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10 Steps to Becoming an Exceptional Animator

I am an artist animator director passionate about creating original content to share knowledge gathered along my 25 year and above career.

This article will provide 10 useful tips to help you become a great animator.

This article will provide 10 useful tips to help you become a great animator.

When watching animated movies, it is common to wonder: "How does one get to work for these movies? It looks like a dream job, working all day creating lovely things." Well, they are right. The job of animation is a dream job that largely depends on the magic the animator brings to the screen, eventually making his/her dream come true to be in a dream job.

I am sure it is on most people's minds: "How does one become a great animator!?" Well then, read on.

1. Master the Art of Drawing

Whether born with a natural talent to draw or not, practice helps fine-tune your drawing skills fit for an animator. Practice drawing anatomy, plants, animals, learn dimensions, composition, perspective, etc.

Like you can see in my drawings here, I was that nerd dreaming a dream of an animation career. It was an exciting time studying about human forms, muscular structures in our body, and was like taking my science class to the next level. Only this time I enjoyed it, because I finally knew my purpose in doing it.


2. Be a Spectator to the Wonderful World Around You

When I say observe, I mean observe casually and not stare to annoy people so much so as to land a nice sharp slap on your cheeks.

So let yourself experience the day-dreaming routine where many a fantasy image is born by thinking of nothing with just the noise of the breeze.

Hang out outdoors and observe people, living things, inanimate objects, gestures of people in public places like restaurants or in the park, children playing, dogs running, and people's expressions. Try to imagine what they are thinking or talking purely for artistic reasons.

Watch their movements and take an outdoor sketch tour just to practice your quick sketching skills.

The zoo is the simplest and most cost-effective way to find your animal references. You can take your time, study their movements, sketch from time to time, and have a fabulous time while doing your research.

There is no better reference than our natural surroundings: produce markets, malls, sports events, etc.

3. Look at Other Great Animators’ Works and Accomplishments

There have been some fine animators in the traditional and computer animation category, from the early 1900s to today. Refer and follow their reviews closely to study from their best practices. Again, evolve your own style.

There’s always more pride in churning out original works than producing derivatives or copies of others works. Such acts, even if done innocently due to lack of proper exposure to work ethics, can be viewed as criminal. Due to careless and unethical practices noted, it can forever ruin all the integrity you have built up for yourself.

Today in the Internet age, one cannot erase the records of any wrongdoing. So even if you repent, the copies of one's bad ethical practices can never be erased once registered online.

Animation Events and Organizations to Check Out

4. Have a Demo Reel or Showcase of Your Work Ready

Whatever your specialisation, even an animator generalist needs something to show others. When you present your biography, animation is one field where, just like a swimmer, your skills cannot be judged by your certificates. You have to show what you can do.

In the case of the field of animation, it is mandatory to have a montage or compilation that you can show your audience or whoever might interested in hiring you or working with you.

You can get an idea of how I showcase my works in animation from time-to-time based on my specialization, which sometimes is based on a majority requirement from a sub-sector of the market. It must be a way-of-life to makeover your reel at least every 6–12 months to keep to the trends.

5. Network and Mingle With the Community

As far as networking is concerned, showing up and participating at technical conferences related to animation is a very good idea. Mingle with the community, pass on your demo DVDs or business cards with your portfolio URL there, or even load up your reels on your iPhone.

You never know when somebody wants to look at your work. You must be ready for any situation. You could be another success story. What if Steven Spielberg happens to sit beside you at your coffee table at one of the conferences? Yes, it is possible for that kind of thing to happen in any of these conferences that I have named for your convenience. It happened to me several times when I was at SIGGRAPH. A celebrity animator may just be at a book sale joint, and they could get into a conversation with you.

In this way, I have met people who were TDs (Technical Directors) for movies like Titanic and Speed, and I even met the inventor of the famous module in 3D Studio Max called “Character Studio." I remember my excitement then. It was a pleasure for me to pass on my demo reel to him when he asked for it.

Animation Groups to Check Out

6. Master the Techniques of Animation

Master the technology behind the modern art of computer animation. Get to know something through self-study or a course at a reputed training center to become an expert in all the software popular in the industry.

There are millions of tutorials and forums on the subject on the Internet for absolutely free. So it is highly unlikely that you will get lost, because wherever you turn you get learning resources very easy to come by.

7. Turn Up in the Right Place at the Right Time

Whenever I visited Los Angeles, I was sure I could get many free treats. After 8 pm, everyday Hollywood area is filled with free lectures, evening sessions, workshops on demo reviews, storyboard pitch nights, etc. Whenever I was in New York City too, I had the same experience. I could attend so many events for absolutely free—like the Tribeca Festivals, where there are many animation shows where lots of those in the animation community show up.

There are meetup groups in animation covering almost every region in the world today. Look up one in your area and get involved. Such groups contribute to hiring quests, making friends in animation, enjoying animation interests, and even perhaps to recommend you to top studios.

Once I was in NYC and was lucky enough to attend an event called “BYOA – Bring your own animation” where the Siggraph NYC professional chapter there organised for animation students, animators, and veterans to come together in a pub where all our demo reels got reviewed by top players in the animation industry.

8. Do Not Focus on Making Money Right Away

It takes a new animator one to two years to get the hang of the art. After which, the first five years are still a steep learning curve. So don't lose heart or get anxious about getting high remunerations during the first few laps of your animation career. It does take a lot of dedication, passion, team spirit, knowledge exchange, and most of all consistency to make it to the higher ranks. Perseverance is key.

Just concentrate on mastering animation and everything required for you to become well-rounded (which includes a good amount of networking and getting to know the right/positive people in the industry), and the money and fame will automatically follow.

9. Learn the Art of Acting

Become an actor to act out your own animation gestures for your animation. Walt Disney brought this tradition into the animation industry. He hired an acting teacher to learn animation. This helped him understand how he should teach animators to act in order to improve their animation skills and captivate their audiences.

This book below by Ed Hooks is a valuable resource for learning acting from an animator's perspective, as he is a veteran at teaching at large studios like Walt Disney and Pixar and travels to various parts of the world because of the popularity of his workshops.

10. The Learning Curve for Animation Never Stops

Never stop learning and teaching. Nobody is a 100% master in animation, because there is always something for an animator to learn. So nobody is greater than another person, because creativity cannot be measured as a standard.

Of course, great outputs are the result of great opportunities for some. Some who may be excellent animators may never have had the opportunity to work in top-notch studios. That does not mean that they are bad animators. It means that they have not got enough coverage to show off their magical works.

A good thing for any animator to get their skills out there is to take part in as many festivals as possible.

Learn, showcase your work, and teach. Teaching makes you learn more from the spontaneous questions posed by your students. So your students become your teachers for the special clarifications they bring forward. For if they don’t ask some intelligent questions, you may never know that perspective you had failed to look at all your life just because there was no opportunity to explore it.

These are the sure steps to take that can lead a fulfilling life as an animator.


You Can Even Grow as an Animator in Your Sleep!

There is one more thing I want to tell you before I let you go on your journey.

I slept over this article idea last night and woke up in the morning with this pre-planned picture layout in a golden platter just ready for me to use. How cool is that?! This is what animation does to us as "animators." It keeps ideas bubbling even when we sleep and offers us the creative solutions in the morning. I really don't know how it works in theory, but it is true.

Now that you have what it takes, what are you waiting for? Pull out your weapons and go conquer the world of animation!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Gladness Akinpelu on December 04, 2019:

woow!..what a nice write-up..I really enjoyed my stay reading here and I feel impressed..Thanks alot Buddy...

Remy Francis (author) from Dubai on May 29, 2016:

I am glad you think my tips are of help Rishi. You may keep this as your go-to reference guide along your way to a successful animation career. Best wishes!

Rishi on May 23, 2016:

It's wonderful...I've been searching for the best entry.....but u have given me ,not only an info but also it seems like held my hand till I reached it.....

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on June 24, 2015:

Very helpful art tutorial.

Remy Francis (author) from Dubai on November 22, 2013:

Hi Anjili

Thank you for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed the read. Thank you for your suggestion. I have been thinking about a book but time is of the essence...having been caught up with regular work life.

Anjili from planet earth, a humanoid on November 08, 2013:

Very informative and rewarding for those of us who enjoy artistic designs, illustrations and animations. You should compile a book for deeper outreach.

Remy Francis (author) from Dubai on July 15, 2013:


Glad for your visit and good to know that you have seen inspiration in my articles.

Once you have a passion in animation, while you learn the tech part will evolve with it. Make internet your friend to research and learn from other accomplished animators' works; I didn't quite understand your second question; Well animation has grown so much that you can find good schools in any part of the world. If you ask me, I did not take any formal animation education....In fact I did Math and business studies. But the passion drove me to focus on animation for a career and along the way I went to continuing ed classes in NYU etc just to keep me posted with the latest trends. Hope this answers your queries :o)

WD1901 on April 02, 2013:

This is such an inspiration, thanks for taking the time to write this up. Hello I am a sophomore in high school. I am certain that I am willing to put time into being part of the magic into making an animated film by becoming an animator. As a kid I grew up watching Disney productions, and have felt inspired and drawn into the process it took to produce such magical, brilliant, and creative pieces. I believe that I have good drawing skills, and with some work they can potentially become what they need to be in order to do what I want to do. I have watched bits and pieces of the process of movie making, but I have a few questions.:

1. I know you have to have some drawing skill to be an animator, but what about the technical part?

2. Is it easy to land a position were you are part of coming up with what the characters aquatically look like?

3. Were do you consider a good school for animation/ movie making?

Okay that may do it, for now that is, just playing. I do have so many questions thought, I think I am just intermediate by all the talented people out there.

Remy Francis (author) from Dubai on June 29, 2012:

You are absolutely right Christine. It has taken me 18 years and yet I haven't stopped learning while teaching every student or with every software version upgrade or new ideas that just show up or every artist I meet or with every project or new teams I work with. The adventurous journey never ends and that's what keeps the excitement going.

Good to see you here. Thanks for visiting!

Christine Andrews from Lancashire, UK on June 28, 2012:

Great hub! This is a life-time course, I think... and one can only get better with time if you stick to it :-)

Remy Francis (author) from Dubai on May 20, 2012:

Thank you henderson0683

Sure I will take a look at your anim. clip!!

henderson0683 on May 18, 2012:

Fantastic hub check my try out at animation

Remy Francis (author) from Dubai on February 22, 2012:


My pleasure! Thanks for taking your time to have a read. Appreciate your comments!

Remy Francis (author) from Dubai on February 22, 2012:

Hi kittjj

You are welcome! Sure thing yes. If you need any assistance on how to start off don't hesitate to contact me. I started with a dream just like yours and today I am glad I stuck to that dream. :o) Thanks for Voting my hub Up too.

Remy Francis (author) from Dubai on February 22, 2012:

Hey there freelanceauthor

Thank you for kind words. All the best on your drawing. Welcome to the world of animation. It's much easier once you have a passion driving you through. I see that you already have it with your drive to draw. All the best!

AMIEPYE on February 17, 2012:

Thank you fantastic hub!

Ann Leung from San Jose, California on February 12, 2012:

So much to learn, so little time. Thank you so much for a great hub! Very informative with cool videos. You've inspired me to continue to pursue my dream. Voted up!

freelanceauthor on February 11, 2012:

Nice hub. It has been my dream to be an animator. I love to draw

Remy Francis (author) from Dubai on October 24, 2011:

Hey there freecampingaussie and drspaniel

Thank you I really appreciate seeing you here and your lovely comments! Oh you don't have to worry. If there is a tiny will one can indeed start drawing pretty well.

Even if you think you can't manage to draw, I have a hub for you so you could still be a great animator without being able to draw even a straight line. Watch my space...perhaps I could publish it in a few weeks?

drspaniel from Somewhere, where the sun shines once a year... on October 16, 2011:

It's a shame that I can't draw, as after reading this Hub I bet I could get a high paying career!

freecampingaussie from Southern Spain on October 15, 2011:

Hi! A very informative hub, I can't even make a stick figure look good lol so I stick to writing ! Voted you up .

Andrea Rose on September 10, 2011:

Very good Hub

Remy Francis (author) from Dubai on September 09, 2011:

Hi Sunnie Day

I am humbled by your visit and comments. Thanks a lot.

Sunnie Day on September 08, 2011:

Hi Remy,

I stand amazed at your glad I stopped by to read about your wonderful work..Have a great week.


Remy Francis (author) from Dubai on September 08, 2011:

Hi there Mindy Meisel

Thank you for your lovely feedback. I am glad to learn that reading my hub has inspired to better your goals. Good luck!

Thank you so much b. Malin I surely will.

That makes it so much easier when you have a team of artists and writer in the family. All the best!

b. Malin on September 05, 2011:

My sister is the "Artist" in our family, as was my Niece. I am not, I'm the writer. I enjoyed your Hub Rembrandz found it most Interesting and a Delight to read! I look forward to following your Hubs and hope you will honor me as well.

Mindy Meisel on September 05, 2011:

This was a great reference article, as I am a new Hubber. I enjoyed reading your article and found the format super. I think you've touched on all of the key ingredients and have given me some very solid examples of what to strive to include in my future writing. Thanks you.

Remy Francis (author) from Dubai on September 04, 2011:

Thank you AmandaD

amandaD from Hull UK on September 04, 2011:

Nice article...well done!

Remy Francis (author) from Dubai on September 02, 2011:

Hey BkCreative Thanks for coming by. Aah! That's sooo great to hear that. Congrats! Now guess you are on your way in the right path ... looks like you are half there already! I would love to see your cartoon strip in movement sometime when you are done.

BkCreative from Brooklyn, New York City on September 02, 2011:

What a fabulous hub! And so timely. In the last few months I've been saying I just have to get animation done of my cartoon strip and all my ideas - thoughts I've been kicking around in my head for years.

So finally I said - this is the time. And you know that old saying about - "When you are ready, the teacher will show up."

Well, thank you, TEACHER (yay!) I am bookmarking this so I can use it as both a resource and a great pep talk.

Rated up!

Remy Francis (author) from Dubai on August 31, 2011:

Hey there Simone Glad to see you here. Thanks a lot. Am humbled by your endorsement. Oh yes, it will be a treat to see students of animation visit and benefit from my steps too.

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on August 31, 2011:

Holy shoot, rembrandz! This is such a helpful guide! Well done indeed. I should share this with my buddies who are getting started with animation!

Remy Francis (author) from Dubai on August 30, 2011:


Very kind of you to take your time to read my hub with much appreciation and wishes! Thanks


Lovely to see you on my hub! And grateful for your thoughts and affirmation.

jperry106 from Castle Hayne NC on August 30, 2011:

Look you keep doing what you are doing and I believe that you will draw more to your hub. The way your hub is setup seem just fine.

Victor Mavedzenge from Oakland, California on August 30, 2011:

A very fascinating hub.Well done on your achievements.

Maggie Griess from Ontario, Canada on August 30, 2011:

This is a great Hub...I have always loved animation and wanted to know how it is done. I will bookmark and follow your other hubs as well to enjoy all this info!

Remy Francis (author) from Dubai on August 30, 2011:

Hey there kimh039

You are welcome...glad it helped. Thank you to you too for having a read.

Oh Yes! I can't stress enough about how important it is to know drawing. I know of people who have left the profession because of the disinterest/inability to draw, the field is limited. Not all stay in LA or New York or London. So that extra gear takes one a long way.

Although, don't be's nothing to know except a change of the way you look at the world and just don't stop drawing. Your subject can be anything even a boring center table. np Watch my space...I am soon publishing "Drawings of the inanimate!" Rgds

Hello carrie

Thank you so much for your visit. Very glad to hear your comments. Yes it sure is a dreamy world. I sometimes live in that space that I forget to eat...thanks to animation I am not obese ;)

carriethomson from United Kingdom on August 30, 2011:

WOW a great deal of info and very intresting information and videos!! i love watching animated movies and it does take a lot of hard word, creativity and a bunch of dreamers to do such fab work!!


Kim Harris on August 30, 2011:

Thanks for the tips on building a career in animation, rembrandz. It's especially helpful to know where to start; with drawing.

Remy Francis (author) from Dubai on August 30, 2011:

Hey sofs Very glad to see you here and your comments are very dear. Thanks a lot! Sure thing I'll look out ...hmm now I am pleasantly curious! Thx

Remy Francis (author) from Dubai on August 30, 2011:

Hi there skyfire Thank you for reading my hub and your comments. Really appreciate the added useful points.

I agree with you. Of course there are many options. My reference here meant, not to worry oneself weary if they don't see the kind of $$ they had in mind right in the beginning-true for any profession, isn't it? That doesn't mean it is not paying.

As I said it depends a lot on the persons hard work. Also the access to many things mentioned above. Less access to the art I know takes a lot of time to see success if they don't know what route to take. (Another hub idea just came up - thanks to you). This hub discusses about the route I took. I must say I am not from a land anywhere close to Hollywood and it was quite a long and hard journey with no regrets.

So coming to the point, even before fine-tuning the art of animation there are many who earn tonnes. There are many who come into the industry without being able to draw a line, but with an impression that an animation course would get them a dream job. Some get fooled by the glitter, some succeed. (I have a new hub coming soon where people who are not inclined to draw can still fit into the modern day animation industry).

In some parts of the world (yes where animation is still developing even today) one may earn as an animator much but their output may not be good enough due to lack of demand, lack of opportunities, lack of exposure. I mean, aspiring animators who are spread further away from the happening parts of the globe in animation. Vector art or any online market-places are still inaccessible for many in these regions. There are many with talent and the drive out there but with absolutely no facilities. I know there is another argument to this. Perhaps I'll put it up as a hub. Hey thanks for the idea. I will definitely address it soon. Anyway skyfire. All my hubs are my takes from what I learnt after investing in animation as part of my career and the reader is free to use it as he/she feels fit.

Sophie on August 30, 2011:

Informative hub, actually loads of information. An interesting read and great work. Watch out for an email from me:)

skyfire on August 30, 2011:

"Do not focus on money"- - This is something hard to do, especially when there are good opportunities like storybird and vector art marketplaces these days. Nice hub there, keep writing.

Remy Francis (author) from Dubai on August 30, 2011:

Hi AEvans Very glad to hear that. Many thanks for your appreciation. Thanks for stopping by and suggestions in my forum post.

Hey waynet How are you? It's been a long time. I won't forget you were one of my first greeters here at hubpages.

I am humbled by your visit and your comments. Thank you.

Wayne Tully from Hull City United Kingdom on August 30, 2011:

A really great hubpage you have here and an interesting one too. Keep up the great work!

Julianna from SomeWhere Out There on August 30, 2011:

I have a very close friend who works for Disney Pixel and your hub about creation and animation is perfect! Thanks for the info! :)

Remy Francis (author) from Dubai on August 29, 2011:

Hi wannawestern Thanks for taking this brief journey within my hub. And thank you for your appreciation. I am glad you liked it. Oh you can learn to draw if you want to. I have just suggested a book by Betty Edwards ...the book teaches anyone to draw, which I missed adding earlier. All the best!

Hey thanks Neerizzle for your visit. I am glad you liked it.

Neerizzle from Canada on August 29, 2011:

Wow, I love the layout of this hub. Very informative good job.

Carolyn Augustine from Iowa on August 29, 2011:

I feel as if I could move right into a career in animation if only I could draw! Thanks for a wonderful, high-quality hub. Kudos, voted up, and awesome.