What Does An Illustrator Do?

Illustrators are professionals who use their artistic skill, technical knowledge and originality to come up with visual depictions of various concepts. Their work usually appears in children’s books, magazines, product labels, medical references, websites and other media. Illustrators are skilled in using both traditional media and digital art in making their drawings and models. Through the use of pen and ink, pastels, watercolor and computer software, illustrators are able to elucidate the text in books and reference materials to facilitate better understanding.

There are different types of illustrators and their daily responsibilities depend on the field they work in. There are children’s book illustrators, medical illustrators, scientific illustrators, technical illustrators and others. Children’s book illustrators enable young people—even those who cannot read yet—to understand a story because of their drawings that accompany the text. Medical illustrators make drawings and presentations of the human body as well as its human processes. These appear in medical books and journals, instructional videos and exhibits and allow medical students and professionals to better understand the physical, physiological and psychological functions of the body. Scientific illustrators see to it that concepts in biology, chemistry, physics and other subjects are depicted correctly to help students and other people understand them. Technical illustrators are concerned with creating accurate depictions of technical objects like machinery, equipment and cars. Others also make illustrations for product labels and advertisements.

A good part of the day of illustrators is spent in their studios or in front of the computer screen in an office making drawings for a particular text. However, they also undertake other responsibilities that don’t have anything to do with the making the actual drawings but which will help them advance in their profession. Before illustrators begin making drawings for a particular project, for example, they will have to meet with the client to talk about the project requirements. In this meeting, they will try to understand what the client wants to achieve with the illustration as well as determine what parts of the text need to be illustrated, the number of illustrations required and what the deadline for the work is. During this meeting, concerns about pricing and payments are also discussed. Depending on the specialization of the illustrators, their clients can include authors, designers, editors, medical professionals and engineers, among others.

After the illustrators have already ascertained the needs of the client, they will then proceed with the brainstorming process. In this stage of the work, they come up with visual ideas for the material and start crafting rough sketches or making initial computer drawings. Afterwards, they would meet again with the client to get their approval for the illustrations. Once the client has already assented to the preliminary sketches, illustrators will then proceed with the final set of drawings using whatever artistic method that has already been agreed upon. Some illustrators make sketches and color them on paper before having the images scanned and stored in the computer. Other illustrators make the sketches directly into the computer through the use of software programs and hardware tools like that of a graphics tablet. Once everything is finished, illustrators submit everything to the client who will review the work. Illustrators may have to make improvements to the final submissions if their client so requests. During the entire process, illustrators also have to keep in mind that they must finish the work within the set budgetary requirements given for them to work with.

Salaried illustrators only have to be concerned with making excellent illustrations for projects. However, those who are self-employed also have to actively market themselves to potential clients. To do this, they need to compile a portfolio of the work and show these to prospective customers during their client calls. Knowledge of various artistic techniques is advantageous in case clients prefer a particular artistic method for their project. In order to gain their clients’ trust and encourage them to vouch for their name, self-employed illustrators work to deliver quality, professional work right on time. It’s important for illustrators who are just starting out to give quality service to their clients so that their customer base will grow and they will be able to earn excellent income for the services they provide.

Career Spotlight: Illustrator



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,[...]

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