how to become an illustrator

What does a Illustrator do?

Illustrators take a concept and design an image that best represents that concept. They may work for a business, the government, or work on a freelance basis for clients. Illustrators can design their illustrations using the computer most of the time or they may produce art by hand using traditional art methods such as paint, charcoal, or pencils.

How to Become an Illustrator

Though a degree is not mandatory, education and experience is important to employers looking to hire an illustrator. You may look at earning a bachelor’s degree in the fine arts and start developing your work portfolio while in college. Portfolios are important tools for illustrators to show future customers or employers their skill and artistic style. Attending a program in the fine arts will teach you a variety of art methods that will benefit your illustrations.

Along with being an artist, you may be expected to produce a physical illustration or an electronic one. If you are mainly hired for electronic illustrations, you will spend a great deal of time on the computer. Because of this, illustrators should also take graphic design courses to learn the computer software used to create art electronically. Some illustrators prefer to start off a project by working free-hand and then digitally converting their art to the computer to finish.

Job Description of an Illustrator

Illustrators create original artwork using a variety of different mediums such as pens, colored pencils, pencils and also a variety of different paint such as watercolor, acrylic, or oil. Though they may use traditional methods to create art by hand, some illustrators work to create art solely on a computer using graphic or illustration software. They generally also send their draft to their employer or customer for review and make any revisions if necessary.

Illustrates design art for a variety of purposes such as children’s book, logos, t-shirts, product packaging, and more. Some illustrators specialize in a particular type of illustration, such as those illustrators that work in the sciences. For instance, they could focus on human anatomy, marine wildlife, plants and trees, or birds for example. These artists normally work under strict deadlines and open communication with their customer is vital.

Illustrator Job Posting

Let’s look at a job description posted by the Air Education and Training Command. This job announcement is looking for a person to perform the following responsibilities:

  • Design, lay out, and prepare a variety of artwork.
  • Advises and provides guidance and training to other illustrators, management, and customers.
  • Creates original artwork utilizing computer graphics software.
  • Researches and recommends equipment, materials, and software to meet current and future production needs.
  • Produces and assists in producing materials that support the commander’s public affairs goals.

This position was posted to run 01/17/2019 until 01/24/2019 with a salary range of $50,598 to $65,778 per year on (link opens in a new tab). is an official website of the United States government and part of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Free Teacher and Student Resources

Accessibility Best Practices: You can check out the free U.S. Web Design System resource (link opens in a new tab) by the U.S. government for more information on how to meet 508 compliance standards. You can also learn more about Section 508 Compliance at (link opens in a new tab).

The University of Newcastle Australia offers a free Drawing Nature, Science and Culture course on (link opens in a new tab).

By taking this course, you’ll learn:

  • Core scientific observational skills
  • Field drawing and sketching techniques
  • Concept sketch development
  • Composition for natural history illustration
  • Form, proportion and structure essentials
  • Drawing and rendering techniques

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Fine Artists, Including Painters, Sculptors, and Illustrators.

National Center for O*NET Development. 27-1013.00. O*NET OnLine. This page includes information from O*NET OnLine by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license. O*NET® is a trademark of USDOL/ETA. RethinkOldSchool, Inc. has modified all or some of this information. USDOL/ETA has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

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