Are you the one with doodles all over your textbooks? You can’t stop drawing every chance you get? If you have a passion for drawing and love to express yourself through art, then you may enjoy a career as an illustrator. Illustrators work for publishing companies, magazines, films, advertisers, and online businesses creating illustrations for them. As well as very good drawing skills you need to have a talent for communication. Furthermore, you need to listen to your clients and deliver illustrations that fit their brief. You are not just fulfilling your artistic whims with each commission. At the same time, you will need to have a knack for marketing because you will be selling your talents to your potential clients. Illustrators traditionally work on paper with a variety of fine art materials. Yet, increasingly they are moving into the digital realm.

Do you have a passion for drawing and putting together compositions? Do you scarper at the thought of scientific professions? Are you and the muse best buddies? If so then why not use your talent to become an illustrator? Here we will demystify the process you need to follow to become an illustrator. 

Step one: Choose a course

You may not need to take a course specifically for illustrators to develop your skills. However, you will need to study Fine Arts or Design at university. Illustration is a skill which you needs to develop and perfect. This process should take place under the guidance of your tutors. When choosing a course make sure there is enough freedom to follow your own direction. For example, a specialised fine art course on sculpture will not make the best choice. 

Step two: Join a professional association

Once you graduate you do not have to join a professional association. However, joining is a helpful step to take because by connecting to the association you can find doors to opportunities open. Besides the membership gives potential employers and clients confidence in your skills.

Step three: Look for your first job

When you are ready to pitch for your first job make sure you have a stunning portfolio ready to impress. Also, when making applications make sure you tailor your resume and cover letter each time. Include information about your qualifications, your personal strengths, and any experience you have.

Step four: Consider a specialisation

Once you have built up your experience and standing in the illustrating community. Then, you can consider a specialisation. You can find illustrations in most walks of life so keep an open mind and ears for opportunities!
Moving into 2D and 3D form the work of an animator is diverse and immersive. If your imagination is bigger than the paper you work on as an illustrator, consider becoming an animator. You create movement in your work adding music and dialogue to bring the work alive. Furthermore, you may work with models or other styles to turn static drawings into animation. Often there is more focus on characters, and creating worlds for them to inhabit. You use traditional and digital tools.
In this specialisation, you begin to use dialogue with your illustrations. Cartoonists create works which feature humour, irony, parody to tell stories. The results are powerful illustrations which engage the audience, persuading or challenging them. You begin to develop your ideas as rough designs, which you submit for approval, then you see them through to publication.
Technical Illustrator
If you are a bit of a secret geek, then you may enjoy getting technical with your work. The work of a technical illustrator is a speciality which requires exacting attention to detail. You may illustrate schematics, engineering drawings, manuals, and other media requiring scientific drawings. You must learn to use CAD.
Architectural Illustrator
In this specialisation, you focus on producing drawings for architectural projects. If you like to make very controlled realistic geometric drawings, then you will enjoy this job. There is a need for accuracy in this field because the drawing must be to scale and accurately represent how the building project will look. You work in collaboration with architects, planner, councils and other project stakeholders.

What do Illustrators Do?

If you take a moment to look around you will see illustrations everywhere. You can find them on book covers, in magazines, in advertising, video games, and on websites. As the illustrator, you follow your clients brief and produce for them illustrations with a wow factor. You use visual communication to creatively express whatever it is they want to express. Primarily you work with traditional fine art materials on paper, later converting to a digital format. But you may find yourself using illustration software more and more as these methods gain traction in the industry. The goal of your work is to produce visual pieces of art with an impact. Maybe informing, persuading or entertaining – or all three!


  • Creating original illustrations
  • Evaluating client requests and making sure illustrations meet brief
  • Using software to create striking illustrations
  • Liaising with clients, managing expectations
  • Combining images and symbols to make compositions

Skills for Success

Firstly and foremost you need to have excellent drawing skills. You will create illustrations every day so the practical talent must come first. If you have that in hand, then you also need to have strong communication skills. You liaise with your clients to define their briefs and to present them with your finished work. At this point, you need to have an open mind to any criticism you may receive or revision requests. Self-employed illustrators will need to market themselves. As well as manage other practical admin tasks like invoicing and cash flow.

Skills and attributes

  • Highly creative
  • Skilled at drawing
  • Driven
  • Excellent listening skills
  • Able to follow a brief
  • Adheres to deadlines
  • Can work independently
  • Willing to try different styles and techniques

How much does illustrators make in Australia?

In Australia, illustrators earn a median wage of $56,957 per year. This varies according to a number of factors and is intended as a reference only, from Payscale 05/’18.

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