2D Animator

Learn about the role, salary, software and skills needed to become a 2D Animator

2D animator job description

A 2D Animator creates movement in a two-dimensional space for film, TV, websites, video games and advertisements using either traditional cel methods or computer software.

Animations can vary in length from a 5-second brand logo, to a feature film, to a long-running television series.

On longer projects, animators will work in teams working with various roles such as Storyboard Artists, Clean Up Artists, and Character Artists.

Most 2D Animators at some stage during the course of their careers will work in all of these roles, and sometimes a combination of all on individual projects. Over time 2D Animators tend to specialize in a particular style or genre that reflects their personal aesthetic.


Role & Responsibilities

A 2D Animator works through a three-stage process (pre-production, production and post-production) to create a sequence.

During the pre-production stage they write the story, design characters, create a storyboard, choose a design style, and prepare the backgrounds on which the action will occur. The voice-overs are then recorded by actors based on the dialogue in the script. 

In the production stage, the animators pull together all the elements to start animating the scenes. This includes initially animating rough sketches and then refining them to line drawings; layering the scenes against the backgrounds; matching the character visuals to the recorded dialogue; and compositing to final render.

At the post-production stage Animators will do a final visual clean up, mix sound effects and music, integrating visual effects, and render all the elements together to create the finished work.

The responsibilities of 2D Animators can include:
  • Liaising with writers, directors, clients regarding the style, method and execution of the animation to be produced
  • Developing storyboards based on the script
  • Preparing presentations of rough sketches for clients
  • Creating models, drawings and illustrations
  • Designing frames and characters
  • Choosing color palettes, style and general look of animation
  • Establishing artwork for the backgrounds and layouts
  • Setting up exposure sheets, divided into actions and timing, dialogues and music, animation layers, backgrounds, view perspective
  • Drawing rough sketches and animate 
  • Illustrating key frames and producing inbetweening
  • Inking
  • Coloring
  • Clean ups
  • Integrating images, characters, etc into background graphics
  • Syncing visuals with audio and voiceover tracks
  • Preparing all animation elements for compositing, including delivering in set formats
  • Enhancing animation with special effects at post-production stage

2D Animation Software and Tools

The tools of a 2D Animator can be as rudimentary as pen and paper, they can be paint and cels, they can be clay, they can be computer software and a range of other props including puppets, models, flipbooks, etc. Regardless of the materials used to create 2D animation, it will invariably end up being edited and post-produced on computer.

The software required for 2D Animators:
  • Toon Boom Harmony
  • Adobe Creative Suite - Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, Freehand, After Effects

Skills Required

A passion for animation is the starting point for a career as a 2D Animator. There are many forms of animation - claymation, stop motion, pinscreen, cut out, etc - and animators continue to innovate with new materials, however, the basics of animation are taught in terms of character expression and movement. 

A career in animation will pose lots of creative challenges and training in various techniques, the possibilities are endless and only limited by your imagination. 

Employers may look for the following skills in 2D Animators:
  • Training in 2D animation, both cel and computer graphics
  • Ability to visualize abstract concepts
  • Experience with storyboarding, clean ups and layout design
  • Drawing ability, artistic mindset
  • Visual storytelling
  • Ability to draw in a variety of styles and genres
  • Strong interpersonal, communication and collaborative skills
  • Knowledge of current techniques and trends in animation
  • Ability to work under pressure and deliver on deadline
  • Good communication skills
  • Familiarity with a range of animation software and techniques
  • Problem solving skills
  • Ability to work to a schedule and plan workflows to meet deadlines

Average Salary

The average salary for a 2D Animator is from USD $31,139 for entry level animator jobs to USD $82,286 for a senior animation position. (Source: Payscale)

To learn more about this field, visit: What is 2D Animation?


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