How to Become an Animator in the UK

Despicable me
Despicable Me

Animators are responsible for turning a series of drawings or images into frames that when sequenced together rapidly produce an illusion of movement that’s called animation. These images are usually made up of hand drawn pictures, models or computer generated images. They usually work on the computer-generated animation that is used heavily in motion pictures, TV, the internet and the computer games industry.

Also see: How to Become a Hotel Animator

What do Animators do?

In order to produce an animation, animators work with a number of other professionals. Since there are many stages involved in the process, when working on a big project tasks are allocated and carried out by different people e.g. directors and producers, production designers, layout and storyboard artists. Also, depending on where your work will be used e.g. advertising, computer games, websites or videos duties may vary.

The typical duties of animators include:

  • Liaising with clients and developing animation to meet their needs.
  • Drawing in 2D to create artwork and illustrations.
  • Designing models, characters, objects, sets and backgrounds.
  • Developing the timing of the movements of characters or the sequence of images so that they are synchronised with soundtrack requirements.
  • Using technical software packages such as Flash, 3D Studio Max, Maya, Lightwave and Cinema 4D.
  • Creating storyboards to fit a script.
  • Building detailed frame-by-frame visuals.

Work Environment

As an animator, you will usually work normal office hours (9 to 5) Monday to Friday although you may need to work overtime or unsocial hours to meet deadlines. Working conditions will, of course, depend on the type of animation work you are doing. Animation is basically an office/studio-based career so if you are a freelance animator you are more flexible in terms of working hours and can work from home. 


According to Prospects, the national annual average salaries for animators in the UK are:

Starting Salary

£12,000 - 15,000

Starting Salary (computer game industry)

£18, 000

Experienced Animators Salary

Up to £25,000

Experience Animators (more than 10 years)

Starting from £26,000

Starting salaries are relatively low but building up experiences, working on various projects and retaining your contacts will help you earn a higher income. For more information on freelance rates visit BECTU.

Education and Training

In order to become an animator, you will need to take an animation or art-related course that will help you develop the skills and knowledge required to excel. Provided that you have already obtained your five GCSEs with a minimum grade C – including English and Maths as well as your three A levels you can study any of the following subjects:

  • Illustration
  • Graphic Design
  • Computer Programming
  • Model Making or Sculpture
  • 3D Design
  • Mathematics or Physics
  • Multimedia Design

Although many animators are self-taught if you want to stand out in the job market you will need strong 2:1 or a first degree. In order to get in the industry, you will need a ‘showreel’ DVD, which is a small demo of your work, or an online portfolio to showcase your ideas.  

Alternatively you can start as animation studio runner and then progress to other junior roles such as storyboard assistant, digital painter or assistant animator to get the experience you need to become a professional animator.

Required Skills

These are the skills that constitute a competent animator:

  • Creativity and imagination.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Teamwork skills.
  • Good drawing and modeling skills.
  • Good computer skills (graphics and animation software).
  • Communication and presentation skills.
  • Ability to work under pressure and given deadlines.

Career Development

In order to be a successful animator or even a lead animator or director, you have to constantly keep up to date with developments in your industry. Becoming familiar with software packages will be of help as technology advances. Once you get a job as an animator, your employer can arrange for you to attend courses to get additional training and take your career to the next level. If you are interested visit Creative Skillset to search for available courses.

Job Opportunities

The employers of animators include:

  • Small or large animation studios (London, Bristol, Cardiff, Dundee, Manchester).
  • Computer games developers.
  • Media designers.
  • Post-production houses for animated film and TV titles and credits.

In terms of finding work as an animator, start by making contacts through networking. Many animation jobs are not advertised. Check out Animation World Network, Animation Industry Database, Games Industry, Broadcastnow to search for vacancies and make new contacts!

Does this sound like something you want to do? If you enjoy drawing and putting images together to create unique animations, then being an animator is the right career for you! 

Also see: How to Become a Game Designer

Are you currently or training to be an animator? What was your experience? Your thoughts and comments below please...