Animation can be beautiful, captivating, and entertaining. If you have always loved animation and are thinking about making a career change, here are the skills you will need to become a successful animator.

What do animators do?

Not only is animation used in films but also in many other places, including websites, social media, and advertisements. Animation is used to entertain, inform, and tell a story. Animators use software tools to create films or animated elements for advertising agencies, film studios, and gaming companies. In addition to in-house positions, many animators work as freelancers. Animators often work as part of a team and sometimes need to work overtime or weekends to meet deadlines. The median salary is $77,700 per year and the field is expected to grow 16% in the next decade, which is faster than average.

Animation process

Animators follow a process when they create videos, and bringing an idea to life has several parts.

  • Concept or brief - Animators begin with a concept or idea that includes a brief description.
  • Script - The script is the verbal component, the words that will be included in the animation.
  • Style frames - These are drawings that demonstrate what style the animation will take.
  • Storyboard - This is a mockup of the action and narrative in the animation.
  • Voice over and music - This is a recording of the script and the musical score.
  • Animatics - The storyboards are combined with the audio portion to determine how long each shot is going to take.
  • Rough animation - The rough animation is a complete draft of the sequences.
  • Fine animation - The animation is refined to its final form.
  • Sound mixing - At this stage the sound is fixed and put together.
  • Delivery - The animation is changed into its final form and sent to the client.

Soft Skills for Animators

People who create animated videos and films need creative and people-oriented skills in order to be successful. These types of skills are referred to as soft skills and they include innate abilities and personality traits.

  • Artistic ability - While the ability to draw is a plus for an animator, with the powerful animation software that is available today, it really isn’t necessary. What is needed is an artistic eye and a creative imagination. Animators need to be able to transfer their ideas from their minds onto the screen.
  • Storytelling ability - Animators often work as a part of a team, so they may not be responsible for the story, but if you are working alone, you need to give the audience a compelling narrative to accompany the visuals.
  • An eye for detail - Paying attention to details is important for continuity and consistency in the project. If a character or element changes abruptly for no reason, the audience will be confused and disengaged.
  • The ability to work with others - When you are part of a team, it is important to be able to get along with the other members and work together to produce a great video.
  • Organization - It is important to maintain an organized workflow in order to manage a project and get it done on time.
  • Dedication - Meeting your obligations is an important part of any job, but animators work on deadline, so this is especially important here.

Hard skills for animators

Hard skills are acquired through training, practice, and experience. To be successful, animators need an array of abilities such as the following:

  • Software knowledge - Animators need to know how to use different software tools in order to produce videos. There are products like Adobe After Effects, Adobe Animate, Autodesk Maya, Blender and others that allow animators to create 2D and 3D animation, composite images, add sound, and render the files into a final form.
  • Design knowledge - An understanding of the basic principles of designing animation is important, too. Animators refer to them as the Twelve Principles of Animation Design, and they are guidelines to follow for creating animation that looks natural to the human eye.It is also important to know theories of color and also graphic design, especially if you will be working with motion graphics.
  • Project design and planning - If you are working as part of a team, another member may be in charge of this, but if you are on a solo project, you will be expected to create a prototype and a plan for the final design.
  • Time management - It is important to develop a sense for how long different sections of the project will take to accomplish, and to keep to the schedule.
  • Writing and editing - A larger team will have writers and editors, but animators might need to create and revise scripts for smaller projects.

Animation Software

Animators use software to create characters and effects, and the software you choose depends upon your design and the tasks you need to accomplish. Animation and special effects software is complicated and can be difficult to learn. There are many different software options and here are some favorites:

After Effects

After Effects is a video compositing and animation program from Adobe. After Effects allows an Editor to insert animations and special effects into videos during post production. Create titles, move objects, correct color, or use an extensive library of special effects.

Cinema 4D

With Cinema 4D an Editor can create, insert, and manipulate 3D graphics in a video. It also includes some lighting, texturing, and special effects capabilities. Cinema 4D is included in the Adobe Creative Cloud through an agreement with Maxon.


Animate is another Adobe product that creates mostly 2D animation. It can be used for characters but also to animate elements and drawings.

Autodesk Maya

Autodesk Maya is the animation software used by Disney Studios for major animated films like “Finding Nemo,” “Monsters, Inc.,” and “Avatar.”


Houdini’s benefits are nodes and a procedural workflow. The nodes are pieces of stored action that can be used over and over to create effects like ruffled feathers or blowing grass. The procedural workflow is used to create smooth and dynamic effects.


Blender is a powerful animation program that does pretty much what all of the others do with one big difference. It is a free, open-source program.

Learning to Create Animation

You can enroll in film or art school and get a degree in animation, but you can become an animator without going to college. There are schools and training programs available that offer intensive classes in software and technique. You can choose classes that meet in-person or online to learn After Effects, Animate and other relevant software. Some people prefer to attend brick-and-mortar sessions when learning new information, but that isn’t always available. Live online classes have a similar set-up with a real-time, remote instructor who can answer questions and take control of your monitor—with permission—to show you how to do things. Training is part or full-time and available weekdays, weeknights, or weekends.

The best way to prepare for a career shift to a technical field like animation is to enroll in a bootcamp or certificate program. These are intensive training courses that run for a few weeks to a few months and will cover motion graphics in much more depth than tutorials can. Another plus of training is that you will leave class with a professional-quality portfolio of sample videos that you can show to prospective employers.


It’s easy to learn Adobe’s After Effects and start a new career. Check out Noble Desktop’s After Effects courses. Choose between in-person sessions in NYC at Noble’s location or sign up for live online After Effects courses and attend from anywhere. Use Noble Desktop’s Classes Near Me to find other courses in After Effects in your area.