Three insider secrets to a lighting portfolio that lands your dream job.


Three Insider Secrets to a stand-out portfolio


Animation for Beginners: The Ultimate Get Started-Guide in 2024

by | Last updated Jan 31, 2024

Dreaming of building a career in animation? What essential tools and resources should you look for when starting off in animation? This animation for beginners guide presents all the vital information you need about animation, including the types of animation, the 12 principles of animation, and the tools you’ll need to master to bag your dream job as an animator! 

Want to learn more? Read on!

What is animation?

In simplest terms, animation gives the illusion of movement to inanimate objects through a series of pictures. This technique is used to tell a story. 

Traditionally, animation involved photographing successive drawings, models, even puppets, in a sequence. Because the eyes could retain the image they see for 1/10 of a second, the subsequent display of pictures in nanoseconds tricks the brain into seeing one moving image on the screen.

Early cartoons were made by hand drawing or painting images on transparent celluloid sheets. Then, the drawn celluloid sheets will be photographed, and each frame will be shown quickly on the screen. Old Disney cartoons were created this way. Over the years, animation artists began using computers to create illustrations and then animation software programs to animate. These days, most animated movies are made using computer-generated imagery or CGI.

How long the consecutive images are displayed on the screen will affect the fluidity of the movements. This applies to hand-drawn and computer-generated animations alike. The general rule is to shoot the moving characters “on twos,” which means the image is shown for two frames and creating 12 illustrations per second. The higher the frame rate, the smoother the movements appear. Most films have a frame rate of 24 frames per second. 

There are different types of animation for beginners, and we will outline each one in this guide. If you’re wondering if you can teach yourself to animate, the quick answer is yes, you definitely can, and our Animation for beginners guide will help you learn how to make your first animated shot. 

Common Animation Vocabulary 

Persistence of Vision

Refers to how the human eye retains images for a split second, showing successions of images quickly tricks the eyes to see a moving picture. 

2D animation

Traditional animation created using a series of illustrations in a flat, 2-dimensional environment.

3D animation

A contemporary form of animation using computer-generated images that moves in a 3D environment. The camera can be moved around in X, Y, and/or Z-Axis.

Stop-Motion Animation

An old animation technique that moves a model incrementally and shot one frame at a time. The shots are flashed quickly to give the illusion of movement on-screen. This technique is also known as “claymation,” but this term is a trademarked term and does not apply to the genre entirely.

Frame Rate

Measures the speed at which frames are shown as frames per second. On average, an animated film has a frame rate of 24 frames per second. The lower the frame rate, the “choppier” the movements of the animation become. 


Indicates the action of a frame at a certain point in time and what time the changes occur.

Key Pose

The objection or main action set on a keyframe. 


A small image or illustration used as a placeholder or reference for the final image.

Twinning/In Between

The interpolation between poses created by the animation software. The morphing between poses can be modified by the animator if needed.


Stage in a production in which the position of the characters, staging, timing and lighting are planned and decided. 

Point Cache

A modifier that generates a 3D model for every frame-based position of the vertices to prevent rig failures while rendering.


The earliest stage in production in which the script, storyboard, animatic, design, and color of the project are conceptualized, planned, and decided. 


The stage in production in which the animation, lighting, and render of the project are developed.

Post Production

The final stage of production in which the animated project is edited for color correction, score, special effects, etc. 


An object that’s part of the scene, which can be animated and rigged regardless if it’ll be used by the character or not. 


The scene that’s created for the animated shot.


A part of the post-animation stage in which the movements of the fabric/clothing, hair, etc., are simulated. 


A series of illustrations arranged in a sequence used to outline the story being told in an animated shot. It follows the structure of the film. 

Model sheet

The set of guidelines for character design, including the appearance, proportions, structure, and attitude of the character. 

Transition time

The time in between keyframes. Three seconds is the default transition, but this can be adjusted automatically using a camera’s travel speed. 


Camera navigation that creates a path with smooth, uey tight turns in between keyframes.

Animation production pipeline

One of the most common terms you’ll hear in an animation production is “pipeline.” This refers to the workflow, the order of tasks needed to complete the animation production in a preset timeline. The pipeline can consist of the following: 

  • Research
  • Concept
  • Script
  • Style Frame
  • Storyboard
  • Voice over
  • Animation
  • Soundtrack and sound effects
  • Full video
  • Finalization

Types of animation

There are traditionally 5 different types of animation techniques. These are: 

  • Traditional Animation
  • 2D Animation (Vector-based)
  • 3D Animation
  • Motion Graphics
  • Stop Motion

Traditional animation

Also called cell animation, traditional animation involves drawing an object in a series of movements on pieces of transparent celluloid paper. Like a flipbook, a mechanism flashes each celluloid film on a camera to give the illusion of movement. It’s a detailed process and is one of the oldest forms of animation in filmmaking. Disney’s earlier animated features – Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Aladdin, The Lion King, etc. – were made using traditional animation. 

2D animation

2D is an animation method that’s similar to traditional animation. Vector-based animation utilizes mathematical values to resize images, making the movements smooth. The images are not drawn repeatedly on celluloid paper with increment movements to give the illusion of movement. The characters could move around the vectors – pathways with various start and endpoints. There are lines that connect these points to build the graphics.  

3D animation

3D animation uses computers and animation software programs to create and animate characters. Although not as labor-intensive as traditional animation, 3D animation is still a lengthy, intense process. 

The animator creates the character, which is then animated using a computer program. Digital frames are set so all parts of the body can move. This is done on each frame. The software uses mathematical calculations to create realistic movements in every frame. Contemporary animation films like the Toy Story installments, Coco, etc., were made using this animation method. 

Motion Graphics

This method utilizes pieces of digital graphics to give the illusion of movement. Unlike other forms of animation, motion graphics aren’t used for telling a story but for conveying a message. The texts take a central role that’s why it’s often used to promote businesses. 

Stop motion

Stop motion animation is one of the oldest forms of animation. It involves adjusting and shooting physical objects to give the illusion of movement. The artist makes small movements in every frame, and the shots are flashed on the screen, like a flipbook. This technique is similar to traditional animation. 

Pixelation, object-motion, claymation, cutout animation are just a few of the many different types of stop motion animation. This technique was used in movies like Chicken Run, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Shaun the Sheep, and Wallace and Gromit. 

The animation process

Filmmaking, including animation, consists of three stages of production: pre-production, production, and postproduction. 

Pre-Production Stage

In animation, pre-production consists of stages that precede the actual movie-making. Before the characters are drawn, animated, and polished, there’s the planning stage. Preproduction consists of: 

Animation Strategy: Outlining the creative direction to achieve the end goal. It defines the animation’s narrative style and technical demands, including the type of animation to use, format, and duration of the movie.

Scriptwriting: This process defines the narrative style and flow of the story. Scriptwriting sets the tone of the movie, the animation’s rhythm, etc. The script will be edited again and again until it’s approved. 

Style: Defines the type of animation to use for the project. It includes the narrative, the storyboard, the movements to implement, the animation style, color of the video, composition, even the typography. 

Storyboarding: This is the final step in animation pre-production. It involves artists splitting the approved script into different sections. Each section will be drawn to create a visual narrative of the story. The storyboard serves as a guide for animators, particularly the content, visual style, and tools to breathe life into the character.

This is the stage where the story, budget, and schedules are planned and changed (repeatedly!) until the clients agree to go forward with the project. The story is taking shape as artists try to visualize what the film will look like.

There will be lots of going back and forth during the preproduction stage, and that’s great because every aspect of the project must be planned carefully to minimize delays as well as avoid any nasty surprises during the production phase.

Production Stage

The production phase is the time when the actual filming of the project starts. At this point of the production phase, everything that has been planned during the pre-production will be set in motion.

During the production stage, animators will start with the illustration, motion graphics, voice-overs, etc. This phase is when the raw materials are produced. Footage will be collected and then pieced together with other visual elements to create one final film.  The production stage consists of the following: 

Modeling: The production phase in which 2D concepts illustrated by the artists are transformed into 3D models. The modelers sculpt the characters, environments, and props — modifying and refining the characters and objects until the director is satisfied with the visuals.  

Surfacing: This is the stage when colors, textures, and shaders are applied to the characters, props, and sets. The textures should always match the approved concept art and designs created by the visual development team or art department. 

Rigging: This task requires riggers who will build 3D skeletons of the characters. They work side by side with animators to bring characters to life. Think of the characters as puppets and the riggers as the puppeteers. They will create and set controls that move the skeleton of the characters around. Animators could add faces and bodies to the skeletons and get them to move per the story’s needs. 

Animation Prep: A team of artists starts working with other departments to create the 3-dimensional characters. The artists could also handle the set dressing and stereo composition if needed. 

Character animation: This is the stage in production when character animators bring the characters to life using different animation programs. Using a computer, 3D animators would pose the characters using the rig that was set by the riggers. The goal is to tell the story through the characters’ movements and expressions. The character animators would act out scenes through a video as a reference for the animation. 

Crowds: Animators would create “crowd characters” in large crowd scenes in the movie. The crowd characters must execute realistic movements to enhance the storytelling and improve the visuals of the film. 

Simulation: Artists would apply character effects to enhance the appearance of the characters. They are responsible for every element that moves on a character, including the hair, fur, feathers, clothing, etc. they’ll also work on the interactions made by the character with objects in the scene. For example, if a character lies on a bed, the mattress would bulge in places, creases would form around the character to convey the weight of the character against the material.

Visual Effects: FX artists work together to create significant and small actions that leave traces in a film – smoke, fire, water, destruction. Little details like objects colliding with each other or liquid simulations in glass are taken care of by the FX artists to add realism to the film. The FX artists ensure that every detail of the story is realistic and supports the story.

Matte Painting: Involves the creation of background of the animation such as the skies, cityscapes, vistas, oceans, mountains, etc. Color keys are used to create the background, and models are built by the modelers to create an entire world within the animation. 

Lighting: Lighting sets the tone of the animation. It adds realism to the film. To create true-to-life lighting, lighting artists would combine 3D elements with 3D development, which will take a great deal of technical direction. The technical director troubleshoots issues during the production pipeline, and part of their work involves guiding the team to achieve the desired look of the animation. 

Post Production

Postproduction is the final stage of film production. All the elements made while shooting the film will be organized, cut, colored, and edited to achieve the final look. Sound mixing, voiceovers, and background music are also added to the final footage. Final revisions are done until the director is satisfied with the final footage. The post-production stage consists of:

Compositing: All the animation elements are combined with final rendered frames to achieve the final look of the film. Atmospheric elements, depth of field, lighting, and color correction are adjusted in this stage. 

Music and Sound Design: The music and sound effects have to be perfectly timed with the visuals. Otherwise, the movie will sound off. Adding the score and sound design is painstaking work, so these are only added during the final stage of production. 

Color Grading: The finishing touches to the final footage are applied by color graders. These artists ensure that the lighters’ and compositors’ work are consistent throughout every sequence, so the final footage looks perfect. 

The 12 principles of animation

The 12 Principles of Animation are animation techniques developed in the 1930s by animation pioneers Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston for Disney. These techniques were first made for pencil sketching, but they can be applied to digital animation too.

The 12 Principles of Animation adhere to the fundamental laws of physics. The techniques also highlight character emotions and appeal. As an animator, it’s a must to master these animation techniques, not just because it’s a part of the job but also because it lets the artist create captivating and realistic character animations. 

Timing: Correct timing is vital to make animations as close to real-life as possible. It is measured by the number of frames between two poses. Correct timing gives you control over the tone, mood, and reaction of every character and object. If an animated object moves too fast or slower than it would in real life, the effects will look fake. 

Squash and Stretch: Squash and stretch give the illusion of mass, weight, and flexibility to a character or object. A ball that stretches to the sides as it bounces up and down on the ground, for example, shows how a real ball behaves when bounced on the ground in real life. The object’s volume is always consistent. Stretching an object makes it thinner and longer, and squashing it makes it wider.

Anticipation: Prepares the viewers for the action that’s about to happen. 

Ease In and Ease Out (Slow in and Slow out): The acceleration and deceleration of an object or character’s movement. The time between when the moving object gains momentum and speeds up and when the movement comes to a complete stop. This effect is done by adding more frames at the beginning and end of the action sequence.

Follow through and Overlapping Action: The character or object continues to move after coming to a complete stop, giving the idea that different parts of the object or character stop/move at different rates. Applied to improve the flow of the animation, making the character or object move realistically.

Arc: Adhering to the laws of physics, an object that falls will follow the natural angle or path as they fall due to the Earth’s gravitational pull. A good example would be a ball that’s tossed in the air. The ball’s movement being tossed upwards and down as it falls on the ground is shaped like an arc. 

Exaggeration: Movements are slightly exaggerated, so the animation does not appear static or dull. The pushing of movement makes the character or object more dynamic and appealing to watch.

Solid Drawing: The understanding and application of accurate volume, weight, balance, anatomy, light, and shadows in a drawing. It’s essential to remain consistent when drawing in a three-dimensional space unless the illustrations are supposed to be warped. If that’s the case, keep the perspective warped throughout the entire animation.

Appeal: The characters, objects, and environments should feel relatable to the viewer. To get this right, there should be strong character development. The animation should also tell the story properly to make the character relatable, charismatic, and endearing. 

Straight Ahead Action and Pose to Pose: This technique comprises two animation approaches: straight-ahead action and pose to pose. Straight ahead action involves drawing frame by frame from beginning to finish, while pose to pose involves drawing at the start frame and the end frame. When combined, these techniques enhance the fluidity of the movements, making the movements as realistic as possible. It also gives the artist control within the scene while enhancing the dramatic effect of the actions.

Secondary Action: The actions that emphasize or support the main action of the animation. This technique is meant to support the character or object’s main action. It adds depth and dimension to the characters and objects. The secondary action should never distract the primary action.

Staging: Think of staging as compositing for animation; it sets the entire scene. From the placement of the characters to the foreground and background elements, staging guides the eye and draws attention to the story. The lighting and shadows as well as the way the angle of the camera is set up, pull every element together, so the viewer’s eye focuses on the unfolding scene.

Build an animation career 

What does your career look like as an animation artist? Depending on your specialty, you can build a career in the entertainment, art and design, gaming, advertising, and other multimedia industries within and related to animation. 

Apart from breathing life into digital assets, you can specialize in creating models of humans, animals, and props. You can specialize in detailed animations like skin texture, hair, eye color, etc. You can also become a light artist, setting the mood and tone of a film, like many of our students who have been hired by top animation studios including DreamWorks and Disney, just to name a few. 

Different jobs in animation

Depending on your skill level and education, some of the jobs in animation include: 

  • 2D animator
  • 3D animator
  • Lighting artist
  • Concept artist
  • Special effects animator
  • Visual effects artist
  • Game designer
  • Stop motion animator
  • Compositing artist
  • Graphic designer
  • 3D modeler
  • Background artist
  • Character animator
  • Clean-up artist
  • Digital ink and paint artist
  • Image editor
  • Keyframe animator
  • Layout artist
  • Rendering artist
  • Rigging artist
  • Storyboard artist
  • Texture artist
  • Art director

As for the salary, this will also depend on your skill level, but generally, animation artists are paid between $70K to $90K. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), animator jobs are set to rise to 4% between 2018 to 2028. As an animator, you’ll enjoy a lucrative and fulfilling career because you’ll see all your designs and concepts come to life!

How to get a job as an animator

Competition is stiff in the animation and VFX industry; that’s why it’s essential to get a solid start in animation, such as specializing in a specific field, developing an artistic eye, honing your technical skills, and mastering industry-standard tools. 

Hone your skills: Hiring managers are looking for animators with strong artistic abilities, computer competencies, excellent creative problem-solving skills, and time-management skills.  

Build your portfolio: Regardless of whether you are just getting your start in animation or a seasoned artist, it’s vital to build your portfolio. Again, it’s a competitive industry, and to stand out, you’ll need to wow hiring managers with your work.

Create a demo reel: To get your foot in the door, you’ll need to put together a killer demo reel. Remember, hiring managers are busy folks; they watch thousands of demo reels in a day. A demo reel that features your best work + a Demo Reel Breakdown (DRB) and contact details will be your ticket to success. Avoid fillers; it’s better to show just a couple of your best animation samples instead of 10 mediocre ones. More demo reel tips here

Master industry-standard software: Knowing all the industry-standard tools used in animation will be the ultimate advantage. 3D animation is a highly technical industry. You will use different software tools to bring concepts to life. 

Some of these tools are Maya, Houdini, Cinema 4D, 3DS Max, and Blender. You can learn these tools on your own using video tutorials online, but it will take YEARS and a deep understanding of the many artistic principles + mid-level technical skills to understand these tutorials. We recommend Your best bet is to get formal education or take an online course.

Animation software 

Part of your job as an animator is mastering different software tools. Some of these tools are: 

Autodesk Maya

One of the leading animation software in the industry. It is universally loved for its vast selection of animation and CG tools for modeling, texturing, lighting, simulation, and rendering. It has all the tools for creating 3D scenes, special effects, presentations, and game scenes. There’s a steep learning curve, but as long as you have basic animation knowledge, you’ll have no trouble learning it.

Pricing Plans 

Monthly Subscription: $215

Annual Subscription: $1700

3-Year Subscription: $4,590

Download Autodesk Maya


Houdini comes in different versions, but the free version is Houdini Apprentice. Developed by SideFX, Houdini is known for its versatile performance and unprecedented power in building a range of 3D imagery. The software features a node-based procedural workflow, so it’s not for everyone. But once you’ve mastered this software, you’ll have the power to create realistic, high-quality animations. Houdini has the most comprehensive price plans, and there’s specific software for every need. 

Pricing Plans 

Houdini Apprentice

Houdini Indie

Annual Subscription: $269

2-Year Subscription:  $399

Houdini Core

Perpetual licence: $2,995
Annual Subscription: $1,995

Houdini FX

Perpetual license: $4,495 

Houdini Engine 

Annual Subscription: $499

Download Houdini

Cinema 4D

An award-winning animation and rendering software used for procedural and polygonal/subd modeling, lighting, and texturing. On its own, Cinema 4D comes with a powerful toolset for easy animation and rendering. But you can boost its functionality further with inexpensive plugins. For aspiring animators, Cinema 4D also comes with a massive library of tutorials. 

Pricing Plans 


Annual Subscription: $ 1351.7

Cinema 4D + RedShift 

Annual Subscription: $ 1031.97

Cinema 4D

Annual Subscription:

Annual Subscription: $736.77 

Download Cinema 4D

Autodesk 3DS Max

Featuring a robust set of tools for 3D modeling, rigging, animation, and fluid simulation, 3DS is one versatile animation software. It’s easy to learn, especially if you already know how to use Maya. The only caveat is it only comes in the PC version.

Pricing Plans 

3-Year Subscription: $ 4,590

Annual Subscription: $ 1,700

Download 3DS MAX


Blender is an open-source 3D animation software that supports a 3D workflow in its entirety. It is often compared to Maya in performance, but it’s absolutely free. This software can be used for modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing, and motion tracking. It’s versatile, powerful, and easy to use, although the interface is a little cluttered.

Pricing Plans


Download Blender

LightWave 3D

LightWave 3D is an animation program developed by Texas-based software company, NewTek. It’s a 3D computer graphics software used for motion graphics, digital matte painting, visual effects, video game development, product design, architectural visualizations, virtual production, music videos, pre-visualizations, and advertising in films and television.

Pricing Plans

Full Commercial Version: $995

LightWave Commercial Upgrade: $495 (starting price)

LightWave 3D Pricing Educational Upgrade: $95

Download LightWave 3D


ZBrush is a digital sculpting and modeling toolset used to create UV maps and paint textures. Developed by Pixologic, ZBrush utilizes “pixol” technology that stores lighting, color, material, depth, and orientation information for the points consisting of all objects on the screen. The UI is non-standard, so there’s a steep learning curve. But once you get the hang of it, ZBrush can handle millions of polygons with ease. 

Pricing Plans

Perpetual Licence: $895

Monthly subscription: $39.95

6-month subscription: $179.95

Academic perpetual license: $495 (starting price)

Enterprise Version: Prices on request

Download ZBrush

Animation hardware

What kind of tools do animators use? Essential animation tools aren’t exactly affordable, so it’s okay if you’re only using the bare essentials to start. Here are the tools that are vital for beginners:

Stylus pen: A stylus pen turns your tablet into a canvas; it’s used to sketch on a tablet to make digital art. 

Graphics tablet: A drawing tablet designed to create digital art will be hooked to your computer, so your illustrations are transferred to the screen.

Computer: You’ll need a PC for animation and rendering. If you’re just starting out, the best PC to get is the one that you can afford. Focus on the CPU, RAM, and the graphics card if able and upgrade as you work your way up. You can buy a PC or build one yourself. Your PC should have enough memory to install the animation software. You’ll also need a webcam, headset with microphone, and a 3-button mouse to complete your workstation.

Animation books

The learning never stops when you’re an animator! You’ll need to learn different techniques and concepts to build an impressive career. Lucky for you, we’ve got a couple of animation books to get the best start in animation.

Three Expert Insider Secrets for a Successful Demo Reel

A quick read that details the 3 secrets for building a successful demo reel. A terrific ebook to get if you’re getting your start in the animation industry. You can download the ebook here

Lighting For Animation: The Art of Visual Storytelling, a book by Jasmine Katatikarn & Michael Tanzillo

Designed to make you a better artist, Lighting for Animation strives to train your artistic eye and analyze your work critically by laying down the fundamentals, core concepts, and main philosophies of lighting different animation scenarios. Written by Jasmine Katatikarn and Michael Tanzillo (Senior Lighting TDs, Blue Sky Studios), this book outlines approaches and techniques by industry professionals so you can build a solid foundation for a successful career as a light artist in visual effects and computer animation. Get your copy here

The Animators Survival Kit by Richard Williams

Written by award-winning animator Richard Williams, The Animator’s Survival Kit spills all the animation tips, tricks, and techniques Williams learned throughout his illustrious career. Williams is renowned for the iconic movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” as well as Pink Panther animations and the director of “The Thief and the Cobbler.” Get your copy here.

The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation, by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston

Master animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston let you in on all the techniques and tips that made Disney the animation powerhouse that it is today. The book also includes the “12 Rules of Animation,” for creating realistic animations. Thomas and Johnston are responsible for Disney’s most beloved characters, including  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Bambi, and Pinocchio. Get your copy here.

Cartoon Animation by Preston Blair

Written by Preston Blair, a prominent Disney animator during the Golden Age of Animation, Cartoon of Animation is an invaluable resource for aspiring animators. Some of the most memorable Disney characters that Blair worked on include Bambi and Pinocchio. It features some of Blair’s signature methods of animating cartoons. Get your copy here.

Animation courses

You don’t need a degree to learn animation/work as an animation artist! We’ve developed a series of animation and technical courses, each one complementing the other. By signing up for any of these courses, you can hone your skills and train your artistic eye at your own pace. Oh, and these courses are definitely more affordable compared to earning a degree. 

Lighting For Animation Course Bundle + 

How to get your dream job as a lighting artist in less than a year? Even with ZERO experience, you can bag your dream job as a lighting artist with our Lighting for Animation course bundle! 

Course Curriculum

  • The Power Of Light
  • Character Lighting For Animated Films
  • Environment Lighting For Animated Films
  • Materials & Shaders For The Lighting Artist
  • Compositing For The Lighting Artist
  • Lighting An Animated Film
  • Succeeding As A Lighter

In this course, we’ll introduce our proven system — a comprehensive process that helped train over 200 students to become lighting artists. Be hired by top studios and build a solid career that you are genuinely proud of with the ultimate lighting bundle. Sign up for the course here.

Character Lighting For Animated Films

A course that will train you to light characters to improve visual storytelling. This course will cover everything from the fundamentals to different artistic concepts. 

Course Curriculum

  • The Essentials of Character Lighting
  • Movie Breakdowns

The course is divided into two sections, the Essentials of Character Lighting and Movie Breakdowns. It features 3 film breakdowns to hone your artistic eye and lighting skills. Sign up for the course here.

Arnold For Maya Workshop

Master the leading render engine in the market, Maya! Co-developed by Sony Pictures Imageworks, Arnold for Maya is used by over 300 studios in the world. This technical workshop covers everything you need to know about using Arnold for Maya – every button, slider, etc., will be analyzed so you can maximize the render engine to its fullest.

Course Curriculum

  • Getting Started With Arnold For Maya
  • Arnold Render Settings
  • Arnold Object Settings

The course is divided into three parts – the introduction, Arnold Render settings, and Object settings. Sign up for the course here

RedShift Workshop

A complete technical course of the groundbreaking GPU renderer, Redshift. Conducted by Dreamworks Lighting Artist Shane Sternstein, the Redshift workshop outlines all the vital information, techniques, and tricks to maximize the Redshift renderer to its fullest. 

In this online course, Shane Sternstein covers everything from the fundamentals of Redshift and basic controls to the technical AOVs, system settings, and Global Illumination. It’s a comprehensive course, and you can check out the complete list of topics covered here

Course Curriculum

  • Intro To Redshift
  • RedShift Render Controls
  • Global Illumination
  • Object Properties
  • Lights
  • Shaders
  • Volumes
  • Camera
  • Rendering
  • Relaxing Morning Tea Asset

Shane earned his BSA degree in Media Arts and Animation from the Art Institute of Los Angeles. He got his start in advertising, where he worked with global corporations such as Activision, Disney, EA, Western Digital, and the NFL Network before transitioning to animation production. He is a proud Academy of Animated Art alum!

Introduction to the Unreal Engine Workshop

Master Unreal, one of the fastest render engines on the market. With Unreal, you’ll never wait for weeks or hours rendering huge files. This software is used in architectural visualization, VFX, and Animation. 

Course Curriculum

  • Installing Unreal Engine
  • Setup
  • Intro To Unreal
  • Exporting From Maya
  • Importing To Unreal
  • Materials in Unreal
  • What is the Sequencer?
  • How is Unreal Different Than Maya?
  • Lightmaps
  • Light Types
  • Post-Process Volume
  • Environment Setup
  • Lighting Walkthrough
  • Rendering with Cryptomattes
  • Bonus Content

This course is conducted by Blue Zoo Animation lighting artist, Jordan Jenkins. His work includes commercial projects, such as lighting a 3D virtual White House used in the 2020 US Presidential Election 2020 news coverage. Sign up for the course here

Katana Workshop

Unleash the real power of Katana in this comprehensive workshop. Katana is a lighting and LookDev tool that provides efficient and reliable data management capabilities. It is designed to streamline the workflow by managing the assets, materials, shaders, and output files like AOVs in a node-based workflow. With this software, your computer can take on large files without skipping a beat. 

Course Curriculum

  • Introduction to Katana
  • The Basics of Katana
  • Advanced Topics
  • Course Resources

This workshop is conducted by Abel Vargas, a lighter compositor originally from Brazil and based in Vancouver, Canada. Abel has been in the VFX and Animation industry for over 10 years, working for multiple studios such as Double Negative, Method Studios, Animal Logic, and Sony Imageworks. Sign up for the course here

Octane Workshop

OTOY’s OctaneRender is the first unbiased, spectrally correct GPU render engine. It’s hailed as the fastest GPU renderer in the business, delivering unmatched speed and quality. The render engine boasts groundbreaking graphics technologies + out of the core geometry support – it will take your images to the next level if you learned how to use it properly. 

The workshop is conducted by Matt Wilson, a lead lighter at Blue Sky Studios with almost 20 years in the animation and VFX industry. He is also a 3D creative director and has worked with Netflix, Nike, Mike snow, Florence and The Machine, Verizon, Clairol, HP, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and many more. Sign up for the course here

Tools & resources

As an aspiring animator, the learning never stops, and we’re all for it. When you enroll at the Academy of Animated Art, you will enjoy a host of tools and resources that’ll challenge your technical skills, train your artistic eye, and understand different artistic concepts. Here’s what’s in store for you as an AAA students:

Lighting Challenge

You up for a challenge? Each month, we release a new asset for our students to download and light. The entries are posted on our Discord server, and the winner wins a prize! We’ll also feature our students’ work on our social media for maximum bragging rights.

The Marketplace

All of the assets that we release will be available to purchase in the marketplace, AKA asset library. The marketplace offers a plethora of high-quality, ready-to-light assets that you can download, practice on, and add to your demo reel. 

We’ve collaborated with different artists to create different characters, objects, and environments, so there’s something for everyone. Since we’re coming out with new assets each month, there’s always something new to look forward to at the marketplace!

Free Assets!

The best things in life are free, and we totally agree! That’s why we are also offering an excellent selection of free yet high-quality assets to practice on and add to your demo reel. We offer two free assets at the moment; download them here:


Woman in the Window

Academy of Animated Arts Blog

Learning doesn’t stop when you’re an animator. We’re all about providing customized content that you will find helpful regardless if you’re just getting your start in the animation industry or a seasoned pro. The AAA blog offers tons of valuable resources – how-to’s, tutorials, listicles, and so much more. 

Other resources and tools 

Animation for Beginners Resources

Google for Animation

The Surprise and Wonders of Early Animation
5 Free Tools to Create Educational Videos
Animation Studies: Transnational Animation


Animaker: Lets you create 2D and layered animations, animated infographics, animated typography, and animated whiteboards

Powtoon: A platform and storyboard builder that comes with animated templates. Drag and drop format lets you create animated content with ease.

Moovly: Create explainer video, advertising video, or conference presentation in minutes. Choose from millions of animated objects, video clips, and sound files. 

Over to you!

There you have it, our comprehensive animation for beginners guide! Now you know what it takes to build a successful 3D animation career. 

Next, we’d love to know:

Why do you want to become an animation artist/animator?

Let us know in the comments below!


Jasmine Katatikarn Headshot

About Jasmine Katatikarn

Jasmine Katatikarn is the founder of Academy of Animated Art. She has 20+ years of experience in Feature Animation and VFX. Jasmine’s lighting credits include movies like Ice Age, Ferdinand, Peanuts, and Rio. Read more here.

Jasmine Katatikarn Headshot

About Jasmine Katatikarn

Jasmine Katatikarn is the founder of Academy of Animated Art. She has 20+ years of experience in Feature Animation and VFX. Jasmine’s lighting credits include movies like Ice Age, Ferdinand, Peanuts, and Rio. Read more here.

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