Animator/Digital Artist Kaiwhakahauora/Ringa Toi Mamati

Animators and digital artists use software, models, photography and drawings to create still and moving images for advertisements, film, print, web or television. 

Animators/digital artists may do some or all of the following:

  • meet with directors, clients or employers and agree on a brief (work plan)
  • plan animation and design work for their team
  • illustrate books and other print media
  • build models, puppets or sets, or hand-draw or paint characters, and give them skin surfaces with texture and colour
  • film models and hand-drawn animations
  • create 3D mesh wireframes to produce backdrops for 2D and 3D animation scenes
  • use computer programmes to "rig" characters, giving them skeletons that allow them to be animated
  • use computer animation programmes to animate characters and objects in 2D or 3D
  • direct the filming of motion capture (recording physical movements that are then translated into digital images)
  • be involved in hiring and managing staff.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for animators/digital artists includes:

  • drawing, life drawing, cartooning or graphic design experience
  • experience in film or photography
  • computer design and drawing experience
  • computer programming experience
  • experience in animation software.

Personal Qualities

Animators/digital artists need to be:

  • creative and imaginative
  • disciplined, motivated and good at setting goals
  • comfortable promoting themselves and their work
  • adaptable, and able to accept criticism of their work
  • able to work well under pressure and to deadlines
  • good communicators.


Depending on the media they work with, animators/digital artists need to have:

  • drawing, painting and design skills, if they are making models
  • animation skills (2D and 3D)
  • coding skills
  • knowledge of animation software
  • an understanding of how people and animals move and express their feelings
  • the ability to create different moods and feelings in characters
  • knowledge of print, film, television or video game production.


Animators/digital artists:

  • often work irregular hours and may be required to work evenings and weekends to complete projects
  • often work on contracts, which may range from two weeks to two years
  • usually work in offices or workshops, and may move frequently from location to location on different projects.


Subject Recommendations

A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include design and visual communication (graphics), design (practical art), digital technologies, art history, maths, te reo Māori and painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking combined.

Related Options

Animator/Digital Artists can earn around $55K-$100K per year.

Chances of getting a job as a Animator/Digital Artist are good due to a shortage of people interested in this type of work.

Pay for animators/digital artists varies depending on skills, experience and the type of work they do.

  • Animators can earn $55,000 to $100,000.
  • Motion designers can earn $48,000 to $120,000.

Self-employed animators/digital artists may be paid by the frame/picture.

Sources; The Creative Store, 'NZ Salary Survey', 2023.

Animators/digital artists may progress to set up their own animation or digital business, or move into management roles.

Animators/digital artists may progress to become narrative designers (designing the stories of games), art directors, animation directors, producers, production managers or technical directors.

Animators/digital artists may specialise in:

  • 2D animation or 3D animation
  • concept art
  • game and app development
  • lighting
  • modelling
  • motion scheduling and stop-motion
  • previs layout (laying out scenes before they're animated)
  • rendering
  • rigging (creating a skeleton for an animation)
  • shading and texture
  • storyboarding
  • visual effects.

Years Of Training

3 years of training usually required.

To become an animator/digital artist you need to be able to show the quality of your work. You can do this either through a portfolio of work or a website, or a showreel with a shot list.

Employers usually require you to have one or all of the following:

Animator/Digital Artist