How Long Does it Take to Learn Animation?

Discover the wide and varied field of animation, from basic animated assets in Photoshop to complex digital animation projects for film and TV. Explore different careers in this field, such as filmmaking, video game development, and illustrating, and get insights on the time commitment and resources required to master the art of animation.

Key Insights

  • Animation involves a variety of techniques to create moving images from static ones, with the time required to learn these varying depending on the complexity of the skills needed.
  • Professional level animation could take months or even years to master, although this duration can be shortened depending on the learner's prior experience and goals.
  • Previous experience in digital design or knowledge of animation theory can accelerate the learning process.
  • The learning process can be optimized by focusing on specific skills relevant to the student's career aspirations.
  • Software such as After Effects, Premiere Pro, Photoshop, and Cinema 4D are widely used in the field of animation.
  • Noble Desktop offers in-person and live online animation training courses to aid in skill development and mastery of animation techniques.

Like many aspiring Animators, you might want to learn animation but worry that it will take too much time. The time it takes to learn animation skills will vary from student to student because animation is a wide field of techniques and skills. Students wanting to learn the basics of making animated assets in Photoshop or After Effects may only need a few weeks of training. By contrast, students looking to work on complex, digitally animated projects like film and television may need months or even years of training. Of course, this depends on several factors. Keep reading about how you can learn animation and some resources to help speed the process along.

What is Animation?

Most people have seen animated movies or shows, but what is animation? Animation is the process of photographing a still image—typically a drawing—then making slight modifications to the image while taking successive pictures. An animator will rapidly show these pictures to make it appear as if the image is moving. An animator would create a series of pictures to show, for example, a flower on a windy day, each with the flower in a slightly different position. When viewed quickly, one after another, the flower will appear to move back and forth even though it’s not actually moving. 

Animation skills are great to have in many different jobs; they’re just fun! Animators don’t just create movies or television shows. They also create moving graphics for websites, video games, or visual effects. Most animators now use software to create the graphics, though some still use drawings and sketches to bring their imagination to life.

Read more about what animation is and why you should learn it. 

What Can You Do with Animation?

Learning animation opens doors to different fields. The most obvious field is filmmaking: producing visual effects, developing computer-generated special effects, or creating images for any media type. Movies, television, the internet, and (video) games all rely on Animators for their products. Yet, Animators can also work as Medical or Mathematical Animators, Illustrators, Games Developers, and VFX Artists. Illustrators focus on still images, both hand-drawn and computer-generated, while Medical or Mathematical Animators, Games Developers and VFX Artists develop 3D moving images. 

Video Editing & Motion Graphics Certificate: Live & Hands-on, In NYC or Online, 0% Financing, 1-on-1 Mentoring, Free Retake, Job Prep. Named a Top Bootcamp by Forbes, Fortune, & Time Out. Noble Desktop. Learn More.

The software that Animators use day in and day out is just plain fun! After Effects and Premiere Pro are the go-to animation software for professionals. After Effects allows users to complete video compositing, motion graphics design, and animation projects. Animators also learn software like Photoshop and Cinema 4D. Each type of software performs a specific function, such as image generating or developing special effects; Animators using multiple types of software can layer them to create stunning work.

Average Time it Takes to Learn Animation

Learning how to make complex, detailed animated models for creative or technical purposes can be very time-consuming. While learning the basics of animation software, like After Effects, can be done in only a few days to a few weeks, learning the advanced techniques will take much longer. In addition, because digital animation is often so detailed, students will be encouraged to go slowly at the start of their training. All in all, even setting aside hours a day to dedicated study, learning digital animation can take several months and will often take more than a year of study.

Other Factors

While animation can take a long time to master, some individual factors will impact the time it takes to learn. These include familiarity with digital design skills, background knowledge of animation, and the kinds of projects a student wishes to pursue.

Prior Design Experience

Since animation training usually involves a decent amount of computer-aided design training, prior experience working with these programs will significantly speed up the process. Students familiar with After Effects and Premiere Pro will need less training on those programs, but even knowing how to use programs like Photoshop and Illustrator will be very helpful. In addition, students with a background in other forms of creative design will have an easier time picking up animation techniques.

Background Knowledge of Animation

For creative students, knowing the history, styles, and genres of animation can help speed up the pace at which they learn animation techniques. Learning the tools is necessary, but a very time-consuming part is understanding why certain creative decisions are made and how little details can take a project from forgettable to memorable. Watching a lot of different animated projects, for instance, can help students better understand how to implement the techniques they learn.

Career Aspirations

Since animation is such a diverse and expansive field, it is helpful for students to know the projects they hope to work on to streamline their training. Students wanting to work in 2D animation won’t need much time on 3D modeling. Students wishing to build animated models of engineering projects won’t need to spend time learning how to make life-like human anatomy animations. For most students, learning everything there is to know isn’t a productive use of time.

Level of Difficulty, Prerequisites, & Cost 

Animation is an attainable skill that can launch a new career. There are many different kinds of animation skills that a student can learn, and some of these will be harder to learn than others. For example, students wanting to learn how to animate complex 3D objects in a program like Adobe After Effects will need more training than someone looking to learn how to build animated gifs using Adobe Photoshop.

Likewise, the prerequisites to learning animation will vary depending on the kind of training that you want to receive. Some training courses may require users to have background knowledge in programs like Photoshop and Illustrator. Other courses will not have any required training. Students may wish to consider studying design and composition theories. Hence, they understand the various animation techniques they will use, assuming they enter a creative field.

The cost of producing animation work will depend on the kinds of work and the applications utilized. Aspiring Motion Graphics Designers will need to license design programs such as After Effects or Premiere Pro, and most technical animators may need to acquire other CAD tools. The cost of each of these applications will vary from user to user, but the cost of software should be a consideration for new animation students.

Read about how difficult it is to learn animation.

Watch a Free Animation Online Course

Attending an entire course takes a commitment. If you’re not ready yet to attend a course but want to start learning animation, enroll in a free online animation seminar. In this free introductory animation course from Noble, you’ll learn how to create motion graphics animation from a photo. By the end of the two hours, you will be adding easing and animating with keyframes like a pro. The class allows participants to test out animation. Love it? Then you’re ready to sign up for a full-length course.

Other online providers offer After Effects and Premiere Pro classes. Udemy’s Adobe After Effects: Complete Course from Novice to Expert teaches students how to create motion graphics and visual effects through several projects. They also have courses that move more slowly, covering just beginner skills. Coursera has some free courses and many paid courses that cover animation. Most are specialized, so it helps to know what area of animation you’re interested in. You can find anything from VR to biomedical animations. As always, sites like LinkedIn offer animation courses.

Read about more free animation videos and online tutorials.

Learn Animation with Hands-on Training at Noble Desktop

Many experts agree that animation is much easier to learn when taken either in a live online class or in person. Noble Desktop provides animation classes, from their live online training taken anywhere in the world to their in-person courses in Manhattan, so students can easily find a class that enables them to gain animation skills. Class sizes are small; students are not nameless faces on a computer screen. Instructors can provide plenty of attention and feedback to students. The school is committed to student learning, allowing students to retake the course free up to a year later if they want to brush up on skills. 

In just a few days, students can learn how to use Adobe After Effects in Noble Desktop's bootcamp. This class is ideal for people new to the field of animation and motion design who want to start creating moving graphics with industry-leading software. 

If you have more time, you can learn what it takes to become an Animator in Noble’s comprehensive Motion Graphics Certificate course. This class teaches animation with Adobe After Effects, video editing with Adobe Premiere Pro, and audio editing with Adobe Audition. These three pieces of software blend perfectly to create a polished final product. Participants will leave the course with a solid portfolio demonstrating their skills to future employers.

Key Insights

  • Animation refers to a complex and varied set of skills and techniques used to create the illusion of motion in a static image. Since there are so many different animation styles and ways to learn them, it can take students months to learn these techniques.
  • Learning to animate at a professional level will often take months or even years, though students can shorten this process differently.
  • Students with prior experience in digital design or a background in animation theory will find the tools and techniques of the process come to them more quickly.
  • In addition, since there are so many different kinds and styles of animation, students who know what they want to do with their training can speed up the process by targeting the specific skills they need.
  • Another way to speed up the process is through skills training, such as the in-person and live online animation training courses offered through Noble Desktop.

How to Learn Animation

Master animation with hands-on training. Animation is the process of manipulating still images so that they appear to move, often using software like After Effects, Cinema 4D, or Adobe Animate.

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