“To succeed, work hard, never give up and above all cherish a magnificent obsession.” - Walt Disney

Arguably, animation has never been more popular. From the first Disney films to now, animation has come a long way! The number of animated films and animation studios seems to increase every year. Animation is everywhere from TV and cinema to advertising.

So how can you get started as an animator?

Let’s look at what you’ll need to get started. It’s time to learn about drawing and animation.

Drawing, A Skill that Requires Very Little Equipment

Drawing is commonly practised by all types of artists. From a very young age, children start drawing before they learn to read or write. Technically, we all have years of experience and you don’t need a lot of things to start drawing. Paper and a pencil are pretty much all you need to get started.

How do you start making animations?
Drawing is probably the cheapest and most accessible part of making animations. (Source: ddimitrova)

Just like with drawing, animation technically only requires a few more sheets of paper if you want to do something that only lasts a couple of seconds. Generally, you need up to 24 frames or drawings per second for animation so for an entire film, you’d need tonnes of paper.

In itself, it’s quite easy to get started in animation with very little. A flipbook, for example, is one of the first things that most animators will try. You just need to do a handful of drawing in a little notebook. As you flip the pages quickly, you can see characters come to life.

Initially, this will keep you entertained for an hour or so but if you want to get started with more complex animation, you’ll need more than paper and pencils.

Find out more about learning to animate.

The Materials for Getting Started with Animation

The earliest animations were made on celluloid sheets. These were transparent films that could be painted upon. This technique isn’t as common anymore, but it’s still very popular amongst fans of animation. Here’s what you’ll need to get started.

Coloured Pencils

As you draw on paper, you might want to draw construction lines. A lot of artists in comic books and animation use coloured pencils to create their construction lines. Colours are often used as they’re easier to distinguish from the final lines which will be grey or black. Colours become even more useful when removing the construction lines digitally. By choosing colours like red or blue, computer programs can more easily choose which lines to remove and which to keep.

How do you start animating?
With just a notepad and a pencil, you can start animating! (Source: congerdesign)

There are special types of coloured pencils that you’ll want to get. Col-Erase, for example, is a brand of coloured pencils that are easily erased. There are several brands of easy-erase coloured pencils. Pick the ones that work for you.

Of course, you can also invest in other drawing tools if you don’t want to do everything with graphite pencils. You can animate with pastels, poster paints, watercolours, felt-tips, etc.

Transparent Sheets

Like we said earlier, traditional animation requires a lot of drawings. You’ll need them for every frame. The longer your animation is, the more sheets or cels you’ll need.

You can even do it with white printer paper but generally, the thinner, the better. You may also want to invest in a lightbox. Ideally, you’ll want to work on cels. These are acetate sheets like you’d find used with an overhead projector. However, cels can be expensive.

A Camera or Scanner

Once you’ve done the drawings, you’ll want to order them and play them back. Before you can do this, you’ll need to scan them. Scanning is easier than taking a photo of them. Scan each frame and don’t forget to number or order them. You don’t want to have to go through hundreds of drawings and order them manually!

If you don’t have a scanner but you do have a good camera, you can take photos of your drawings. Make sure you also take the photos from the same distance and angle so they’ll line up more nicely.

Video Editing Software

You need to put together your drawings or images as an animation.

To make this animation, programs like Adobe Premiere are recommended. Video editing software can also put together animations.
For Adobe, however, you’ll need a subscription.

There are other programs available, but the Adobe suite is most people’s favourite and comes highly recommended.

Rostrum Camera

The rostrum camera is used for taking photos of animation cels. It’s a platform with a downward-pointing camera that can be fixed in place. This allows you to quickly swap out drawings without needing to reposition the camera. It allows for smoother animation as all the photos of the drawings will all be taken from the same distance and at the same angle.

That said, these are pretty expensive. You could end up spending thousands on a studio-grade rostrum camera. This isn’t something for all budgets, that’s for sure.

Stop-motion Tools

Stop-motion is a traditional animation technique that uses physical 3D models. This technique was mostly replaced by CGI. Stop-motion is often done with modelling clay but can also be done with dolls, lego, or anything physical.

Find out more about animation for beginners.

Equipment for Modern Animation

Animation techniques have changed a lot in recent years. We’ve come a long way from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Nowadays, almost every blockbuster animation is done in 3D with CGI and while initially more expensive, new tools and technology have facilitated the process.

A Good Computer

Whether you’re making 2D or 3D animation with your computer, you’ll need a good computer. Animators need computers with a good graphics card. They’ll also need a good amount of RAM.

What equipment do you need to make cartoons?
A decent computer is necessary, especially if you're working with CGI. (Source: Firmbee)

Animation Programs

A good computer means that you can use good animation programs. These programs allow people to draw on the computer and put the animation together digitally.

Here are some of the most popular tools for 2D and 3D animation:

  • AutoDesk Maya
  • AutoDesk Softimage
  • Houdini
  • Aurora 3D Animation Maker
  • Adobe After Effects
  • Blender
  • Animation Paper
  • Moho
  • Pencil2D
  • Harmony
  • Houdoo
  • Animate CC

A lot of these programs are used by professional animators.

Find out more about animation programs and software.

A Graphics Tablet

A graphics tablet, like those made by Wacom, allow the animator to draw directly onto the computer without needing to scan their drawings. A lot of artists use these tablets for drawing, art, animation, and graphic design and there are models for all budgets. You just need to plug it into your computer and you’re ready to go.

A Microphone

Unless you’re making silent movies, you might want to invest in a microphone to record voices and SFX for your animations. A good microphone will provide good sound quality. A directional microphone is great for recording voices while Zoom microphones are great for ambient noise.

What extra equipment do you need to make cartoons?
If you want to do the audio and voices yourself, you'll need a decent microphone. (Source: Fotocitizen)

You can also plug directional mics into a Zoom recorder.

Where can you get the equipment for making animations?

When it comes to digital tools, you can get most of them from larger electronic stores and retailers. You can find computers, cameras, microphones, etc.

As for art supplies like acetate cels, they can be a little trickier to find. Specialist art stores may have Col-Erase, for example, but it’s a good idea to look online for them.

Don’t hesitate to ask the staff in stores for their advice on which products are the best and which they would recommend. In addition to offering erasers, pencils, felt-tip pens, paints, they also offer excellent advice. The same is true for those who’ve studied animation at university.

Make the most of their expertise!

Find out how to make your first animation.

If you need help with drawing, animation, scriptwriting, or character design, consider getting help from one of the many talented and experienced private tutors on Superprof. There are tutors all over the country and around the world ready to help you learn new skills, prepare for exams, or take up new hobbies.

There are three main ways to enjoy private tutorials, face-to-face with your tutor, online, or in a group with other students. Each type of tutorial comes with its advantages and disadvantages so it's down to you, how you like to learn, and your budget.

There's a lot to think about when it comes to hiring a private tutor so it's a good idea to take your time when choosing. Fortunately, a lot of tutors on Superprof offer the first lesson for free so you can try out several different tutors and see if they're right for you before choosing to hire them.

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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.