Illustrators convey ideas, facts and feelings using the technical skills of painting and drawing and their own creativity. They work to commercial briefs to inform, persuade or entertain the client's target audience, adjusting the mood and style of images accordingly.
The images they conceptualise and create are generally used for publication, and represent ideas or narratives through two-dimensional or three-dimensional representations. They may do drawings for printed materials such as books, magazines and comics, or for commercial products such as textiles, packaging, wrapping paper, greeting cards and calendars.
While many have embraced digital illustration methods, and work solely using computer software programs to compose pictures, the majority of illustrators will combine modern technology with more ‘traditional’ techniques to produce their artwork. They typically collaborate with other artists, graphic designers and other media professionals on a whole host of projects.
- Liaising with clients to discuss theme and purpose of the commissioned artwork: what illustrations will best suit the narrative and what message they are trying to communicate.
- Producing illustrations for use by various media to explain or adorn printed or spoken word.
- Studying layouts, sketches of proposed illustrations, and related materials.
- Familiarising yourself with the ‘house style’, or adapting personal techniques to comply with industry standard.
- Formulating concept and rendering illustration and detail from models, sketches, memory, and imagination.
- Discussing illustration at various stages of completion and making any changes that might be necessary, according to the needs of the publisher.
- Selecting typeface, draw lettering, lay out material.
- Producing graphic material and lettering to be used for title, background, screen advertising, commercial logo, and other visual layouts for motion picture production, television programming and so on.
Travel: during the working day to meet clients is common.
Working hours: office/studio hours Monday–Friday with additional hours sometimes required to meet deadlines.
Location: mainly in larger towns and cities throughout the country.
Opportunities for self-employment: possible. In fact the majority of illustrators start their careers working freelance.
- Publishers of books, newspapers, magazines and websites
- Manufactures (wrapping paper, greeting cards, stationery and calendars)
- Film/television studios
- Media and advertising companies.
Salaries vary greatly depending on employer.
Specific degree subjects required
Open to non-graduates and graduates of all disciplines.
Other relevant degree subjects
- Fine art
- Graphic design
- Visual art.
A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not required.
Specific entry requirements
Proficiency in design packages may be required.
Tips for applications
Spend as much time as you can building your portfolio, perfecting your technique and developing a good range for different styles. Get to know the company/publisher's output before applying and market your work directly to their current line of titles or products. Show that you can work in their style, while bringing your own unique flair to the work. All organisations require illustrators who can deliver good quality work on time, and for some publishers speed of work is of great importance. Try giving an indication of how long pieces in your portfolio took to produce, to give them an idea of ability in this respect.
Skills and qualities
- Excellent communication skills.
- Strong creative skills matched with a desire to produce outstanding design.
- Ability to work in a constantly busy work environment with a high level of time and stress management.
- High level of organisation skills.
- Excellent attention to detail and accuracy.
- Capable of top quality complex artwork with a high level of understanding of all forms of print.
- Resourcefulness and ability to manage several tasks and projects simultaneously.
- Ability to work as part of a team.