Modern software can make it much easier to produce professional-looking images, but creative people with a real talent for drawing can still make a living as illustrators.

Work activities

Illustration is always done for a purpose – usually to provide visual interest, to explain or to persuade. Original illustrations are used in advertising, films and videos, websites, magazines and books.

Each project starts with a brief. As an illustrator, you need to understand what the client wants to achieve and the style, content and technical details that are required.

The first step is to draw up some rough sketches to show your ideas. When these have been discussed and approved, you would go on to produce finished artwork to exact technical specifications. You might do some of the early work on a project by hand, but you would also use software, such as Adobe Illustrator, to produce the final version.

If the illustrations you are producing are very detailed, such as diagrams to explain a piece of equipment, you may have to go through several sets of corrections before you are finished.

Most illustrators work as freelancers. You could work directly with the client who is paying for the project or through a graphic designer or art director. Some illustrators work through an agent who takes a commission for every job.

Entry requirements

You need a very strong portfolio of work that shows your ability to draw – preferably in more than one medium and style. Potential employers will be looking for originality, but will also want to see that you can be flexible and that you keep up to date with fashions in illustration.

It is also important to show that you can use software to produce work to a professional standard for a variety of purposes.

If you are going to work successfully as a freelance, you need to be able to run your own business. This means that you must work to deadlines and budgets. It’s also useful to get on well with other people, so that they will enjoy working with you again.



The fees for freelance illustration vary, depending on the client. However, you might expect to earn between £15,000 and £30,000 a year, and sometimes more.

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