Multimedia artists and animators create animation and visual effects for television, movies, video games, and other forms of media. They create two- and three-dimensional models and animation.


Multimedia artists and animators typically do the following:

  • Create graphics and animation using computer programs and illustrations
  • 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 animations
  • Develop storyboards that map out key scenes in animations
  • Edit animations 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

Multimedia 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, which are then animated 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 all the animators put the pieces together to create one cohesive animation.

Some multimedia 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 wide 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 multimedia artists use storyboards or “animatics,” which look like a comic strip, to help visualize the final product during the design process.

Many multimedia artists and animators put their creative work on the Internet. If the images become popular, these artists can gain more recognition, which can lead to future employment or freelance work.

Work Environment

Multimedia artists and animators held about 68,900 jobs in 2012. In 2012, about 57 percent of workers were self-employed. Artists and animators, not just those who are self-employed, often work from home. Some work for motion picture or video game studios and frequently work in offices.

The industries that employed the most multimedia artists and animators in 2012 were as follows:

Motion picture and video industries 13%
Computer systems design and related services 6
Software publishers 5
Advertising, public relations, and related services 4

Work Schedules

Most multimedia artists and animators work a regular work schedule, although it is not unusual for them to work 50-hour weeks. When deadlines are approaching, they may work nights and weekends.

Education and Training

Most multimedia artists and animators need a bachelor’s degree in computer graphics, art, or a related field to develop a strong portfolio of work and learn the strong technical skills that many employers prefer.


Employers typically require a bachelor’s degree, and they look for workers who have a good portfolio of work and strong technical skills. Multimedia artists and animators typically have a bachelor’s degree in fine art, computer graphics, animation, or a related field. Programs in computer graphics often include courses in computer science, such as programming, and in graphics.

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.

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. Multimedia artists and animators need to work as part of a complex team and respond well to criticism and feedback.

Computer skills. Many multimedia artists and animators use computer programs or write programming code to do most of their work. Those with artistic talent, however, may be able to find work that does not require strong computer skills.

Creativity. Artists and animators must be able to think creatively to develop original ideas and make them come to life.

Time-management skills. The hours required by most studio and game design companies are long, particularly when there are tight deadlines. Artists and animators need to be able manage their time when a deadline approaches.


Some animation studios have their own software and computer applications that they use to create films. They give workers on-the-job training to use this software. Animators may be hired for a probationary period while they prove that they have the skills and talent to become a permanent employee.


The median annual wage for multimedia artists and animators was $61,370 in May 2012. 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 $34,860, and the top 10 percent earned more than $113,470.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for multimedia artists and animators in the top four industries in which these artists and animators worked were as follows:

Motion picture and video industries $72,680
Software publishers 62,310
Advertising, public relations, and related services 60,220
Computer systems design and related services 58,950

Most multimedia artists and animators work a regular work schedule, although it is not unusual for them to work 50-hour weeks. When deadlines are approaching, they may work nights and weekends.

Job Outlook

Employment of multimedia artists and animators is projected to grow 6 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than 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 will be slowed, however, by companies hiring animators and artists who work overseas. Studios often 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. They will also demand newer computer hardware, which adds to the complexity of the games themselves. Video game studios will require additional multimedia artists and animators to meet this increased demand. Some of the additional work may be sent overseas.

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

Job Prospects

Despite modest job growth, there will be competition for job openings because many recent graduates are interested in entering the occupation. Opportunities should be best for those who have a wide range of skills or who specialize in a highly specific type of animation or effect.

For More Information

For more information about careers in video game design, read the Occupational Outlook Quarterly article titled “Work for Play: Careers in Video Game Development.”

For information on accredited schools of art and design, visit

National Association of Schools of Art and Design

For additional information about careers in video game design, visit

Game Career Guide