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Clean Up Artist

The role, salary, software and skills of a clean up artist in the film industry

Clean up artist job description

Clean up 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 which demonstrates how to draw a character from many angles. 

Trained illustrators often make good Clean up Artists as accuracy and precision is required. A familiarity with animation is useful as a number of animators with varying styles may work on the same character, and it is up to the Clean up Artist to maintain consistency of character throughout production.

Role and responsibilities

The Clean up 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. 

Clean ups 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 computer for post production polishing. 

Responsibilities of the Clean Up Artist may include:

  • Collaborating with animators and designers to create key images as reference points for the entire animation
  • Working on briefings from animators regarding the visual language of the project
  • Creating line drawings out of concept art, remaining true to the style
  • Defining the image of the character from multiple angles, giving it a three-dimensional iteration
  • Drawing up key images from defining scenes or sequences
  • Producing animation 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
  • Animating to the voice track
  • Making the character work within the layout or background of a scene, observing the laws of physics, scale and perspective
  • Ensuring the drawings are kept simple
  • Maintaining timing charts
  • Arcing the movement of a character through a sequence

Software and other tools used

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

Skills required

The basic skills for 2D animation are required for a Clean Up Artist. They must animate to shape and not lines, their job is to sculpt a character to bring it to life. 

Employers may look for the following skills in a Clean Up Artist:

  • Experience in 2D animation
  • 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
  • Adept at interpreting a concept into a clear image
  • 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 
  • Organizational skills, creating a system to work to
  • Good communication skills

Average salary

The average salary for a Clean Up 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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