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10 Essential Animation Books For Beginners

ben marvazi 2020

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Reading books about animation is one of the simplest places to begin. There are unlimited books on how to become an animator. Animation books are fantastic as they can be referenced at any time. Through reading animation books, you will discover the different types of animation styles. It is helpful to know what kind of style you are interested in. 

Another place to find a wealth of information is by reading animator’s blogs and animation guides.

The animation industry is competitive; that being said, reading the books below will help provide you with the information to get started. 

Best Animation Books for the Basics

1. The Animation Producer's Handbook by Lea Milic & Yasmin McConville

An important book that covers the basics of how to become an animator is The Animation Producer’s Handbook by Lea Milic and Yasmin McConville. This book was published in 2006. 

This book is the perfect animation guide as it covers all animation mediums. It also talks about the business side and how to break into the animation industry through management processes. 

old books with a sense of history

Image by Darran Shen via Unsplash

Intriguing Books for Learning Animation Techniques

2. Draw Stronger: Self Care for Cartoonists and Visual Arts by Kirota Willberg

Draw Stronger: Self Care for Cartoonists and Visual Arts is written in a comic style which helps to capture the imagination of animators. This book was published in 2018.

This book helps animators to take care of their bodies and themselves while drawing. This book will help animators to create a healthy animating lifestyle

This animation book helps to focus on drawing injury prevention, correct drawing posture. It helps animators to be mindful of taking regular breaks. There are tips on stretching. Being present and aware of your body's needs as you draw and animate is essential to a long and happy animation career.

3. Timing for Animation by John Halas and Whitaker

Timing for Animation was published in 1981.

This book helps animators with correctly framing animations. Timing is everything in animation. This book provides animation tips like animators giving enough space, ‘stretch and squash’, utilizing the length of the drawings, and many other wonderful techniques.

someone tracing out a drawing with a mechanical pencil

Image by Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

Creative Books on Developing Animation Skills

4. Elemental Magic: The Art of Special Effects Animation Volume 1 and 2 by Joseph Gilland

Elemental Magic: The Art of Special Effects Animation Volume 1 and 2 is a two-piece book that was published in 2009.

These books cover special effects in the animation industry. There are step-by-step drawings accompanied by explanations. 

The books are full of original drawings, this helps display the technique, philosophy, and the approach of classical hand-drawn animation effects. It also covers how animators would apply this to a digital world.  One animation world overlaps with others, which is why animators should keep on drawing.

5. The Art of 3D Computer and Effects by Isaac Kerlow

The Art of 3D Computer Animation and Effects by Isaac Kerlow can be considered an animation guide to techniques. 

This amazing book about animation provides a step-by-step animation guide for the whole process of how to create a fully rendered 3D computer animation. 

This guide is updated so that the latest computer animation styles and techniques are included. This animation guide covers everything animators need, from the creative development process to pre-production and then completed animation.

The animation guide takes a broad approach of generality, the guide focuses on working step-by-step instead of being platform-specific. There are full diagrams in color with explanations and tips. 

This guide is a one-stop-shop and includes everything a 3D animator needs to know.

6. Computer Animation Complete: All-in-One Learn Motion Capture, Characteristic, Point-Based, and Maya Winning Techniques by Rick Parent

Computer Animation Complete: All-in-One Learn Motion Capture, Characteristic, Point-Based, and Maya Winning Techniques by Rick Parent. This book was published in 2009.

This book has been divided into 5 sections: Introduction to computer animation and technical background, motion capture techniques, animating substances, alternate, methods and animating with MEL for MAYA.

These topics are covered thoroughly and provide animators with a lot of practical learning opportunities to develop the necessary skills required in the animation industry. There are tricks, tips, and shortcuts given within this book.  

A Positive Mindset for Successful Animators

miniature figurine of girl from the movie "my neighbor is totoro" standing in a grass field with mystical creatures behind her

Image by Javaistan via Pixabay

7. Starting Point by Hayao Miyazaki

Starting Point by Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli fame was published in 2014 and was written as a memoir to showcase his personal journey as an animator. His life story displays someone starting from the bottom and working their way into success.

This memoir shows his fight through the animation industry. There is a focus on his childhood and how that impacted him and his creativity.

There are interviews included in the book, some of them are about his childhood. This book helps demonstrate how a creative mind can often feel trapped in a conventional office setting. This is Hayao Miyazaki’s story of how he broke out of the mold and went out on his own. This is what success looks like when we believe in ourselves.

8. Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Edwin Catmull

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Edwin Catmull. This book was published in 2014. 

Edwin Catmull was one of the three founders of Pixar. In this book, he takes animators on a journey through the world they created. It talks about the philosophy and history of Pixar. 

This is a book about being creative, leading animators to reach for the highest possibilities available. Techniques of how Pixar became so successful are put on display.

Some of the core ideas covered in the book are; working with a strong animation team can make weak ideas great. It is best to seek out answers and information so that you can be better prepared.

It is a manager's role to make sure that animators are confident to take creative risks.

It is often easier to fix problems than try to stop them from happening. There should be a free flow of communication on all levels. 

Even when everyone is working together there needs to be motivation for all to really make change happen. 

This book embodies the principles stated above.

a colorful collage of different sized circles

Image by Enric Cruz Lopez via Pexels

The Business of Animation

9. The Animation Business Handbook by Karen Raugust

The Animation Business Handbook by Karen Raugust was published in 2004. 

Karen Raugust shows the animation industry as a whole. She talks about how animation businesses or animation entrepreneurs can become successful.  The business of animation can be daunting at times, it helps to have such an informative book to reference.

She talks about essential business methods both for selling and creation.

Everything is covered from; sales, distribution, and marketing methods. The book talks about financing, budgets, cost, and revenue. 

The topics of ancillary merchandise and entertainment can be created. 

This is a book that has thought about it all. It is perfect for any animator. 

10. The Freelance Manifesto by Joey Koreman

The Freelance Manifesto by Joey Koreman was published in 2017.

This is a great book about stepping into freelancing as an animator. It is a scary but necessary step to achieve the type of freedom and pay that animators crave. 

Joey Koreman shares his personal experience on how to become a successful freelance animator through this manifesto. He talks about tactics he used to achieve his dream.

The book talks about setting goals. There are myths and realities covered about working freelance. 

There is a step-by-step guide on how to start and maintain a freelance business. Essentials such as how to sell yourself, close deals, become indispensable, and how to turn that into an income. 

This is a book on how to gain freedom by doing what we love.

a team of people with laptops sat down on a table are in conversation and agreement

Image by Fauxels via Pexels


There is a plethora of information on the internet and even books on animation that you would be missing out on if you didn't give it a chance. The best way to navigate the information is to understand where you are as an animator.

Once you have direction and the necessary skills there is no stopping anyone from becoming a successful freelance animator. The animation industry is competitive so as a freelance animator you might need to cover your bases and foundations as an animator to make the most of client needs. It is important to cater to client requests, especially when starting out. 

Once you find yourself as an animator with a strong foundation through research and experience, then you can decide what path of animation you want to pursue.

For more tips and information on the best animation books, join our free masterclass and get your copy of our marketing handbook.

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