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How to Get Better at Animating: A Freelance Animator's Guide

ben marvazi 2020

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How to Get Better At Animating, The Right Way

In the dynamic and ever-evolving world of animation, staying ahead means continually refining and enhancing your skills

For freelance animators, the challenge is not just about keeping up with the latest trends and technologies but also about pushing the boundaries of their creative and technical abilities. 

Whether you're looking to expand your client base, take on more complex projects, or simply elevate the quality of your work, the journey toward improvement is ongoing.

an animator timeline at their desk

Cover GIF by Emmelinedraws via GIPHY

This blog is designed to serve as a comprehensive guide for freelance animators wanting to learn how to get better at animating. 

From solidifying your understanding of the fundamentals to incorporating advanced techniques into your repertoire, we'll cover actionable tips and strategies that can help you grow as an animator. 

With dedication, practice, and the right approach, you can transform your animation skills from good to exceptional. So, let's dive into how you can become a better animator and turn your animation dreams into reality.

1. Understand the Basics Thoroughly

At the heart of every great animator is a solid grasp of the basics. 

How to get better at animating starts with a deep understanding of the foundational principles of animation, such as timing, spacing, anticipation, staging, and more. These core principles are the building blocks for creating fluid, dynamic, and expressive animations that captivate audiences.

To reinforce your foundation, consider revisiting classic texts like "The Animator's Survival Kit" by Richard Williams and "Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life" by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. 

cover of the animator's survival kit by richard williams

Image via The Animator's Survival Kit

Online platforms such as Skillshare and Udemy offer courses that range from beginner to advanced levels, providing a structured path to mastering these essential skills.

Remember, animation is an art form grounded in observation and experience. Spend time observing the world around you, the subtleties of movement, and how emotions are conveyed through motion. 

Practice sketching from life to improve your ability to capture motion and expression. This foundational work will serve as a cornerstone for all your future animation endeavors and is crucial in learning how to get better at animating.

2. Practice Regularly and Deliberately

Improvement in animation, as in any skill, comes from consistent and focused practice. Setting aside dedicated time each day to hone your craft is essential. 

However, it's not just about quantity; it's about the quality of your practice. Deliberate practice involves targeting specific areas for improvement and working on them with intention and focus.

Create a practice schedule that challenges you to step out of your comfort zone. If character animation is your weakness, dedicate time to creating diverse characters and bringing them to life. 

"practice" typography


Use exercises like the 12 basic principles of animation to refine your skills in each area. Additionally, consider participating in animation challenges or prompts found in online communities to get a different perspective on how to get better at animating. 

Incorporate the phrase "how to get better at animating" into your research. Heck, ask yourself that question every day.  Remind yourself that each practice session is an opportunity to grow and refine your abilities. Keep track of your progress by maintaining a portfolio or journal of your work. 

3. Seek Constructive Feedback

One of the most effective ways to accelerate your improvement in animation is by actively seeking and embracing constructive feedback. 

Feedback from peers, mentors, or even online communities can provide you with insights and perspectives that you might overlook when working in isolation. Learning how to get better at animating involves not just practicing your craft but also learning from the critiques of others.

Join animation forums, social media groups, or platforms like ArtStation and Behance to share your work and ask for feedback. 

a Simpsons character throwing paper sheets out the window


When presenting your animations for critique, be specific about the areas you're seeking advice on, whether it's character design, fluidity of motion, or storytelling through animation. 

This specificity will help you get more targeted and useful feedback.

It's crucial to approach critiques with an open mind and a positive attitude. Remember, the goal of feedback is to help you improve, not to undermine your confidence. 

Take note of recurring themes or suggestions in the feedback you receive; these are likely areas that need your attention. Implementing the advice you get is a practical step in your journey on how to get better at animating.

4. Study and Analyze Professional Work

Studying the work of professional animators is invaluable in understanding what makes animations feel alive and engaging. 

Pay close attention to how experts in the field handle complex animations, from character movement to facial expressions and environmental interactions. This study is not about imitation but about understanding the choices and techniques that contribute to successful animations.

Take advantage of the plethora of resources available online, including making-of videos, behind-the-scenes breakdowns, and tutorials by seasoned animators. 

Baymax from Big Hero 6 waving


Software like frame-by-frame video analysis tools can help you dissect animations you admire, allowing you to study the timing, spacing, and easing of movements in detail.

Incorporate the practice of analyzing professional work into your learning routine. As you watch an animation, pause frequently to ask yourself how certain effects were achieved and how you might apply similar techniques to your projects. 

This habit will not only inspire you but also expand your toolkit on how to get better at animating.

5. Experiment with Different Styles and Techniques

Broadening your horizons by experimenting with various animation styles and techniques is a powerful way to enhance your skill set and discover how to get better at animating. 

Whether it's traditional hand-drawn animation, 3D modeling, stop-motion, or motion graphics, stepping out of your comfort zone can unlock new creative potentials and approaches.

Experimentation also involves playing with different storytelling techniques, character designs, and even software tools. Each style and technique has its unique challenges and learning curves, which can provide fresh insights and improve your versatility as an animator.

a scene from the Animal Crackers Movie


By embracing a wide range of animation methods, you not only become a more well-rounded animator but also discover unique ways to express your creative vision. 

This openness to experimentation is essential in finding out how to get better at animating, as it encourages continuous learning and adaptation.

6. Use the Right Tools and Software

The animation tools and software you use can significantly impact the efficiency and quality of your work. 

Learning how to get better at animating also means getting better at using your tools. 

Familiarity with industry-standard software not only enables you to produce professional-grade animations but also streamlines your workflow, allowing you to focus more on the creative aspects of your projects.

Explore various animation software options, from Adobe After Effects for motion graphics to Autodesk Maya for 3D animation, and find what suits your style and needs best. 

animation software icon

Image via Flaticon

Each software has its strengths, and understanding these can help you make informed decisions about which tools to invest your time in learning how to get better at animating with different software options.

Don't forget about plugins and scripts that can automate repetitive tasks or add functionality to your software. 

These can be game-changers in how efficiently you work. Online forums and communities are great places to discover new tools and get recommendations tailored to specific animation tasks.

Dedicate time to mastering the software of your choice through tutorials, online courses, and practice. The more adept you become at using your tools, the more you can push the boundaries of what you can create.

Want to Learn More About How to Get Better at Animating?

Learning how to get better at animating is a continuous process that requires dedication, practice, and a willingness to learn. 

By understanding the basics, seeking feedback, studying professional work, experimenting with different styles, using the right tools, and committing to lifelong learning, you can significantly enhance your ability to create compelling and impactful animations.

an animated tablet icon

Image via Flaticon

Whether you're just starting your career or looking to take your skills to the next level, remember that each step forward is a step toward becoming the animator you aspire to be. 

If you’re an animator who’s looking into how to get better at animating your way to success or start your own studio to grow your career, check out our blog on How to Start an Animation Studio and GET FREE TRAINING to kickstart your animation career today.

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