Background Designer

Pre-production
Entry-level

Background designers design the scenery around, or on top of, where the animation happens.

What does a background designer do?

Background designers design the scenery around, or on top of, where the animation happens. Once the storyboard has been signed off, they use the storyboard panels as a basis and inspiration from which to create detailed backgrounds for each scene.

Sometimes multiple scenes will use the same background, so, firstly, they need to make a list of all the backgrounds that need to be designed for the film. They create designs which fit the style of the animation, thinking about colour, texture and light. Background designers also watch out for the way objects in the foreground and background of scenes will interact and make sure that everything lines up appropriately and that nothing is too distracting.

They present these designs to the director and address any of their feedback to create a scene with which the director is happy. Once approved, these designs can be refined with line and tone, often by a layout artist.

The role of a background designer varies depending on the size of the animation studio. In smaller studios they are likely do the role of a layout artist and a background designer. In larger studios, these roles will be divided between different people.

Background designers are usually employed as staff in an animation studio, rather than being freelance.

What’s a background designer good at?

  • Drawing: have a very high level of technical skill, be able to create work in a variety of styles showing strong attention to detail, have strong understanding of form, colour, texture, and light, know how these elements work together
  • Knowledge of environments: understand architecture, have good awareness of city spaces and countryside landscapes
  • Creativity: use your imagination to come up with original and innovative ideas and create work which sparks the director’s imagination
  • Communication: understand what the director wants and be able to take and act on feedback to alter your designs
  • Watching animations: have a passion for the medium and a love of the industry

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