What Skills Do You Need to be an Animator?

So you’ve decided that you’d love a job as an animator. There are, of course, a whole host of different jobs in animation with their own special requirements, including storyboard artists, FX artists, puppet animators, and claymation animators, but they pretty much all need the same core skills.

So before you start firing off your CV to recruiters, check your own competencies against this list of skills to see how you measure up.

Creativity and Imagination
To work as an animator, you will need to be creative and have a strong imagination. You’ll need to channel those creative energies to create your animations, either on paper, digitally, or with a physical medium like clay.

Most people are creative in some way, even if they don’t spend time drawing. If you currently work in a job that requires you to problem solve, then you’re already creative. Your creative expression could be something as simple as finding the most efficient way to move heavy objects on a building site or using a spreadsheet to display data in a unique way.

Creative hobbies like writing, painting, drawing, or some games are other times when you’ll be using your creative skills already.

Attention to Detail and Patience
In any creative job, including animation, attention to detail is important. Sloppy work as a result of mistakes, or any lack of continuity, can really devalue an animation, so it’s crucial you’re able to spot any of these and are relentless in correcting them. Those who lack this quality will often rush work to get it done as quickly as possible. This is what leads to mistakes and inconsistencies

Patience and attention to detail are important in many areas of life, from business to poker. In poker you need attention to detail to be able to spot tells of other players. These tells can often give away when an opposition is holding a “pair” or “two pair”, two of the lowest ranked hands in the game, even if they’re bluffing. In business, you’ll need patience for dealing with customers, clients, complaints and for making deals.

In animation, the average time it takes to make a 60-90 second is six weeks. So yeah, you’re going to need some patience for this job!

Communication is a key skill in life. Misunderstandings are common in all types of work and among friends, so it’s important to be able to communicate to rectify/prevent these. Being able to concisely convey a message will save you time and stress.

Communication is also important when working as an animator. You’ll likely be working for a client or an internal stakeholder that has a particular vision for their project. You’ll need to communicate with them to clearly understand their ideas and ask any necessary questions to clarify anything you’re unsure of.

You’ll also need to communicate any creative interpretations you’ve made so that they can understand the work you’ve produced.

Meet Deadlines
Animation work is typically project-based. This means you’ll need to produce work in time to meet key deadlines. Failure to do so could result in you delaying other parts of the project, something that could cost tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds.

This is another skill that you’ll likely have developed elsewhere any way, since being on time is important for most of life. You need this skill to catch a flight, visit the doctors, or attend a job interview. If you’re planning to work as a freelance animator, you’ll also need to file your taxes on time. If you decide to work as a sole trader in the UK, this will mean you’ll usually need to submit a self-assessment tax return by 31st January each year.

Deadlines are everywhere, so you’ve got to be able to hit them.

Work in a Team
Teamwork is another important skill for animators, as they typically won’t be working alone. Big animation projects typically involve dozens or even hundreds of animators. In addition to good communication, this will require you to use empathy, reasoning, and interpersonal skills to work effectively with your colleagues.

Creative differences can be a source of confrontation, so it’s best to be ready to compromise and work with others instead of blindly sticking to your own ideas, even if you think they’re better.

Teamwork is not confined to animation either. For example, if you live in a house with others, you’ll need to work in a team to get household chores done effectively and fairly.

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