Career paths in artistic professions vary, and success depends not only on talent and hard work, but also on the recognition of your personal brand or portfolio. The profession of an illustrator is no exception in this respect – you can find both sought-after artists and ordinary cartoonists on the market, often working for little money. What does an illustrator do? What is the most popular form of employment in this profession? How much do illustrators earn and what does their salary depend on? Work as an illustrator.
What does an illustrator do?
You probably won’t be surprised that illustrators deal with … illustrating. This profession is associated with the preparation of drawings for books or magazines, but in fact, with the development of modern media, cartoonists are also often sought by film and series producers or computer game studios.
Illustrator and graphic designer – differences
Unlike a graphic designer who usually designs functional content (e.g. a logo for a company or advertising graphics), an illustrator creates drawings of an artistic nature that complement the text. Most often they are illustrations for children’s books and picture books, but there are also drawings for comic books, magazines, and websites. In addition, illustrators are often hired to create storyboards and concept art which are a key element in conveying a movie or computer game script.
Does the work of an illustrator ensure artistic freedom?
As we have already mentioned, illustrators create artistic content to order, often on the basis of already existing text. Depending on the requirements of the commissioner, the task of the cartoonist is to create an illustration either on the basis of very specific guidelines or on the basis of his own interpretation of the work. For some artistic forms, such as picture books, drawings are the most important element of a work and are often created in front of the text itself – in this case the illustrator actually boasts a wide range of artistic freedom. However, in most cases the content of the illustrations depends entirely on the employer’s guidelines, and these can be really different.
Who can work as an illustrator? Requirements
No specific training or experience is required to work as an illustrator. In fact, the most important thing is artistic talent and the right equipment – a graphics tablet. Some illustrators still draw using traditional methods (charcoal, pencil, watercolors, etc.), but employers prefer computer graphics. In this way, they save time in the process of folding the book for printing.
The role of portfolio when looking for a job as an illustrator
Although experience is not a necessary requirement, and there are offers on the market aimed at novice illustrators, most employers require proof of their skills, preferably by familiarizing themselves with the previous works of the creator. As is the case with most artistic professions, the decisive criteria for recruiting are not your education or your CV, but your portfolio. It should include a few or a dozen of the best projects made so far, emphasizing the unique style (or several styles) and the artist’s skills. A good portfolio is the main element in the process of building a personal brand and is the key when looking for a job as an illustrator.
Does a good illustrator have to have a specific education?
No, a good illustrator does not have to have a specific education, and when recruiting, employers primarily evaluate the portfolio. Nevertheless, many beginner cartoonists decide to take an illustration course or start a graphic studies course. Having a certificate of successful completion of an illustrator course or a professional title confirming professional education is always an advantage, but much more important is the experience and skills acquired during the study. Importantly, the studies are a great opportunity to fill your portfolio with valuable graphics, which will certainly pay off in the future.
How much do illustrators earn?
Illustrators’ salaries are extremely varied and it is difficult to even talk about specific ranges without dividing them into two categories. Most illustrators are employed under a contract of employment for book publishing houses, and a smaller part of them work on a freelance basis, carrying out individual orders from clients. Of course, the latter form of employment does not exclude permanent cooperation with several employers, but it translates into much lower income stability, the amount of which depends on the number of successfully completed orders.
Average earnings of illustrators developed countries
The average monthly earnings of an illustrator employed under a contract of employment are approx. 850 Dollars gross, while a freelance cartoonist earns on average approx. 1,000 Dollars gross per month. It is worth noting that many full-time illustrators earn extra money on single assignments outside the workplace, which allows you to increase income depending on your financial needs. In addition, drawing artists can sometimes count on additional money received, for example, as part of prizes or bonuses. Some illustrators of picture books or picture books, apart from a fixed salary, also earn a small percentage from the sale of each copy. However, publishing houses rarely decide on this form of cooperation, preferring employment under an employment contract or a specific rate for the implementation of the entire project.