Animation Skills: Definition and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published August 25, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Many skilled artists and designers work in animation, where they use their artistic talent and technical knowledge to produce cartoons and graphics for movies, television, video games and advertisements. Animators use a variety of skills every day, including traditional art methods and advanced computer imaging techniques, to create content for their clients. If you're passionate about creating art and want to pursue a career in animation, you may benefit from learning what skills you need to develop to get started.

In this article, we explore important animation skills and discuss how to improve and emphasize your skills to progress in your career as an animator.

Related: What It Takes To Become an Animator

What are animation skills?

Animation skills allow 2D and 3D animators to create animated graphics for their clients. They cover a range of skill areas, including artistic abilities, knowledge of common computer programs and soft skills. An animator may develop these skills through education or work experience, and they often continue to improve their skills as they advance through their career.

Examples of animation skills

Animators employ many skills in their work, but here are some of the most common skills used in creating animation:

Artistic skills

Modern animation is a combination of traditional artistic talent and high-tech computer skills, and animators usually have a background in art or design or some combination of artistic education and industry experience. An animator's educational and work background allows them to develop the base artistic skills that they use in their animation work. Because animation is a diverse field with many different styles, animators come to their careers with varied artistic backgrounds, but some common skills they share include:

  • Color theory

  • Design principles

  • Drawing and composition

  • Storyboarding

  • Media theory

  • Visual language

Computer animation skills

Today, most animators work digitally, using a computer to model, color and replicate images, and there are some specific computer animation skills that skilled animators use every day. Because animation technology is constantly changing, animators continue to learn how to use new software as they progress through their careers. Different kinds of animation require different computer skills, but some common skills animators use in their work include:

  • 3D rendering

  • Visual effects

  • Game art and design

  • Animation fundamentals

  • Computer generation programs

  • Motion capture software

  • Character rigging

Soft skills

Along with artistic and computer skills, successful animators use many soft skills in their daily work. Soft skills are personality traits that are valuable in many jobs. They help animators manage their workload, work on a team with other creative professionals and meet their project deadlines. Mastering these soft skills takes time and dedication, but they can help you work more effectively with your coworkers and expand your career potential. Some soft skills that animators use include:

  • Communication skills

  • Prioritization

  • Interpersonal skills

  • Flexibility

  • Self-motivation

  • Problem-solving skills

  • Ability to meet deadlines

Read more: Soft Skills: Definitions and Examples

How to improve your animation skills

Here are a few ways you can improve your animation skills:

1. Earn a degree

Although animators have varying professional backgrounds, many of them benefit from a degree in animation or a related course of study. Many colleges and universities offer two-year, four-year or advanced degrees in animation, digital media design, arts and technology or other areas of study. In these degree programs, students learn how to use both traditional art methods and innovative digital techniques to create animation and improve their skills.

2. Take a training course

Animators often complete regular training as a part of their career development. Animation technology changes frequently, and it's important that animators learn the current trends and new digital techniques to keep their style current. Training courses vary by length and type, from formal classroom settings to online self-study, and there are plenty of options to fit a working animator's schedule. Completing a training course may earn you a certificate, and the skills you learn in a training course can improve your animation portfolio, which is a key part of an animator's resume.

3. Complete an internship

If you want to improve your animation skills and start building a portfolio of completed works, consider applying for an animation internship from a respected organization. In an animation internship, you can work with experts in the animation field and explore the daily work of an animator at a television network or private design firm. Internships also give you the opportunity to practice new techniques under the supervision of a working animation team and build your portfolio.

4. Get job experience

If you want to become a lead animator or direct animated features, you first need to start working in an entry-level animation position, such as an associate animator or assistant colorist. Starting at an entry-level position at a network or animation studio lets you build your portfolio, gain experience and develop the leadership skills that may help you become an ideal candidate for a higher role in the organization. You can also choose to work on different kinds of animation teams to familiarize yourself with the types of animation work available, such as advertisements, television shows and video game animation.

Animation skills in the workplace

Animators use their skills to create exciting content for their clients to help them reach their desired audience. Here are some ways you might use your animation skills in the workplace:

  • Use a variety of techniques to complete animation projects. Depending on the scale of your work, you may be responsible for a single animation task in a project or the entire project, from concept sketches to final editing. Your artistic talent and computer skills can help you accomplish your tasks and produce high-quality work.

  • Work effectively in a team setting. If you work as an animator for a studio or network, you might work on a team with other animators, storyboarders and writers to complete a project. A successful animator uses communication and interpersonal skills to collaborate with other artistic professionals to produce visually compelling content.

  • Meet firm deadlines and handle multiple projects at once. Many animators work on several projects at the same time, often for different clients with varying needs. Your flexibility and ability to prioritize can help you move between your projects and ensure timely, high-quality content for every client.

How to highlight animation skills

Showing your animation skills to studios and networks can help you get a rewarding career in animation or art direction. Usually, hiring managers want to see examples of your animation skills before offering you an interview opportunity. Here are a few key ways animators show their skills to hiring managers and studio directors:

Animation skills in a demo reel

A demo reel (or showreel) is a short video compilation of an animator's work. Demo reels are an important part of an animator's job application because they allow the hiring manager to see their animation skills presented visually. Think of a demo reel as your first impression on a hiring manager for an animation studio. After they view your demo reel, the hiring manager may choose to look at the other work included in your online portfolio.

Your demo reel can show hiring managers or clients your unique style and your mastery of basic animation skills. Because a demo reel is a video compilation, it usually contains short video clips of different animation projects you've created. You can use this format to show the different types of animation that you can create and the different techniques you've mastered, like working with motion capture, 3D rendering and video effects. You can tailor your demo reel to a specific animation industry, like video games, or provide a broader collection of your animation projects across genres.

Related: What Is a CG Artist? Definition, Jobs and Skills

Animation skills in an online portfolio

Building a portfolio takes time, but it's a valuable way to show hiring managers what you can do as an animator. While a demo reel is a single short video that an animator might send to a company, a portfolio allows the animator to display a wider range of completed projects. You can include the link to your online portfolio at the end of your demo reel and in the header of your resumes and cover letters.

You can organize your online portfolio based on the skills you want to display or the type of animation you want to highlight. For example, if you want to get work as a video game editor, you can dedicate a section of your portfolio to character design or motion-capture work. You can also look at job postings for animation work you're interested in and use the skills listed there to build your portfolio. Connecting your portfolio categories to specific animation skills can help a hiring manager or client see your qualifications easily, which can help you get work.

Related: How To Make a Digital Portfolio That Gets You Hired

Animation skills on your resume

There are several ways you can show your animation skills on your resume. While your demo reel and online portfolio show hiring managers your completed work, a resume can also highlight any specific technical and visual skills you bring to your animation work. You can have a separate skills section in your resume, where you list the animation technology you know how to use and any special artistic skills you possess.

You can also include your skills when you list your previous employment. After you specify the company name and duration of your employment, you can include a section where you list your job responsibilities and skills you used to accomplish tasks at work.

Related: How To Write an Artistic Resume (With Examples)

Animation skills in your cover letter

When writing a cover letter for an animation job, consider relating your animation skills to the job requirements to show the hiring manager you're a good fit for the position. Because animation job postings usually ask you to send a demo reel, the hiring manager can view your completed work there, which means your cover letter can focus on how your skills meet the specific responsibilities of the job. For example, if you're applying for a job as a video game animator, you might emphasize your experience with motion capture technology or your background in figure drawing.

Related: Learn How To Become a 3D Artist

Animation skills for your interview

Typically, animation job interviews take place when the hiring manager or supervising animator likes your demo reel and wants to learn more about you. This can benefit you because they've already seen your work, which means you can use the interview to emphasize your soft skills and your ability to meet the job requirements.

You can refer to work that you have done, especially if that work helped you develop the specific skills in the job description. For example, if you're interviewing for a position at a television network, you might emphasize the skills you developed when you created a short animated film for your portfolio.

Explore more articles