How to Become a Visual Effects Artist

How to Become a Visual Effects Artist: Career Path Guide

A great way to become a Visual Effects Artist is to get a head start by landing an internship with a visual effects studio while you are still a student. Speak with your instructors and your school’s career services office in order to get assistance with identifying and applying for such opportunities.


School’s that offer programs related to a career as a visual effects artist have a vested interest in maintaining high rates of graduate employment, so they will likely prepare you for employment by ensuring you have created a portfolio and possibly a website in order to showcase your work.


You may or may not be left to your own devices to find employment, but if you have a good portfolio it shouldn’t be too difficult to edge out the competition.


Contact visual effects studios and inquire about any employment opportunities they may have available. Make note of who you spoke with and when, as you will want to follow up with everyone you spoke to within a few weeks.


One way to increase your chances of landing a job as a visual effects artist, whether permanent or freelance, is to network with like-minded individuals and industry professionals. You may also want to consider joining relevant organizations, such as the Visual Effects Society, as they often have employment listings.



Education and Training Requirements to Become a Visual Effects Artist

The education and training requirements to become a visual effects artist can vary, depending on the employer or client, and there is certainly no set path to take. Generally, the more education and training an aspiring visual effects artist has, the greater their potential to obtain employment or a client base will be.


Education and Training Requirements may include:


• A Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Animation or Art (including Fine Arts and Visual Arts)

• Additional technical area of study or interest (such as Physics, Mathematics or Engineering)

• Relevant job experience

• Expertise in software such as Autodesk Maya and Adobe Photoshop

• A strong reel (a short video showing clips) or portfolio

• Current knowledge of 2D and 3D computer graphics techniques, as they are used in the feature film and media production industries




Visual Effects Artist Job Description

Visual effects artists are multimedia artists that are responsible for much of the post-production work in the television and film industry. The visual effects artist ensures that all visual effects are woven together seamlessly. Visual effects artists are continuing to become more specialized as the film and television industries embrace the newest in technology.



Visual Effects Artist Job Duties

• Must ensure that visual effects added in post production are added careful, as to not let viewers know that this was done

• Adjust lighting, colour and placement of visual effects to ensure they are identical to the scene in which they are placed

• May be responsible for creating graphics that incorporate motion to accentuate brand names, advertising or other significant messages

• May design the motion aspect of the motion graphics

• Use editing, illustration and animation software



Where do Visual Effects Artists Work?

Visual effects artists typically work in one of three settings; a company that specializes in visual effects, a post-production studio, or they work as a freelancer. Each form of employment has its advantages as well as its disadvantages.


Working for a VFX company - Pros and cons


• Job security is typically the highest in these settings, as well as health and retirement benefits

• Little control over the projects that are worked on


Working for a post-production studio – Pros and cons


• Rate of pay and job security are typically lower than working directly for a visual effects company


Working as a freelancer - Pros and cons


• Freedom to select projects and set rate of pay

• Job security is typically the lowest in this form of employment

• Marketing skills are necessary to find work, although many freelance artists rely on referrals to obtain business once they are established in their industry


Please Note: Jobs for visual effects artists in North America are primarily found in but a handful of cities: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Toronto and San Francisco.




Visual Effects Artist Career - Work Environment

Working Hours: Typically around 10 hours long in order to meet rigid deadlines. Many visual effects artists will work through the night more than a handful of times during their careers in order to meet deadlines.


Work Setting: Due to the extremely specialized nature of the hardware being utilized by visual effects artists, it is by nature an office-based job. It may not be your typical office however, as many post-production houses have offices with videogame consoles and desks covered in action figures.  Senior level visual effects artists operate largely outside of the office, as they must be on set with the director while working on films in order to coordinate how the film is shot for scenes which require visual effects.



Is Becoming a Visual Effects Artist Right for You?

Long days and sometimes nights, staring at computer screens, winning Oscars…this career may not be for everyone. Below is a list of positive and negative attributes pertaining to a career as a visual effects artist that everyone who’s serious about getting into this field should consider:


• Depending on the project you’re working on, if you do an outstanding job you can be nominated for a little thing called an Oscar…no big deal.


• Working long hours and weekends are quite common when nearing a deadline. This can have a detrimental effect on personal relationships.


• Being creative isn’t just a great skill to bring to the table; it’s a requirement.


• Using problem solving skills and creativity to solve artistic problems can be highly satisfying.


• Visual effects artists may have the chance to see movies before they are released to the general public.


• Dealing with clients can be stressful when they only have a conceptual idea of what they want created.


• Patience is required when beginning a project, as there will be a lot of trial and error.


• Work for visual effects artists is mainly found in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, Toronto, Chicago and New York, so an aspiring artist must be willing to relocate.


• Visual effects artists need a solid aesthetic sense as well as a finely tuned creative eye that can recognize, direct and execute well-integrates visual effects.



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Visual Effects Artist Salary Level

The level of pay for visual effects artists can vary substantially as there are many variables that can influence salary; who the employer is, the type of project the artist is hired for, their level of experience and their reputation can all have an effect on earnings.


A visual effects supervisor who works on a high budget feature film may earn substantially more than a visual effects artist who is working as an assistant on a television program.


There is no reliable salary information available specifically for Visual Effects Artists. However, we can get a good idea of what they earn by looking at the salary level of closely related occupations.


Visual Effects Artist Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, Canadian workers in the Graphic Designers and Illustrators occupational group earn an average annual salary of $35,846.


Visual Effects Artist Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of American workers in the Multimedia Artists and Animators occupational group is $61,370 per year. 



References: How to Become a Visual Effects Artist

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a Visual Effects Artist.


Occupations in Alberta:Animator.” (March 31, 2017). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 15, 2020.

Arts & Design:Multimedia Artists and Animators.” (March 29, 2019). Bureau of Labor Statistics - United States Government website. Retrieved January 15, 2020.

Discover:Beginner's Guide to Becoming a Visual Effects (VFX) Artist.” Andrew McDonald (n.d.). The Rookies website. Retrieved January 15, 2020.



Scholarships for Becoming a Visual Effects Artist

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a Visual Effects Artist can be found on our Computer Science Scholarships and Fine Arts Scholarships pages.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming a Visual Effects Artist: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a Visual Effects Artist. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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