How to Become an Illustrator

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The illustration is one of the multifaceted jobs that are available to creative people. The illustration is a traditional art form used for decorative and for commercial purposes with planned communication and marketing strategies. It is an astonishing communication tool because it can convey a feeling, meaning or the essence of something much effectively than hundreds of words.

What does an Illustrator do?

An illustrator is an artist who develops two-dimensional images and diagrams for both print and digital media products for different companies and industries like fashion designing, magazines, websites, technical designs, children’s books, medical manuals and advertising. They gets opportunities for designing video game sets, creating storyboards for TVs and film sets. This job is highly rewarding and flexible to individuals who are willing to adapt easily to change.


Types of Illustrators

There are different types of illustrators spanning different industries. Some of them are:

  • Editorial Illustrator: These illustrators create images that coordinate with written articles in magazines, newspapers and journals. They bring stories to life, highlight the important points in an article and get readers to understand the difficult text through editorial illustrations.
    Art Directors and Editorial Illustrators work closely as a team to convey the ideas to narrate a story or illustrate a concept.
  • Product Illustrator: They work with advertising organizations and private clients to create a drawing or product feature or product painting. They create a unique identity for a product and for a successful product they create illustrations for brochures, online products, commercial packaging and other advertising forms.
  • Children’s Books Illustrator: They create images and pictures for children’s books both fictional and non-fictional along with the text. Through this art, the book becomes more colourful, interesting to read and thought-provoking.
  • Fashion Illustrator: Fashion Illustration is done for fashion magazines, design houses, editorial blogs and brand advertising to make the illustration appealing. These illustrators work along with fashion stylists and fashion buyers for making the buying for their clients.
  • Storyboard Illustrator: They draw the storyboards after a concept or script is written completely for films, music videos, advertisement campaigns, animation, TV commercials, video games etc. In today’s digital animation era, storyboard illustrators use software like Photoshop or Storyboard Pro.
  • Technical Illustrator: Their work involves creating technical diagrams, blueprints, graphics of equipment installation for use in technical manuals and publication journals. For this work, the illustrators should be aware of their client’s products and objectives and expertise in AutoCAD, Photoshop, Adobe Flash Builder and MS office.
  • Medical Illustrator: They draw the illustration used in textbooks, charts, magazines associated with the medical field. Some of these illustrators specialize in a particular subject like surgery, neurology, ophthalmology etc.

Starting your career

Some people start their work as a self-taught illustrator but most professionals may start their career by earning an associate or bachelor’s degree in this field.

  • An associate degree in illustration where students study illustration fundamentals while taking up basic art courses.
  • Bachelor’s degree in Illustration prepares the future professionals as companies hire them as animators, book illustrators, graphic designers and photographers.
  • Master’s degree in Illustration can open the doors to lucrative career opportunities for positions such as creative directors and senior graphic designers.
  • For a specialized career in this field, Associate of Medical Illustrators (AMI) provides certification and a minimum of 5 years of work experience.


  • Illustrators decide their working schedule based on their projects and the deadlines.
  • They work in a studio or an office setting.
  • They are occupied with clients meeting offline or via phones or emails.

Skills and Traits to be a Successful Illustrator

A degree in illustration helps to develop subject-related and technical skills that can be used across different careers. A candidate will be able to successfully demonstrate:

Job Roles in Media and Visual Communication Platforms

  • Animator
  • Concept Artist
  • Multimedia Programmer
  • Production Designer’
  • Printmaker
  • Fine Artist
  • Higher education Teacher
  • VFX artist
  • Special effects Technician
  • Web Designer

Career Outlook of an Illustrator

The employment opportunities and earning potential of illustrators vary based on their qualifications, experience, location and industry.

Research by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), fine-art professionals like illustrators, painters earn an average median salary of $50,550. According to the BLS report, the crafts and fine arts jobs will rise by 1% between 2018 and 2028. At the same duration, graphic designers will observe 3% growth and multimedia artists and animators 4%.

– Samiya Firdous

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