs
2D Animators can find work in-person at studios or companies, from home remotely in some cases, or anywhere by deciding to work freelance. Television, video, and movie studios are the most well-known employers of Animators, but other opportunities are out there! 2D Animators may find jobs with software companies, marketing agencies, or tech companies.
2D Animators can look for jobs on these sites:
- Google Jobs
- Animation World Network
- Chris Mayne’s Spreadsheet
- Art Station
- Entertainment Careers
- Game Jobs
- Simply Hired
- Visual Effects Society
2D Animators can find freelance gigs on these sites:
Tips to Become a 2D Animator
A 2D Animator should have a well-designed portfolio website and demo reel when applying for jobs. A strong demo reel should be less than 2 minutes, perhaps even under a minute. A 30-second reel with your best work ever is going to perform much better than a 2-minute reel with work you’re only mostly proud of. Animation reels should include any original sound for clips with dialogue. No background music is the industry preferred, but some unobtrusive background music can be okay. Include a title card at the beginning and end of your reel so that they don’t have to search for your information after watching. Post your reel on Vimeo or Youtube and share it on your social media.
There are multiple societies that are regional, national, or international that each offer ways for Animators to network and learn. The Society for Animation Studies (SAS) is a great resource for Animators and becoming a member will get you access to a list of thousands of experts and their contact information. These experts are often willing to have informational interviews, point you in the right direction of other people who can help you find a job, or even teach you something new. The SAS also hosts conferences and educational programs that will certainly help you boost your career prospects.
Networking is the best way to jump-start your career. Whether that’s making connections with genuine conversations on LinkedIn or another social media platform, going on informational interviews, or attending events in the industry, networking is a must. Every studio has its own job board, some colleges offer job boards, and so do most bootcamps. Keep a running list of studios you’d like to work at and check them often. Try to connect with someone who works at that studio in an adjacent position through LinkedIn or another networking channel. If you’re not the best at keeping tabs on multiple different job boards at once, check out Chris Mayne’s spreadsheet. Mayne has been tracking thousands of new studio job openings for the past four years and will continue to do so.
Many employers look for at least two years of experience in this industry. If you don’t have any experience and you’re looking for a job, you should definitely start your own passion project and try taking on freelance gigs. Creating your own short films is the best way to catch the attention of potential employers, especially if you share them and market them on video platforms and social media, because your passion can shine through. You should also take on freelance jobs while you look for your first full-time animation job, even if you work for free. Freelance platforms are a great place to start for this, but you can also find many opportunities on LinkedIn and network while you look for gigs which will build job search momentum more quickly.
What Job Titles Would a 2D Animator Hold?
Animators have the unique opportunity to choose from a variety of job titles and specializations which they can pivot between with relative ease. Some animators work only on certain mediums, in one industry, in specific roles, or on one type of project. Niching down this way can actually be extremely lucrative and save time during the job search. 2D Animators can find work in-person at studios or companies, from home remotely in some cases, or anywhere by deciding to work freelance.
Here are some job titles that 2D Animators can look for:
- 2D Animator
- Color Key Artist
- Character Animator
- Concept Artist
- Digital Painter
- Color Stylist
- Storyboard Artist
- Texture Artist
- Character Layout Artist
Additional 2D Animator Resources
- 2D Animator Job Description
- What Software Do 2D Animators Use?
- Best Cities for 2D Animators
- Is 2D Animation a Good Career?
- Is 2D Animation Right For Me?
- What Degree Do You Need to Become a 2D Animator?
- 2D Animator Career Path
- 2D Animator Certifications
- How to Become a 2D Animator Without a Degree
- How to Become a Freelance 2D Animator
- How to Become a 2D Animator in 3 Months
- 2D Animator Interview Questions
- 2D Animator Resume Guide & Tips
- 2D Animator Cover Letter
- 2D Animator LinkedIn Profile Guide & Tips
- Where and How to Secure 2D Animator Freelance Jobs
- 2D Animator Portfolio Website Guide & Tips
- 2D Animator Job Outlook
2D Animators can advance their careers to roles like Key Animator or Art Director by learning more about business and the industry while sharpening their leadership skills. They might also be interested in an adjacent career in 3D animation by learning how to use Maya, Cinema 4D, and character rigging. A role like Video Manager might be a good stepping stone to a director role or a great pivot for someone who wants to leave drawing daily behind.
Positions like Motion Graphics Designer are also certainly within reach for a 2D Animator. Motion Graphics Designers use similar skills but typically work on smaller, marketing-focused projects. If they’d like to work much less with animation or want to incorporate animation into traditional video, a 2D Animator could pivot to Video Editor by brushing up on their video editing skills.
Salary Comparison to 2D Animator
Video editors work on films from script to post-production. Working closely with their teams, they help with script and storyboard development, sound editing, and video layouts. Video editors are responsible for ensuring sequence and continuity throughout the film. They work with producers and directors as they develop treatments and storytelling approaches.Learn about becoming a Video Editor
3D animators take ideas and turn them into three-dimensional images and animations. Using their understanding of human and animal movement, 3d animators can create rich, realistic experiences. 3d animators work on movies and games, as well as some websites and online media. 3d animators create amusement park experiences such as those at Walt Disney World or Universal Studios.Learn about becoming a 3D Animator
Video managers take assets from ideation to post-production. Beginning with storyboards and scripts, video managers help guide the development of media assets of all kinds. Some video producers create digital ads, and others produce television shows or movies.Learn about becoming a Video Manager
Motion Graphics Designer
Glassdoor Avg. Salary
$80K / yearglassdoor.com
Motion Graphics Designers, sometimes referred to as MoGraph professionals, use visual effects and animation to create artwork for: television, film, tech devices, software, live-video, video games, applications, and the web.Learn about becoming a Motion Graphics Designer