5 Types of Animation Styles and Top Careers in Animation

Updated June 23, 2023

Animation makes it easy to tell stories and convey emotions and ideas in an engaging way that's easy to understand. Artists create content for commercials, films, video games, and other media using various animation techniques, ranging from conventional animation in classic cartoons to stop motion animation in contemporary films. If you want to work in a creative field, learning more about animation styles and jobs can help you decide if this is the right career for you. In this article, we discuss five types of animation and nine careers you can pursue, along with the average salary for each role.

What is animation?

Animation enables the transformation of drawings and figures into moving images. This artistic discipline mixes design and computer technology to produce animated sequences for films and advertising. While the majority of artists produce animations using computer-generated imagery, others continue to use physical models and hand-drawn illustrations.

What are the different types of animation styles?

Here are five distinct types of animation and their associated characteristics:

Traditional animation

Traditional animation comprises hand-drawn images that depict each scene in a movie frame by frame. Classic animated films and cartoons are examples of this type of animation. Traditional animators use transparent acetate sheets to draw precise movements and create a progression from one frame to the next. This type of animation was particularly popular prior to the advent of computer-generated graphics.

Related: 13 Best Jobs in Design (With Salaries and Job Duties)

2D animation

Two-dimensional animation uses vector images to create motion graphics. As with traditional animation, artists may draw illustrations frame by frame, but they can also use computer software to construct character rigs that enable them to move and pose models. A character rig is a framework that enables the movement of certain elements of a design using computer commands.

Related: What Is a 2D Animator? (With Job Requirements and FAQs)

3D animation

Three-dimensional animation is entirely computer-generated. Artists use rigs to create characters, objects, and scenery so that they animate images using a computer program rather than sketching frames individually. This is the most common form of animation. While 3D artists and animators may use computer tools to assist in the creation of motion, they still require the same skills and expertise to illustrate and produce animated composites.

Related: How to Become a 3D Animator (With Skills and Average Salary)

Motion graphics

Motion graphics is the animation of shapes and text. Unlike other forms of animation, this style does not require a storyline. Graphic designers often use motion graphics in web development, advertising, logo creation, and models for medical, engineering, and mathematical study. The application of motion graphics can help to create more engaging content.

Stop motion

Stop motion animation is a series of still images featuring real objects captured by a photographer or artist. Stop motion animation typically requires the creation of character and scenery models. Often, artists manipulate clay figurines or puppets before capturing each image on film. Editors may then use video editing software to merge the images together to create a motion picture.

9 jobs in animation

Here are nine careers in animation to consider with details about their roles, responsibilities, and average salary:

1. Animator

National average salary: $69,154 per year

Primary duties: Animators are artists that typically specialize in drawing and designing for the entertainment industry. An animator may produce artwork for a variety of media platforms, including film, television, video games, social media, and marketing materials, such as advertisements. They generate movements for characters and background scenery using computer software. Additionally, animators collaborate closely with directors, illustrators, and writers to help create personality traits, colour schemes, and storylines for the animation.

Related: What Does an Animator Do?

2. 3D creative designer

National average salary: $53,037 per year

Primary duties: A 3D creative designer is a kind of artist that often works for multimedia or advertising companies. They generate design ideas, such as storyboards and character depictions, for artists and animators to use to produce animations. A creative designer may utilize computer software or physical materials to produce prototype models of their concepts.

3. Graphic artist

National average salary: $50,209 per year

Primary duties: A graphic artist is a trained professional who creates visual content for print or digital media. They consult with clients to find out project information and produce concept designs using computer software or hand-drawn illustrations. Graphic designers produce designs for a range of media by combining elements such as colour, music, photography, animation, and typography. Many jobs in this field require at least a bachelor's degree in graphic design. Typically, graphic designers specialize in a particular area, such as website design, product and packaging design, or object arrangement for animation.

4. 3D modeller

National average salary: $59,561 per year

Primary duties: Three-dimensional modellers are animation professionals that specialize in creating 3D characters and environments for animators. They do this by creating textures and surface representations and wrapping them around a 2D digital frame. Additionally, 3D modellers create character rigs that aid in the addition of motion to animations. Most jobs in this field require a bachelor's degree in a relevant subject, such as computer design, animation, computer science, or game development. These professionals work in a range of sectors, including film, advertising, aerospace, and medicine, where they contribute to research and development.

Related: How to Become a 3D Animator (With Skills and Average Salary)

5. Lighting technician

National average salary: $71,753 per year

Primary duties: A lighting technician assists in the creation of realistic settings in movies, video games, and other forms of multimedia. They work in the lighting department, creating colour keys for green screen and layering, and also assisting in the development of lighting rigs that provide shadow and illumination to animated landscapes. It's important that they understand lighting design components such as reflections, shadows, illumination, direct and indirect light, contrast, and exposure so they can add appropriate lighting to a scene. A lighting technician may require an associate's degree in lighting technology or design or receive on-the-job training from employers.

6. Artist

National average salary: $77,851 per year

Primary duties: An artist is a creative professional in the design and entertainment industries who illustrates and creates ideas for film, web design, video games, advertising, and print media. They develop the characters, environments, and objects used by animators to generate motion sequences. Additionally, they may sculpt characters for use in stop motion animation. Artists often collaborate with other artists, writers, directors, and animators to design characters and storylines for their work.

Artists typically have good computer skills and can draw or edit visuals using computer software. Artists who work at animation studios or advertising agencies often have a bachelor's degree in fine art, graphic design, or visual art.

7. Compositing supervisor

National average salary: $79,240 per year

Primary duties: A compositing supervisor is a visual effects professional who manages the visual effects section in an animation studio. They aid compositors in integrating animation elements, such as live-action footage, visual effects, and computer-generated imagery (CGI), into a single image. Compositing supervisors establish schedules and procedures for the visual effects department and help ensure that employees meet deadlines. To become a compositing supervisor, it's important to have expertise in compositing and dealing with visual effects. Many compositing supervisors possess a bachelor's or master's degree in computer science, computer graphics, or animation.

8. Video game designer

National average salary: $70,328 per year

Primary duties: A video game designer is a graphic design and computer programming specialist who assists in the development of video games. They develop concept art for characters, and environments for the characters to inhabit, and contribute to the writing of the game's narrative. Video game designers collaborate with game developers to generate code and construct video game mechanics, such as user interactions. Additionally, they test their design principles using beta applications. A bachelor's degree in computer programming, computer science, or game design is useful for a career in this field.

Related: How to Become a Video Game Designer (With Salary and Skills)

9. 3D artist

National average salary: $59,443 per year

Primary duties: A 3D artist is a computer design professional who develops 3D models of objects, characters and scenery. They may work in a variety of industries, including film, video games, advertising, engineering, and medical research. Using computer editing and illustration software, they create 3D graphics and effects. They also conduct research to design accurate representations of people and scenery for films, video games, mechanical models and advertisements. These artists often collaborate with creative designers and animators to create concept art and storyboards to guide their process. They often have a bachelor's degree in computer graphics or art.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate's experience, academic background, and location.

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