Also known as: Lighting technician
Lighting artists light the scenes in an animation. Just as in live-action production, there is a director of photography and gaffer who decide what lights to use and where to place them, so there is a lighting artist in a computer-generated (CG) animation. The difference with an animation is that the lights are created through software and the lighting artist has complete control of what the effects will be.
Lighting artists use light to enhance the atmosphere, tone, depth and mood of a scene. They input different light effects depending on the factors in a frame or scene, such as the weather or the time of day. They make it clear where the light sources are meant to be in a scene.
There’s a technical side to digital animation lighting, which is sometimes done by lighting artists or by lighting technical directors (TDs), depending on the type of studio. Lighting artists light images in such a way that they are easy for the computers to render. They work to create colour keys, which are guides that indicate a range of colour hues in a scene. They use the shader settings to create effects like reflections and the appearance of wet surfaces.
Lighting artists are employed by animation companies or studios, advertisement agencies or graphic or web design companies. Otherwise, they may work as freelancers.
These are some of the tools used by professionals
You can learn how to use light using free software such as Blender. Go to build your animation portfolio for a list of what’s available.
Lighting artists work to the vision of the director. Sometimes they work with the art director to consider the effects of different styles of lighting. Lighting artists’ work is reviewed by the visual effects (VFX) supervisor. It’s then passed onto compositors.
Lighting artist job listings often specify the level of seniority of the role, from junior to mid to senior to lead. Of course, for your first job role as a lighting artist, it’s best to apply for junior positions. These require less experience in the role but may still ask for some. Typically, it’s useful to have a portfolio of your digital work visible online that you can use to demonstrate your ability to employers. Getting a degree in an animation subject can help you to learn skills and produce a portfolio, as well as give you other valuable experience, particularly in using CG animation software.
At school or college:
Take A-levels or Highers that combine art with science, if you can. It’s ideal to do A-levels or Highers in art and design and graphic design, along with computer science, maths or physics.
Or you might want to take any of the following Level 3 vocational qualifications:
If you want to go straight into a job or apprenticeship, the following Level 3 vocational qualifications will equip you:
Get an apprenticeship:
Apprenticeships are jobs with training. They’re a great opportunity to earn while you learn.
These are the relevant apprenticeships that might be available throughout the UK:
In Scotland, you might be able to find degree-level apprenticeships through the following frameworks:
Before taking any apprenticeship, check what you’ll be learning with your prospective employer and college, so you can be sure it will be giving you the skills you want. Go to how to become an apprentice to learn how to find apprenticeships in your region or approach companies directly.
Build a portfolio:
Learn animation and video editing software and start creating work that you can show to admissions tutors or employers. Create your own short film or films. Building a portfolio is essential. Go to build your animation portfolio to learn how.
Get a degree:
There are a variety of degree courses that are helpful towards becoming a lighting artist. Animation or computer animation degrees are likely to be the most specifically applicable to the work. However, computer science, IT, maths, art, photography or graphic design can all inform the work you do as a lighting artist. Have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses and select one in animation. We recognise courses with our ScreenSkills Select award where they offer training in the relevant software, dedicated time to building a portfolio and have strong links with the animation industry.
Take a short course:
Hone your skills in CG lighting effects by taking a specialist course. Go to the list of training courses recommended by ScreenSkills and see if there is one in animation.
Get to know people in the animation industry by attending events. Meet industry professionals and ask them questions about their work, while demonstrating interest and knowledge in the industry. Offer to provide them with your professional contact details and try to stay in touch with them. Go to how to network well to learn how to do this.
Search for jobs:
Research animation companies that you’d like to work for. Animation UK has a directory of animation companies. Go to their websites and check if they are advertising for junior lighting artist roles. You can also send in a speculative CV and ask employers to keep it on file so they can consider you if any suitable jobs come up. Go to How to approach animation and VFX employers for details of how to do this. Search job websites for lighting artist roles and apply for positions.
Being a lighting technical director (TD), visual effects (VFX) artist for a VFX company.
Covers genres ranging from period dramas to epic fantasies screened at the cinema, on TV or on streaming sites
Involves making sequences on a computer that can't be created on set, like enormous crowds and fire-breathing dragons
Combines art with programming as well as production, design and testing - the UK’s fastest growing entertainment industry
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