An illustrator makes illustrations for various media. You could be hired to make drawings for children’s books and magazines or you could be asked to make designs and illustrations for stationeries, wrapping papers or greeting cards. You could also work on the images that appear on calendars, medical books and other materials.
As an illustrator, you could use traditional materials to do your work. These include pen and ink, pastels, wood engraving, watercolor and others. You could also use modern digital art in your work through the use of software programs on computers and graphics tablets. Even if you prefer the traditional methods of drawing, the profession has become so competitive and demanding nowadays that it is best to learn digital art as well. Besides, even if traditional art is used to create the illustrations, many publishers are increasingly using technology to do their work more efficiently. For instance, after an illustration has been made with pen and ink, for example, you would need to use scanners to transfer the image in the computer for final editing and printing.
Illustrators typically concentrate on one industry. Some choose to work only on children’s books while others specialize in medical illustration where they draw very detailed pictures of the human anatomy or of surgical procedures that appear in medical and nursing books. Still others choose to become scientific illustrators who concentrate on drawing animals, plants, geologic formations and planets. These also appear in reference materials and other books. Many medical and scientific illustrators also create three-dimensional models which are used for teaching students in the classroom. Other illustrators choose to concentrate on making technical illustrations of automobile models and other industrial machinery or equipment. Still others opt to use their artistic skills for advertising packages and labels.
To succeed as an illustrator, you need to have artistic skill and talent. Even if you know how to manipulate software programs like Adobe Illustrator, it will be your creativity that will give you a steady stream of work in this profession. You also need to be inventive since you will need to have original ideas for the various concepts presented to you for illustration. You also need to have steady hands since you will be using both of them for your craft. Just like many other illustrators, you will most likely be working freelance so you will need to know how to market yourself well to prospective clients. This also means having great customer service skills. You also need to build a reputation for yourself by delivering work on time.
Why Become An Illustrator
One reason to become an illustrator is that it allows artistically inclined individuals to do the work they love and earn a living from it. While some illustrators are hired by advertising agencies and publishing firms, many work freelance. This means that they will be able to work whenever they want which results to better work-life balance. Although it can be a bit challenging for fresh illustrators to establish themselves at first, they can make good money with this profession as they gain experience and clients. Prospects are expected to be good in the next few years for illustrators who are adept at using computers and making digital art.
Illustrators work in publishing firms, advertising firms, public relations companies and hospitals. Many of them work freelance and thus have to find clients on their own. Just like other artists, some self-employed illustrators also have other jobs while they are still establishing themselves so part-time work is common.
Illustrators work in well-lighted studios or offices. If they use traditional materials like paint, watercolor and others, they may have to deal with the fumes that come from them, making well-ventilated studios necessary. Salaried illustrators work regular hours but those who are self-employed may set their own schedules. All illustrators may need to put in overtime if deadlines need to be met.
The Occupational Employment and Wages report of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics categorize illustrators under the broader grouping of fine artists which included painters and sculptors. The mean annual wage of fine artists is $50,900. This is more than the $36,600 paid to craft artists but less than the $72,400 paid to multimedia artists and animators. Illustrators who go the self-employed route may find it difficult to earn regularly at first but those who have already established their reputations in the field often earn more than those who receive regular salaries.
Illustrator Career Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that fine artists, where illustrators are a part of, are expected to grow at a rate of 4 percent in the ten-year period covering 2012 to 2022. This will add 1,100 fine artists to the 28,800 already employed in 2012, bringing the number to 29,900 in 2022. Illustrators who are adept at digital art can expect better job opportunities as Internet-based publications and electronic media use increases. Still, there will be intense competition for jobs so those illustrators who know how to use a wide variety of art techniques will be at an advantage.
Illustrators, painters and other fine artists don’t really need formal education other than a high school degree to practice the profession. However, many choose to earn a bachelor’s degree in the fine arts or related fields to improve their job prospects. Obtaining a degree also gives them the opportunity to start crafting their portfolios which is required by employers during the job hunting process as evidence of their abilities.
Individuals who wish to work as medical illustrators typically have to take both art and premedical courses. Those who would like to take their degree as a medical illustrator a step further can take a master’s degree in medical illustration. An advanced degree also enables illustrators to take teaching positions at colleges and universities.