How to Become a Great 2D Motion Graphics Designer: A Step by Step Guide

This guide will teach you how to become a great 2d motion graphics designer and save you a massive amount of money, time, and headaches!

How to Become a Great 2D Motion Graphics Designer: A Step by Step Guide

Being A Motion Graphics Designer

Being a 2D Motion Graphics Designer can make for a great career.

It combines creativity with the opportunity to make good money, and Motion Graphics Designers are in demand now more than ever.

Before you make the decision to pursue it, however, you should know that it’s a serious profession that takes a good amount of time to be adequate at and much longer to master.

motion graphics designer

So, as with any other big decision in life, know that you need to make sure it’s something you really want. Know that you’re going to need to commit to it, especially when times get rough (like the first time you do a big freelance project and your client goes out of business before they pay you — hooray).

I can assure you, though, that this world a wonderful one full of fun and adventure.

So read on if this is still something that seems interesting to you!

Why this guide is so important and helpful for beginning motion graphics animators

The ability to create motion graphics from personal computers is still a new one.

2D motion graphics have only been around for a short time, and there still aren’t many resources available for beginners.

It’s easy to get lost, take a wrong turn, and lose a lot of time when you’re just starting out. My goal is to help you avoid those pitfalls as much as possible.

Why I have developed this guide for you.

I’ve been in animation for more than 15 years — basically since around when it started becoming possible for personal computers to be able to do it.

I’ve learned many tips and tricks while making more mistakes than I can count along the way. I know how hard it is to get up and running, and know how frustrating it can be as a newcomer.

Yes, you’ll still have your share of tricky situations in the beginning, but my hope is that this guide will save you a massive amount of money, time, and headaches!

What exactly are 2D Motion Graphics, and what are they used for?

2D Motion Graphics are a style of digital animation that give movement (and life) to images.

These images can come from any digital source. They can be original art, photos, vectors — pretty much type of digital image can be used as a starting point.

The magic is in the manipulation of the image(s) — turning a face into a moving character, a stock photo into a dynamic video clip, etc. Using 2D Motion Graphics, a designer can create full videos, commercials, short films, and a whole lot more.

what is motion graphics

What is the main advantage of 2D Motion Graphics?

There’s a huge advantage, one that didn’t exist until recently. You can do this all on your own computer. With just a normal PC with decent specs, you can create high-quality animations.

There’s also a distinct advantage that 2D Motion Graphics has over other types of animation. Traditional animation is time-consuming and a real pain to convert to digital. And while you can do 3D animation with a personal computer, it takes MUCH more time and processing power to do so.

What industries use 2D Motion Graphics?

All of them. Seriously. It’s the most cost-effective digital media choice for anyone wanting to make an impact with video. 2D Motion Graphics are used in advertising, film, explainer videos, tech videos, television commercials, and more. Every media company has a big need for 2D Motion Graphics content.

Where to Begin

An important decision that you need to make is which software to learn.

Most animators and influencers recommend learning the Adobe programs. I wholeheartedly agree with this.

The Adobe Creative Suite is the industry standard and is an end to end solution for all stages of 2D Motion Graphics Animation.

how to become a motion graphics designer

The software you’ll want to focus on is

  • Adobe After Effects. This will be what you use for the animation stages.
  • Adobe Illustrator. This is where you can create vector objects (images that you can scale to any size without quality loss) for use in animation.
  • Adobe Photoshop. Everyone has heard of photoshop. Of course, you can edit and manipulate images, but it also allows you to create raster images for animating.
  • Adobe Premiere Pro. You’ll be putting all your work together in video format with this.

In addition to the Adobe Suite, another useful tool to learn is Cinema 4D. It’s not an Adobe product, but it is also widely used and good to know. But you definitely don’t need to know this as a beginner.

What is the best computer for motion graphic design?

When selecting a computer to use, you’ve basically got four main parameters to consider.

When selecting a computer to use, you’ve basically got four main parameters to consider.

  1. CPU
  2. RAM
  3. VGA

You can learn about the specific details of what you’ll need here.

What NOT To Do

Before really getting started, you’ll want to read these tips. I promise you it will be one of the biggest helps in saving you time, money, and frustration in the long run.

Don’t simply Google “Top 2D Motion Graphics Animation” for tips

This is a tricky one and important to understand.

Google is awesome, but it can’t do everything. As such, it doesn’t evaluate the quality of motion graphics or rank well written articles as top results. Instead, you’re going to get the results from people who know how to write SEO.

In other words, you’ll get a lot of clickbait and people who know SEO, not examples of great 2D Motion Graphics. Because of this, you’ll get started on the wrong foot, thinking you’re seeing what you need to learn how to do, not what you actually need to learn how to do.

Instead of blindly searching, I’ll give you a list of great resources at the end of this article.

After Effects is not “Motion Graphics” and vice versa

Some beginners (and beyond) think that motion graphics and After Effects are the same thing and you can just swap one out with the other.

Guys — trust me on this. You’ll sound like an amateur if you interchange them.

After Effects is a software. Motion graphics is an animation technique. You should master both, but know that one is a tool, and the other is an art.

after effects and motion graphis

Don’t try fancy tips and tricks from influencers for at least the first 3 months

Tips and tricks are not solutions.

Yes, they can work in certain situations. But before you start getting to shortcuts, you need to learn the basics and fundamentals.

You need to have an understanding of what is actually behind the tip or trick.

Then you’ll get to the point where you’ll be able to come up with your own tips and tricks! If you’re not patient, you might just tip and trick yourself into a corner that you can’t get out of because you don’t know the fundamentals.

Don’t start freelancing right after learning the basics

It’s easy to feel like you’re a pro once you put together a few nice looking animations.

Then you think, “Time to go make some money.”

Take my word on this — don’t jump in the freelancer pool just yet. At that stage, you’ll only get low quality projects from clients who don’t want to pay much, or anything.

And always be on the lookout for clients who say you won’t get paid, but you’ll get “great exposure.” No, you won’t. Also, exposure doesn’t pay the bills.

Don’t overrate yourself

Don’t try and learn from tutorials that have been made for advanced animators.

You’re going to get overwhelmed and disappointed and that’s when you’re likely to give up. You’ll be filled with only negative emotions and want to quit because you got too complex before you were ready.

Give yourself time and be patient. It will come.

Don’t play with plugins and scripts too much

Here’s another tricky one. A lot of beginners will fall for this and forget about the basics.

You’ll think plugins and scripts will help you get the job done fast and in high quality. But the truth is, there is no replacement for knowing the fundamentals.

Even if the script helps you in some way, don’t forget that the quality, creativity, and solutions come from your mind and the decisions you make.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should avoid all plugins and scripts, but you should have your idea first and then look for a solution, not vice versa.

after effects scripts

Don’t be disappointed!

No matter how talented you are, no matter how many tutorials you take in, you’re still going to mess up from time to time.

That’s how pretty much everything works.

If your first attempts suck, congratulations, you’re in the same league as everyone else. You have to start somewhere.

As I mentioned, 2D Motion Graphics is a very serious profession and as any other it needs time and experience. Be patient and concentrate on getting a little better with every project and the quality will come.

Rules and Basics of Learning Motion Graphics

Practice. It’s the key.

You probably don’t remember, but couldn’t even tie your shoe right the first 100 times you tried. Practice makes perfect and 2D Motion Graphics is not an exception.

You have to practice, practice, practice.

Watch AND practice

I notice a lot of beginners just watch tutorials. That’s ridiculous and it won’t work. It’s easy to watch videos because there’s no work required. But make no mistake, you have to do the work.

Practice while watching.

You won’t keep up, and that’s fine. Just hit pause and do the action, or go back and rewatch the part you missed. Use that method. You learn by doing, not watching.

Start With Adobe After Effects And Illustrator

You should start with After Effects and Adobe Illustrator. These are the main programs you’re going to use to create your best work.

And concentrate more on After Effects — let’s say 75% / 25%.

Learn only from the tutorials made for beginners that guide from from 0, step by step. Again, the fundamentals are crucial.

Even if you have some knowledge, don’t ignore the beginner tutorials as you could have missed something or learned from bad sources and that one little missed step could make everything much harder.

Where to learn motion graphics online?

I recommend to begin with and You can also find great tutorials on, but ONLY after learning the basics.

Book Recommendations For Learning Motion Graphics

motion graphics books

Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life

This book was created by Disney animators Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas. The book covers the 12 fundamentals of animation and was written long before motion graphics existed, but it’s one of the most important books ever written for any animator including motion graphics.

The Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams

This is also one of the most important books about animation you can read. It describes in high detail the fundamentals of animation and showcases it step-by-step. It’s fun to read and even more fun to learn with along the way. It’s so good it can even inspire you to animate even if you had never thought about doing it before.

animation survival kit

Useful Resources on Motion Graphics

Getting Motion Graphics Work

After building your foundation by practicing, practicing, practicing, try to find a job in a small or medium sized studio as an intern.

Agree to work for free if you can afford it. It may sound counter-intuitive, but you’ll learn so much by making yourself available.

Don’t think of it like you’re working for free, think of it like being at the best school, and you don’t even have to pay for it. You’ll work with people who have experience, and not just with animation, but with all facets of production. Which is good, because those are who you’ll be working with in this career. You’ll learn how to organize your work, manage your time, work with a team, how to understand client preferences, and much, much more.

Other Experience

You may find out along your journey that some countries or even cities produce better animators than others. A lot of that has to do with the environment they live in. If you look at Italians, for example, they are immersed in beautiful design from art to architecture.

Their minds are already accustomed to create beauty. You should train yourself to do the same with animation. Only surround yourself with great work. Watch only high quality animation. Learn and be inspired from only the best. Here are some great studios and groups that put out consistently marvelous work:

What Are Some Good Websites For Inspiration In Motion Design?

Final Words

As I mentioned before, the world of 2D Motion Graphics is an amazing one. It’s creatively satisfying and can be quite lucrative for those who put in the work. I want to leave you with the most important points one last time:

1. Don’t just watch tutorials, practice practice practice

2. Use only the best work as examples to aspire to

3. Be patient

Good luck, and have fun!

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