How To Become a 2D Animator – Which Skills should you develop

In Art by Toni Justamante Jacobs

Ever wondered about the processes involved in making a cartoon or a video game? How the concept, characters, and stage play all come together in unison? The answer to this lies in the perfection of some certain necessary skills, amongst which is mastering 2D animation. As the years go by, more and more techniques and processes are created to make these processes easier. Hence, the quality of work done by animators has become a lot more original and life like.

Animators create animations for cartoons, video games, movies, and other platforms. The use of animations on television as a whole is very high. Thus, the need for animators has skyrocketed over the years, as this has become one of the most lucrative jobs. Animations are simply pictures that are manipulated to look like moving images. Prior to recently, most animators had to draw their animations on transparent celluloid sheets. However, now, most animations are computer generated and easier to create. The use of computers and softwares to create animations has made the job become easier and faster. Also, the quality of the animations has become better.

Becoming a 2D animator involves acquiring a certain set of skills that fits the job description easily. For example, there are animators that  choose to master the skills necessary to create animations for a cartoon. Others can be a moving board or an ad. Although the skills needed generally are similar, there is a slight difference required to produce the perfect animation for each scenario. The process involved in becoming a 2D animator requires you to have great technical skills. You should, also, be knowledgeable about any necessary software required in getting the job done.

The effort put into animation has a lot to do with paying proper attention to detail and improving your skills. While this might be tough to understand, this article will simplify the process for you. This article is aimed at providing you with the necessary information involved in becoming a 2D animator.

What Skills Are Required To Become A 2D Animator?

Animation is a very interesting line of work. Creating interesting images that would capture the attention of people all over the world cannot be learned in a day. To thrive in this line of work, there are some necessary skills needed to bring your work to life. These skills include;

  • Creativity

The major skill required by an animator is the ability for him/her to be creative. This skill cannot be learned, as it is a skill that comes naturally. If you’re planning on becoming a 2D animator, the first question you should ask yourself is how creative you are. Creativity enables an artist to come up with new concepts every time he is called on for a job. Your level of imagination has the power of making your job good or bad.

It is, also, a great idea for all kinds of animators to be great sketchers. If you’re passionate about sketching always, then this might be the right job for you. Sketching new drawings takes a lot of creativity and imagination, which you would require in becoming a 2D animator.

  • Good Drawing Skills

As mentioned before, animations involve the manipulation of drawings or paintings into moving pictures. Hence, to become a good animator, you must have good drawing skills. Even though you do not necessarily need to draw by hand, because of technology, good drawing skills are needed. With great drawing skills, you would find creating characters easy and straightforward.
Asides from the fact that you need to be creative, having good drawing skills brings your idea to life easily.

  • Attention To Detail

If you plan to become a 2D animator, then you should understand the need for perfection always. Creating great drawings will require attention to every detail. It is for this reason that all aspiring animators are advised to learn traditional art. The traditional art of past animators might seem a bit tedious, but there is a lot to benefit from. Some examples are;

  • Learning to be a draftsman; this simply means that you understand spacing appropriately to create motion. This technique is usually learned easily when drawing by hand.
  • Drawing by hand helps you create poses and stage shots for your characters and scene.

Learning to draw by hand first before using software is great for masterimg the aforementioned techniques. Also, Inputing this knowledge alongside the skills acquired by you ensures you seldom make mistakes. Perfecting every aspect of an animation ensures you do a great job altogether. Also, it depicts professionalism and an in depth knowledge of what is required.

Crossing all the t’s and dotting the Is in every job you’re given as related to its detail, helps in doing that job perfectly.

  • Computer Literacy

Nearly every job in the world right now requires computer literacy to be done perfectly, and the animation process isn’t left out. Technology has evolved over the years and has made every process easier with the use of computers. In creating animation for several industries, a knowledge of computers gives you an extra edge. It cuts the time and effort  needed to create an animation in half, as it makes it faster and easier. It is, also, important for every animator to constantly learn about new and improved ways to get the job done. For example, having a good knowledge of the necessary softwares needed to make an animation.

Having an in-depth knowledge of the software needed to make an animation is a good skill every 2D animator should have. Some of the programs used in 2D animation include Dreamweaver, Creative suite, Studio Max, Maya Flash, After Effects and Final Cut Pro. These programs are all important in both 2D and 3D imaging for games, cartoons, and videos. These softwares can, however, be very expensive and might be difficult to use from home. Thus, a lot of students use a discount offered by their college.
Every graphic software plays a huge role in the process and its end result. Hence, having a fair knowledge on how to use them is an added advantage.

  • Good Communication Skill

Working with people can be difficult, however, it is important to communicate effectively with whoever you’re working with. Ensure you understand what is required of you, as this will help you do a fantastic job. Also, another important skill a 2D animator should have is the ability to make a client’s dream come to life.

Asides from good communication skills, be sure to have a skill in presenting your finished job. Great presentation skills help in selling your animation to your client, as it shows the concept behind it.

  • Meeting Deadlines

One of the major downfalls of many professions today is the failure to meet a contractual timeline. To thrive in any profession, it is important to work with your client’s time frame.

Meeting your client’s deadline ensures they come back for another job and also, means a positive review. A good review will help grow your career, by earning you referrals and other clients.

These skills are all necessary for becoming a 2D animator and growing in your profession.

  • Educational Background

Getting an education towards being a 2D animator is very vital for thriving in this profession. You should opt for getting a diploma, Bachelors, and masters degree in addition to your set of skills. This will encourage and convince any client that you’re well qualified for the job.

The most common educational background offered by aspiring animators is the Bachelors of Science in Animation. This program teaches students all they need to know about animation development. Also, they have the opportunity to practice on different templates and formats used by animators generally. What this degree entails is the imputation of knowledge that has to do with;

  • Creativity
  • Animation fundamentals
  • Color scheme
  • Digital imaging
  • Drawing and composition
  • 2D animation

These are the basic fundamentals of animation drawing taught. However, in the third year, more advanced courses are taught and practiced by students. Having a basic knowledge of the necessary skills needed in becoming a 2D animator will help you do better at advanced level.

There are also, certain institutes that focus on a special part of animation development. However, you will always require basic knowledge before you can be accepted into such institutions.

  • Online Programs

Getting a formal education is great, however, not a lot of people might be able to afford them. Fortunately, with the advent of the internet, you can get any service online. There are several online training programs that you can opt for. These programs are usually created by past teachers and masters of animation development. They are usually certified to teach online and with a lot of commitment and concentration, you would ace it.

Even though having an educational background is required, sometimes, getting a good institution or online program can be a hassle. It is, therefore, advisable to pay attention to the reviews of any animation school or program you decided on. A good site for such a purpose is the Animation Career Review site. The Animation Career review site list top schools and programs for learning the necessary courses in your career. It, also, takes it up a notch by posting the reviews of past students for your consumption.

A good institutional or online program is a great investment if you truly aim to be a 2D animator. This is, because it exposes you and increases your skills to perform, regardless of any challenges.

  • Specialization

Once you are done with gaining the fundamental knowledge that relates to every aspect of animation development, the next thing you need is specialization. As the name implies, specialization involves you mastering a specific area of 2D animations. For example, the skills needed to create an animation for a cartoon isn’t the same with that of a video game. They both stem from the same fundamental blueprint but require an extra set of skills to become a unique character.

Specializing in a certain aspect of animation creation makes you a master of that area, as you hone enough skills along the way. Usually, students figure out what area they would love to specialize in while in school. Some of these areas could be; Visual arts, graphic design, motion pictures, and so many others. Keeping in mind what areas you would love to specialize in helps you navigate what institutions you would apply to better.

Specializing in a specific area of 2D animation creation gives you an added advantage against someone with just a basic knowledge. Also, it assures prospective clients that you are the best guy for the job.

  • Opt For Internships As A Means For Professional Experience

An important step towards becoming a 2D animator is gaining experience. Having professional experience is a vital part of getting more jobs. In every sector, most people would rather hire an individual with enough experience to get the job done. Therefore, it is important for you to get professional experience. Although it may be difficult, getting a job in a huge company after school, you don’t necessarily need that. There are other ways to get the necessary experience;

  • Internships; there are several animation companies that offer internship opportunities to new graduates. Unfortunately, these internships are usually unpaid, but it is great for the experience.
  • Volunteering; If building your resume is your goal, then you should consider volunteering. A lot of companies accept volunteers and teach them as much as they can.

Professional experience is vital for growing in your craft, because without it you won’t go further. According to research, you usually need up to a year’s experience to qualify for an entry level job. After which you might need 5 more years for a more significantly higher role.

  • Building Your Resume

The next step towards becoming a 2D animator is creating a kick-ass resume. Sure a resume should contain all of your experiences and your goals, but in the animator’s world it is different. As your line of work has to do with a lot of visuals, so does your resume. A prospective client or employers doesn’t just want to read what you have done, but also, view it. To accomplish this, you need to create a demo reel.

  • Creating A Demo Reel

A demo reel is a short video filled with the animations you have created. It enables your prospective employer to view your work visually. The trick to this, however, is finding out what the company you’re applying for would like. While some companies prefer all of your examples mashed up in one video, others prefer a clip of your best piece. Also, some companies might prefer a DVD of your demo reel, while others are fine with a link. Once you find out what they deem as professionally accepted, then you can send it over.
A demo reel usually lasts for 2 minutes, especially for beginners, and 4 minutes for professionals. It is important to do something different to stand out, because there will certainly be more applications. Also, make sure to ditch any distracting music from your demo, as this is considered a distraction. You can then, post the link on your website or YouTube channel.

  • Online Portfolio

To make it easier for prospective employers and clients to view your work, create an online portfolio. An online portfolio should contain 3 important sections; a biography section, samples of your work and a contact section.

It should, also, be updated so people will be able to tell that you’re active.

  • Create A Demo Reel Breakdown

Most animation companies would require a demo reel breakdown as proof that you in fact did the presented animation. A demo reel breakdown tells your employer what exactly you did in each shot. For example, the pose of a character and the areas you shaded. It should reflect each shot and explain exactly what os being shown.

Once you are done with your demo reel and its breakdown, then you need to turn it in for evaluation.

A 2D animator should be open to learning always, so as to be in trend. Every single day, more and more techniques are created and developed in the world of animation. As a 2D animator, you need to keep evolving with the times and master new skills. Without learning new skills, your methods might be considered outdated and irrelevant. The more skills and techniques you master, the more likely you are of getting clients.

How To Become a 2D Animator - Which Skills you should develop
Article Name
How To Become a 2D Animator - Which Skills you should develop
The Skills you need to become a 2D animator are: -Creativity -Attention to Detail -Good Drawing Skills -Communication Skills -Computer Literacy -Software Knowledge -Ability to create a professional Demo Reel -Good Portfolio -Ability to meet Deadlines
Publisher Name
Improve Your Drawings
Publisher Logo

Toni Justamante Jacobs

About the author: Hi, I’m Toni Justamante Jacobs. I´m a professional Concept Artist and Illustrator with more than 10 years of experience in the industry. Some of my clients are Gameloft, Fantasy Flight Games, Kunlun Games and Games Workshop. Currently, I´m working at Socialpoint as an in-house Senior Concept Artist.