Cleanup Artist (2D)

The role, salary, software, and skills of a cleanup artist

What does a cleanup artist do?

Cleanup artists refine sketches that are roughly drawn (roughs) at the concept stage to a polished line drawing. They trace over the key drawings (keys) in solid lines, paying close attention to retain the essence of the original sketch. When working on characters they create a model sheet that demonstrates how to draw a character from many angles. 

Trained illustrators often make good cleanup artists as accuracy and precision is required. Familiarity with 2D animation is useful as a number of animators with varying styles may work on the same character, and it is up to the cleanup artist to maintain consistency of character throughout production.

Cleanup artist job description

The cleanup artist role is an important one in the 2D animation process. They turn rough sketches into articulated line drawings, giving full definition and style to the original concept art.  

Role & responsibilities of a 2D cleanup artist in film and games:

  • Collaborating with animators and designers to create key images as reference points for the entire animation
  • Defining the image of the character from multiple angles, giving it a three-dimensional iteration
  • Producing animation and timing charts for animators to work from 
  • Ensuring a consistent visual style is maintained throughout the animation
  • Articulating character poses, moods, action and motion
  • Expressing character attitude through visual cues, body language and expression
  • Making the character work within the layout or background of a scene, observing the laws of physics, scale and perspective
  • Arcing the movement of a character through a sequence

Skills required to become a cleanup artist

A cleanup artist should have similar skills to a 2D animator. They must animate to shape and not lines, their job is to sculpt a character to bring it to life. 



Film and game studios may look for the following skills in a cleanup artist:

  • Excellent drawing and visual skills
  • Basic knowledge of anatomy, human and animal movement, skeletal framework
  • Skilled at creating texture, cloth behavior, fur, hair, and skin articulation
  • Ability to articulate character mass, movement within space, and reaction to gravity
  • Mindset of an animator, keeping the entire scene in mind with each drawing
  • Cinematic eye, understanding of perspective, framing, camera angles, lighting, shading, depth of field, and scale 
  • Ability to express character performance 

What software and tools do cleanup artists use?

Cleanups are usually drawn on individual sheets of paper, with the artist rolling the pages back and forth to create a smooth sequence of action. The finished animation is then copied onto cels or transferred to a computer for post-production polishing. 

Cleanup artists may need knowledge of a combination of the following software:

  • Pencils, pens, paper, erasers
  • Animator’s disk, desktop which allows page to be turned around
  • Lightbox for tracing 
  • Toon Boom Harmony software

How much does a 2D cleanup artist make? 

The average salary for a cleanup artist is equal to that of a general Animator. Beginning at around USD $31,000 and up to USD $98,000. *Source: Payscale



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