How To Become An Illustrator?

8 minute read
How to Become an Illustrator

Do you like painting images and want to make it a career? Do you like telling stories through images? Then being an illustrator might be a good path to the future of your dreams. But becoming an illustrator is not a straightforward path and so many paths branch out from a single one that it might be difficult to choose one. One can become an illustrator by getting a formal education and do not worry if you are not into studying a lot you can become an illustrator without getting enrolled in an art school as well but you would still need the basic knowledge, skills and talent to be successful in this field. Therefore, we will be discussing how to become an illustrator in this blog today.

Must Read: Fine arts courses

Who is an Illustrator?

An illustrator creates a visual representation of the subject matter to accompany a piece of writing. Diverse illustration techniques can enhance comic books, children’s books, and magazines. Similar to how other art forms have changed over time, illustration has also evolved.

Illustrators used to work without the aid of computers in the past. The majority of illustration professionals used analogue tools like pencils, paints, and brushes throughout their careers. After that, their work was forwarded to a lithographer who edited it for books, newspapers, and magazines.

Since lithographers are becoming increasingly scarce, illustrators are expected to be able to scan or photograph their work in order to get it ready for printing. Digitalizing artwork for clients is still acceptable when using original drawings and lithography. Consult your client first if you’re not familiar with computer programmes.

How To Become an Illustrator? 

To become a professional in art fields like becoming an illustrator you have a choice to go with conventional or unconventional ways of reaching your goal. Conventional ways would take you through an art school, internships and into jobs. In unconventional ways, you can choose not to go to art schools and rather start your career straight away. But in both cases, you do need skills and basic knowledge of your field to be able to become successful. So here are some steps that will help you understand the journey of being an illustrator better – 

Step 1: Gather knowledge and skills

Yes, the first step is to get the basic knowledge of arts, styles, and software needed and where you get that knowledge is your choice. You can either enrol in one of the art and design schools that we have mentioned below or you can choose to pursue a diploma or even choose to gather this knowledge by practice. No matter what you choose, the first step is always going to be learning about your field.

Step 2:  Internships

The next step takes you to practice what you have learned before and widen your horizon by doing internships. Through internships, you will gather the finer skills and you will also get to hone these skills. Learning the ins and outs of your trade and maybe gathering some money while being at it will come in handy as you move forward. Internships not only improve your resume and portfolio but give valuable experience in your field as well which is important. 

Step 3: Choose a specialization

By the time you have done a few internships and honed your skills, you would have gotten some idea of where your interests lay. You will know which particular field or job is suited to you, your needs and your talents. Once you have chosen that you can jump in and get a job, become a freelancer or whatever else you want to be. 

Step 4: Practice and experimentation

As we all know practice makes a person perfect. Practising your art gives you more experience and makes you better at what you do. More experienced and expert illustrators are always in demand. But do not get stuck with a single type or style. Just like stagnant water gets stale, stagnant skills get redundant and unvalued. We should keep experimenting with new styles, genres and software which would keep expanding our knowledge and portfolio along with giving us an edge over other people.

Following these steps, you can become the illustrator you want to be and fulfil your dreams. But always remember never to give up because making your dreams a reality takes courage and hard work. Constructive criticism and feedback also go a long way in motivating and improving you. If you persevere and believe in your skills then you will no longer be dreaming but living in your dream. 

Skills Of An Illustrator

To know how to become an illustrator, Let us first identify the core needed skills an illustrator must need. Some of the skills that would come in handy when choosing to become an illustrator as a career are –

  • Good hand-eye coordination
  • Good eye for colour, balance, and layout
  • Excellent drawing, sketching and painting skills
  • Familiarity with IT and design software
  • Good at using concepts and turning them into graphics
  • Creativity and great imagination are other requirements
  • Visionary with an eye for detail
  • Deadline-driven and savvy with solid artistic skills
  • Good negotiation skills and people skills

How To Become an Illustrator: Types Of Projects

Let us now find out the types of projects that an illustrator might work on in this blog on how to become an illustrator. An illustrator works with various things and in various styles throughout their career. You can choose which you prefer and give it a try. Some of the projects illustrators undertake are given below:

  • Websites
  • T-shirts
  • Training manuals
  • Storyboards
  • Posters
  • Phone apps
  • Packaging
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Greeting cards
  • Giftware
  • Film animation
  • Diagrams for instruction manuals
  • Computer games
  • Catalogues
  • Book jackets and book illustrations

Graphic Designers vs Illustrators

The primary responsibility of an illustrator is to translate a written piece or idea into a visual form. A graphic designer‘s main objective is to communicate a message to a particular audience.

Both graphic designers and illustrators share many characteristics. Illustrators and graphic designers may both work together. Graphic designers, as opposed to illustrators, collaborate with businesses to develop marketing materials, logos, and sales materials. The success of a company is more closely correlated with its work than the storytelling prowess of an illustrator.

Design Software Knowledge

Nowadays everything is online not just books but illustrations too so illustrators also have to go with the times and learn to use their artistic creations not just on paper but on tablets too. They can choose which software suits their art style and stick with it. Some of the software which the illustrators could use are given below –

  • Moleskine Smart Writing Set
  • Inkscape 0.92
  • CorelDRAW 2017
  • Corel Painter 2018
  • Autodesk SketchBook 8.4
  • ArtRage 5
  • Affinity Photo for iPad
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Illustrator

Must Read: How to Become a Shoe Designer?

Top Universities

Here are the top Universities for Art and Design around the globe where you can study and then take up a career as an illustrator.


The top art and design schools according to QS rankings 2022 across the world are given below:

Universities Location QS University Rankings for Art & Design 2022
Royal College of Art London, UK 1
University of Arts London London, UK 2
The New School New York City, US 3
Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Providence, US 4
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Cambridge, US 8
Politecnico di Milano Milan, Italy 5
Aalto University Espoo, Finland 6
School of Art Institute of Chicago Chicago, US =9
The Glasgow School of Art Glasgow, UK 11
Pratt University New York City, US 7
Art Center College of Design Pasadena, USA 14


The universities and colleges that are famous for their art and design courses are given below in the list –

  1. Aligarh Muslim University, Department of Fine Arts
  2. Amity School of Fine Arts, Amity University    
  3. Banaras Hindu University, Faculty of Visual Arts
  4. Bhartiya Kala Mahavidyalaya, Pune
  5. Delhi University- College of Arts
  6. Jamia Millia Islamia, Faculty of Fine Arts
  7. Kurukshetra University, Department of Fine Arts
  8. National Institute of Design (NID)
  9. Rabindra Bharati University
  10. Visva Bharati University, Kala Bhawan (Institute of Fine Arts)

Top Recruiters 

The top recruiters who hire illustrators are given in the list below: 

  • Big health
  • Brafton inc.
  • Design Garden
  • DKNG
  • GraphicMama
  • Kaplan
  • Kenny Kiernan Illustration Studio
  • Lightboard
  • Mojo Digital Studio
  • StudioMH
  • Truly Design Studio
  • Valistika
  • Waldo Photo
  • Axios                

Scope And Salary

Illustrators create art and still drawings commercially for various platforms like magazines, newspapers, books, ads, packaging even greeting cards, medical art and graphic designs. Their field is diverse and their scope wide as long as they know about where their skills lie and what they want to do. These were only some of the areas where an illustrator can work. Working as an illustrator may not be easy but it is satisfying and rewarding if illustrating is something you enjoy and cherish. It can be a dream come true for a passionate artist.

The average annual salary (tips, bonus, and overtime pay) for an entry-level Illustrator with less than one year of experience is 2,04,257.

The salaries of entry-level illustrators around the world are listed below.

Country Annual Salary
United States $32,000 (USD) (INR 26.23 Lakh)
United Kingdom £17,000 (INR 16.70 Lakh)
Australia $41,000 (AUD) (INR 22.71 Lakh)
Canada $36,000 (CAD) (INR 21.75 Lakh)
Malaysia MYR 3,000 (INR 54,946)
Philippines ₱121,000 (INR 1.80 Lakh)
Singapore $19,000 (SGD) (INR 11.56 Lakh)
South Africa R11,000 (INR 49,563)

Tips for a Budding Career

Keep in mind this advice for a long and successful career as an illustrator:

  • Participate in networking events with organisations like the Association of Illustrators to meet people in your field.
  • Promote Your Work: To get the attention of publishing companies, art directors, agencies, and other potential clients, use social media and online portfolio sites. You could also directly approach publishers and art directors to pitch your ideas.
  • Respect Your Deadlines: Be clear with clients about what you can do for them and what they can anticipate from you. Never let a deadline slip by. Create a clientele by delivering top-notch work and proving your dependability.
  • Utilize Your Time: In the free time you have, take on tasks that seem challenging and will require you to learn something new. You could enrol in an online college course that covers the fundamentals of design, or you could completely change your focus to a different industry where your illustration skills would be very helpful.


Q1. What qualifications do you need to be an illustrator?

Ans. For being an illustrator you mostly need talent, drive and persistence, but a degree in art and design won’t hurt much either. You will need to build a good portfolio and connections to get successful as an illustrator. You can read above how to become an illustrator.

Q2. Do illustrators get paid well?

Ans. The average salary of an illustrator is about Rs. 3 lakhs per year, so the payment is not bad

Q3. Is Illustration a good career? Is there a demand for illustrators?

Ans. There is demand for illustrators in almost all kinds of industries from newspapers, magazines, and books to ads, packaging, even greeting cards, medical art and graphic designs. So there is no question of demand, but if it is a good career or not for you is a decision one must make themselves. If you are passionate about drawing, painting and images, then it might be a very good career for you.

Q4. Is it too late to become an illustrator?

Ans. It is never too late to be an illustrator. There is no age or limit to when and how you achieve your dreams so if being an illustrator is a dream for you then it is never too late and you should go for it.

So this was all about how to become an illustrator and what you might need to achieve this goal. You can also read about other careers in our how-to guides. For more such amazing and interesting reads, stay tuned with Leverage Edu and connect with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for more updates.

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