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Essential skills for animators to succeed

These abilities also allow you to quickly sketch out your ideas, which is important for visual development, concept art, and storyboarding. Similarly, basic arts know-how gives you a better understanding of proportion, lines, and layout. It also helps develop taste in arts and animation. Without the foundations, your job is not only time-consuming, but it also locks you in the cycle of fixing the basis, which could have been avoided by knowing the fundamentals.

To enhance these skills, animators need to practice daily, keep a drawing journal as well as explore aspects of arts & animation, especially ones that help your drawings more effective.

With the ever-changing animation industry, the requirements for the labor market have been evolving as well. That's why there are some essential skills that animators would want to study to succeed. With the skills listed below, animators will be able to navigate in a constantly growing industry and forge a successful career.

The key skills animators should have

Animation artists have to produce a large number of sequential drawings that would be made into the animation for movies, advertisements, television shows, and video games. They often specialize in one of the many media and may further specialize in a particular area, such as animation, character design, environment design, or film editing. With the workloads demanded of them, you might want to consider acquiring these skills to be able to do your job effectively.

The in-demand technical animation skills

Obviously, animators mostly work with computers and other complex technologies. This requires designers maintain high technical abilities at all times.

Knowledge of 12 principles of animation

First and foremost, you need to equip yourself with a firm and grounded basis. Let's take a look at The 12 Basic Animation Principles.

The 12 Animation Principles are Walt Disney’s and his associates’ legacy, the development that forever changed the animation industry. They provide animators with a framework that facilitates the animation process to be more efficient.

essential skills for animators - Knowledge of 12 principles of animation
12 principles of animation (Source: Pinterest)

These principles are "the bible" for animators throughout the history of animation, guiding them in every single frame to achieve the most believable animated performance possible. The fact is, all the animation that we have seen, including every iconic film and character, was built based on Walt Disney’s framework.

Even nowadays, those principles have all been so fully instilled by the animators in the training process that there is no need to explain “anticipation” or “follow-through” in a discussion. Thus, it seems like the 12 principles of animation have subconsciously become a common language among animators.

Hand-drawing skills & foundation arts knowledge

You've probably heard somewhere else that you don't need to know how to draw to be a successful animator. However, no one can deny the value of having basic hand-drawing skills and the knowledge of the foundations in art.

Considering that the priority in animation these days is lifelike images and motions, having hand-drawing skills can help you with depicting the characters and effects believably, regardless of styles and medium.

essential skills for animators - Hand-drawing skills & foundation arts knowledge
Using a drawing journal to boost your hand-drawing skills (Source: Pinterest)

Cinematography knowledge

An understanding in cinematography is a less-expected knowledge that not every animator possesses. Important cinematic principles such as storytelling techniques, camera handling, composition, lighting, and so on are the fundamentals that animators should be fluent in to create an animated film.

essential skills for animators - Cinematography knowledge
Cinematography knowledge is among the essential skills for animators (Source: Pinterest)

Animation is but a medium of cinema, not a genre. Thus, animators should knowledgeable in the necessary principles of cinema. Creating animation means is filmmaking and it requires all the skills that filmmakers hold, i.e., camera angle, color, and lighting, story-flow...

Besides, the application of those elements in animation will help animators reach the core of cinema: visual storytelling. Establishing a powerful visual storytelling ability may help you connect with your audience and create an emotional experience with your animation, which is the first step in becoming a great animator.

Cinematography knowledge cannot be attained just by taking courses as it varies from director to director. There will always be room for improvement in cinematic skills. Taking the time to watch a lot of cartoons can help animators build an ingrained subconscious sense of animation and filmmaking.

Essential soft skills for animators to have

Apart from rigid knowledge written on papers and shown on screens, animators also need to adopt soft skills in their career.

Strong analytical & organization skills

With the tremendous tasks that animators confront daily, having a thoughtful and organized mindset, as well as strong analytical abilities, are all vital.

The profession also heavily relies on technology, which involves not just comprehension but also analysis. Those who have worked with technology may be aware that it is advanced, but it may also be quite tricky at times. Animators must be able to know the smartest and most appropriate application depending on their specific artwork.

essential skills for animators - Strong analytical & organization skills
Being analytical & organizational is a plus in animation (Source: Fudge Animation)

As a matter of fact, animators often work on a team with others, juggling multiple projects and deadlines as they go about their daily work. Staying organized is critical for success in a collaborative career with many moving components.

To make it easier, establishing a file-naming convention and arranging all files in the same way, to keep everyone on the same page is advisable.

Attention to detail

Animation and visual design careers in general require close attention to detail. To ensure every piece of a project is working a common goal, focusing on the smallest details is one of the most important qualities in an animator.

Attention to detail can help you create artworks that are more realistic in style. Moreover, you will learn how to work more effectively by forcing your work to be more complex, and it will add depth to your project.

According to graphic and motion designer Crissy Bogusz: small details like lighting can be the difference between an average animation and one that captures an audience. Animation that can be broken down to the tiniest elements show not only the dedication but also the professionalism of the creator, which makes the work more valuable.

essential skills for animators - Attention to detail
Animators need attention to detail (Source: Pixar)

In addition, technical skills will help you achieve these effects, but attention to detail will help you understand the mechanic of how to do it. Always remind yourself that it is pointless to own impressive knowledge in arts and principles as mentioned above if they are not illustrated in your artwork.


Forging a successful career as an animator is not easy - it requires being comfortable with your work being constantly critiqued and picked apart.

This is because directors have their own vision and you need to work to meet their expectations. Therefore, it is important you’re not overly sensitive or upset by criticism or at least can learn to build up a thick skin. Remember that negative feedback does not equal that you’re terrible at drawing.

Taking on board criticism and feedback and then going back to the drawing board is a staple part of the job as an animator. A professional animator would not be put off by any constructive comments but would rather take them as references for their future development.

Sense of humor

A sense of humor is useful for animators to be able to animate funny and endearing characters. It is your responsibility as an animator to include comedy into your character's body language, actions, and facial expressions, and to accentuate these small aspects as needed for optimum humorous impact.

essential skills for animators - Sense of humor
A sense of humor is an essential skill for animators (Source: Pinterest)

Most animated films are aimed at children. With audiences at such a young age, it is advisable that you have to be able to adopt a child-like mindset and understand what makes them laugh. Therefore, if you love to notice the little things animators do to include subtle visual cues to heighten humor, animation is the perfect career for you.

How to acquire the essential skills for animators

While there’s no set description of the ideal personality & fixed skill sets every successful animator should have, the ones mentioned above are worth considering. Below are some ways you can enhance your skills

Real-world learning

With the diversity in animation today, animators are encouraged to stay connected with their future industry through real-world learning.

According to Rose Woodcock: ‘These give you a taste of what the industry is really like, and network during that time, which is typically 100 hours or more contact time. We find that particularly in screen and design is often the first job of our graduates coming out of an internship.’

essential skills for animators - Real-world learning
Jobs and internships are best ways to enhance the essential skills for animators (Source: DeeDee Animation Studio)

Especially for recent graduates, finding internships and graduate jobs can not only give you the needed exp but also hone your skills and networking opportunities.

Workshops & Webinars

Another way to stay updated is by joining in sessions where experts share their knowledge, expertise, and opinions. On such occasions, animators can learn about the current discussions, issues, and trends in the industry or update their skill sets and technical abilities.

DeeDee Animation Studio has hosted some animation webinars, where animators and experts have meaningful discussions. Moreover, with any seminar & workshop, especially from DeeDee, you will have the chance to get the experts to answer your questions, which means gaining more insights.

Taking “The business of animation in Vietnam” as an example, the audience can acquire more know-how about the animation industry but also the use of ToonBoom, a prominent animation software.

essential skills for animators - Workshops & Webinars
Webinar “The business of animation in Vietnam” (Source: DeeDee Animation Studio)


Above are the guidelines of essential skills for animators. We believe that once animators have mastered these skills, they can overcome any challenging animation offers.

DeeDee animation studio is a prominent Vietnamese animation studio. We not only produce award-winning films but also help people, especially animators get hands-on experience with the animation industry. To find out more about up-to-date information in the animation industry and chances to listen to industry experts, read more at Webinar.

References:, Spike in demand for animation skills creates opportunity for graduates, The In-Demand Animation Skills You Need to Make Design Come to Life


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