5 Essential Books Every Animator Must Have

There are many resources available that discuss the skills needed for the animation industry. Countless books about animation, storytelling and other essential skills can be found in bookstores and online. But which are the strongest books that can help you become a stronger animator? What books should you invest in so that you don’t waste your hard-earned money?

book resources

I’m here to give you a list of essential books every animator must have. It's a list I wished someone gave me when I was a young artist. I’ve gone to school and spent hundreds of dollars on books that didn’t help me. As an instructor, I went through multiple books preparing for my classes. I wanted to find the best books that had the most information on each page. After years of reviewing these books, implementing them in my classroom, and finding similar resources in my industry friend’s bookshelves, I’ve managed to reduce the list to these most important reading and instructional material.

Below are the 6 essential books every animator must have. I can guarantee that every professional has at least one of these books in their arsenal of tools. Depending on what you want to focus on, either as a student or professional, these books will have answers to many of your animation questions.

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1) The Animator’s Survival Kit

By Richard Williams

All I will have to say is if you're an animator, buy it.

This book not only goes over the basic concepts of animation, it has several key principles that will be drilled into your head. It goes over different types of walk cycles, epic stories of the industry, importance of timing, and so much more. I’ve had this book for years and I reference it all the time.

As an Amazon reviewer said, “This book is worth its weight in gold if you are an animation student. Buy it. You will not regret it.” I completely agree.

2) Illusion of Life

By Ollie Johnson and Frank Thomas

This is considered the Bible of Animation. Disney animators reference this book all the time. If you are someone who started animation awhile back and needed to learn from the best, I found this one book to be the most helpful. The book itself is not for a quick read. Its purpose is to be educational and an industry guide for the world of animations. It is also filled with character sketches and quick animations.

As an Amazon reviewer said, “The book itself is full of the best wisdoms of the founding fathers of animation. The samples are great and it's full of great behind the scenes photos and stories.” This is a must have.

3) Force

By Mike Mattesi

This book is created by Mike Mattesi, an industry expert and master. He has worked from Zynga, DreamWorks, EA, and collaborated with Pixar, Walk Disney Animation and more. He has authored several FORCE books that are filled with inspiration, each page covered with invaluable information, and was created to educate all artists. With over three hundred pages of illustrations that break down each group of muscles, Mattesi explains the function and relation of each muscle group with text and images.

As an Amazon reviewer said, “This is the best anatomy I've ever used for reference. My drawings are so much better now. If I'm having trouble on a body part I just look it up in this book and then I NAIL it. It's easy to find whatever you need. Definitely worth the money.”

4) Cartoon Character Animation with Maya

by Keith Osborn

Now that you have all the resources necessary to understand animation, it's time to translate it into 3D. In this book you will learn how to create cartoon characters come to life. With over-exaggerated poses, smooth keyframes and more, this is a foundation book that will help you move from novice to professional.

As an Amazon review states, "Excellent book! I would have loved having this book also while studying animation.Great content, useful tool a pleasure to read very easy to follow thanks to an excellent design and organized subject in addition to the valuable interviews of recognized and experienced animators."

5) The Art of 3D Computer Animation and Effects

By Isaac Kerlow

If you are looking for a book that covers not only animation, but the complex gamut of the animation industry, then this book should be in your essential books to purchase. The author's impressive experience and knowledge is clearly used in every page. Using real world examples, industry standard animation terms and more, this book dives in and demystifies the cg world.

As an Amazon Reviewer says, “This is an excellent book if you want a very thorough explanatory treatment of the subject of 3D computer graphics and animation.”

I truly hope this list was helpful. These are great resources that will help you not just now, but for years to come.

Good luck with your endeavors, and keep creating!


Academic Phoenix

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*Affiliate – just in case you didn’t know what this means (because I didn’t), an affiliate link means that when you purchase a book using the provided link, I receive a tiny portion of the sale and at no cost to you. It’s a small way of giving back to Academic Phoenix and I truly appreciate it. :)

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