Is becoming an illustrator right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

What do illustrators do?
Career Satisfaction
Are illustrators happy with their careers?
What are illustrators like?

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How to become an Illustrator

Becoming an illustrator requires a combination of artistic talent, dedication, and strategic career planning. Here's a guide on how to pursue a career as an illustrator:

  • Develop Your Artistic Skills: Start by honing your drawing and illustration skills. Practice regularly, experiment with different styles and techniques, and seek feedback from fellow artists or instructors. Take art classes or workshops to enhance your abilities and learn new techniques.
  • Build a Portfolio: Create a portfolio showcasing your best artwork. Select a diverse range of pieces that demonstrate your skills, creativity, and versatility as an illustrator. Include a variety of subjects, styles, and mediums to showcase your range of abilities.
  • Obtain a Formal Education: While not mandatory, earning a degree in illustration or a related field can provide a solid foundation and help you refine your skills. Look for reputable art schools, colleges, or universities that offer illustration programs. Research their curriculum, faculty, and facilities to find the best fit for your artistic goals.
  • Gain Practical Experience: Seek opportunities to gain real-world experience as an illustrator. Look for internships, apprenticeships, or entry-level positions at design studios, publishing houses, advertising agencies, or other creative organizations. These experiences will help you build a network, learn industry practices, and improve your portfolio.
  • Network Within the Industry: Attend art events, conventions, and workshops to meet other artists, illustrators, and professionals in the field. Join local art associations or online communities where you can connect with like-minded individuals, share your work, and learn from others. Networking can lead to collaborations, job opportunities, and valuable industry connections.
  • Create an Online Presence: Establish a professional online presence to showcase your work and attract potential clients or employers. Build a portfolio website to display your artwork, create social media profiles on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, or Behance, and regularly share your illustrations. Engage with the online art community by participating in discussions, following other artists, and seeking feedback.
  • Freelancing or Employment: Decide whether you want to work as a freelance illustrator or seek employment with a company or agency. Freelancing offers flexibility and independence but requires strong self-promotion and business skills. Working for a company may provide more stability and a consistent workflow but may limit creative freedom.
  • Market your Skills: Develop a marketing strategy to promote your services as an illustrator. Create business cards, postcards, or brochures showcasing your artwork and contact information. Attend industry-specific trade shows or conventions where you can display your work and network with potential clients. Build relationships with art directors, editors, or art buyers who may be interested in your illustrations.
  • Continuously Improve and Adapt: Keep refining your skills and stay up-to-date with industry trends and techniques. Attend workshops or take online courses to learn new software tools or explore different mediums. Adapt to changes in the market and embrace new technologies that can enhance your illustrations.
  • Stay Persistent and Patient: Building a successful career as an illustrator takes time, perseverance, and patience. Be prepared to face rejections and setbacks along the way. Stay motivated, continue creating art, and consistently seek new opportunities to showcase your work.

Helpful Resources
As an illustrator, there are several helpful resources available to support your career growth and development. Here are a few:

  • Society of Illustrators: The Society of Illustrators is a prestigious organization dedicated to promoting the art of illustration. They offer exhibitions, educational programs, and networking opportunities for illustrators. They also host the annual "Illustration Art Annual" competition, showcasing outstanding works in the field.
  • Graphic Artists Guild: The Graphic Artists Guild is a professional association that advocates for the rights and interests of illustrators and graphic artists. They provide resources on contracts, pricing, copyright, and other industry-related topics. Membership benefits include access to their legal advice hotline, sample contracts, and educational resources.
  • American Society of Medical Illustrators: If you're interested in medical illustration, the American Society of Medical Illustrators (ASMI) is a valuable organization to join. They provide resources, conferences, and publications specific to the field of medical illustration. Membership offers access to a network of professionals and opportunities to showcase your work.
  • Illustration Age: Illustration Age is an online platform that offers articles, interviews, and resources for illustrators. They cover various topics including industry trends, business tips, and interviews with successful illustrators. It's a great source for staying informed and inspired.
  • Professional Associations and Communities: Joining local or national professional associations and online communities can provide valuable networking opportunities and access to resources. Examples include the Illustrators Club, National Cartoonists Society, and online communities like Dribbble and Behance.
  • Online Learning Platforms: Platforms such as Skillshare, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning offer a wide range of online courses and tutorials specifically tailored for illustrators. These courses can help you develop new skills, learn software tools, and explore different illustration styles.
  • Books and Publications: Explore books and publications related to illustration, art techniques, and the business side of freelancing. Some recommended reads include "The Illustrator's Guide to Law and Business Practices" by Simon Stern, "Steal Like an Artist" by Austin Kleon, and "The Illustrator's Bible" by Rob Howard.