For Students

Becoming a Professional Animator: A Step-by-Step Guide

Huzzle Author Charlie
Charlie Mart
Founders Associate @Huzzle

Animation is a fascinating and ever-evolving field that offers countless opportunities for creativity and self-expression. If you have a passion for bringing characters and stories to life, becoming a professional animator may be the perfect career path for you. In this step-by-step guide, we will explore the basics of animation, educational pathways, building a portfolio, breaking into the industry, advancing your career, and the future of animation in the UK.

Understanding the Basics of Animation

Before diving into the world of animation, it's essential to grasp the fundamentals. As an animator, your primary role is to create the illusion of movement by combining a series of drawings, models, or computer-generated images. The techniques you use will depend on the type of animation you specialize in, whether it's traditional hand-drawn, 3D computer-generated, or stop-motion.

The world of animation is a vast and exciting one, filled with endless possibilities. From the classic hand-drawn animations of Disney's golden age to the cutting-edge computer-generated imagery of modern blockbusters, animation has evolved and expanded over the years. It has become an integral part of the entertainment industry, captivating audiences of all ages.

But being an animator is not just about creating visually stunning images. It's about telling stories, evoking emotions, and transporting viewers to new and imaginative worlds. Animators have the power to breathe life into inanimate objects, making them relatable and engaging. They can make us laugh, cry, and feel a wide range of emotions through their art.

Key skills required for animation include:

  • Artistic skills and a keen eye for detail: Animators need to have a strong foundation in drawing and design. They must be able to create visually appealing characters and backgrounds, paying attention to every minute detail.
  • Strong storytelling and character development abilities: Animation is all about storytelling. Animators must have a knack for creating compelling narratives and developing characters that resonate with the audience. They need to understand the principles of character arcs, plot structure, and pacing.
  • Proficiency in animation software and tools: In today's digital age, animators must be familiar with various animation software and tools. They need to master the techniques of digital animation, including rigging, keyframing, and rendering.
  • Understanding of cinematography and visual effects: Animation is not just about moving images; it's also about creating visually stunning compositions. Animators need to have a solid understanding of cinematography principles, such as camera angles, lighting, and composition. They should also be well-versed in visual effects techniques to enhance their animations.
  • Collaboration and communication skills: Animation is often a collaborative process, requiring animators to work closely with directors, storyboard artists, and other team members. Effective communication and teamwork are crucial to ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards a common vision.

As you embark on your journey into the world of animation, remember that it's not just a technical skill but also an art form. It requires dedication, creativity, and a passion for storytelling. So, immerse yourself in the world of animation, explore different techniques, and let your imagination soar!

Educational Pathways to Becoming an Animator

While formal education is not always a requirement for becoming an animator, pursuing a degree or attending animation programs can provide you with valuable knowledge, hands-on experience, and networking opportunities. In the UK, there are several renowned animation degree programs that can propel your career.

Attending a reputable animation degree program can offer you a structured learning environment where you can immerse yourself in the world of animation. These programs often have experienced faculty members who can guide you through the various aspects of animation, including character design, storytelling, and technical skills.

One of the top animation degree programs in the UK is offered by Bournemouth University. Their BA (Hons) Animation Production program is highly regarded for its comprehensive curriculum and industry connections. Students at Bournemouth University have access to state-of-the-art facilities, including dedicated animation studios equipped with the latest software and hardware.

Another excellent option is the University of Central Lancashire, which offers a BA (Hons) Animation degree. This program focuses on developing students' creative and technical skills, preparing them for careers in various animation fields. The University of Central Lancashire has a strong emphasis on industry collaboration, providing students with opportunities to work on real-world projects and build a professional network.

If you prefer a more hands-on approach to learning, the University for the Creative Arts offers a BA (Hons) Animation program that encourages experimentation and exploration. This program emphasizes the development of individual artistic styles and encourages students to push the boundaries of traditional animation techniques.

Alternatively, you can choose to be self-taught, leveraging online resources, tutorials, and practice to refine your skills. While this route offers flexibility and cost-effectiveness, it requires discipline, ambition, and a strong commitment to continuous learning.

There are numerous online platforms and communities dedicated to helping aspiring animators learn and grow. Websites like Animation Mentor, School of Motion, and Pluralsight offer a wide range of courses and tutorials taught by industry professionals. These resources can help you develop specific skills, such as 2D animation, 3D modeling, or visual effects.

Self-directed learning also allows you to tailor your education to your specific interests and goals. You can focus on the areas of animation that excite you the most, whether it's character animation, motion graphics, or experimental animation. By building a diverse portfolio of work and continuously seeking feedback from peers and professionals, you can demonstrate your skills and creativity to potential employers.

Regardless of the educational pathway you choose, becoming an animator requires dedication, perseverance, and a genuine passion for the art form. It's a field that demands continuous learning and adaptation to keep up with the ever-evolving technology and industry trends. Whether you decide to pursue a degree or take the self-taught route, the key is to never stop honing your skills and pushing the boundaries of your creativity.

Building Your Animation Portfolio

A strong portfolio is crucial for landing internships, jobs, and freelance projects. When creating your animation portfolio, it's important to curate your best work, showcasing your range of skills, creativity, and ability to tell compelling stories.

Here are some tips for building an impressive animation portfolio:

  • Select your best work: Choose pieces that showcase your technical skills, creativity, and storytelling abilities.
  • Showcase a range of styles: Demonstrate your versatility by including animations in various styles, such as 2D, 3D, or stop-motion.
  • Add personal projects: Include personal projects that highlight your unique ideas and passion for animation.
  • Seek feedback: Share your portfolio with industry professionals or mentors to receive constructive criticism and improve your work.

When selecting your best work for your animation portfolio, it's important to consider the specific skills and techniques that are relevant to the job or internship you are applying for. For example, if you are interested in working on a 3D animated film, it would be beneficial to include examples of your 3D animation work that demonstrate your understanding of character rigging, lighting, and rendering.

Additionally, showcasing a range of styles in your portfolio can help you stand out from other applicants. It shows potential employers that you are adaptable and can work in different animation styles, which is a valuable skill in the industry. Including examples of 2D, 3D, and stop-motion animations can demonstrate your versatility and creativity.

Personal projects are a great way to showcase your unique ideas and passion for animation. These projects can be anything from short films to animated character designs or even experimental animations. Including personal projects in your portfolio not only demonstrates your creativity but also shows that you are motivated and dedicated to your craft.

Seeking feedback on your portfolio is essential for growth and improvement. Sharing your work with industry professionals or mentors can provide valuable insights and constructive criticism that can help you refine your skills and make your portfolio even stronger. It's important to be open to feedback and use it as an opportunity to learn and grow as an animator.

In conclusion, building an impressive animation portfolio requires careful curation of your best work, showcasing a range of styles, including personal projects, and seeking feedback from industry professionals. By following these tips, you can create a portfolio that highlights your skills, creativity, and passion for animation, increasing your chances of landing internships, jobs, and freelance projects in the field.

Breaking into the Animation Industry

Entering the animation industry may seem challenging, but with the right approach and preparation, you can increase your chances of success. Networking, gaining industry experience through internships or entry-level jobs, and showcasing your skills will play a pivotal role in landing your first animation opportunity in the UK.

Here are some strategies to help you break into the animation industry:

  • Finding internships and entry-level jobs: Look for animation studios, production companies, and creative agencies offering internships or entry-level positions. Attend career events and job fairs to connect with industry professionals.
  • Networking in the animation community: Join animation associations, attend industry events, and participate in online forums to build relationships with fellow animators, directors, and recruiters.

Internships are a great way to gain hands-on experience in the animation industry. They provide an opportunity to learn from professionals, work on real projects, and build a portfolio of work. Look for internships that align with your interests and skills, whether it's 2D animation, 3D modeling, or character design. Many animation studios offer internships specifically tailored to different areas of expertise.

When applying for internships or entry-level jobs, it's important to showcase your skills and passion for animation. Create a strong portfolio that highlights your best work and demonstrates your technical abilities. Include a variety of projects to showcase your versatility, such as short films, character animations, or motion graphics.

In addition to internships and entry-level jobs, consider freelancing as a way to gain experience and build your network. Freelancing allows you to work on a variety of projects for different clients, which can help you develop a diverse portfolio and expand your skill set. Look for freelance opportunities on job boards, freelance platforms, or reach out to local businesses that may need animation services.

Networking is crucial in the animation industry. Attend industry events, such as animation festivals or conferences, to meet professionals and learn about the latest trends and technologies. Joining animation associations, like the Animation Guild or the Society for Animation Studies, can provide access to networking events, workshops, and resources. Online forums and social media groups dedicated to animation are also great platforms to connect with fellow animators, share your work, and learn from others.

Building relationships with industry professionals can lead to valuable mentorships, job referrals, and collaborative opportunities. Be proactive in reaching out to animators, directors, and recruiters, whether it's through email, social media, or attending portfolio reviews. Building a strong network can open doors to hidden job opportunities and help you stay updated on industry trends.

Breaking into the animation industry requires perseverance and dedication. Keep honing your skills, learning new techniques, and staying up-to-date with industry advancements. With a combination of networking, gaining experience through internships or entry-level jobs, and showcasing your skills, you can increase your chances of success in the exciting world of animation.

Advancing Your Animation Career

Once you have gained a foothold in the animation industry, it's essential to continue learning and developing your skills to advance your career. Animation is an ever-evolving field, and staying updated with the latest trends, technologies, and techniques can set you apart.

Here are some ways to advance your animation career:

  • Continuing education and skill development: Attend workshops, seminars, or online courses to expand your skill set and stay current with industry practices.
  • Seeking higher-level positions in animation: Aim for senior animator roles, animation director positions, or considering freelance work to broaden your experience and take on more significant projects.

Continuing education and skill development are crucial aspects of advancing your animation career. By attending workshops, seminars, or online courses, you can expand your skill set and stay current with the latest industry practices. These educational opportunities provide you with the chance to learn from experienced professionals, gain new insights, and acquire cutting-edge techniques.

Furthermore, seeking higher-level positions in animation can be a significant step towards advancing your career. As you gain experience and expertise, consider aiming for senior animator roles or animation director positions. These positions not only offer higher levels of responsibility but also provide opportunities to lead and mentor other animators. Additionally, exploring freelance work can broaden your experience and allow you to take on more significant projects independently.

As you progress in your animation career, it's essential to stay connected with other professionals in the industry. Networking events, industry conferences, and online communities can provide valuable opportunities to meet like-minded individuals, share knowledge, and collaborate on projects. Building a strong professional network can open doors to new opportunities, collaborations, and potential clients.

Another way to advance your animation career is by staying up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies. The animation industry is constantly evolving, with new software, tools, and techniques emerging regularly. By keeping yourself informed about these advancements, you can adapt your skills and stay ahead of the curve. This knowledge can make you a valuable asset to employers and clients alike.

Lastly, don't underestimate the power of personal projects. Taking the initiative to work on your own animation projects allows you to explore your creativity, experiment with different styles, and showcase your skills. These personal projects can serve as an excellent portfolio to demonstrate your abilities and attract potential employers or clients.

In conclusion, advancing your animation career requires a commitment to continuous learning, seeking higher-level positions, networking, staying updated with industry trends, and working on personal projects. By actively pursuing these avenues, you can position yourself for growth, success, and exciting opportunities in the animation industry.

The Future of Animation

The animation industry continues to grow and evolve, with new trends and technologies shaping its landscape. As an animator in the UK, it's essential to adapt to these changes and embrace emerging opportunities.

Some emerging trends in animation include:

  • Virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) animations
  • Interactive storytelling and gamification
  • Character-driven narratives
  • Motion capture and performance-driven animations
  • Environmental sustainability and ethical storytelling

To thrive in the future of animation, animators need to embrace these trends, master new software and tools, and push the boundaries of creativity.


Becoming a professional animator in the UK requires a combination of passion, creativity, and technical skills. By understanding the basics of animation, pursuing relevant education, building a compelling portfolio, networking, and continuously advancing your skills, you can embark on a successful animation career in the UK. Embrace the opportunities that come your way, adapt to changes in the industry, and always stay curious and passionate about the power of animation.

Charlie Mart
Aspiring business leader driven to change the world through tech⚡️ The late Steve Jobs once said 'the only way to do great work is to love what you do'. Following these wise words, I am currently focused on growing Huzzle so every student can find their dream graduate job 💚
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