The stats for the film industry are starting to look impressive again. In fact, the film industry has grown steadily over a number of years to reach more than $42 billion at the beginning of 2019, while further growth is projected for the years to come.

This industry is also a major employer, from A-list actors and directors to visual effects artists and those who perform a similar role. But how can you become a visual effects artist and what remuneration can you expect? Let’s find out!

What Is a Visual Effects Artist?

In simple and broad terms, a visual effects artist will utilise software applications and computer packages to generate characters and other visual elements for a variety of media outlets.

In addition to creating effects for films, such artists may also generate CGI characters for TV commercials and shows or computer games, while also inserting graphics into web platforms and mobile applications.

Similarly, a visual effects artist is responsible for creating anything that moves in a film or game that isn’t a human character or corporeal object.

For example, they’ll recreate the effect of space ships and superpowers in the movies, while creating the backdrop for games including everything from dust and rainfall to sunlight.

What Does a Visual Effects Artist Do?

As we’ve already touched on, visual effects artists utilise the very latest technology to produce computer-generated graphics and visual elements and usually ply their trade within creative studios.

In technical terms, they’ll spend most of their time creating photoreal and digitally-generated imagery, which requires the seamless integration of various effects into feature films, television shows, console games and even mobile apps.

When working on output for the silver screen, a visual effects artist will work tirelessly on creating special effects, which are most prevalent in horror and action films.

For projects involving video games, there’s a far greater emphasis on creating animated content, including everything from characters to backdrops and other moving elements.

visual effects artist at work

What Skills Are Required To Become a Visual Effects Artist?

While there’s no requirement for fixed and formal qualifications when becoming a visual effects artist, we’d recommend that you complete a university or other course that emphasises animation, media and other technical skills, which can be applied to various VFX job titles. Of course, the software is changing very quickly so real-world, hands-on experience is always better than any course. Therefore, getting any sort of internship or work experience in a film and/or video production company would be very helpful.

Generally speaking, you’ll need to have basic drawing skills and an understanding of composition and light, alongside real-world observation and communication skills.

In terms of transferable skills, visual effects artists also require keen attention to detail and patience, which are augmented by critical thinking and a mindset that prioritises problem-solving.

How Much Does a Successful Visual Effects Artist Make?

The Visual Effects Artist industry comprises both freelancers and fixed-term contracts, with those interested in forging a career within the sector most likely to start out as a “runner”.

Once you’ve worked as a visual effects artist for a period of up to three years, you can expect to earn as much as £27,000 on average. This number will then scale incrementally in line with age and experience, with a mid-level artist with between three and seven years’ experience able to earn in the region of £38,000.

At the higher end of the industry, a senior VFX artist with more than seven years’ experience can earn an average salary of £54,000. In some instances, of course, you may be able to earn more depending on your quality of work, while freelancers can also charge a premium as part of their hourly rate.