How to get started on a career in illustration

A career as an illustrator will involve tackling a number of exciting and rewarding projects, but there’s no escaping the fact that every potential newcomer requires far more than just the ability to draw well. As well as hard work and dedication, an illustrator also needs to know and understand a number of technical skills and industry-specific applications. Illustrators are employed in a variety of industry sectors in the 21st century, from advertising and marketing to animation and computer imaging. For the most talented and hard-working individuals, the rewards can be high. Here are five tips which can help you to reach the top of the illustration tree in the coming years, and to savour every moment along the way.

career in illustration


Get to grips with the technical side

Creating images is far more than simply putting pencil to paper nowadays. To become a successful illustrator you need to understand complex yet innovative applications such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, because without this knowledge the options will be far too limited. These programmes are effectively the tools of the trade in the modern era.


Never underestimate the importance of education

Those who seek a career in illustration must realise that a talent for creating artwork is only part of the requirements now. The vast majority of employers will only consider applications from those who have qualifications on their CVs, so illustration courses from a highly regarded education provider should be the first item on the applicant’s agenda.


Remember to be yourself

Prospective employers will always expect illustrators to follow a general brief, but they will also want him or her to stamp their own personality on the images. Although the guidelines from an employer will be vital – if you ignore them you do so at your peril – you must remember you’re being asked to perform a task that is by its very nature a creative one.


Always absorb inspiration

In many ways, the most important advice for would-be illustrators is to continually feed off the ideas and work of others. Previous trends should always be an influence; even the most innovative people in any of the creative arts will proudly admit to being inspired by others. Originality is hugely important, of course, but it’s rarely a stand-alone entity.


Be ready to accept criticism

While there may be a tendency to want to scream in frustration when you’re faced with criticism of your work, you need to know the most effective ways of reacting to it. The smartest illustrators know they can improve and evolve on a continual basis, and will be happy to listen to the constructive and informative views of others, and to react positively.

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