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Illustrator vs. Concept Artist: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A career in art can be both rewarding and challenging. Two popular positions in the field are that of an illustrator and a concept artist. Though both artists create visual images, there are several key differences between the two positions.

In this article, we will discuss the differences between an illustrator and a concept artist, and we will provide additional information about other careers in art.

What is an Illustrator?

Illustrators create original artwork using a variety of mediums, including pencil, charcoal, paint and computer software. They work closely with clients or editors to interpret written instructions and produce visual solutions to communicate ideas. Illustrators may specialize in a particular field, such as medical illustration or book illustration. Their work can be found in magazines, newspapers, textbooks, product packaging and advertising. Illustrators typically have a portfolio of work that they use to showcase their skills and style to potential clients.

What is a Concept Artist?

Concept Artists work in the film, video game, advertising and entertainment industries to create visual designs for characters, locations and objects. They work closely with directors, producers and other artists to develop an initial idea into a detailed plan that can be used to create the final product. Concept Artists use a variety of mediums to sketch their ideas, including traditional pencil and paper, digital painting and 3D modeling. They often specialize in a particular area, such as creature design or environment design. Concept Artists must be able to translate their ideas into a visual form that others can understand and use to create the final product.

Illustrator vs. Concept Artist

Here are the main differences between an illustrator and a concept artist.

Job Duties

Illustrators and concept artists share some of their job duties. These include creating drawings, paintings or digital art that help visualize ideas for a piece of media. They may also research cultural or historical elements to incorporate into their work.

There are differences in the other job duties these professionals fulfill. An illustrator creates individual images that tell a story. Their artwork usually focuses on showing character emotions, conveying plot points or highlighting key scenes. Illustrators typically focus on one aspect of an illustration when creating it—such as characters, scenery or overall composition.

Concept artists often work on team projects with multiple people. They create concepts for entire worlds, such as illustrating different locations, designing costumes or drawing fictional technology. Concept artists may also collaborate with writers or game designers to develop ideas together.

Job Requirements

Most illustrators have a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, although some may have a degree in graphic design or another related field. Many concept artists also have a bachelor’s degree, but it is not always required for entry-level positions. Some concept artists may start their careers with an associate degree or certificate in computer graphics.

Both professions require strong artistic skills. Illustrators should be able to create images that accurately depict the subject matter they are assigned. Concept artists must be able to come up with new ideas and turn them into visually appealing designs. They should also be familiar with different software programs that can help them create their illustrations and concepts.

Work Environment

Illustrators and concept artists work in different environments. Illustrators typically work in studios, where they can create illustrations that are used for books, magazines or other publications. They may also work from home, depending on the project. Concept artists often work in studios as well, but they may also travel to film sets or locations to capture reference material.


Both illustrators and concept artists use their artistic skills to create visual representations of ideas. However, concept artists typically work in the pre-production phase of projects, such as movies or video games, and develop designs for characters, locations and objects that will be used in the final product. Illustrators, on the other hand, often work in the post-production phase and create illustrations that are used in marketing materials or in the final product itself.

Both illustrators and concept artists need to have strong drawing skills. However, concept artists also need to be able to sculpt and model three-dimensional objects because they often create prototypes of their designs. Illustrators may also benefit from having sculpture and modeling skills, but it is not as essential to their job as it is for concept artists.

Both professionals use software programs to create their art. However, concept artists tend to use more specialized software programs that allow them to quickly create three-dimensional models of their designs. Illustrators typically use more general purpose software programs, such as Adobe Photoshop, to create their illustrations.


The average salary for an illustrator is $56,221 per year, while the average salary for a concept artist is $70,173 per year. Both of these salaries can vary depending on the type of work you do, your location and your experience level.


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