How to get started with animation

So you want to become an animator and don’t know where to start? I’ve been in the same position before and it took a while for me to get into animation for a while because I didn’t know what programs to use, the concepts of animation, and even what websites that could help me. The art of creating a moving living character from drawings is really a magical thing and it’s a powerful skill to behold. I’ve laid out a few simple steps that could help push you into the right direction, and hopefully you too will be happily creating animations for yourself.

STEP 1: Is Animation actually the right thing for you?

One of the main gripes about animation is TIME. You will need a lot of it and there is no going around it, no matter what type of animation you want to make. Not a lot of people know just how much time it takes to make even a small animation unless they’ve actually tried it for themselves. So if you have no experience with animating yet, you should ask yourself, “Am I the type of person who doesn’t mind putting in time and patience to get something done? Or am I the type of person who wants results right away and cannot sit still focusing on a task?”

If you said yes to the fist option, animation might be right up your alley! If the 2nd option fits you better, then animation will probably be a very frustrating process. Either type of person can become an animator and both types of people do exist in the animation world. It’s just something that you should definitely keep in mind. Animation takes time and patience. period.

STEP 2: Finding the right animation program

So you’ve made peace to yourself that animation takes a lot of time and patience and you want to give it a go. Great! Now in order to make an animation in the first place, you need some kind of animation program that can help you play multiple drawings in order through a timeline. Of course you can use paper and pencil in the traditional sense but its 2020. If you’re going to start somewhere, starting digitally will make life much easier.

There are many popular animation programs out there. To name a few we have Adobe Animate CC, Clip Studio, ToonBoom, Krita, TV paint, Blender, and many more. All of these programs have their own strengths and weaknesses, and specialize in different forms of animation.

If you want to start somewhere though it’s best to start off with a free program or even a trial version of a program. What type of animations do you want to make? If you want to do more graphic and logo animations try to look for a program that can work in vectors like Adobe Animate. If you want more of a painterly or sketch style, Clip Studio is a very common pick. If you want to do 3D animations, Blender is awesome to get into and free! Speaking of free, some good programs are Wick Editor, Krita, Blender, FlipAClip (for phones), and much more.

STEP 3: Animation tools

Now that you’ve decided on what program or programs to test out, you will most likely need something to draw with. The most common tool used in animation is a digital drawing tablet. This is a piece of hardware that usually includes a drawing surface with a special pen that can register strokes and pen pressure as if you were drawing in real life. These are not really required for 3D programs but for 2D programs that require drawing, it is an essential tool.

When it comes to drawing tablets there is a huge diversity of brands to choose from! There are two types of tablets you can buy; graphic tablets and monitor tablets. Graphic tablets do not have a display built in so you look at your monitor while drawing. Monitor tablets, although more expensive, do have displays so you can draw directly on the screen providing a more natural drawing experience. Both types work very well and many artists use both types with success.

Some brands that I would recommend personally would be the Wacom brand if you want the best of the best and the Huion brand if you still want a great tablet for a more reasonable price.

STEP 4: Tutorials and guides

Now that you have the proper tools and program need to start animating, you need proper guidance on how to use the basics of your program and also some basics on what to actually animate. There are many great tutorials on Youtube that teach the basics of just about any program so make sure to get familiar with your program first and how its timeline and tools work. Look up the animators you like and see if they themselves have tutorials online. If not you can study their animations and see how they draw their movements frame by frame.

STEP 5: Just do it

Here is the hardest part about learning animation. To just push away all your worries of what you don’t know, and just doing it. Anything you do at this point will give you experience no matter how bad it looks so just try to make something. At this point you’re only getting familiar with how to use your program and what its capabilities are, not making a masterpiece. If you think about it, everyone has had to take this first step at some point in their lives, even the animators that you look up to today.

STEP 6: Share your work

Once you’ve played around with animation and made your first little animation, naturally you would want to show someone your creation! This is your first little animation child after all. This is where it all begins. It helps to share your work to other people that are also starting off or others that have the same interest in animation as you do. People can tell you what to improve on, what to animate next, and even some people can show you what they’ve made so you can give them feedback as well.

STEP 7: Join a community

Being in a community of animators is one of the best ways to stay involved and improve as an animator. It’s very hard to stay motivated in this field if you’re alone so try to make friends and surround yourself with animation communities. Most likely they’ll help you figure out techniques that you didn’t know about and even have animation sessions with you to make it an overall better experience. Animation takes a lot of time after all, why not do it with someone or a group?

Some good communities to join are Anim8, Hyun’s Dojo, and Newgrounds.

With all these to take into consideration I feel like the most important factor is joining a community. There’s so much value people can bring to help you learn about animation. It is quite a grind, but with the right tools, people, and patience, it’s one of the most rewarding experiences you can have.

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