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


Three Insider Secrets to a stand-out portfolio


How to Become a Junior Lighting Artist [in 2024]

by | Last updated Jan 22, 2024

Been dreaming of getting your start as a junior lighting artist? It takes more than talent to become a successful junior lighting artist. You need proper training and professional mentorship to make it big in a competitive industry like 3D animation. Thankfully, your dream of being a lighting artist is within reach by taking short courses online. 

Here’s what you need to know. 


What is a lighting artist?

In filmmaking and animation, lighting is crucial in making a feature animation look as close to real life as possible. Lighting is also used to evoke an emotion, highlight characters or objects in a scene, or add depth and character to a shot. As a lighting artist, you should know how to apply light and shadows to breathe life into characters and make every scene as close to real life as possible. 

An example of some of our student work

What does a lighting artist do? 

Lighting artists have various career options in the 3D animation industry, including: 

  • Games
  • 3D Animation
  • Visual Effects
  • Commercials
  • Architectural visualization

The process of applying light and shadows in a scene involves observing how they behave in real life and how they interact with each other as well as on various surfaces. As a lighting artist, it’s your job to learn and understand how light interacts with its surroundings. Apart from having a keen eye for details and creativity, you must master different 3D animation tools and programs to illuminate a scene. 

In addition to being creative and having technical proficiencies, you need to have basic knowledge of artistic concepts to become a successful light artist. 

Are lighting artists in demand?

Yes, lighting artists are in demand. In fact, it’s one of the highest-paying jobs in the 3D animation industry. As you gain more experience, you can earn five to fix figure salary in a year as a lighting artist!

According to, junior lighting artists earn an average of $68,250 a year, while senior lighting artists earn an average of $155,000 annually. Lighting artists with 10 to 19 years of work experience make as much as $125,000.

How do you become a lighting artist? 

You can start a career in animation by earning a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, fine arts, computer science, and related fields or by taking online courses and gaining relevant experience in 3D lighting. You can become an animator even if you haven’t studied it in college because hiring managers are looking for talent, skills, and the right attitude to do the job and not a diploma.

There are many ways of becoming a junior lighting artist after earning a degree or taking an online course:

  • Look for internships or job opportunities online
  • Attend job fairs, scour job boards, or drop by your local career center to check for openings
  • Cold call animation studios and ask for job openings for junior lighting artists

(Read my guide on landing an internship in the animation industry.)

Having a demo reel is crucial to your success in getting hired because hiring managers review demo reels to grasp an applicant’s talent and skills better. Demo reels are short video clips that present your best work. 

Keep the demo reel under 3 minutes or less. Start the presentation with your best work to grab the hiring managers’ attention. And don’t forget to include your contact details (name, address, phone number, email, and relevant links like websites, online portfolio, social media, and so on). 

Here is my guide to putting together a killer demo reel. 

What are the top cities with open Junior Lighting Artist jobs?

According to, the top cities with the most job openings for junior lighting artists are San Diego, San Francisco, Austin, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Foster City, Seattle, and Washington. 

According to, cities with the highest income for lighting artists are:

  • California
  • New York
  • Alaska
  • District of Columbia
  • New Jersey
  • Massachusetts

Obviously, the right choice depends on your preferences as to where you want to live and work. Smaller cities might have job openings especially for commercial and similar work. 

What companies are hiring for Junior Lighting Artist jobs?

According to, companies looking for junior lighting artists include Warner Bros., Activision, Microsoft, Apple, Sony Pictures Animation, LucasFilm, Dreamscape Immersive, SkyCastle Studios, PlayStation Global, FrameStone, Tencent, Netflix, and Electronics Arts, just to name a few. 

Smaller companies in other industries are also hiring junior lighting artists, and it’s a growing industry. A few examples include the agencies Radical Converge, Evil Eye, That’s No Moon Entertainment, Crystal Dynamics, Pure Imagination Studios, Industrial Light and Magic, Rockstar Games, Pixel Dash Studios, and Wizards of the Coasts.

Online courses vs. art school 

You can become a junior lighting artist by attending university and earning a bachelor’s degree or taking short courses online. 

Going to school means studying full-time for at least four years to earn a bachelor’s degree. Art schools are expensive ($200,000 and up), and few people can dedicate most of their time to school. 

On the other hand, online courses can give you the proper training to build a successful career in 3D animation. Online courses tend to be both cheaper and help you get started faster. 

The thing is: You don’t need to go to school to become a 3D lighting artist. As long as you have the right skills and a great demo reel, most jobs are available to you. 

Plus, the right online course can help you find your dream job.

There are many online courses to consider, one of them is our very own Lighting for Animation course bundle.

Here’s what it’s all about: 

The Lighting for Animation course bundle features a proven system that will train you to become a lighting artist in less than a year–even if you don’t have previous experience. This system has helped hundreds of students achieve their dream jobs of becoming lighting artists, and you’re next!

The course bundle consists of instructional videos, practice exams, and other learning materials that you can download online to train your creative eye and sharpen your technical skills. Apart from practical exams and video tutorials, students are given access to the AAA asset library. From the asset library, you can download characters and objects to practice on and add to your demo reel. 

The mentorship program is one of the best features of our Lighting for Animation course bundle course. Once you sign up for our online course, you’re given access to our artist community on Discord, where you will meet our instructors and students for professional and peer-to-peer critique. 

Each month, we invite professional light artists and animators from top animation studios to conduct critiques and push our students to elevate their work. Our Community Critique enables students to come together, help each other out, and motivate others to improve their craft. 

Here’s an example: 

And if you want to learn more about our past students, take a look at this short video: 

Over to you!

If you have the skills and are willing to get proper training, it is only a matter of time before you become a junior lighting artist and accept exciting projects from top studios. Now it’s just a matter of finding the right online course to take to get your start.


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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