Do you like to draw? Can you envision things in your mind then create them on paper in vivid colors and sharp lines? This is what an illustrator does for profit. Illustrators draw. There are no limits to what they can illustrate, but usually creative, professional illustrations are guided by what a client wants. Illustration is a job where artistic skills, colors, and design bring ideas to life. Illustrations are used to inform, persuade, and entertain.
Think about how many things need illustrations – books, magazines, newsletters, diagrams, websites, brochures, stamps, comics, editorials, greeting cards, t-shirts, logos, posters, video games, animation. It’s a big industry.
As with anything in life, the more you do it, the better you become – be sure to draw every day. Most illustrators start out with a bit of drawing talent and an abundance of imagination. Illustrators develop their basic artistic skills through art classes, graphic design courses, and studying with a mentor. It’s important to remember that if you can see it in your head, you can express it in an illustration.
There are many types of illustration – advertising, medical, fashion, portraits, children’s books, comics. Find a niche and stick with it. Each type of illustration is different. For example…children’s book illustrators may draw more fun, imaginative things, comic illustrators may sketch serious superheroes, fashion illustrators may draw stylish dresses, medical illustrators may draw technical, precise illustrations. Mastering one type of illustration is important because specialized illustrators will develop a stronger portfolio, find more work, and command higher fees.
When an illustrator lands a project, it’s time to get down to business. Communicating with clients is important to understand what style, colors, message, and medium is wanted and why. Brainstorming ideas helps bring the idea to life and shows how the illustrator plans to communicate and express the idea. Roughing out the ideas on paper will help clients understand the illustration’s development. After a client approves an idea, it’s important to negotiate fees, timelines, styles, and other details.
Illustrators can work freelance, part time, or full time for publishers, advertising agencies, websites, or other companies. For many, illustrating may start as a fun hobby. But it will also bring in a paycheck. Try to find work on websites like Guru or Elance to gain experience. Enter competitions to gain exposure.
Submit illustrations to publishers and magazines. Remember that not everyone will like your work, so don’t get discouraged. Be persistent. Always think big because it will give you something to strive for…but be sure you can pay the bills too.
There are no formal requirements to become an illustrator. Illustrators need to be able to draw well and stay focused on success. With technology playing such a vital role in the world, illustration is quickly becoming digital. This means that many illustrators can work from just about anywhere.
An illustrator’s work is usually contract based for each project. It’s usually up to the illustrator to set the fees and wages for each client. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for illustrators is $21.56 per hour, which works out to $44,850 per annum (2011). The top 10 percent of people working in this job earn approximately $43 per hour or $89,720 per year. The most famous illustrators can pull in nearly $200,000 per year. But the big money is in medical or technical illustration. People in this niche can make $40,000 to $150,000 per year. Of course pay depends entirely on experience, style, and the employer.
Illustrators must observe life and find inspiration to be successful. Illustrating is a creative outlet that let’s you communicate and express anything. It’s a fascinating art form that lets the imagination and drawing utensil run wild.
Quick Facts About Illustrating Work
Job Title: Illustrator
Office: Where you can draw
Description: Using drawings to inform, persuade, or entertain
Certifications/Education: No formal education required
Necessary Skills: Artistic skills, Creative
Potential Employers: Advertising agencies, Publishers, Freelancer
Pay: Average is $44,850 per year or about $21 per hour