Career Development

What Does an Illustrator Do?

Find out what an illustrator does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as an illustrator.

Illustrators are visual artists who use their creativity and talent to bring ideas, stories, or concepts to life. They may work on a variety of projects—from magazine covers to children’s books to advertising campaigns—but they all share the same goal: to communicate an idea through imagery.

Illustrators must be able to take complex ideas and break them down into simple images that can be easily understood by others. This requires strong communication skills as well as an eye for detail and quality design.

Illustrator Job Duties

Illustrators have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Reviewing initial concepts from clients to ensure that they are within the scope of the project
  • Working with clients to develop an overall design concept for a project, including sketches or mock-ups of ideas before finalizing the design
  • Creating final artwork using computer software such as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator
  • Conducting research for subject matter that is not familiar to them so that they can create accurate illustrations that reflect historical context or other relevant details
  • Drawing rough sketches of designs or other preliminary work, such as sketches of characters or scenes in novels
  • Modeling costumes and other clothing items to provide reference material for artists who will be painting portraits
  • Meeting deadlines and working within budget constraints to produce high quality work in a timely manner
  • Communicating effectively with clients to gather information about their needs and preferences regarding design elements and styles
  • Providing feedback to clients regarding design ideas that can be incorporated into final artwork

Illustrator Salary & Outlook

The salary of an illustrator can vary depending on a number of factors, including their level of experience, the type of illustration they are working on, and the size of the company for which they are working.

  • Median Annual Salary: $62,500 ($30.05/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $100,000 ($48.08/hour)

The employment of illustrators is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

Growth will be driven by the continued popularity of comics and graphic novels, which require illustrators to create characters and settings. In addition, the use of digital technology in advertising and marketing is expected to increase demand for illustrators.

Illustrator Job Requirements

To become an illustrator, one typically needs to have the following:

Education: Most employers require illustrators to have a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, graphic design or illustration. Some of the coursework these programs offer includes drawing, painting, design, computer graphics, art history, art theory and art criticism.

Training & Experience: Many employers prefer candidates who have completed a relevant degree program, but some will accept candidates who have gained relevant experience instead. Some employers may prefer candidates who have completed a relevant degree program because they will have a better understanding of the industry and the necessary skills to succeed.

Illustrators can gain relevant experience by working in an entry-level position in the publishing or graphic design industry. They can also gain experience by working as an intern for an illustrator. Some employers may prefer candidates who have completed a relevant degree program because they will have a better understanding of the industry and the necessary skills to succeed.

Certifications & Licenses: Though certifications are not usually required for illustrators, obtaining one can help you stand out from other candidates when applying for jobs. There are also various membership organizations in the art industry in which you can enroll to gain additional knowledge and make connections with other professionals.

Illustrator Skills

Illustrators need the following skills in order to be successful:

Creativity: Creativity is the ability to generate new ideas and solutions. This is an important skill for illustrators, as they often work with clients to create new ideas and images. Creativity can also help them develop new styles and techniques for their work.

Communication: Illustrators often communicate with clients and other team members throughout the design process. They may use written and verbal communication to explain their ideas and gather feedback. They may also use communication to collaborate with other designers to create a cohesive design.

Drawing: Illustrators use their drawing skills to create original artwork for clients. They may also use their drawing skills to create a digital version of an existing image. This can include drawing a realistic image or creating an image with a cartoon-like appearance.

Editing: After creating a piece of art, an illustrator might need to make edits to it. This can include changing the color of a piece of art, adding details or removing elements. Illustrators might also need to make edits to the copy that accompanies their art. This can include changing the font, adjusting the size of the text or changing the color of the text to match the art.

Time management: Time management is the ability to plan and manage tasks effectively. This is an important skill for illustrators, as they often have multiple projects they need to complete simultaneously. Having good time management skills can help them prioritize their work and ensure they meet deadlines.

Illustrator Work Environment

Most illustrators work in studios, where they have access to drafting tables, computers, and the other tools of their trade. They may work for advertising agencies, design firms, publishing houses, or software companies, or they may be self-employed. Many illustrators work on a freelance basis, which gives them the flexibility to choose their own projects and set their own schedules. However, they may also have to work long hours to meet deadlines. Some illustrators travel to meet with clients or to attend conferences.

Illustrator Trends

Here are three trends influencing how illustrators work. Illustrators will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Growth of Digital Publishing

The growth of digital publishing is having a major impact on the illustration industry. As more and more people read books, magazines, and other content online, illustrators are needed to create the artwork that goes along with it.

This trend is especially true for children’s books, where the illustrations are often just as important as the text in capturing a child’s attention. Illustrators who are able to create beautiful and engaging artwork will be in high demand.

More Collaboration Between Designers and Writers

The trend of collaboration between designers and writers is becoming increasingly popular in the advertising industry. This is because both designers and writers have unique skills that can help each other create better work.

As this trend continues to grow, illustrators will need to learn how to collaborate with writers in order to create the best possible work. This requires a deep understanding of both design and writing, which can be difficult to achieve. However, those who are successful in this area will be highly valued by employers.

Art Becomes More Abstract

The art world is becoming more abstract, which means that illustrators need to be able to create work that is not based in realism.

As customers become more accustomed to seeing abstract art, they will also begin to expect more from illustrators. This means that illustrators will need to be able to create work that is not only visually appealing, but also communicates a specific message or idea.

How to Become an Illustrator

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. It depends on your interests, skills, and goals. However, there are a few things that all illustrators have in common. They’re creative problem solvers who can think outside the box. They have an eye for detail and can draw accurately from life. And they have a strong understanding of color, composition, and design.

If you want to become an illustrator, start by developing your skills in drawing, painting, and sculpting. Then explore other mediums such as digital art, printmaking, and collage. Study the work of great artists and designers, and learn about different styles and periods. Read books and articles about art and illustration, and attend workshops and lectures. Network with other artists and professionals, and find ways to showcase your work.

Related: How to Write an Illustrator Resume

Advancement Prospects

Most illustrators start out working in advertising, design, or publishing. As they become more experienced, they may move into management or become independent contractors. Some illustrators teach at the college level or work in animation.

Many illustrators use computer software to create their work. As computer technology has advanced, the demand for computer-generated illustrations has increased. Consequently, illustrators who are skilled in computer graphics have better job prospects.

Illustrator Job Description Example

At [CompanyX], we work with some of the world’s most recognizable brands to create stunning visual communications. We’re looking for an experienced and talented illustrator to join our team and help us bring our clients’ stories to life. The ideal candidate will have a strong portfolio of work that demonstrates a mastery of a variety of illustration styles, as well as the ability to create original concepts. He or she will be a skilled communicator, able to take direction from art directors and designers while also offering creative input of their own. The ability to work quickly and efficiently under tight deadlines is a must.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Work with clients and/or art directors to develop illustrations that accurately reflect the desired concept
  • Generate multiple ideas for each project to present a range of options to the client
  • Create sketches, storyboards, or other preliminary designs to communicate ideas
  • Use traditional drawing techniques and computer software to create final artwork
  • Incorporate feedback from clients or art directors into revisions of illustrations
  • Select colors, fonts, and other design elements to complete the illustration
  • Prepare illustrations or graphic elements for print or digital publication
  • Stay up-to-date on trends in illustration, design, and technology
  • Collaborate with other designers, writers, editors, and developers to create cohesive projects
  • Meet deadlines for assigned projects
  • Maintain accurate records of time spent working on each project
  • Bill clients for completed work according to industry standards

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree in graphic design, art, or similar discipline
  • Exceptional creativity and innovative design skills
  • 5+ years experience with design software, including Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, etc.
  • Proven experience with illustration, with a strong portfolio of work
  • Excellent communication and presentation skills
  • Organizational and time-management skills for meeting deadlines in a fast-paced environment

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • 3+ years in professional illustration, preferably with a creative or marketing agency
  • Working knowledge of CSS3, HTML5, and JavaScript
  • Knowledge of WordPress and content management systems a plus
  • Photography experience and proficiency with photo-editing software
  • Desire to continue to grow skill set with ongoing education and training

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