Illustrators produce drawings, paintings or diagrams for use in products like books and greetings cards, or on packaging.
Salary range: £14,000 to £40,000
How to become an illustrator
You can get into this job through:
- a university course
- an apprenticeship
- applying directly
You’ll need a higher national diploma or degree in illustration or a related subject like fine art or graphic design.
You’ll usually need:
- between 1 and 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a higher national diploma or degree
- equivalent entry requirements
- student finance for fees and living costs
- university courses and entry requirements
You could do an advanced apprenticeship in graphic design, then with experience and further training, move into illustration work.
You’ll usually need:
- 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship
You could market your work by contacting companies directly. You can find advice about getting started as a freelance illustrator, how to prepare a portfolio, lists of publishers, and other useful information in The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook.
As a freelance illustrator you’ll need to think of creative ways to get your work noticed. You’ll also need a portfolio of your work to show prospective clients or for entry onto courses.
Building a website or starting a blog where you can showcase your work is one way to get noticed.
Having a presence on social media sites like Instagram is a great way of connecting with the public and potential customers.
If you work as a freelance illustrator you may decide to sell your work through an agent, who could put you in touch with more buyers. An agent will take a percentage of your sales as commission. The Society of Artists Agents has details of agents as well as examples of artists’ work.
You can get more details about working in illustration from the Association of Illustrators and Creative Choices.
You can getinform ation on working in creative careers from Discover Creative Careers.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- design skills and knowledge
- knowledge of computer operating systems, hardware and software
- thinking and reasoning skills
- the ability to use your initiative
- the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
- to be flexible and open to change
- patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
- to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
What you’ll do
You day-to-day tasks may include:
- discussing requirements, or ‘briefs’, with authors, editors or designers
- negotiating prices and timescales
- deciding on the right style for illustrations
- creating illustrations using hand drawing, painting or computer design packages
You could work in a creative studio, from home or at a client’s business.
Career path and progression
With experience and graphic design skills you could work for a design agency, publishing company or magazine. You could also move into specialist work, for example architectural or archaeological illustration.