VFX Artist: Definition, Process & Challenges

a year ago   •   3 min read

By Gwénaëlle Dupré
Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel / Unsplash

From blockbuster films to anime and video games, visual effects (VFX) play a crucial role in animating captivating experiences. And at the heart of these incredible effects lies the expertise of VFX artists.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at the work of VFX artists, exploring their role in shaping our favorite animated films and how they create these effects.

What’s An VFX artist: Definition

An VFX artist specializes in creating 2D and 3D visual effects, and rendering simulations for animated content.

For example, in a sci-fi movie where humans fight an army of robots in a futuristic city, the VFX artists would be responsible for animating the visual effects that bring the robots and the city to life―explosions, laser beams, sparks, smoke, debris, etc.

How Does VFX Work?

VFX artists work on several aspects of the animation process like modeling, texturing, and lighting to produce various effects from explosions, smoke, and fire to rain, water, and other natural phenomena.

VFX artists also take care of integrating these effects in the final scenes, which requires a strong understanding of the animation pipeline and how to work with other team members.

To do so, they use a variety of software tools including digital content creation, production tracking, and cloud rendering to stay up-to-date with the latest techniques and trends and meet the demands of modern animated content.

Though complex, VFX typically involves 5 main tasks:

  1. Conceptualization - To define and imagine the visual effects required for the scene or sequence. This involves discussing ideas with the director, reviewing storyboards, and determining what tools and techniques are needed to achieve the desired results.
  2. Asset creation - 3D models, textures, footage, etc.
  3. Animation and simulation - The VFX artist animates characters or objects or simulates physics or particles.
  4. Rendering - After the animation is complete, the VFX artist renders the effect. Rendering involves using powerful computer processors to create the final sequence from 3D data. Usually, a render farm is preferred to keep costs and rendering time low without sacrificing quality.
  5. Compositing - Finally, the different assets are grouped together into layers and plates to create cohesive scenes.

The VFX Department: Breakdown

VFX artists work in teams, under the leadership of an VFX supervisor.

VFX supervisors overview technical and artistic decisions made by their team. They act as a bridge between the VFX department and the director to ensure that the effects align with the director's vision while staying on time and on budget. The VFX supervisor is accountable for the visual and narrative quality of the effects and works under the direction of the CGI supervisor.

For larger projects, it isn’t uncommon to have smaller teams with managers reporting to a main VFX supervisor.

5 Best Practices For VFX Artists

Great FX artists share 5 common traits:

  1. They understand the pipeline - A strong understanding of the animation pipeline and how their work fits into the overall production process is critical for an VFX artist. By understanding the workflow and expectations of other departments, VFX artists can ensure that their work is consistent with the rest of the project.
  2. Attention to detail - Visual effects are a key component of animated content, and even small mistakes can be noticed by the audience. VFX artists must have an eye for detail, ensuring that their work is of the highest quality.
  3. Collaboration - VFX artists must work with directors, animators, and sound designers. This requires effective communication skills and a willingness to receive and provide feedback.
  4. Continuous learning - This can involve attending conferences and training sessions, practicing with new software, and seeking out new creative inspiration. VFX artists are artists: they need to seek new experiences to grow.
  5. Time management - VFX artists work within tight deadlines: this requires strong organizational skills and the ability to prioritize tasks to ensure that projects are completed on time and to a high standard.

VFX isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a tough job with high artistic and technical requirements.


VFX artists are essential to the animation industry, providing stunning visual effects that make films and series truly special. Their responsibilities go beyond their artistic skills. They always have to find tradeoffs to match their deadlines while delivering the most outstanding pictures.

If you are an VFX artist, an aspiring artist, or someone who simply enjoys learning about the animation industry, we invite you to join our Discord community. Here, you can connect with fellow artists, share your work, and learn from others in the industry.

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