What does an illustrator do?

An illustrator creates original designs and illustrations for a range of media and industries including book covers, magazines, videogames, storyboards, and websites. Their specialty is in visual communication and representation, ensuring creative or accurate depictions of various subject matter. An effective illustrator creates work that has an impact – whether it is to inform, to entertain, or to persuade.

Tasks:

  • Create original designs and illustrations
  • Evaluate client requests to see if illustrations fit specifications
  • Use software and tools to create compelling illustrations
  • Liaise with clients regarding expected outcomes
  • Combine images and symbols to represent information visually

What skills do I need to be an illustrator?

Illustrators need strong technical skills and an aptitude for creative work. They also need strong people skills as their work often involves constant communication with clients and stakeholders. Often illustrators will do freelance work, so you will need to be good at organising your own invoices, cash flow, and be flexible in your working arrangements.

Skills/attributes
  • High creative aptitude and ability to illustrate
  • Strong drive to succeed
  • Listening skills and interpersonal skills
  • Able to work independently and adhere to brief guidelines
  • Willingness to experiment with different techniques

Specialisations

Illustrators can pursue a number of specialisations, including but not limited to 2D or 3D animation, scientific and technical work, and app development. Illustration will always be required across a range of industries, mediums, and formats, so there are plenty of ways for a budding illustrator to specialise.

Animator

Animators create models and draw characters in sequences to create an illusion of movement. They often need to work with sound and music, synchronising their drawings and movements frame-by-frame with audio cues. Animators work with a range of traditional and digital tools and techniques. These can include cell animation, motion graphics, rendering, and even claymation.

Cartoonists

Cartoonists create works that combine illustrations with words. They use humour, irony and parody to create illustrations that are engaging,persuasive, and sometimes subversive. The work process of a cartoonist may involve submitting rough designs and drawings for approval, and then supervising the publication and photography of their artwork.

Technical illustrator

A technical illustrator is tasked with the creation of schematics, engineering drawings, manuals, and other media that may require highly detailed, scientific drawings. This specialty requires skills in CAD and other tools that are used for technical drawings. They can work with both traditional and digital media to create their body of work.

Architectural illustrator

IThese illustrators assist in the creation of drawings for streetscapes, parks, and other architectural projects. They need to ensure their drawings accurately depict a building project in different stages of its completion. This specialisation works closely with architects, planners, councils, and other stakeholders such as developers.

Study pathways for office managers

While there aren’t formal requirements for people who want to be illustrators, usually they will study at a fine arts university or design school to hone their skills and artistic sensibilities.

Getting Started

Choose a course to help you get started on your illustration career.

Skill Building

Develop your skills as an illustrator by undertaking these courses.

Professional Development

Build your skills further and enhance your reputation as a professional illustrator with these additional qualifications.

Industry Recognition

Joining a professional illustration or design association may help boost your networking opportunities and give your design career an edge.

Getting a job after graduation

Put your training to good use and get the best professional head start in your design career. Emphasise your personal strengths and achievements in your resume and target your cover letter to illustrator jobs.

Job Prospects and Salaries

The design industry is expected to grow very strongly, however the salary of an illustrator is below average.