How To Start A Career In 2D Animation [And Succeed]

Starting out is never easy but with a little guidance you can save time and effort to focus on your main goals

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Currently, 2D animation is widely used to create creative pieces that have a great reach among the public. 

Many companies have made it part of their advertising strategies and 81% use videos as a marketing tool. 

If you are one of the people who wonder how to start a career in 2D animation and succeed, in this article, you will find important steps related to specializing, creating your portfolio, and how to gain experience. 

2D animation is a highly demanded skill to create all kinds of videos: advertising, entertainment, educational, apart from that it is also widely used to make movies and videos for the video game industry, you can acquire the necessary abilities to work in this niche.

1. Choose a 2D Animation Software

 

To start developing your 2D animation skills, you must choose a software with which to start learning about the creative processes. 

Each program has unique characteristics but they all share similar functions since the purpose of these programs is that you can create two-dimensional moving characters or objects.

Adobe Animate CC

 

This is an Adobe program especially made to make 2D animations, it is very popular and widely used in the animation community, so it would be a good option to start with. 

With Adobe Animate you can create animations such as cartoons, advertisements, games, and other interactive content such as splash pages. 

Its earlier versions were known as Adobe Flash Professional, Macromedia Flash, and FutureSplash Animator.

CelAction2D

 

CelAction2D is a very powerful 2D animation software, used in shows like Peppa Pig, Mr. Bean, Sarah & Duck, and Simon’s Cat. 

You can create a palette using up to 16 million colors and it will be very easy to familiarize yourself with the way the software works. 

It is designed for beginners and intermediate users but has all the advanced features that a professional would want.

On the good side, it is a program that does not require many high spec system requirements to work, but on the negative side, it is an expensive program, an amount of money that you may not want to pay especially if you are just starting out. 

Synfig Studio

 

Synfig is ideal for beginners because it is free and includes features that are useful for both beginners and advanced animators. 

It is an open-source 2D animation program that is easy to use and with which you will surely become familiar quickly. 

It allows you to generate up to more than 50 layers, which will help you to create your first animations. 

Although honestly, you will not find so many tutorials on this program, it is still easy to use and learn how it works.

2. Pick Your Path

 

If you decide to be a 2D animator, there are several career paths you can take.

It is important that you evaluate your options before making a decision, since based on what you choose you will invest your time and effort to grow in your career.

Flash Animator

 

Usually, work using the Adobe suite and have skills in areas such as illustration and graphic design. 

Animators who specialize in this area are often highly sought after to develop advertising and web application projects.

Courses You Can Take to Follow This Career Path

Art Director

 

This person is responsible for creating ideas through art to develop the narrative of a concept. 

Someone with all the skills that a 2D animator has on composition, character production, dimensions, among other aspects, and can take charge of directing the artistic aspect of a project.

Colorist

 

They are the artists who are in charge of coloring the shots, sometimes this includes making lights and shadows. 

This also contributes to the process of enhancing the two-dimensional appearance of characters or scenes.

2D Modeler

 

This professional is responsible for generating a two-dimensional object using specialized 2D design software, although sometimes it can also be generated manually. 

Thus begins the creation of characters or scenarios that will later be animated.

Storyboard Artist

 

The storyboard is a graphic representation of the animation to be made but specifically directed to movies.

This helps to have a real perception of everything that will be taking place, which is very important to ensure details are correct. It is basically a guide and the storyboard artists are responsible for creating it.

3. Focus on Skill Development

 

Once you have defined which programs you will use and what you want to specialize in, you should start practicing everything you learn. 

This is essential especially when you are learning to use a program, if you do not practice you will not be able to familiarize yourself with the interface and its uses. 

However if you propose to use it every day, you will quickly remember what each function is for, you will learn what the shortcuts are (super important to work quickly) and you will be able to manage the program in a short time.

4. Set Goals

 

You can also make a plan to improve a skill and become an expert. 
For example, practicing a certain number of hours a day, developing your own projects, or taking online courses.

Set goals. 

This is the first thing you should take into account. You have to determine what you want to achieve or learn, what things you want in the long and short term. 

This is essential since, with this step, you can begin to determine what you need to work on to be a better professional.

5. Look at What Other People are Doing

 

When you are a 2D animator you should also keep up to date with trends and a good idea to achieve this is to surround yourself with a community of animators where trends are constantly being discussed. 

These types of communities can be found on Dribbble or on Twitter, which will keep you updated and encourage you to try new things within your niche. 

When you see what others are doing you will feel the desire to improve, to imitate, or exceed them.

It is also good to try to replicate things that other animators do or follow their tutorials or recommendations to try to obtain the same result as them or improve things that you think could be better.

6. Watch and Learn

 

Tutorials are also great tools for practicing skills. 

On YouTube, you will find a large number of videos with explanations about things you do not understand and guides to create projects that put your skills to the test. 

Watching these types of videos constantly will make you understand the process of creating an animation using a partculiar software or program. 

In many cases, these videos mimic the online class format, so if you can not afford them you can watch tutorials and practice doing what they teach you.

7. Develop Your Style as You Go

 

The more you practice, the closer you will be to finding your style as an animator. 

Style is what will differentiate your work from others at first glance, or rather it is what will make you stand out from the competition. 

In a market where there are a large number of talented animators who share similar abilities, what will make you different is what others cannot offer: your own style.

To find your style you must identify which are those works that inspire you, what  decade or which character. Based on these things, you will be able to make a difference and create your style.

8. Build Your Portfolio

 

A digital portfolio is not an objective, but a tool. However, the objective of this tool is not to show what you have done, but what you are capable of doing. 

It is a compilation of documents in which an artist exhibits their work to demonstrate their talent and professional experience.

Many think that their portfolio should have all the work they have done, but in reality, to create your portfolio you must have enough content to make a catalog that allows you to show only the best. 

A small selection that helps your prospective client realize your potential.

Create a Specialized Portfolio

 
Specialization is becoming more and more important.

Hence it is recommended to focus your work on one or two disciplines, this way you will show your potential clients that you are an expert in those skills and that you have been working in those areas for a long time. 
 
Having a specialized portfolio will bring you several benefits.

1. More Opportunities to Find a Good Job 

It is relatively easy to find more general profiles, in fact, they are more versatile and this is a plus. 
 
But those oceans are saturated with ships, while there are still small seas waiting to be exploited. This is where you will find your niche.
 

2. Specialization is Better Paid

It is simple, the law of supply and demand also comes into play in this sector. If you are good at your specialization, companies will bid for you.

3. Work Will Be More Visible in Less Time

If you dedicate 100% of your time to a single discipline, you will become very good in a very short time. 

Imagine that hours were bricks with which to build your talent. 

If you try to cover a large space, it will take a long time to make your building the tallest. But if you stack your bricks vertically, standing out above the others will take you much less time.

Have an Animation Reel

 

The animation reel is your cover letter to enter the job market. 
It is an audiovisual curriculum vitae (CV), in video format, where you expose your skills through a compilation of your best work as an animator. 

It should be an agile presentation and have a short duration. 
In reality, it is about the viewer not getting bored and making your aptitudes for the job you want to apply for very clear.

Essential Things to Make Your Animation Reel

  • Prepare a compilation of your best works. Only with the best.
  • Select the best 2 or 3 shots and put them first.
  • Save a surprise for last. Be original.
  • Make a quick and dynamic montage. Do not complicate yourself, in design, less is more.
  • Do not exceed 2 minutes.
  • If it exists, leave the original audio. Be careful with the music.
  • Put your name and contact information at the beginning and at the end.
  • Update it regularly.

All that an animation studio wants is for you to show them that you are qualified for the position you want to fill and that you have the necessary skills to solve the challenges and problems that are going to be presented to them. 

It is very important not to forget that the duration of the reel should last around 2 minutes. It does not take more than 30 seconds for someone to be clear about your skills and level. 

Think that recruiters spend many hours looking at applications and in a few seconds they can see if the profile they are looking for matches the video they are watching.

Where to Create Your Portfolio?

 

Today it is essential that you have an online portfolio be it your own website with WordPress, a platform such as Wix or a profile on one of the platforms available specifically for this such as Dribble or Behance

Platforms of this type function as an artist market and are a good option. 

First, because they are free and you do not have to create a website, with all the work that this requires. 

Second, anyone who is browsing any of those platforms can find you by search, recommendation, or simply by chance.

However, creating a website exclusively for your portfolio is an option that will give you a lot of professionalism and that will give your clients confidence. 

When you use a platform for portfolios you must create yours under the platform’s parameters, but when you create a website you can configure your portfolio as you wish, you can even include a blogging section or online store. 

Additionally, you can also have a custom domain with your own name or the name of your brand, which will make you look like a professional. 

If you are more interested in this option, you can read this guide on how to build a portfolio using WordPress or Wix.

9. Work on Gaining Experience

 

Something that many employers give importance to is experience. 
Your experience will tell them how expert you are in your field, how well you do working with others, and completing projects. 

The problem is when you are just starting to work as an animator and you do not have any experience. 

The solution to this is to practice and include your practices in your portfolio, as a sample of your work. 

You can do an animation for a family member’s business, for a friend’s wedding, or give life to projects that you create in your head. 
This will show potential clients that you can work as a 2D animator.

Apart from that, you can try freelance work platforms like Upwork and Fiverr, there are all kinds of clients looking for animators with different types of experience and some admit beginners. 

Likely, these jobs are not so well paid but they will help you to get an idea of what it is like to work for a client, meet deadlines, and carry out someone else’s idea. 

As you develop jobs for others, you will gain valuable experience.

10. Network

 

This is one of the main keys to access new projects; joining a community of animators, creating professional and productive relationships, and supporting each other within the industry. 

One mistake some make is to view all other animators as enemies or competition, seeing them in this way will stake your professional growth. 

Networking consists of creating contacts with people who can somehow help you grow, other than to get a job it is essential to have contacts since they can bring you closer to other people. 

For example, if one of your colleagues is asked to do a job related to creating a storyboard but that is something he does not do and you do, he can suggest your name to that client.

Maintaining effective relationships is so critical that 70% of the people who have worked for a company attribute that role to having a connection within that company. 

However, 38% of professionals consider that it is difficult to maintain their working relationships and that is because they do not know very well how to preserve them. 

It is necessary to learn how to maintain contact with your network so that it never loses effectiveness.

Tips for Networking

  • Patience, there are no shortcuts or magic formulas here.
  • Learn from your experience and others’.
  • Talk to everyone, the point of view of third parties can help you notice things that you alone will not be able to.
  • Give points of view without falling into controversy, because whoever falls into controversy is because they have nothing valuable to contribute.
  • Choose to hang out with those who have the same specialization as you. It is not a rule, but they are likely to be more compatible to support each other or work together.
  • Avoid out of place comments, always be consistent.

Useful Tips

 
  • Research on takes and cinematographic language, that will be very helpful and without a doubt very necessary when taking the shots of each idea or project.

     

  • Dust off your drawings and create scripts to give life to your stories. In the beginning, the animations are not easy at all, but with good continuity and a lot of trial and error, you will achieve the results and style you are looking for.

     

  • Do not stop if you can not invest in work equipment. Of course, having technological equipment is essential to work as a 2D animator, but if you still cannot acquire the best computer, you can start by using a tablet.

     

  • Learn about sound editors. This is not mandatory, but it does not hurt to have a slight idea of how it is edited. Sometimes small studios cannot afford the equipment to record and edit sound.

     

  • Seek advice from your peers. Animation is a very interesting job that requires a lot of dedication. Look in your colleagues for an objective point of view that helps you both to find errors and to seek new approaches that had not occurred to you.

     

  • Nowadays animation has become something completely linked to technology. Animation is hardly conceivable other than by computer.
    This means that apart from artistic knowledge (which is truly important), you are going to have to catch up on a bit of technical knowledge, starting with the animation software itself.

Succeeding Requires Dedication and Hard Work

 

If you wish, it is entirely possible to start working as a 2D animator and succeed. However, this requires a lot of patience, perseverance, and dedication. 

To succeed you must prepare, constantly practice to hone your skills, and find ways to integrate into the job market. 

There are many ways to achieve this, such as using freelance work platforms and networking. 

If you constantly prepare and learn, you will soon find your first job offers and begin to grow as a professional. 

Just keep in mind that being an animation expert is not something that you achieve in one day but something you should always work towards.

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