Special Effects Artists and Animators

Career, Salary and Education Information

What They Do: Special effects artists and animators create images that appear to move and visual effects for various forms of media and entertainment.

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

How to Become One: 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.

Salary: The median annual wage for special effects artists and animators is $77,700.

Job Outlook: Employment of special effects artists and animators is projected to grow 4 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Projected growth will be due to increased demand for animation and visual effects in video games, movies, and television.

Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of special effects artists and animators with similar occupations.

Following is everything you need to know about a career as a special effects artist and animator with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 Multimedia Artist Jobs

  • Visual Merchandising Artist - C.K. TANG LIMITED - River Valley

    To support display team in all visual activities. To prepare display signage and prices. Ensure submission of accurate artwork and on time.

  • Multimedia Artist - xii Braves - Singapore

    In this role, you will be able to let your imagination and creative juices flow by creating trailers and videos using our games’ assets.

  • Game UI Artist - CESIL&CO PTE. LTD. - Outram

    Create various polished UI assets to be used in game while complementing the character and environment art. Strong understanding of creating Intuitive UI and a…

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Top 3 Multimedia Animator Jobs

  •  Graphic Designer & Animator - The Leadership Institute - Singapore

    The role will consist of developing the education app from conceptualisation, storyboarding through to animation and gamification to ensure that users are…

  • Graphics & Animation Designer - COINSTORE PTE. LTD. - Outram

    As our design and graphics animator, you will be responsible for creating delightful videos that introduce Coinstore to the global stage, bringing…

  • ANIMATOR / MULTIMEDIA DESIGNER - Toolbox Design - MacPherson

    At least 3 years of experience in designing retail spaces and audio visual presentation/animation or multimedia production.

See all Multimedia Animator jobs

What Special Effects Artists and Animators Do[About this section] [To Top]

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 for Special Effects Artists and Animators[About this section] [To Top]

Special effects artists and animators hold about 67,500 jobs. The largest employers of special effects artists and animators are as follows:

Self-employed workers 56%
Motion picture and video industries 14%
Software publishers 7%
Computer systems design and related services 5%
Advertising, public relations, and related services 3%

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

Special Effects Artist and Animator Work Schedules

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

How to Become a Special Effects Artist or Animator[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Special Effects Artists and Animators near you!

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.

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.

Special Effects Artist and Animator Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for special effects artists and animators is $77,700. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $42,390, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $142,750.

The median annual wages for special effects artists and animators in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Motion picture and video industries $92,250
Software publishers $82,330
Advertising, public relations, and related services $73,820
Computer systems design and related services $69,200

Most multimedia artists and animators work a regular full-time work schedule; however, when deadlines are approaching, they may need to work nights and weekends.

Job Outlook for Special Effects Artists and Animators[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of special effects artists and animators is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Projected growth will be due to increased demand for animation and visual effects in video games, movies, and television. Job growth may be slowed, however, by companies hiring animators and artists who work overseas. Studios may save money on animation by using lower paid workers outside of the United States.

Consumers will continue to demand more realistic video games, movie and television special effects, and three-dimensional movies. This will create demand for newer computer hardware, which will enhance the complexity of animation and visual effects. Additional special effects artists and animators will be required to meet this increased demand.

Further, an increased demand for computer graphics for mobile devices, such as smart phones, will lead to more job opportunities. Special effects artists will be needed to create animation for games and applications for mobile devices.

Job Prospects

About 6,900 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.

Opportunities should be best for those who have a robust portfolio and specialize in a particular type of animation or skill, such as drawing or computer programming.

Employment projections data for Special Effects Artists and Animators, 2019-29
Occupational Title Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29
Percent Numeric
Special effects artists and animators 67,500 70,300 4 2,800


A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.


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