Career Development

Illustrator Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

Illustrators are responsible for creating the illustrations that appear in media, advertisements, publications, television shows, movies, video games, etc. They are responsible for creating illustrations of everything from characters to landscapes to abstract ideas.

Illustrators are responsible for creating the illustrations that appear in media, advertisements, publications, television shows, movies, video games, etc. They are responsible for creating illustrations of everything from characters to landscapes to abstract ideas.

The task of an illustrator is not an easy one. They need to be skilled in a variety of areas including drawing, painting, computer design and animation, photography, digital manipulation and more. They also need to have a deep understanding of how each of these individual skills relate to one another.

Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be an illustrator and what it takes to become one yourself.

Illustrator Job Duties

The duties of an illustrator include the following:

  • Developing, designing, and creating illustrations
  • Compiling reference materials to use as the basis for creating drawings, sketches, or paintings
  • Communicating with clients to discuss illustration needs and goals
  • Presenting preliminary sketches or drawings to clients for feedback and approval before completing final illustrations
  • Researching the subject matter thoroughly to understand nuances, trends, cultural significance, etc. to develop a concept for the illustration
  • Drafting concepts on paper or digital tools using pencils, pens, markers, pastels, crayons, paintbrushes etc. as needed
  • Delivering final renderings in high resolution format (i.e., .jpg) for printing purposes or in vector image format (.ai/.eps/.svg/etc.) for reproduction purposes

Illustrator Salary & Outlook

The median annual wage for illustrators is $55,234. The highest earners are making over $98,000 per year. Those earning higher wages tend to work in the publishing and advertising industries.

The job outlook for illustrators is expected to grow slower than average over the next decade. This is due to several factors, including a decline in the number of children and young adults who read books and magazines, as well as a decline in demand for printed material such as books and magazines.

Illustrator Job Requirements

The requirements to become an illustrator are as follows:

Education: Most illustrators have a bachelor’s degree in art or design, although a high school degree or GED may be sufficient for some employers. This education gives them the confidence and tools to express their creativity through a variety of mediums, including digital illustrations. Design schools may also provide students with training in computer software, such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

Training: While education is the most important factor when becoming an illustrator, they must also have training. Some illustrators receive on-the-job training from their employer, while others complete internships in a related field, such as a graphic design studio. Many illustrators also join professional associations that help them stay up-to-date on industry standards and techniques.

Certifications: While certification is not required for this job, many illustrators choose to take additional training to help them further their careers. Certifications in Adobe Illustrator and InDesign can help an illustrator improve their job prospects.

Illustrator Skills

The following skills are required for this job:

Excellent eye-hand coordination: This is an extremely important skill for illustrators because they must be able to use their hands and eyes in tandem.

Creativity: Creativity is essential to the success of a good illustrator. The ability to create a drawing or painting that is pleasing to the eye and captures the essence of a subject can make all the difference.

An eye for detail: An excellent illustrator will have an attention to detail, so he or she can capture all the minute elements of a scene that might otherwise go unnoticed by others.

Time management skills: Time management is important because deadlines are often tight. Freelance illustrators must be able to manage their time well in order to meet these deadlines.

A strong sense of color: An illustrator must know how colors interact with each other in order to make a drawing look realistic. He or she should also be able to distinguish subtle differences in shades of color in order to give a drawing depth and texture.

Strong communication skills: An illustrator needs to be able to communicate ideas effectively to his or her audience.

Illustrator Work Environment

Illustrators can work from home or in a studio, office, or other settings. Some illustrators may have to travel to get to locations for photo reference or to meet with clients. They must be able to work long hours, sometimes including weekends and holidays. Illustrators are required to sit at a computer or desk for long periods of time.

Illustrator Career Advancement

Illustrators can advance their careers by focusing on a specific area of expertise, such as medical illustration or cartooning. Opportunities also arise from those who maintain a broader range of capabilities. Illustrators can advance their careers through a variety of means, but a common path is to demonstrate a firm grasp of the fundamentals of the field. This usually means earning a degree from a school accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design and building a portfolio that demonstrates a thorough mastery of the craft.

Another way to advance is to demonstrate a mastery of a specific software program such as one used by professional illustrators. In this way, illustrators can become experts at using the tools of their trade. This can lead to opportunities for high-level freelance work or higher-paying full-time positions.

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.

Rise of the ‘Crowd-Sourced’ Illustrator

Digital marketplaces such as 99designs and Upwork are changing the way that businesses get illustrations for their projects. These marketplaces allow business owners to post requests for graphic designers, and these requests will be posted on a marketplace where hundreds of freelance artists compete for the job.

For designers who are skilled at this type of work, crowd-sourced illustration can be an excellent source of income, but freelancers should also take care to find quality clients to ensure their success.

Growth of Video Game Design

The demand for illustrators in the video game industry is growing rapidly, largely due to the fact that video games are becoming increasingly complex and in-depth.

As more companies focus on developing virtual reality games, which require highly detailed environments and character models, the need for talented artists who can create compelling graphics will continue to grow. 

Increased Importance of Digital Illustration

Digital illustration is becoming increasingly important as more companies look to create customized graphics for online marketing.

With digital illustration, businesses can adjust the color, tone and scale of images to match specific brand guidelines, or create unique versions of an image that are suitable for different media platforms.

How to Become a Illustrator

1. Planning Your Career Path

If you’re interested in becoming an illustrator, it’s important to first identify the types of illustrations that interest you most. For example, some illustrators focus on creating detailed drawings for children’s books while others prefer to use a more whimsical style and design patterns for apparel or fabric.

You will also need to keep your skills sharp by continuing to draw throughout your career; many people find that they improve most when they are forced to teach themselves new techniques.

While it is important to have artistic talent, developing drawing skills alone will not lead to success in this field; aspiring illustrators should also cultivate strong writing and communication skills so that they can translate their ideas into something readable. Additionally, illustrators should take advantage of any opportunities to meet people in the industry. It is helpful to build relationships with potential employers or other professionals in your field because they can provide valuable insight into how to become successful in this line of work.

2. Writing a Resume

The best resumes for illustrators highlight a number of skills including creativity, conceptual thinking, attention to detail, and the ability to work under pressure. When describing previous jobs, emphasize your ability to meet deadlines and think on your feet as well as the artistry of your work.

It’s important to list any graphic design software that you are proficient at using, as well as any design programs that you can use to create or edit illustrations in. Include your portfolio or other examples of your work that demonstrate your ability to create quality artwork.

3. Applying for Jobs

When you’re looking for a job as an illustrator, it’s essential to start with networking. There are several ways to meet people who work in the field—from attending local conventions and exhibitions to joining online communities, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to connect with fellow illustrators. While this will help you learn more about your potential colleagues, it can also lead to some insider information about what jobs are available.

If you want to be seen by the right people, you’ll need to develop a strong portfolio. This is even more important if you’re looking for a job with a particular company; reach out to someone at the company or ask around to see if anyone knows anyone there. You can then tailor your portfolio to the company you’re targeting.

4. Ace the Interview

Illustrator interviews are generally focused on the art you create. As such, you will need to tailor your answers to the job opening. For example, you will want to make sure that the quality of work you submit is of high standard and relevant to the position. 

You should also prepare examples from your portfolio that showcase your ability to work on time-sensitive projects on top of more general assignments. The more experience you have working on projects related to the position for which you are interviewing, the better it will be for your candidacy. If you do not have any similar project-based work on your resume, explain why this is the case and use examples from previous jobs. 

It is critical to have patience with delays in communications during the hiring process. Remember that interviews are often postponed or canceled without warning, so be prepared to wait. You may be asked to draw some sketches or even create a piece of art on the spot, so be prepared with your materials.


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