If we’ve learned anything from Age of Empires, it’s that you cannot build an empire without sufficient resources.
There are a lot of animation resources out there to both help you start out as a freelance animator, as well as propel you into the next gear of freelancing.
In this blog, we’re going to cover 19 of the most important animation resources that every freelance animator should know about. Let’s get into it!
The Different Animation Resources You Will Need
We’re going to cover quite a bit here so let’s divide this into sections, shall we?
First, we’re going to talk about strictly animation-related resources. Then we’re going to touch on some resources devoted to education and inspiration.
Next, communications and media resources, and finally some resources that will assist you to find work in the incredibly competitive world of freelance animation.
Animation Software and Resources
The most important animation resource is, of course, animation software. Without your software, you’re not going to get very far in the 21st century as an animator.
Here we’re going to list some animation software and online animation resources that every freelance animator should either use or consider using.
A quick preface! There is a lot of animation software out there for you to choose from. We’re simply picking a couple to give you a little bit of help. Don’t worry, there’s a lot more covered in this blog.
1. Adobe Animate
Image via Adobe
Adobe Animate is the perfect animation software for entry-level freelance animators. Adobe has a fantastic reputation in every industry because of how clean and user-friendly the applications are. They integrate well with each other, as well as with social media applications.
The only concern for freelance animators is that it isn’t as powerful as other pieces of software but regardless works well for beginner freelancers.
- Features a 30-day free trial
- After that, it’s $20,99/mo
- Creative Club option, which includes 20+ Adobe products, from $52,99/mo
- Easy to use software
- Discounts with the Creative Cloud
- Adobe boasts many products that integrate well with one another
- Not powerful enough for more professional animators
Gif via Gfycat
Blender is a fantastic piece of open-source animation software and is considered by most to be the industry-standard 3D software for freelance animators.
There are a whole host of features available that Blender boasts including a pose editor, sound synchronization, automated walk-cycles, and many many more!
Blender is a fantastic piece of heavy-duty software that caters to freelance animators' 2D and 3D needs.
- Free and open-source
- Free and open-source, backed by a wonderful community
- Ultra-realistic capabilities
- A confusing user interface that makes the learning curve intense for some
Image via HighEnd3D
HighEnd3D is a fantastic online resource for freelance animators. It acts as a repository for free and paid-for files available for download. The files available include 3D Models, 3D Textures, Applications, Character Rigs, Scripts, and Plugins.
The site caters to software such as 3DS Max, Blender, Maya, Photoshop, and more.
It is one of the largest and oldest online communities responsible for sharing animation resources for software and also contains tutorials and an online forum that assists animators in finding and getting a hold of exactly what they need.
Even today you can find active forum posts from users, and updated free and marketplace items available.
Image via Turbosquid Branding
TurboSquid is another online animation resource that specifically provides free professional 3D models for download. It is considered the “World’s Source for Professional 3D Models” and the files are used by everyone from video game developers, advertisers, to and freelance animators and studios alike.
TurboSquid also caters to 3DS Max, Blender, and Maya. While there is a collection of free 3D models for download, for the most part, you will find yourself paying for 3D animated, rigged, or low-poly models.
There is also another sister resource to TurboSquid called PixelSquid that provides a massive library of 3D content for graphic designers. Every object exists as a PNG with a transparent background that allows you to seamlessly integrate them into your projects and workflow.
If you wish to sell your 3D models, you can join their marketplace and join the very active community in assisting freelance animators around the world!
5. Blender Guru
Image via Youtube
Andrew Price, also known as the Donut Guy, is the founder and owner of Blender Guru. He is also well known as the CEO of Poliigon which, much like the other animation resources we’ve mentioned, houses an impressive library of 3D textures, models, and HDRIs (High Dynamic Range Imaging).
The Blender Guru is an animator and content creator who provides tutorials and videos on the animation software Blender (remember Blender?), teaching animations how better to use the open-source animation software.
He provides concise and easily-digestible rigging tutorials, hosts podcasts where he will often invite guest animators to talk about the world of animation, and also posts his animation articles.
Following the Blender Guru is a must for any aspiring freelance animator and his YouTube channel is chock full of incredibly helpful content.
6. Rusty Animator
Image via Agora Community
Rusty Animator (also known as Rusty Gray), although not an extremely up-to-date service, is a great resource for obtaining free rigs for Maya and works similarly to Blender Guru in that he provides tutorials and courses to better help animators understand how to use Maya.
It may be more of a service for those looking to get more seriously into animation studio work, but it is still a great place for freelance animators to learn more about cycle animations, VFX, and Game Animations, as well as the animation industry in general.
He also hosts blogs and podcasts on his website, much like the Blender Guru.
Education And Inspiration Animation Resources
It’s always good to better yourself and learn more about your craft. To help you along we’re going to list some resources for learning new things about animation, and also connect with other professional animators and find a mentor.
Some of the aforementioned animation resources can belong in this category of education as well, but these resources are to help you train yourself to be a better animator.
7. Animator Island
Animator Island is an online community resource for sharing tips, tricks, and tutorials for 2D and 3D freelance animators.
They provide a plethora of articles and videos on the animation industry, how to find inspiration as a freelance animator, frame-by-frame breakdowns of popular animations, and so much more!
There is also a free class on 2D animation that helps understand better how 2D animation works.
One of the best things about Animator Island is the mentorship program that allows you to share the projects you’re working on and receive helpful feedback from professionals. The monthly group mentoring does cost $24,50/mo but includes advice, and critique for each person in the group call.
8. Animation Mentor
Image via Animation Mentor Blog
Animation Mentor is an online animation school established in 2005 run by Bobby Beck, Shawn Kelly, and Carlos Baena, who are all fantastic animators that boast a wide range of famous projects, ranging from Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Toy Story 2, and more!
The school aims to provide animators with a solid education but doesn’t necessarily cater only to students wishing to learn from scratch (no, not that Scratch!).
There is an advanced placement program for those who have considerable animation experience that deals with concepts like Advanced Body Mechanics and Acting.
There are animation mentor masterclasses available for studios as well, for those freelancers looking to branch out and begin their studio. The masterclasses are taught by industry professionals from studios like Pixar and Dreamworks.
For anyone looking to better themselves, and for freelance animators who think they could learn a little extra, the site itself also provides a vast number of animation resources including Webinars, eBooks, Podcasts, Blogs, and more.
9. Animation Screencaps
Image via Animation Screencaps
It can sometimes be tough to find inspiration for your animation, but you should always remember that there are hundreds, if not thousands of phenomenal professional animated feature films that have been produced and published over the years, and every single one of them has the potential to insight creativity in your mind and pull you out of your animation block.
Considering this, and for your edification, we highly recommend taking a look at Animation Screencaps.
Animation Screencaps, formerly known as Disney Screencaps, is great for deriving inspiration for your work. The site is a free repository of screencaps, or screenshots, of animated films, not just by Disney, but by non-Disney-related companies too.
If you feel like you can’t figure out how to make your characters pop or your backgrounds interact seamlessly with your foregrounds, take a look at Animation Screencaps and find your inspiration. It truly can come from anywhere!
10. Character Design References
Image via CharacterDesignReferences
Character Design References is one of the best reference websites for inspiration out there. The site is an independent community-sharing database that shares artworks, tutorials, and animated shorts with the animation community for free!
They post artists of the week, which provides an incentive for animators to post their latest projects, they host blog interviews with animators who share their stories and thoughts on animation and artwork and provide an online visual library of character designs by other artists from which you can derive inspiration for your art.
If you’re struggling to figure out just why your characters don’t look real, or you feel like you just need a little pick-me-up from the community, CDR is the place to be!
We highly recommend freelance animators utilize this resource to the best of their abilities.
Work-Related Animation Resources
Utilizing social media and various communication channels is imperative to finding work as a freelancer. We’re going to list a couple of places where you can network with other animators and also find some quick and easy work. Just because freelancing can be tough doesn’t mean it should be.
Image via Twine
Twine is a fantastic resource that helps connect companies to a wide range of freelancers. It’s a great way to find not just animators, but Graphic Designers, Actors, and Developers.
You can use Twine to create a portfolio and showcase your work to a thriving community. Dealing with clients is quick and easy, as you can state your terms at the getgo to your client helping to filter out the clients you don’t want to deal with.
The hiring process is secure and you can discuss different payment systems with your clients such as lump-sum payments, or milestone payments that break apart the payments for your project.
- It’s free to sign up as a freelancer
- There is also a pro subscription that helps you get more work opportunities starting at $9,99/mo, or $89,99/a (allows you to save 25%)
- Very user friendly, easy to setup
- Incredible customer support
- Some limits on customization, other than that users generally like the overall experience of Twine
Image via Fiverr
Fiverr is one of the most popular freelance services marketplaces currently out there. The company boasts a gig being bought every 4 seconds.
For animators, having a lot of smaller project options to offer clients can help you in making a little bit of extra cash in between bigger projects; it’ll keep you busy, and keep you afloat!
Fiverr Learn also provides on-demand courses for freelancers to better learn how to market themselves, learn methods and processes to get more gigs, and work their way up the freelance ‘ladder’.
Fiverr allows you to create a gig from a minimum of $5 (hence the name) all the way up to $995. You can also create 3 different pricing options for your clients to choose from.
You can provide whatever service you think you can reasonably offer, as long as it coincides with their terms of service. It’s a great way for freelancers to find some extra cash but also works well for those who are looking to work freelance jobs 9-5.
Fiverr is fantastic for exploring and offering different types of animation services, so if you feel like you need a break from bigger projects, consider making a few gifs for Fiverr clients instead.
- There is no cost to sign up to Fiverr
- You keep 80% of all transactions
- Completing a work order gets you paid instantly, without you having to chase clients and wait for payments.
- Works for freelancers who don’t mind doing the same projects over and over again, or one’s that won’t take up too much of your time
- A large amount of work is available in your portfolio is effective at drawing in clients
- Low income from commissions
- Extremely competitive environment
- At the mercy of the terms of service of Fiverr
Image via Dribbble
Dribbble, much like Twine and Fiverr, is an online marketplace for freelance creatives.
There’s also an element of inspiration, as you can see the previously completed work of other creatives and see how you stack up against your freelance competition.
While it caters mainly to designers, you can find work as an animator on the site as well.
- Free to sign up and create and host projects
- Feels like a social media platform for networking, and a great place for inspiration
- Simple and easy to use
- Distinct lack of customizability
- Lends itself to promoting the most trendy aspect of design
- Caters mainly to designers
Image via BusinessWire
Upwork is very good for newborn freelance animators, as it allows you to find your niche effectively and work with clients to discover what services other freelance animators are offering.
Upwork is more like a bidding service than anything else, where you will apply for services, rather than clients reaching out to you. For animators, it’s a good way to learn how to approach and interact with clients in an environment you wouldn’t normally get to see.
Prospective clients can also very easily check your prior work, and the site itself is secure and made to keep the best interests of those on the site at heart.
Upwork also boasts the G2’s 2021 Best Software Awards.
- Free to make an account
- The service fees come from your earnings and differ from project to project
- The jobs you can find are much higher paying than other sites, and the work pays quickly
- You can get hired quickly if you’re lucky
- Caters to a plethora of freelance professions, so can be a bit tough to find relevant clientele.
- Fees are quite intense, as you pay to submit proposals and Upwork takes anywhere from 5% to 20% depending on your earnings.
- User Experience design is quite poor compared to other services.
Image via Stuff
And finally, if you haven’t heard of LinkedIn, I’m not quite sure what to tell you. LinkedIn is one of the biggest social media platforms and operates as a professional networking and career development portal.
Being in circulation since 2003, LinkedIn is considered the primary online platform for job seekers and employers alike. It is used primarily by those looking to build and maintain professional relationships and, like any social media application, needs to be regularly updated if you want to effectively find work.
The nice thing about LinkedIn for animators is the ability to find and follow groups and communities of other freelance and studio working animators, helping you to network and find work more effectively.
It’s used by a huge number of animators around the world, and all the information you require is publicly available and potentially well peer-reviewed.
LinkedIn also has a cold messaging system, which is best for animators to send out messages to clients; it acts like every other social media messaging application.
- Much like any social media, is free to sign up
- LinkedIn premium is free for one month and ranges from $29.99/mo to $59.99/mo for job seekers
- Great place to network and maintain business relationships
- Relatively simple and easy to use
- Allows you to research both companies and employers and filter out the work you feel is right for you
- An extremely competitive marketplace for freelancers
- Not all employers post job updates regularly, or at all on the site.
- The premium can be quite expensive
- Much like all social media, not all message requests are useful
Other Note-Worthy Animation Resources
Image via KathleenaMorris
Loom isn’t a tool strictly for animators, but rather for all professionals who deal with meetings with clients or other professionals. It’s an asynchronous video messaging tool used worldwide by professionals from all walks of life.
It’s a fantastic tool for recording your screen allowing you to voice-over your actions and instantly share them with anyone.
It’s a must-have for teams, but also great for freelancers as it allows you to deal with your clients in a quick and easy way, without accompanying your work with a wall of text.
- Loom is free to use for a Starter account
- Business accounts are priced at $8/mo
- Easy to use, easy to share
- Constant updates and bug fixes
- Lacks screenshot editing capabilities
Image via Canva
Canva is an online content creation application with a focus on design. Not dissimilar to Photoshop, but more catered to freelancers who have no interest in hiring a designer for their work.
It’s a wonderful resource for freelance creatives who need designs for their brand and who don’t want to use their time learning bigger programs like Photoshop.
- Free to use with limitations
- Pro version is $12,99/mo or $119,99/a
- Very simple to use
- Affordable and friendly with templates
- Limited to the number of templates, despite a growing community
- Projects have a tendency to look like stock products
- Limited export settings
Image via PCMag
Visme is an incredibly well-known tool amongst artists and animators and for good reason. There is an incredible online cloud-based repository of stock images and pre-animated gifs.
It’s a great resource for freelance animators to use that will help them build their brand.
- Basic edition: Free
- Personal edition: $29,00/mo or $12,25/mo billed annually
- Easy to use
- Huge online library to utilize
- Not really suited to large-scale animated projects
19. Business of Animation
Image via Business of Animation
And finally, we at the Business of Animation pride ourselves on our animation resources, including a dedicated Blog and Mini-blog series, the Animation Accelerator Program to help you kickstart your freelance animation career, as well as a free marketing handbook available for any animator who feels they need a helping hand with their branding.
Use A Variety Of Animation Resources To Your Advantage
In order to be a successful freelance animator, you need to be able to use the tools around you to create and sell your brand to the world and ensure that you’re able to consistently find work to keep you afloat.
There are so many different animation resources out there for freelance animators to cater to your every need, and the key to being a successful freelancer is being able to use the right ones for you.
One of the best things to do as a freelancer is to use a large number of different resources until you figure out which works the best for your purpose. And don’t be afraid to learn more about your craft! Take the time to watch tutorials, read blogs, attend webinars, and you’ll be a better animator in no time!
For more info about the different animation resources a freelance animator needs, as well as any info about the animation industry in general, be sure to follow our blogs, check out our free masterclass, download a copy of our free marketing handbook, and check out our blog on “How to Start an Animation Studio”!