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Animation for Beginners (Where do I start?)

One of the most asked question I get on a daily basis is “I want to be an animator/do animation. Where do I start?”

Instead of directing you to our Making an Animated Movie series, our awesome Resources page, or even our YouTube channel, I decided to write this guide to cover (almost) everything you might need to know when trying to get into the animation biz.

In this post I’ll cover some of the basic concepts and options for people who want to make animation, but are overwhelmed with the task. I’ll go over what is animation, what it takes to make animated videos (2D or 3D), and even where to start looking for a job in animation.

After reading this guide you will no longer have any excuses to why you are not pursuing your dreams of making animation.

Easy to Start, Hard to Master

Today it is easier than ever to get into animation. There are plenty of software available, some of them are quite cheap, and most modern computer can handle the simpler animation tasks (mostly 2D).

The catch is that although anyone can start animating right now, the art of animation is not easy to learn and very hard to master.

The good news is…

That you don’t need to be a Disney quality animator to create really cool animations. You can start small and simple and slowly develop your skills and unique style. You don’t even need to know how to draw well.

But before you start, here is Bloop’s Animation for Beginners Guide.

What does it mean, being an animator?

In this video I’ll explain the differences between animating in 2D and 3D. This should give you a clue about what direction you might want to pursue.

So now that you understand the difference, here is what you’ll need to get started:

2D Animation

2d Animation

Probably a more recommended route to take for absolute beginners, since you can start quicker and more on the cheap side.

Software

The two programs I would suggest you start with are Flash or Photoshop. The reason for that is that they are cheap and accessible. You can get either for $19 a month, including a free trial month – so you have nothing to lose. For more detailed information check out our animation software list.

  • Flash: The most used animation software by hobbyists/YouTubers out there. There are so many free tutorials out there so you can learn it quickly and start animating right now. It’s a fun software to play with, and you can make silly animations with it without spending days and days working on them.
  • Photoshop: For the more traditional oriented aspiring animators, the Timeline feature in Photoshop allows you to animate frame by frame, and since it’s Photoshop you’re getting one of the best drawing/painting capabilities out there. It has onion skinning settings and could be an awesome tool to start experimenting in 2D animation with.

Hardware

  • Computer: The good thing about using Flash or Photoshop is that you don’t need some crazy monster computer to use them, any modern machine should be able to do the trick.
  • Tablet: I’ve written about the merits of animating with a tablet, and for 2D animation I can’t imagine doing it with a mouse. The price of the Intuos Pro (our tablet of choice) might scare you, but for about $70 you can get the Intuos Pen which is great for beginners.

Books

I recommend getting these books if you are interested in learning animation seriously:

  • The Animator’s Survival Kit / Richard Williams:  This book is an animator’s bible. It thoroughly covers the basics of spacing, timing, walks, runs, weight, anticipation, overlapping action, takes, stagger, dialogue, animal animation and much more. It’s not called a “survival kit” for nothing. This book will teach you EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW to start your training as an animator.
  • Cartoon Animation / Preston Blair: Originally released in 1994, Cartoon Animation (also known as “The Preston Blair Book”), has been an amazing reference source for creating cartoon-style animation. With this book you’ll learn how to develop a cartoon character, create dynamic movement, and animate dialogue with action.
  • The Illusions of Life / Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston:  This book has started as an animation guide and turned into a detailed survey on the progression of animation, both within the Disney studios and in the world of animation in general. Written by two of the nine old men who defined the Disney animation style, this book takes the reader through all the steps it took them to discover and research the best methods of animation
  • Setting Up Your Shots / Jeremy Vineyard: A great book for getting your basic understanding of shot composition and camera movement for your film.

3D Animation

3D Animation

If you’re looking to get into 3D animation, the road is a bit more complex, but I’ll try to help you make sense of the journey ahead of you.

A note about 3D: You’ll have to learn different skills other then animation such as lighting, texturing and rendering if you want to produce nice looking videos.

Software

Since this is a beginner’s guide I’ll list some high-end programs but also stuff you can get for free so you can animate right away. For more detailed information check out our animation software list.

  • Autodesk Maya: The industry standard. If you are with a big budget and want to take animation very seriously, this is the program you should focus on.
  • Cinema 4D: Much more accessible and easy to learn, also cheaper and comes for free with Adobe After Effects (A lite version). Although used mostly for motion graphics, Cinema can be used for other types of animation and is fun to play around with.
  • Blender: Since this is a beginner’s guide I figured I’ll include Blender since it’s free to download, and there are plenty of tutorials out there  so nothing is stopping you from animating right now for free.

Check out our Free Rigs List so you can get one and start animating quickly.

Hardware

  • Computer: Since you’ll be rendering in 3D, your computer should be equipped with a serious processor, and that could be quite pricey. A serious workstation starts at about $2,000 and could go above $8,000.
  • Tablet: Again, like in 2D, I recommend animating with a tablet, since it makes the workflow much faster. I use the Intuos 5.

Books:

Any of the books listed in the 2D section will benefit a 3D animator, but if you’re looking for a specific 3D animation book, I would suggest “How to Cheat in Maya”. It covers pretty much everything you need to know to start animating in 3D.

Getting a job in the animation industry

Getting a Job

So how do you take the next step? What if you want to make animation your career and not just a side project?

How do I get my foot in the door?

Since I don’t know you personally, I can give you some advice that will work for most people. The best way to get noticed is to create things. Having a BFA in animation or a diploma from an online school such as Animation Mentor will definitely help, but it won’t guarantee a job at graduation.

You know what I did the day after graduation?

Continued making animation for my reel. And that’s what I did everyday until I got my first freelance work. And then at the evenings I would keep making more of those so I’ll be ready for the time the freelance project is over.

You need to keep making. Always.

There’s always enough time to work on your reel, especially in the first year of your animation career. When you add stuff to your reel make sure you follow our Demo Reel Guidelines so you don’t waste your time.

If you keep creating things and putting them out there, while constantly applying to studios, you will eventually get noticed, and hired.

Be sure to have the following things while looking for work:

  • An updated resume
  • A working link to your demo reel (preferably Vimeo, because they have an option to swap videos under the same link – that way you make sure you’re link stay relevant when you update your reel.
  • A portfolio website with your own domain. Non of that Wix crap. Check out these great WordPress templates to make your life easier.
  • A solid demo reel.

Resources for finding work:

  • CGStepInside: This website will show you all the VFX and animation studios around your area, so you could have an organized list of places to apply to. Very useful.
  • oDesk: A freelancing matching website that lists jobs based on skills, a good place to start off.

I hope this guide helped and answered some questions for you. If you feel there are things I didn’t cover that you want to know more about, please write them down in the comments section and I’ll try to keep this guide updated over time.


UPDATE: Our new animated short LIFT UP has been released and ready for viewing, enjoy!


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Morr MerozAnimation for Beginners (Where do I start?)

Comments 21

  1. Dashrath

    Xlnt………. I had very doubts regarding animation………..

    Bt after I saw dis….. all my doubts wet cleared…
    This website is gr8……
    Thanks for developing this website……..

  2. AnimationLover101

    OMG thx! This is a gr8 website. So helpful. :) Thx.
    PS. I am 11 lol and I love animation so yeah… thx this is gr8.

  3. Stephen

    I have a personal question about 3d animation and want to know if don’t mind emailing me back on how to do something.

  4. comment gagner sur

    I must thank you for the efforts you have put
    in penning this site. I’m hoping to view the same high-grade blog posts
    from you later on as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities
    has encouraged me to get my very own website now ;)

    1. Post
      Author
      1. Sam Scholfield

        Hi Morr,

        Thank you for the post it was very useful. I’m currently looking at diving into the animation world so this beginner info was perfect.

        Mainly wanted to drop you a note to ask you to install an anti-spam plugin (Akismet is great (and free if you’re not a business)). Lots of the comments on this post – like the one you replied to above – are spam. Sorry if you’re only guest posting and this is none of your concern.

        The spam will end up damaging your websites ranking in Google and can lose you credibility, which isn’t cool when you’re publishing such useful content.

        Thanks again!
        Sam

        1. Post
          Author
  5. Chris

    Great list of tools used for animation! I must agree that “Cartoon Animation” by Preston Blair is one of the most important books about animation and that everybody, whether you intend doing 2-D or 3-D, must read it. Hollywood animator Mike L. Murphy even expressed his love for the book in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tG5Vz_AVark

  6. kram

    Happy I chanced upon this item, it presented some impacting ideas and I intend to check back in the future, to look at what other people are saying on the matter.

  7. Nate

    Hello, thank you for this website it has helped me a lot. But i was wondering. I have Cinema 4D but when i look up how to do animations with my software i can only find minecraft tutorials which is not what i want. And i have Adobe After Effects for 2D animations but im not all that good at drawing so i wanted to get into easy 3D animations. You have many software suggestions but i was wondering which one should i use? i was looking at Adobe Flash but then i saw your other three suggestions.

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      Author
  8. Uzair

    I had doubts about Animation, I was not sure if I had made the right decision in applying to a college for Animation. But seems like I actually have made the right choice :)

    Other than that, I would like to point out that AutoDesk has a Students program where they have free software for all Students. I currently use AutoDesk Maya. I believe adding this information would be great too :)

  9. meowool

    Well look at UCAS for animation degrees (look at undergraduates, I was so confused about which to look at when I was younger.), look at their A-level requirements and if the GCSE of that subject is offered, take it. If it isn’t then when you do your A-Levels you’ll probably be able to start without having done the GCSE. I did Media Studies at AS without having done a GCSE/BTEC of it!

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