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How to Learn Animation

Animation is a vibrant and creative skill set utilized across hundreds of industries. Using computer technology to give digital assets the illusion of motion and learning animation skills will let creatives and engineers build complex moving designs. The number of options for learning animation might be overwhelming at first glance. There are books, video tutorials, classes, and more to choose from; it all depends on your learning style and personal preferences. 

Here, we’ll discuss the various methods of learning animation so you can decide how you’d like to get started.

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. 

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.

In-Person Animation Training

Learning animation in person lets people get to know other animators and interact directly with an instructor. This can be useful since peers in the classroom could work alongside one another on future projects. Standard in-person classes also require learners to join the classroom community by participating and working collaboratively with other students. Sometimes it’s easier for some learners to fade into anonymity during online classes, which lessens their effectiveness. However, in-person classes have their own set of drawbacks. Commuting to a class or finding childcare can be especially tough for busy adults, especially if the class is a significant distance away. 

If you prefer the accountability of an in-person class, Noble has created a Classes Near Me tool where you can find in-person animation classes. They summarize content covered in popular animation courses across the United States in cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and Denver. If you’re located in the New York City area, Noble offers in-person animation courses. Just minutes from multiple subway lines, Amtrack stops, and bus stops, Noble is an easy commute for New York residents as well as residents of New Jersey. Noble provides many different in-person animation classes, including a well-reviewed After Effects Bootcamp that teaches students to create videos, animations, special effects, and animated titles. Students are immersed in animation concepts and software for three days through instruction and projects.

Live Online Animation Training

Future animators may opt to take courses live online instead of in person. One major perk of live online classes is their flexibility. Students can take the classes from any convenient location, such as a coffee shop, the office, or even from their relaxing lounge chair on a patio. Online classes also reduce commuting time, allowing students to fill the time with more productive endeavors. Or, possibly, online classes may be the only option for prospective learners who may not live close to in-person class locations. Yet, for some learners, online classes are a challenge. They might find they need the accountability that an in-person class provides.

If the benefits of online classes outweigh the drawbacks, Noble offers prospective students many live online animation classes. These animation classes are not Youtube-style training that you go through at your own pace. Instead, live online courses are taught by an instructor in real-time over Zoom or a similar platform. Their classes range from short courses for beginners to comprehensive certificate program courses. Explore other live online providers of animation courses using Noble’s Classes Near Me tool. Companies like Ledet Training and Lumenbrite provide software training. Prospective Animators can learn skills like Cinema 4D or After Effects. For many busy professionals, online courses can provide a way to switch careers more efficiently than traditional courses. 

Free Online Courses & Tutorials

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.

On-Demand Animation Classes

When in-person and live online courses are too time-consuming to fit into a busy schedule, a possible option is to take on-demand or self-paced animation training courses. Without any set days/times for class, students can work through the material at their own rate, fitting coursework into available time slots. Self-motivated learners may thrive under this option; learners who require accountability may not find as much success. 

On-demand or self-paced classes differ in cost, quality, and difficulty level. Typically, on-demand courses cost less than in-person or live-online courses. Some may even be free. However, not all programs are created equally. Especially if a course requires a subscription or costs money, check company and course reviews before signing up. Some subscription services allow unlimited access for a set monthly price which is excellent for learners who can devote time to acquiring new skills. Although most subscription services are geared towards beginners, some provide intermediate and advanced skills lessons. Browse course options again before purchasing a program. 

Which Learning Method is Right for Me?

Interested in learning animation? Gaining the skills takes training through in-person, live online, or self-paced/on-demand classes.

Enrolling in in-person classes is a sure way to learn new material. In-person courses allow for more interactions between students and the instructor. Students can ask questions and receive regular, immediate feedback. Sitting in the same room as their classmates will enable students to start their professional network. Fewer distractions are present in a classroom; students cannot say, take a short break that extends for an hour. Yet, in-person classes present some challenges. Depending on how far the course is, students can waste hours commuting. Or a local in-person class may not be an option. 

Live online courses bring many of the same benefits as in-person classes. Instructors guide students immediately, answering questions and tailoring responses to individual needs. Live online and in-person courses often structure class time around completing projects showcasing students’ skills. These projects can then be added to a portfolio. Students may even interact with one another through a virtual classroom. The option of live online is convenient; it requires zero commute time, but students must acquire up-to-date software, which can be pricey. 

The most cost-effective option for learning new skills is on-demand or self-paced classes, but this type of training is not for everyone. Instructors pre-record lessons for students to access when it’s convenient for them. Quality varies widely. Self-paced or on-demand instructors may or may not assign projects for students to complete. Depending on the company or course, students may not have access to an instructor to answer their questions. Often on-demand courses cover the basics but do not cover more complicated topics. Since these courses are pre-recorded, the course information may also be outdated. Additionally, some learners may struggle without a class or instructor motivating them. It may be easy to fall behind or drop out. 

Consider the benefits of each type of training and any drawbacks before making a course decision– then enjoy learning animation skills. 

Why Learn Animation?

Career prospects for Animators are strong. Most Animators find themselves working in the entertainment industry, making graphics for movies or films. Yet, Animators are in high demand across multiple industries, not just the entertainment industry. Outside the entertainment industry, Animators may find themselves working in creative jobs in education, advertising, marketing, or the arts. Animators may find themselves creating short clips to summarize science concepts. Or perhaps they may create sales videos for publishing companies. The opportunities are numerous.

Learning animation builds an eye for detail. Depending on your interests and career goals, knowing art and design concepts and possessing strong English skills is a bonus. As an Animator, you might use software such as Autodesk Maya, Houdini, or software developed by the company. Animators who develop motion graphics and visual effects may primarily use Cinema 4D or After Effects. 2D animators use Adobe Animate or Toon Boom Harmony. Of course, knowing more than one or two types of software can only make you more marketable. 

Read more about why you should learn animation

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.

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 Takeaways

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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