Arts & crafts


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 Statistics)

Working hours


What's it all about?

You may specialise in one area of illustration, like technical, childrens books or advertising.

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

If you work for yourself, you’ll also need to promote your business and manage your own finances.

Creative Choices has more information about being an illustrator.


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:

  • 2 to 3 A levels to do a degree or higher national diploma


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), including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship

Applying Directly

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.

£14,000 to £40,000

Starter salary: £14,000 to £19,000

Experienced salary: £20,000 to £30,000

If you work for yourself you’ll negotiate your fee with your client. Fees are often based on the amount of time it takes to complete work.

These figures are a guide.


If freelance, you’ll usually arrange your own hours depending on your workload and the deadlines you have to meet. 

You could be based at home or in a studio, and may spend time visiting clients to market your work and discuss briefs.

With experience and graphic design skills you could work for a design agency, publishing company or magazine.

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:

  • excellent time management
  • attention to detail
  • the ability to work to a brief
  • creativity and imagination
My top 5 skills from the skills bank
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