Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Business of Animation Logo

7 Skills Needed To Become An Animation Background Artist

ben marvazi 2020

Make More Money as an Animator

Check out our FREE TRAINING on How Animators Can Make Over $10,000 Per Month

Become An Animation Background Artist With These 7 Skills

When we think of animated films or shows, our minds often gravitate toward the vividly drawn characters and their compelling narratives. Yet, there's an unsung hero in this visual storytelling: the background artist. 

These artists create the canvases upon which these stories unfold, setting the tone, atmosphere, and context that bring animation to life. As an aspiring animation background artist, understanding the blend of artistic and technical skills needed is crucial for success in this competitive field. 

an animated space background

Cover GIF via GIPHY

In this blog post, we delve into the seven essential skills that are the cornerstone of a proficient background artist in animation. 

From mastering perspective and composition to honing collaborative abilities, these skills will help you build a solid foundation in this fascinating and creative field.

1. Understanding of Perspective and Composition

A mastery of perspective is the first essential skill for an animation background artist. Perspective in art is all about replicating the three-dimensional world on a two-dimensional medium in a way that looks realistic and accurate.

It's what gives a scene depth and dimension, making it believable to the viewer. Whether it’s a bustling cityscape or a serene countryside, understanding linear perspective – with its vanishing points and horizon lines – is key.

An animated scene of the perspective changing of a woman in a room

GIF by dalpark via GIPHY

Alongside perspective, composition plays a pivotal role. Composition in animation refers to the arrangement of visual elements to create balance and interest in an artwork. For a background artist, this means knowing how to direct the viewer’s eye through a scene, guiding them to focus on the important elements while maintaining a harmonious balance. 

Good composition can elevate a scene, contributing significantly to the storytelling by framing characters in environments that reflect the mood and tone of the narrative. A strong grasp of these concepts enables a background artist to create settings that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also integral to the animation's storytelling.

2. Proficiency in Animation Color Theory and Lighting

The second key skill for an animation background artist is a deep understanding of color theory and lighting. 

Color theory is crucial in setting the mood and emotional tone of a scene. Knowledge of how different colors interact and the feelings they evoke can transform a scene from just visually appealing to emotionally resonant.

For instance, warm colors might be used to convey comfort and energy, while cooler tones could create a sense of calm or melancholy.

A quilted square of changing colours

GIF by Maximillian Piras via GIPHY

Lighting, on the other hand, plays a crucial role in establishing the time of day, the weather, and the overall atmosphere of a scene. 

It can highlight important elements, create depth, and add realism. An animation background artist must understand how light interacts with different surfaces, how it affects colors, and how to create contrasts and shadows to add dimension and life to their scenes.

Incorporating both color theory and lighting effectively allows a background artist to craft scenes that are not only visually striking but also emotionally powerful, thereby enhancing the storytelling in animation.

3. Mastery of Various Animation Techniques and Media

In the realm of animation, a background artist must be versatile, and proficient in a variety of artistic techniques and media. This versatility allows for the creation of unique and diverse backgrounds that fit the specific style and tone of each project.

A man hitting his head against the wall portrayed in various styles of animation

GIF by notofagus via GIPHY

Traditional techniques, such as pencil sketching, watercolor painting, and ink work, provide a foundational skill set that can be essential, especially in initial concept stages or in projects with a more classical aesthetic.

Equally important is the mastery of digital tools and software. Programs like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and other specialized animation software have become industry standards. 

These tools offer a vast array of options for creating intricate and detailed backgrounds. They enable a background artist to experiment with textures, layers, and digital effects, which can be pivotal in achieving the desired look and feel of an animation project.

4. Ability to Interpret and Expand Animation Storyboards and Concepts

A vital skill for an animation background artist is the ability to interpret and expand upon storyboards and concept art. 

This involves taking the initial ideas and sketches from the storyboard artists or directors and fleshing them out into fully realized backgrounds. It's not just about replicating these concepts; it's about adding depth, texture, and detail to bring these worlds to life.

a person drawing on an animation storyboard

GIF by Tincan | Marketing- & Kreativagentur via GIPHY

Interpreting storyboards requires a keen understanding of the narrative and visual storytelling. A background artist must discern the key elements of a scene and how they contribute to the story. 

It's about seeing beyond the immediate frame and imagining how each background will interact with the characters and other elements across different scenes.

Moreover, expanding upon these concepts requires creativity and imagination. A background artist adds layers of detail that might not be explicitly outlined in the initial storyboard. 

This could include designing intricate architectural details, lush landscapes, or bustling urban environments, all while ensuring that these elements align with the overall style and tone of the animation.

How To Start An Animation Studio - Businesss of Animation

Looking to Elevate Your Business Skills as an Animator?

Unlock your potential with our FREE Masterclass

Our free masterclass is the perfect opportunity to do just that. You'll learn what you need to take your animation business to the next level.


5. Attention to Detail and Consistency

One of the hallmarks of a great animation background artist is an unwavering attention to detail and a commitment to consistency.

This skill is about more than just the ability to draw intricate details; it's about ensuring that every element in the background contributes to a cohesive and immersive world.

a back and forth comparison between two drawn animation scene

GIF by Alex Boya via GIPHY

Attention to detail is crucial in creating environments that feel alive and believable. It involves noticing and incorporating the small nuances that give a setting its character – from the textures on a wall to the way foliage moves in the wind. These details may seem minor, but they add up to create a richer, more engaging experience for the viewer.

Consistency is equally important, especially in projects with multiple scenes or episodes. 

A background artist must ensure that the style, color palettes, and overall aesthetics remain uniform throughout the animation. 

This consistency helps maintain the illusion of a singular, continuous world, which is essential for the audience’s suspension of disbelief. It requires a keen eye and a methodical approach to ensure that each background, while unique, still fits seamlessly within the larger narrative.

6. Time Management and Efficiency in Animation Workflow

Effective time management means planning and prioritizing tasks wisely. A background artist often works on multiple projects or scenes simultaneously, requiring them to juggle different priorities while keeping an eye on deadlines.

Daffy Duck trying to silence a grandfather clock

GIF by Looney Tunes via GIPHY

Developing a workflow that maximizes productivity without compromising on quality is essential.

Efficiency also comes from mastering the tools of the trade. The more adept an artist is with their software and techniques, the faster they can turn concepts into finished backgrounds. 

It's also about finding shortcuts and techniques that can speed up the process, like using reusable assets or templates, without making the work look repetitive or generic.

In an industry where time is often as valuable as creativity, being able to manage it effectively is not just a skill – it’s a necessity. It ensures that a background artist can keep up with the demands of the job while still delivering the creative and detailed artwork that animation requires.

7. Collaboration and Communication Skills

The seventh and final skill essential for an animation background artist is the ability to collaborate and communicate effectively. 

several forms of conversation portrayed by integrated animation

GIF by D2illustrate via GIPHY

Animation is a team effort, and background artists play a crucial role in bringing a project to fruition. They must work closely with directors, animators, storyboard artists, and other members of the creative team to ensure their vision aligns with the overall project.

In addition to internal team communication, background artists may also need to communicate with external parties, such as clients or other stakeholders. Being able to present your work professionally and respond to feedback constructively is crucial in these interactions.

Turn Your Skills as an Animating Background Artist Into Cash

Embarking on a career as an animation background artist is both an exciting and challenging journey. It requires a unique blend of artistic talent, technical skill, and collaborative spirit. 

We touched on seven skills in this blog. We talked about understanding perspective and composition, proficiency in color theory and lighting, mastery of various artistic techniques and media, ability to interpret and expand storyboards and concepts, attention to detail and consistency, time management and efficiency, and collaboration and communication skills.

background animation of paper money

GIF by Francois via GIPHY

These are essential tools in the background artist's toolkit. Developing these skills will not only make you a valuable asset to any animation team but will also enrich your creative expression and ability to bring animated worlds to life. 

Do you have these skills but don’t know how to turn them into business? Our Animation Business Accelerator Program provides insights, resources, and a supportive community to help professionals navigate the evolving landscape. 

If you’re an animator who’s looking to start your own studio or grow your career, check out our blog on How to Start an Animation Studio to kickstart your animation career today or give our free Masterclass a try first if you’re curious.

rocket for boa

Lacking Business Skills as an Animator?

Transform your animation skills into a profitable business with our expert-led free training.
Business of Animation Footer Logo
Helping Animators Succeed

Feeling Stuck in Your Animation Career? Learn How to Break the $10,000 Per Month Barrier!

crossmenuchevron-down linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram