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Arts & crafts


Illustrators produce drawings, paintings or diagrams for use in products like books and greetings cards, or on packaging.

Annual Salary


Average UK salary in 2022 was £33,200
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

39 to 41 variable

You could work: freelance / self-employed; managing your own hours

Future employment

There will be 0.5% more Illustrator jobs in 2027.

Day to day tasks

Your day-to-day tasks might depend on the field of illustration you work in.

As an illustrator you could:

  • discuss requirements, or a brief, with authors, editors or designers
  • negotiate prices and timescales
  • research your creative ideas
  • create final illustrations using hand drawing, painting or computer design packages
  • promote your business and manage your finances if you're self-employed

Working environment

You could work in a creative studio, from home or at a client's business.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • applying directly

You could do a higher national diploma or degree in illustration or a related subject like fine art or graphic design.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • between 1 and 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a higher national diploma or degree
For more information

You could do a course in art and design to help you become an illustrator.

For more information

You could take an apprenticeship to learn some of the skills you need to get started as an illustrator, like:

  • Junior VFX Artist or Assistant Technical Director Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship
  • Junior Animator Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship
For more information
Direct application

If you do not have art or design qualifications, you can contact companies directly to share examples of your work.

You can find information on the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook on how to:

  • get started as a freelance illustrator
  • prepare a portfolio
  • find a publisher

More information

Career tips

As a freelance illustrator you'll need a portfolio to showcase your work. You'll need this to get onto a course or to show clients.

You might want to create your portfolio on:your own website; a blog; social media platforms like Instagram

If you're working freelance, you can sell your work directly or through an agent.

Agents have access to a large network of buyers and will take a percentage of your sales as commission. The Society of Artists Agents has details of agents as well as examples of artists' work.

Further information

You can get more details about working in illustration from the Association of Illustrators (AOI).

You can get information on working in creative careers from Discover Creative Careers.

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If you work freelance, you'll need to build up and maintain a client base.

You can use your illustrating skills in a variety of sectors including:advertising; fashion and merchandising; publishing; websites and computer games

With further training and experience you could specialise as a medical illustrator or scientific illustrator. You could also move into teaching.

You can get more details about working in illustration from the Association of Illustrators and Creative Choices.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • knowledge of the fine arts
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • design skills and knowledge
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • knowledge of computer operating systems, hardware and software
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • active listening skills
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
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