Layout Artist

The role, salary, software, and skills of a 2D/3D layout artist

Student work by Jennifer Grimeaux

What does a layout artist do?

A 3D layout artist establishes the virtual camera(s) for each shot—its perspective and point of view, angle, depth, scale, and movement. They help frame all the elements and the action in a shot through traditional screen language (close-up, mid-shot, wide-shot, etc.) to tell the story in the most compelling way. (The role of a 2D layout artist is similar, except that everything is “flat.”) 

In traditional 2D hand-drawn animation, layout artists shape the frame's perspective by illustrating backgrounds. The size of background objects relative to foreground action impacts viewer perception and emotions. 2D layout artists draw from storyboards but focus on precise definition within each animation frame.

Layout artists works in collaboration with the VFX supervisor or Director to establish the look and feel of the cameras and the environment of an animated sequence. They are the stylistic and technical eye of the entire shot and help determine the action (animation).

3D layout artist job description

Layout artist teams are often required to interpret storyboards and animatics which they apply to their final layout scenes. This helps determine the position of characters within frame according to the dialogue and action of the script. 

Layout artists are also often required to assemble an environment using assets created by a 3D modeler or purchased from an asset library such as Megascans or Unreal Engine Marketplace.

Role & responsibilities of a layout artist in film and games:

  • Translating storyboards to shots
  • Environment blocking and creating backgrounds that support the narrative of the story
  • 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

Skills required to become a 3D layout artist

Although technically, this job does not usually involve any direct animation, it is a useful skill for animators to learn and can involve rough animation blocking, if required. It's also useful for layout artists to learn basic animation. Layout artists must have a sense of scale and the ability to realize background, characters and objects that work in proportion with each other to create a believable world.

Film and game studios 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
  • Knowledge of the basics of animation
  • Skill working with virtual cameras and an understanding of different lenses
  • 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
  • Advanced knowledge of environments and landscapes
  • Awareness of the history of animation and/or filmmaking

What software and tools do 3D layout artists use?

3D and 2D Layout artists are required to use various computer software. 2D artists may also sketch scenes by hand. 

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

  • Renderman
  • Avid
  • Blackmagic Fusion
  • Maya
  • 3D Studio Max
  • Mental Ray
  • TVPaint
  • Blender
  • Toon Boom

How much does a 3D layout artist make? 

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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