Arts & crafts

Illustrator

Illustrators produce drawings, paintings or diagrams for use in products like books and greetings cards, or on packaging.

Annual Salary

£14,000 to £40,000

Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

39 to 41 variable

You could work: freelance / self-employed; managing your own hours

What's it all about?

Day to day tasks

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

Working environment

You could work in a creative studio, from home or at a client's business.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship
  • applying directly
University

You'll need a higher national diploma or degree in illustration or a related subject like fine art or graphic design.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • between 1 and 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a higher national diploma or degree
For more information
Apprenticeship

You could do an advanced apprenticeship in graphic design, then with experience and further training, move into illustration work.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship
For more information
Direct application

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.

More information

Career tips

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.

Further information

You can get more details about working in illustration from the Association of Illustrators.

You can get information on working in creative careers from Discover Creative Careers.

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.

You can get more details about working in illustration from the Association of Illustrators and Creative Choices.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • 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
  • knowledge of English language
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
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