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What Skills Are Required for an Animator?

Professional animators are designers who create animated sequences for commercials, video clips or feature films. Being an animator requires an artistic background and a solid foundation in digital graphics programs. The list of skills for animators grows, as the industry demands and available software expand.

Creative Skills

The first phase in constructing animation is to create a plan and a storyline. This is often done by hand on a piece of paper. The animator needs to excellent good drawing skills to visually explain the concept of the animation to a customer or design team. In some cases, the animator must also be able to create a storyline or assist the client in the storyline development.

Graphics Components Skills

An animated sequence does not simply include a single character. Other components of an animation video include additional characters, background details and movement. The animator must be able to design subtle backgrounds that make the character stand out and make it realistic to the film or clip. The animator must also be able to work with realistic proportions, as some customers may want the animation to look realistic rather than a cartoon with disproportionate features, for example. Depending on the job in question, the animator may also need to know the difference between 2-D and 3-D animations and the corresponding software.

Communication Skills

Communication skills are critical, especially if the animator works closely with a client or design team. The animator must be able to understand what the customer wants and in return, explain what is possible with the given budget or software restrictions. The animator must also be able to communicate updates to both team members and the customers, especially if the updates affect the overall deadline or time line of the project.

Teamwork vs. Individuality

An animator often works alone during the design and animation phase, but may need to work closely with other employees in the production and editing phase of a project. An animator must be able to work alone, but must also be able to work as part of a team, when a project requires many animators, such as feature-length films. Communication is a key part of this skill as well.

Math, Computer Software and Physics Skills

Being an animator requires a good understanding of math and physics. An animator must calculate approximate shadow lines, use angles to project lighting properly in the clips and use the gravitational physics laws when designing an animation where an object drops, for example. The animator must also know what computer programs or operating systems are best to design specific actions, so general knowledge of computers and operating systems on the market is often a desired skill. Examples of graphic software programs include illustration software, desktop publishing, Flash software and 3-D modeling software.


Based in Toronto, Mary Jane has been writing for online magazines and databases since 2002. Her articles have appeared on the Simon & Schuster website and she received an editor's choice award in 2009. She holds a Master of Arts in psychology of language use from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.