Layout Artist

Learn about the role, salary, software and skills needed to become a Layout Artist

Student work by Jennifer Grimeaux

Layout artist job description

A layout artist designs the shot frame, camera paths and angles, depth, perspective, scale, and lighting for an animated sequence. They act as the eye of the cinematographer and gaffer in animation, working with directors to translate storyboards into sequences of action. 

In an animated environment, the point of view of the audience is replicated by a virtual camera which is imagined by the layout artist. They frame out establishing shots, action, blocking, and character expression through the traditional screen language of close up, mid shot and wide shot to tell the story in the most compelling way.

Role and responsibilities

The layout artist works in collaboration with the director to establish the camera angle, lighting and point of view of each shot of an animated sequence. They are the stylistic and technical eye of the entire shot, as well as choreographers of character action. 

Layout artist teams interpret storyboards and animatics to their final iterations. They determine the position of characters within frame according to the dialogue and action of the script. 

The responsibilities of the Layout Artist may include:

  • Liaising with director regarding the execution of the script
  • Working from the storyboard to set up layout of animation
  • Drawing initial line work for backgrounds
  • Researching the genre, reference shots and style of project
  • Creating backgrounds that support the narrative of the story
  • Providing various rough versions of scenes (akin to live-action takes) giving directors and editors options during the editing process 
  • Lighting each key scene
  • Setting the camera path of a scene
  • Defining the perspective of the scene
  • Ensuring continuity between shots
  • Experimenting with camera angles to arrive at the best shots

Software and Tools

Layout Artists primarily work with animation and film editing software such as:

  • Renderman
  • Avid
  • Final Cut
  • Adobe After Effects, Photoshop
  • Blackmagic Fusion
  • Maya
  • 3D Studio Max
  • Nuke
  • Mental Ray
  • TVPaint
  • Blender

Skills Required

Layout Artists need to know how to translate the storyboard or animatic for the final animation. They must have a sense of scale and ability to realize background, characters and objects that work in proportion with each other to create a believable world.

Often these worlds will have a history, an economic framework and a specific narrative of their own.

The Layout Artist needs to express these idiosyncrasies through what is included and communicated visually in the scene.

Employers may look for the following skills in Layout Artists:

  • Advanced visual skills of scale, proportion, point of view, perspective, size, color, form, composition and depth of field
  • Editing skills
  • Knowledge of the basics of animation
  • Skill working with virtual cameras
  • Basic understanding of anatomy
  • Training in computer animation, fine art or film direction
  • Understanding of filmmaking techniques such as cinematography, lighting, acting, blocking, choreography, etc
  • Skill in expressing light and shade within a drawing
  • Familiarity with film and animation genres
  • Experience in photography an advantage
  • High level artistic or graphic design skills
  • Advanced knowledge of environments and landscapes
  • Good communication skills
  • Awareness of the history of animation and/or filmmaking
  • Ability to problem solve

Average Salary

The average wage for a Layout Artist will range from USD $30,603 for entry-level jobs to USD $90,524 for senior positions. (Source: Payscale)


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