Animators are story driven. An Animator breathes life into a modelled character by making it move, talk, and express emotions.

Box Assassin animation by Jeremy Schaefer

What is an Animator?

Animators are story-driven. An Animator breathes life into a modelled character by making it move, talk, and express emotions. The animation team will usually have reviews with the studio's Animation Director and the Director of the film: both ensuring the performance and narrative are true to the script.

Animators create moving images by using digital models and various other digital environments. Some animators create models of humans, while others work on the environmental aspects of a video. Once the 3D models have been created, they are polished with various details such as textures, hair, and skin. These worlds can then be used to shoot scenes where the characters follow a path through the environment.

Entry Level Skills & Capabilities

The following information outlines the exact skills you need to demonstrate as a Certified Digital Artist. You must be proficient and capable of completing all these skills and capabilities.

Important! The following list of skills is used by our assessment team to verify if you qualify for a Certified Digital Artist (CDA) accreditation. The word "Bonus" indicates skills that are highly desirable, but not required to be certified. Think of them as a bonus skill that will impress.

1. Communication skills

  • Strong communication skills to describe and present your work with confidence.
  • Willing to show progress frequently and able to receive and discern feedback objectively.

2. General

  • Strong understanding of anatomy and muscles for humans and animals
  • Understanding of timing, the pacing of motion
  • Capable of creating a performance based on the provided audio track
  • Understanding the language of filmmaking is important for creating and composing interesting shots

3. Data Preparation

  • Knowledge in cleaning motion capture data
  • Debug and quality control animation rigs

4. Movement & Performance

  • Superior knowledge of the 12 principles of animation
  • Demonstrate biped animation techniques
  • Demonstrate ability to create motion with a story-driven purpose
  • Demonstrate action and reaction in motion
  • Create expressive character animation portraying a wide range of emotions
  • Ability to animate a human biped walking and running, with clean transitions
  • Ability to animate a quadruped animal talking and running, with clean transitions
  • Ability to animate an inanimate object or digital prop
  • Ability to animate facial expressions matched to audio track
  • Ability to animate a camera to help tell a story
  • Capable of matching storyboards and reference images with digital rig
  • Being able to read understand and reproduce body language
  • Bonus: Demonstrate quadruped and winged animation
Character from Comme Un Ours short film 

Traditional Proficiencies

Ability to use one or more of the following skills:

  • Proficient in using drawing tools such as pencils, pens, and paper.
  • Proficient using painting tools (easels, paintbrushes, paints)

Software Proficiencies

Ability to use one or more of the following software packages:

  • Autodesk Maya
  • AnimBot
  • 3ds Max
  • Blender
  • Cinema 4D
  • Bonus: Houdini


These skills are equally important in terms of your understanding and ability to do this role. Although they are not skills or knowledge that is officially certified, it will be obvious to recruiters and Certified Digital Artist(CDA) reviewers if you have knowledge in these areas.

Art Fundamentals

  • Perspective
  • Lighting
  • Composition
  • Anatomy
  • Colour Theory
  • Form

Life Skills & Communication

  • Thinking Critically
  • Communication Skills
  • Conflict Management
  • Taking initiative
  • Collaboration
  • Time Management
Stu Hopps character animation 

Portfolio Projects

Roles in Creative Media & Entertainment industries are quite different to traditional roles. As a Digital Artist, you need to prove your creative and technical abilities which require an online portfolio filled with projects that showcase your work. One of more of the following projects should be included in your digital portfolio to demonstrate your skills and abilities to perform the required skills of this role.

  • From documentary footage select an animal or human and match their movement transitions e.g. run to jump, run to walk
  • Display dialogue delivery that is engaging for an animated performance.
  • Create a short animation with 1-2 characters that demonstrates emotion, intent, reaction and solid mechanics.

Apply for your Certified Digital Artist (CDA) Accreditation

Demonstrate your ability to complete entry level tasks required by Creative Media & Entertainment industries.

Not ready yet?

Read our Beginner's Guide to Animator

Inside you will find everything you need from where to study, what books you should read, how much money you can earn, amazing companies you could work with, and answers to all your other questions.