Here we take a look at what it takes to get into the industry and how your new career might progress.

3D animation and character design is one of the most exciting sectors on the planet right now, and for members of Generation Y, who have seen such rapid technological advances in their lifetimes, the thought of being at the cutting edge of the latest developments is tantalizing. 

Developing your craft

It’s a competitive industry though, so to differentiate yourself from the crowd you need to have the skills and perseverance to make it happen.

“From life drawing, 2D illustration skills all the way up to creating a character for use in films, games, or any type of industry that uses 3D, students need to develop a lot of skills,” says Dan Rickard, a professor of 3D animation and character design at Fanshawe College. “Learning 3D animation and character design also encompasses things like modeling, texturing, animation, rigging a character for movement and motion capture.” 

Wealth of opportunity

It’s not the sort of industry in which you’re tied down to one role or job; it’s really up to the individual to figure out where they can fit in. That might be a design position at a video game studio, 3D graphics at a film studio, web graphics for an online company, or advertising. 

 “There really are so many different places for people in the industry to get work right now.”

“If people have an entrepreneurial spirit they can also try something on their own, like opening their own studio or working on a contract basis,” says Rickard. “There really are so many different places for people in the industry to get work right now.”

3D printing, which allows companies to design and develop rapid prototypes, is an exciting area of development right now, and is likely to create lots of job opportunities over the coming years. “3D printing is exploding right now,” says Rickard. “It’s amazing how much it’s infiltrating the market.”

A rewarding industry 

In addition to being an exciting and dynamic industry, jobs in 3D animation and character design are generally well paid. Recent research has shown that a junior artist entering the video game industry can expect to earn $40,000 - $45,000 per year. 

Usually you’re considered to be a senior level artist after five or six years experience in the industry, and at this stage of your career you’ll probably be earning between $80,000 and $90,000. A lead artist or art director can earn as much as  $90,000 - $100,000. 

“Obviously some employers go much higher than that and some start lower,” says Professor Rickard. “Some companies offer starting salaries at $30,000, while some technical directors can earn as much as $250,000. Those are some massive earnings.”

The opportunities are out there, but, ultimately, it’s down to the passion and desire of the individual. “If you give it all you’ve got, you’ll get somewhere in this industry,” says Rickard. “It just all depends on how much you want out of it.”