So you want to learn animation design? Excellent idea! The job outlook for animation designers is promising, and there’s a rapidly growing demand for animations in advertising, video games, and entertainment. It’s a terrific career for artistically inclined, detail-oriented individuals who enjoy working as part of a team.
Fortunately, numerous online tutorials can teach you the basics of animation using a variety of software programs. Selecting a UI animation tutorial can be a little overwhelming, given that there are so many animation programs to choose from. However, we’ve pulled together several options that will provide any budding animators a taste of what the job entails, as well as foundational skills that will help you kick off your career.
Here’s our round-up of the best animation tutorials for beginners.
1. Animation Mentor: Animation Basics
Started in 2005, Animation Mentor offers a learning experience where students partner with industry experts in a production environment to learn critical animation skills. Many of its over 5,000 alumni work in high-profile studios like Pixar, Industrial Light & Magic, and DreamWorks. While its hefty price tag may be initially off-putting to some budget-conscious students, its benefits are well worth the short-term hit to your wallet. Students will leave with a foundational understanding of 3D animation and a demo reel that will wow future employers.
- A 12-week course that provides a full hour of pre-recorded material per week, delivered by professionals at some of the world’s foremost animation studios
- A weekly personalized eCritique of your projects and live Q&A sessions with your mentor
- Must be accepted into the Animation Mentor program (applications required!)
- Basic knowledge of how to use 3D software (this class uses Autodesk Maya)
- Students must be 18 or older by the time classes start
For more information on the class, requirements, and other FAQs, check out Animation Mentor’s website.
2. Udemy: Learn to Animate: Animation Principles
Udemy, long admired for its outstanding online courses, does not disappoint with this animation principles course. The instructor, Siobhan Twomey, boasts over 15 years of experience as an animation professional and has been involved in everything from background design to directing short animated films. This top-rated class is great for newbies with zero animation experience—Siobhan will teach you, step-by-step, how to bring a flat character to life by leveraging the principles of animation used by the professionals.
- Lifetime access to an on-demand 2.5-hour course that includes 11 downloadable resources and one article
- Certificate of completion
- $99.99 with a 30-day money-back guarantee
Learn more about the course on Udemy’s website.
3. LinkedIn: Maya 2020 Essential Training
LinkedIn is more than just a social networking platform for professionals. It now offers a wide variety of professional-level online courses on a whole host of topics. Its Maya 2020 Essential Training module will teach you critical Maya skills, like rendering, modeling, how to add texture, and of course, animation. The seasoned instructor, George Maestri, begins with core animation basics like how to stage scenes and manipulate objects, then moves onto polygonal and NURBS (used for representing curves) modeling and mesh creation. Students will learn how to transform flat objects into three-dimensional figures by adding lighting, color, and reflectivity. As the final touch, George reveals how to use Maya tools to bring a static animation to life.
- Lifetime access to four hours and 46 minutes of on-demand video
- Comprises 85 bite-size modules to ensure students do not get overwhelmed
- A certificate of completion
- A project file to work off of
- Access to the course via the LinkedIn app and website
- While not technically required to view the videos, students should have access to Maya 2020 to get the most out of the course
- $39.99 (plus applicable tax) with a 30-day money-back guarantee
Find Maya 2020 Essential Training and other animation tutorial options on LinkedIn.
4. Skillshare: Simple Character Animation
Skillshare is an online learning community featuring thousands of tutorial videos taught by experts from various creative disciplines. Its Simple Character Animation class teaches budding animators to breathe life into their 2D creations by acting as a primer on character animation. Led by BAFTA Award-winning director and animator Fraser Davidson, this course combines animation techniques with character creation, including how to shape layers and create masks. He digs into the design and rigging process in After Effects, key framing (including how to use key frame velocity to transform the frames into animation), building toward a basic walk cycle animation. Students will leave with the skills needed to create a simple animated gif that they can export for sharing.
- 60 minutes of instruction broken down into eight videos
- Access to unlimited Skillshare courses with Premium subscription
- Classroom discussion board where students can post questions
- Students should begin with an Adobe Illustrator file of the character they will be animating
- Access to After Effects to complete the hands-on project
- After 14-day free trial, $13.99/month (billed annually) or $32/month (billed monthly)
Sign up for your free Skillshare trial and learn more about the Simple Character Animation class.
5. Pluralsight: Animate CC Animation Techniques
Pluralsight’s mission is to provide a way for individuals to “upskill” their abilities through online video training. With thousands of videos on IT and creative digital pursuits recorded by experts in their respective fields, it’s no wonder its popularity has skyrocketed among businesses keen to keep their employees’ skills up to date. But you don’t have to be an employee to take advantage of Pluralsight’s offerings. Drawn to Pluralsight’s robust course library (totaling 7,000 and growing) and affordable pricing, committed, self-taught users flock to it in droves. Its Animate CC Animation Techniques is a terrific option for those looking to learn traditional principles of animation, like how to achieve smooth movement, design a character, and animate full body mechanics. Taught by Eric Lee, the Animation Director at Steelehouse Productions, this course takes students through multiple animation exercises, starting with a simple bouncing ball and culminating in more complicated body movements.
- Five-course modules totaling five hours and 46 minutes, broken down into short videos for easy consumption
- Access unlimited Pluralsight courses to continue building your animation and design skills
- Students need access to Animate CC software
- $29/month (billed monthly) or $299 per year for Core Course Library after the 10-day free trial expires
Try your hand at Pluralsight’s Animate CC Animation Techniques today!
6. Reallusion: 12 Principles of Animation in Cartoon Animator
Reallusion’s 12 Principles of Animation course helps students beef up their animation skills using Cartoon Animator 4, a popular 2D animation software. Mark Diaz, a veteran in the cartoon film industry, takes students through 31 complete lessons that go over principles including drawing, timing, exaggeration, secondary action (facial expressions), and more. While the course is only available to Cartoon Animator 4 users, it is free with the purchase of the software.
- Free 30-day trial of Cartoon Animator 4
- 3.6 hours of video that include 14 projects for demonstrations
- Must purchase Cartoon Animator 4 to access the course
- 30-day free trial of Cartoon Animator 4, but $109 for the software if you decide to keep it
If you’re looking to test animation software for free while learning basic animation skills, 12 Principles of Animation is for you.
7. Bloop Animation Studios: Animate Animation Course
If you’re keen to learn Adobe Animate, this course is well worth checking out. Bloop’s on-demand tutorials integrate core animation fundamentals with lessons demonstrating how to use this popular animation software. Students will begin with the basics of Adobe Animate to ease them into a new interface, then move into elementary animation principles like timing and spacing. The tutorial then pivots into hand-drawn animation techniques, reviews storyboarding, and finishes by showing students how to rig a character. Every lesson is bite-sized and perfectly edited so viewers only learn essential concepts that will help build their knowledge for the next video. Bloop Animation Studios offers 15 additional animation tutorials, so you can continue your cost-effective animation training if you so choose!
- Lifetime access to every video tutorial you purchase
- Eight downloadable modules comprised of 39 HD video lessons
- Access to the original Animate project files used in the tutorials which students can use to follow along
- Must have access to Adobe Animate to fully take advantage of the course
- $67 for lifetime access (with a 30-day money-back guarantee). Students can also purchase Bloop’s Animation Foundations course for an additional $30 at the same time.
Students can learn a new program and some core animation skills all in one go. Check out Bloop’s course offering for more details!
8. CG Spectrum: Introduction to 2D Animation
CG Spectrum offers small courses (max four people) and mentoring by world-class professionals for its animation classes. This 12-week class covers the same materials as the first third of CG Spectrum’s 2D Animation Diploma package, so eager students can continue their education without missing a beat after finishing this initial course. Instructors with real-world experience from top studios will explain how to use the animation software Toon Boom while coaching students through the 12 principles of animation (an industry standard pioneered by Disney). While this course is pricey and requires a significant time investment (estimated 20 hours per week), those who are seriously interested in a career in animation will benefit from the personalized instruction and leave with a polished, professional-looking portfolio.
- 12-week online course accompanied by feedback and support from mentors
- Can choose from a 1-on-1 course or join a group of three other students for a live Q&A session to review your homework from the previous week
- Includes Toon Boom Harmony software
- Access to online student learning portal where other students can provide feedback on your work
- Must apply and be accepted to enroll in the course
- $3,199 for small group class; $3,999 for 1:1 instructions
Only serious students should apply to Introduction to 2D Animation, but thousands of satisfied CG Spectrum students can attest it was well worth their tuition fees!
9. Rusty Animator: Animation Fundamentals
Rusty Gray, creator of this 10-video course, struggled mightily when he was a student. He wanted future animators to have a smoother path than he did, so he built this course to provide students with a comprehensive, affordable way to acquire basic animation skills that he had accumulated over many years. Students will learn the 12 principles of animation, how to create emotional poses and a normal walk, and other key concepts. Rusty also offers personal critiques and mentoring—and former students confirm that he is personally dedicated to each scholar’s success.
- Lifetime access to a 10-video course that includes structured action-based goals
- Can upgrade to add on professional mentoring and critiquing
- Inclusion into a private community of fellow animation students
- Must have access to animation software
- $99 for the basic plan (video and community access), $299 for personalized weekly draw over critiques.
Rusty Animator’s Animation Fundamentals class is a cost-effective way to gain access to a live mentor clearly dedicated to helping his students succeed.
Key takeaways and further reading
Whether you’re 100% committed to starting a career as an animator or just looking to casually pick up some UI animation skills, with so many online tutorials at your fingertips, you’ll surely find a tutorial that suits your needs. You may even want to try watching some free YouTube videos first before paying for a class. In today’s vast online landscape, the choices are nearly endless. And, if you are working with animation, make sure you follow these animation guidelines to make sure you’re enhancing the user experience rather than detracting from it!
Animation is fast becoming an essential skill for today’s UI designers. You can get started with these free animation libraries, and learn more in the following guides: