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8 Essential Animator Skills You Need to Learn

ben marvazi 2020

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Being a successful animator requires learning about and mastering several essential animator skills. These include both hard technical skills and soft people skills. 

Some of the most important animator skills for animators to learn are hard skills. These are technical skills that are used in the process of animation and entail having an understanding of how to use animation software.

Technical skills are practical animator skills that are used in conjunction with your artistic talent and creative ability to bring life to every animation you work on. 

Hard animator skills also include computer literacy and familiarity with graphics software. Most animators rely on computer programs to create their animations. These include software such as Maya, 3D Studio Max, Adobe Flash, etc. 

Some familiarity with graphic design is also essential as this forms the foundation for character design and visual effects.

Other important hard animator skills include knowing how to do research for character design, editing and writing skills, and being a jack of all trades when it comes to animation jobs. 

Generally, it's good to know how to fulfill various job roles such as storyboarding, 3D modeling, character design, compositing, and many more.

This gives you an edge over other animators and makes you adaptable, which is a huge advantage when working in an animation studio or starting your own freelance animation business. 

Business animator skills are also essential, especially for those animators looking to start their own animation businesses.

Check out our blog on the best business skills animators should learn to learn why business skills are important for animators as well as which business animator skills are most important. 

You can also check out this blog on what skills you need to become an animator which outlines some of the most important hard animator skills you need as an animator.

These are all technical animator skills, however, and it's important to also learn soft animator skills to be successful as a freelance animator when working in an animation studio. 

What are the most important soft animator skills to learn and how do they benefit you as an animator?

In this blog, we share with you the most essential soft animator skills to learn as an animator, from learning time-management and organizational skills to being an effective communicator and working well in a team.

1. Learning How to Handle Criticism is a Crucial Animator Skill

animators should learn how to handle criticisms

Image by Markus Winkler via Unsplash

Learning how to deal with criticism is one of the most important animator skills you can have as an animator. This is because, as an artist, you will inevitably face criticism and you will constantly receive feedback on your work.

Developing animator skills to deal with criticism can be difficult, especially because a lot of your success is dependent on appealing to animation clients who are part of the general public.

Animators who are just starting out are most at risk of succumbing to the pressure of critics and potentially giving up on their careers. 

Dealing with criticism can be especially difficult if you work as a freelance animator or in an animation studio where your work is constantly under scrutiny from animation clients and bosses that require a seemingly endless list of changes to your animation projects.

While dealing with criticism and the potential business implications is hard, it's not necessarily a realistic or true assessment of your work or abilities. Every time you receive negative feedback or criticism see it as a stepping stone to growing your animation style and finding success as an animator. 

It’s important to remember that this criticism and feedback is not a reflection on you as an animator and is rather directed at your work to improve it.

For advice on how to deal with criticism, check out this video which explains how to listen and respond to criticism in a productive way. This will also help you work on and develop this crucial animator skill. 

2. You Have to Have Excellent Attention to Detail as an Animator

an animator skill is to "just pay attention to the details"

Image by evdog805 via Tenor

To create excellent animations and constantly perform at the high level of accuracy and excellence required by the job, attention to detail is an essential animator skill for all animators to learn. 

This is because, as animation often requires you to work on multiple projects at one time, you have to make the least amount of mistakes possible to keep up with the workload. Learning this animator skill will therefore help you achieve success in the long run. 

Constantly making small mistakes will cost you valuable time as you will be required to go back and fix everything. This can potentially contribute to an increasing workload and leave animation clients unsatisfied with your work.

In addition, visual media is often rendered in 4K today, so developing the animator skill to perfect every minute detail is a must for animators today. Animators need to meticulously comb through each frame of an animation to add as many details as possible. 

As an animator, you should be able to pay immaculate attention to small details and analyze how to bring them to life. When animators fail to use this animator skill to pay close attention to the small details in their animations, audiences pick up on it. 

This animator skill will allow you to pay attention to what details need to be added and what needs to be edited out. Even the smallest details like the direction in which a blade of grass blows in the wind can greatly impact the complete animation. 

3. The Importance of Communication as an Animator Skill

an animator using their communication skills online

Image by Headway via Unsplash

Animators rarely work in complete isolation. Even when you work as a solo freelance animator, you have to constantly collaborate with animation clients and even IT support to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Collaboration ensures that your projects are completed to the fullest satisfaction of your animation clients, therefore building stronger client relations. 

Having good communication skills is, therefore, an integral animation skill to help you achieve success. 

Animation studios often have large groups of people working together on a project, so being able to work in a team is a crucial animator skill for any animator to learn.

Communication skills entail more than just being able to talk to people, you have to learn how to resolve disagreements and explain your contributions to projects.

Disagreements often happen amongst a group of creative people who have their own ideas on where a project should go.

When you have a disagreement with other animators or employees from other departments about a project, communication is an important animation skill to help you know how to resolve the issue in a calm and professional manner.  

Animators often need to compromise and support other animators to help the animation studio succeed as a whole. Reliable communication is an essential animator skill as you need to be able to explain your ideas or concerns to others clearly and succinctly. 

Communication as an animator skill doesn’t only benefit animators in the workplace with their colleagues, but with animation clients as well. Building strong client relations is essential to be successful as an animator as you are completely reliant on client support for success. 

To learn more about how to improve communication with animation clients, check out this blog outlining 6 ways to improve client relations. These range from verbal to visual communication and this video is a great place to start if you’re looking to work on your animator skills!

4. Why Time-Management is an Essential Animator Skill

a wrist watch saying "late" as an animator needs better time management skills

Image by kurmaz via Tenor

Time-management skills are often overlooked by animators, but it is one of the most important animator skills to learn if you want to succeed as an animator. Learning how to manage your time effectively as an animator is an invaluable animator skill. 

This is because most animation studios or freelance businesses often work on tight deadlines and for long hours. These deadlines can be even more overwhelming when working as a solo freelance animator. Animators are also often required to work on multiple animation projects at a time. 

As an animator, one of the animator skills you need to learn is how to be proficient at juggling a lot of work in a short time. Without effective time management, deadlines will be missed and productivity will go down, negatively impacting an animation studio’s success and client relations. 

Another important animator skill is to stay organized. Staying organized will aid in time management by cutting down on valuable time by keeping track of projects with different folders.

Learning time management as an animator skill will allow you to manage your workload more effectively, thereby increasing productivity and creating a positive image with your animation clients.

For tips on time management, check out this video that explains 10 ways in which you can manage your time more effectively to be more productive. 

5. Animators Have to Have an Ability to Work Well Under Pressure

an animator biting their pen as they animate under pressure

Image by JESHOOTS.COM via Unsplash

Whether you are a freelance animator or work in an animation studio, being able to deal with the pressure that comes with working in the animation industry is a very important animator skill to learn.

Learning this animator skill will teach you how to handle high levels of pressure and improve productivity while maintaining a level of quality in your animation projects.

Pressure is inevitable at work, especially for animators. As mentioned above, animators often have tight deadlines that can put them under a lot of pressure to produce quality animations while meeting those tight deadlines.

Feeling high levels of stress and pressure can hurt an animation team’s performance, leading to decreased productivity and client satisfaction. 

There are a number of ways you can maintain a level head in high-pressure situations.

The best course of action when you feel overwhelmed with the number of projects you have to work on is to develop your animator skills by creating a plan and communicating with your colleagues. This will help you prioritize your workload and complete tasks more efficiently.  

The pressure that comes with working in the animation industry can often lead to burnout and learning animator skills to overcome this is just as important as learning how to work well under pressure. 

For a guide on how to overcome animation burnout, check out this blog explaining the signs and stages of burnout as well as how to overcome it. This will also help you develop this essential animator skill!

6. Animators Need Strong Organization Skills

an animator skill that is essential is staying organized

Image by ThisGuyFawkes via Tenor

Juggling different projects and tasks takes discipline and organizational animator skills to stay on top of priorities. Many animators often overlook the importance of a strong organizational system, not realizing that it can make the daily tasks of animation much easier to manage.

Much like time management, learning organization as an animator skill is crucial to increasing productivity and client satisfaction. 

Keeping all relevant files for an animation project organized in different folders will decrease the time it may take to find a specific file. Staying organized is an essential animator skill if you want to be successful in a collaborative career with many moving parts. 

This animator skill will also teach you how to effectively organize your schedule to stay on top of deadlines and the projects you need to complete.

Creating a daily schedule or to-do list can help you stay organized, especially when you have multiple projects to work on and meetings to attend.

Completing projects is a priority for animators, but gaining exposure and finding new animation clients is just as important, especially for freelance animators. If you’re a freelance animator, it’s important to block off time in your schedule to work and liaise with potential animation clients. 

This animator skill of staying organized is just as important for animation studio owners. Check out our blog on tips for organizing your animation business which outlines how to reach success by organizing your animation business!

7. Having Determination and Self-Motivation as an Animator

an animator skill you must remind yourself to have is determination and self-motivation

Image by Prateek Katyal via Unsplash

Animation projects will often have a lot of obstacles that can affect the outcome of the project. This includes negative feedback from animation clients or disagreements with coworkers on how to approach a project or solutions to a problem.

Animators have to learn the crucial animator skill of having determination and perseverance to overcome these obstacles.

Whether you work solo as a freelance animator or in a team in an animation studio, this animator skill will teach you how to have the self-motivation to develop a project from scratch and make sure you manage your time effectively to meet the deadline.

Freelance animators will gain the most from learning the animator skill of self-motivation since it’s easier to procrastinate when you are the only one affected by not meeting deadlines.

If you are looking for tips on how to stay motivated as an animator, check out our blog! Some tips include making a list of things you want to accomplish, creating a reward system, taking breaks, setting a schedule, and getting inspired by your favorite artists.

This will help you develop this crucial animator skill!

8. Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking Skills for Animators

an animator skill one should have is to think through problem solving and critical thinking

Image by NeONBRAND via Unsplash

Because the process of animation can take a very long time, animators need to be willing and able to focus easily. This means that animators need to develop their problem-solving and critical thinking skills, one of the most important animator skills to learn.

Having a thoughtful and organized personality along with strong analytical skills are all important animator skills for animators to have. This is because critical thinking skills enhance presentation abilities.

This animator skill can therefore improve the way in which animators express their ideas when developing a new project with colleagues. 

Important Animator Skills to Learn and How They Contribute to Animators’ Success

Being an animator means not only learning essential hard technical animator skills such as how to work with animation software, but it is also important to learn soft animator skills.

Learning how to handle criticism in a professional way is one of the hardest animator skills to learn as it can be hard to accept criticism. This animator skill will help you remember to use the criticism you receive from animation clients or other animators as a way to improve your animations. 

Improving on existing animator skills is also important, and it’s essential to have an impeccable eye for detail when animating. This animator skill will teach you that adding small details to animations can make them look amazing, so it’s important to comb through every frame to add as many details as possible. 

Communication as an animator skill can be particularly challenging to learn, especially for animators who are more introverted.

However, it’s important to learn this animator skill to know how to navigate difficult situations with other creatives when you disagree on how to approach an animation project. 

Disagreements with animation clients will also inevitably occur, so this animator skill of learning effective communication is important for preserving positive client relations. 

Effective time management is another essential animator skill to learn if you want to be successful as an animator. This animator skill will help you learn how to effectively manage your time.

While this can be hard for those of us who frequently procrastinate because of an overwhelming workload or tight deadlines, it's still an essential animator skill to learn. 

Learning effective time management animator skills will help improve productivity and workflow!

You have to learn the animator skill of how to work well under pressure to succeed as an animator. Having to deal with tight deadlines can often lead to animation burnout, but learning this animator skill will teach you how to deal with the pressure that comes from working in the animation industry. 

Like time management skills, organizational animator skills are essential for optimizing workflow and productivity. Strong organizational skills are particularly important as animators are often required to work on multiple projects at a time. This animator skill will help cut down on time and improve your ability to meet tight deadlines.

Learning determination and self-motivation is one of the most important animator skills to learn. These animator skills are important since starting an animation project or seeing it to fruition can be challenging, especially when working alone. 

It’s important to learn ways to keep yourself motivated to complete animation projects. Self-motivation as an animator skill ensures success and growth.

The final essential animator skill to learn is how to develop critical thinking skills. As an animator, this animation skill might seem silly since you mainly work on 3D designs. However, critical thinking skills are essential animator skills to learn as this will help you focus on your projects. It's also important to help you solve problems as they arise during your project. 

For more information on how to grow a successful animation business, check out our free masterclass and free marketing handbook, and check out our blog on “How to Start an Animation Studio”!

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