From playtime to profit – how I turned my animation hobby into a profitable business

Turning my passion into a full-time job.

Garry Pye has been drawing cartoons all his life. Despite no formal artistic education, he went from hobbyist to full-time animator after discovering Reallusion and their 2D animation software six years ago. 

I have been drawing cartoons ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil. I am a self-taught artist, illustrator and animator who specialises in creating characters, backgrounds and prop content. I started working as a content developer in my spare time, and this has turned into a full-time business. I now have over 1,400 assets available online, which I sell to animators around the world.

From the age of 17, I worked with my father in our family trophy store – for 31 years, in fact. But my true passion was drawing cartoons. And I dreamed of one day being able to do that as my full time job. 

In this article, I’m going to share with you how Cartoon Animator (formally CrazyTalk Animator) helped me to jump from working in that trophy store to creating a profit-making, successful full-time online business. 

Garry Pye in his studio (Image credit: Garry Pye)

Discovering animation

Since I was a child, all I’ve ever done is draw – learning from great fantasy artists like Boris Vallejo and Frank Frazetta, and the incredible comic artists of MAD magazine like Mort Drucker and Jack Davis. I mimicked their styles until eventually I developed my own. 

I always had a fascination with 2D animation, and although I experimented many times with it, I did not have the skills or patience required for traditional frame-by-frame cell animation. Then I came across a piece of software called CrazyTalk Animator, which promised aspiring animators the opportunity to produce professional results without the tedious frame-by-frame work. 

Discovering this software changed my career. After installing it, in a matter of hours I was making things move. About 3 months later, I was creating funny short animated videos (such as the one below) to entertain my friends. 

I soon realised this tool could really help businesses of all types to be able to immediately tell a story, or demo their concept for business or education purposes.

Building a Business

Very quickly, I started to sell my art in Reallusions 2D Marketplace, and have continued to do that for the last 6 years – adding more and more characters, backgrounds and props. Eventually, I opened my own Theme Store on the Reallusion site, and even began representing other artists’ work. 

In my 31-year career working in my family trophy business, I learned many of the skills I would need to turn my hobby into a successful new career. I learned how to operate a business on a day-to-day basis, from marketing and advertising to sales and manufacturing, and also taught myself software skills including Photoshop and CorelDraw. And, of course, customer relations and communications – which in my opinion are the most vital skills for business owner. 

I look at where I was with CrazyTalk Animator 6 years ago compared with where I am today, and it demonstrates something truly wonderful about this software: it grows with you. The software guides you through those early days of basic animation, so that as your confidence and skills grow, you become more comfortable exploring the more professional tools within, and your animations become more polished as a result. 

One of Garry Pye’s animations (Image credit: Garry Pye)

Collaborating with developers and becoming a Reallusion community manager

As my digital content business grew, my hobby not only became my full-time job, but I also opened my own market store to sell my creations and also help other artists like me to get into world of digital creation.

I believe there are many more artists like me out there – talented designers and artists who struggle between work and their passion. That’s why I recently officially became a Reallusion Spokesman and Community Manager. I want to share my true passion with others, and help more artists to succeed.

Two Theme Stores: Reallusion Content Store & 2D Marketplace 

Garry Pye’s ‘Little Mates’ (Image credit: Garry Pye)

Reallusion offers several different areas on the website for developers to sell and promote their products, from hobbyists to professionals. 

The first step in becoming a content developer was to sell my characters, props and backgrounds in the 2D Marketplace, a wonderful platform for artists at any skill level. The Marketplace allows you to load any content at no cost, and you make a healthy commission from each sale. Reallusion provides you with the templates you need for marketing, but the look and design of your marketing is entirely in your control. I still load all of my new content to the Marketplace today and it’s a fantastic site for being seen by potential customers. 

Once my catalogue of content had grown in size, I was invited to join the Reallusion Content Store which has the advantage of being controlled by Reallusion itself, including all marketing, which is extensive. The secret to both the Marketplace and the Content Store was to remain relevant and current, creating and uploading new content on a regular basis so the audience I was building would return to see what new content was on offer.Advertisement

Then I was invited to open my own Theme Store on the Reallusion site, which meant that my store was now featured on the main page, giving me considerable more exposure on the site and once again building on my brand. By this time I had a large following of loyal customers that had been accumulated through each level of the sites platforms, from Marketplace to Content Store and finally to Theme Store, where I now represent other artists and help promote their work. 

All Stars – My latest series of characters created with Cartoon Animator 4

(Image credit: Garry Pye)

As well as making standalone characters, I knew from the beginning of my work as a content developer that I wanted to make series of characters as well, so that animators would have a range of characters to choose from, all with the same distinct and recognisable style. 

For the All Stars I chose a vector style of design, with no black outline, which I felt was more suitable to the needs of media presenters for corporate training videos and slideshows (my target audience for this series). The characters are cartoony, but still based on normal human proportions. Fun, but professional. 

I would certainly have been able to create the All Stars in CrazyTalk Animator 3, however Cartoon Animator 4 gave me several distinct advantages. The main one was that with CTA4, I am able to add additional layers to the face, meaning that for the first time you could create things like hair that has multiple levels, each of which can either be visible or invisible to change a characters hair style, or even animate the hair sections using the Deform function. Moustaches and facial hair could now be easily turned on or off without having to have them built in to the nose sprite, making sprite selection much easier.  Advertisement

In addition, the new G3 360 Degree Heads allow much more natural movement for character animation. I did not incorporate the full arc of movement with these characters heads with The Bendies, which was a design choice. And the option is always there should I choose to expand the characters style and incorporate it later.

HOW-TO: Generating A 3D Animated Gollum From A Single Photo

The Headshot plug-in for Reallusion’s Character Creator allows users to generate 3d animated digital humans from one photo. You can download a free trial here, and learn how to create a classic movie character like Gollum without any 3d skills.

To find out more about the process, we invited Peter Alexander to walk us through it. Alexander is a digital freelancer specialized in illustration, graphic design, and 3d modeling. He develops content assets for various digital marketplaces.

Peter Alexander

In this video and text below, Alexander explains how to create a fantasy movie character by using Headshot for Character Creator 3. He touches on how to choose a quality reference, overcome an open-mouthed reference image, choose appropriate masking features, and block proportions for the head and body using the “bake” feature. Alexander also covers the Mesh Editor tool, which can be used for a variety of purposes, and in this article will be used to customize a hair asset.

How to combine real footage with CGI in iClone

Discover how to use iClone for compositing, mixing real footage, lights, particles and CGI.

In addition to making animations, iClone can be used to facilitate the compositing process by enabling you to add backgrounds or billboards, textured with real footage, to your 3D models. The tool reduces the number of meshes needed to create complex sets, while at the same time ensuring the scene is highly realistic.  

See how the process works in the video below, or read on for a full explanation and some expert tips for taking advantage of this feature in your own projects. All these methods are surprisingly straightforward and flexible, allowing you to make adjustments on the fly.

Add animation seamlessly into your PSD workflow

Cartoon Animator 4 connects PSD tools with Wacom tablets for a roundtrip workflow.

Cartoon Animator (CTA) is recognised among the easiest 2D animation software to use. Version 4 connects the tool with users of all the mainstream PSD tools, from Adobe Photoshop to Krita, Affinity, Clip Studio and Photopea. Creatives who use these PSD tools can now swiftly turn their creative concepts into animations, using their original processes, via Cartoon Animator. 

New Workflow Turns ZBrush Sculpts into Animated Characters for Unreal Engine

Create, animate and automate Unreal Engine characters with the Reallusion Digital Human pipeline. See how master character artist Hossein Diba uses Character Creator to generate a real-time animatable digital human for live performance.

Creativebloq: iClone Unreal Live Link is an animation game-changer

Get the low-down on Reallusion’s new plugin, from award-winning visual storyteller Feri Vincze.

(Image credit: Rendered Frames)

Every good film relies on well-written characters to convey the essence of the story. But in an animated feature, good writing doesn’t guarantee success. Everything depends on character animation. And character animation used to cost a lot of money.

This was the problem I faced when planning animated film noir and video game The Chest with my production company Rendered Frames (watch the trailer below). 10 or 15 years ago, only the bigger studios could produce good-quality animation; it was a challenge for indie animators to find the budget and the staff they needed.

But this has changed in the past few years. More and more companies have realised the opportunities presented by solo artists and small studios, and the new generation of animation software they have created has opened up new horizons for ambitious freelance teams.

Animate heads easily with Cartoon Animator

Discover how Cartoon Animator 4’s new 360 Head Creator lets you animate a smooth, organic-looking head turn in minutes, not days.

Cartoon Animator makes it easy to create high-quality 2D animation – even if you can’t draw. Formerly known as CrazyTalk Animator, Reallusion’s intuitive software provides a set of ready-to-use characters and motion clips to help you hit the ground running.

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