Special Effects Artist or Animator

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Salary Range: $60,000 to $79,999

Average Hourly: $ 37.36

Education: Bachelor's degree

Number of Jobs: 62400

Jobs Added to 2029: 9900

Growth: Much faster than average



Go here to see salary and job data specific to the United Kingdom.

What Special Effects Artists and Animators Do

Special effects artists and animators create two- and three-dimensional models, images that appear to move, and visual effects for television, movies, video games, and other forms of media.

Duties

Special effects artists and animators typically do the following:

  • Use computer programs and illustrations to create graphics and animation (images that appear to move)
  • Work with a team of animators and artists to create a movie, game, or visual effect
  • Research upcoming projects to help create realistic designs or animation
  • Edit animation and effects on the basis of feedback from directors, other animators, game designers, or clients
  • Meet with clients, other animators, games designers, directors, and other staff (which may include actors) to review deadlines and development timelines

Special effects artists and animators often work in a specific medium. Some focus on creating animated movies or video games. Others create visual effects for movies and television shows. Creating computer-generated images (known as CGI) may include taking images of an actor’s movements and then animating them into three-dimensional characters. Other animators design scenery or backgrounds for locations.

Artists and animators can further specialize within these fields. Within animated movies and video games, artists often specialize in characters or in scenery and background design. Video game artists may focus on level design: creating the look, feel, and layout for the levels of a video game.

Animators work in teams to develop a movie, a visual effect, or an electronic game. Each animator works on a portion of the project, and then the pieces are put together to create one cohesive animation.

Some special effects artists and animators create their work primarily by using computer software or by writing their own computer code. Many animation companies have their own computer animation software that artists must learn to use. Video game designers also work in a variety of platforms, including mobile gaming and online social networks.

Other artists and animators prefer to work by drawing and painting by hand and then translating the resulting images into computer programs. Some special effects artists use storyboards or “animatics,” which look like a comic strip, to help visualize the final product during the design process.

Many special effects artists and animators put their creative work on the Internet. If the images become popular, these artists can gain more recognition, which may lead to future employment or freelance work.


Work Environment

Many artists and animators work in offices; others work from home.


Work Environment Details

Special effects artists and animators held about 62,400 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of special effects artists and animators were as follows:
Self-employed workers 59%
Motion picture and video industries 11
Software publishers 9
Computer systems design and related services 4
Advertising, public relations, and related services 3

Many artists and animators work in offices; others work from home.

Work Schedules

Most special effects artists and animators work a regular schedule; however, when deadlines are approaching, they may need to work nights and weekends.


Job Outlook

Employment of special effects artists and animators is projected to grow 16 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 7,800 openings for special effects artists and animators are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.


How to Become a Special Effects Artist or Animator

Most special effects artists and animators need a bachelor’s degree in computer graphics, art, or a related field to develop both an impressive portfolio of work and the strong technical skills that many employers prefer.

Education

Employers typically require a bachelor’s degree, and they look for workers who have a good portfolio and strong technical skills. Special effects artists and animators typically have a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, computer graphics, animation, or a related field. Programs in computer graphics often include courses in computer science in addition to art courses.

Bachelor’s degree programs in art include courses in painting, drawing, and sculpture. Degrees in animation often require classes in drawing, animation, and film. Many schools have specialized degrees in topics such as interactive media or game design.

Advancement

Special effects artists and animators who show strong teamwork and time-management skills can advance to supervisory positions, where they are responsible for one aspect of a visual effects team. Some artists might advance to leadership or directorial positions, such as an art director or producer or director.

Other Experience

Skills in graphics and animation can be honed through self-study. Special effects artists and animators can develop these skills to enhance their portfolios, which may make it easier to find job opportunities.  

Important Qualities

Artistic talent. Animators and artists should have artistic ability and a good understanding of color, texture, and light. However, they may be able to compensate for artistic shortcomings with better technical skills.

Communication skills. Special effects artists and animators need to work as part of a team and respond well to criticism and feedback.

Computer skills. Many special effects artists and animators use computer programs or write programming code to do most of their work.

Creativity. Artists and animators must be able to think creatively to develop original ideas and make them come to life.

Time-management skills. The workdays required by most studio and game design companies can be long, particularly when there are tight deadlines. Artists and animators need to be able to manage their time effectively when a deadline approaches.


United Kingdom Job Data

Source:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Special Effects Artists and Animators, at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/multimedia-artists-and-animators.htm (visited ).