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An illustrator uses art, design and creative skills to communicate ideas, sensations, facts, feelings and emotions. Illustrators work to commercial briefs to inform, persuade or entertain a client's intended audience, adjusting the mood and style of images accordingly.

Work is predominantly freelance. Possible markets include:

  • Editorial (magazines, newspapers and comics)
  • Books
  • Advertising (posters, storyboards, press)
  • Fashion (forecasting)
  • Merchandising (greetings cards, calendars, t-shirts, ceramics, etc.)
  • Corporate Work (brochures, catalogues)
  • Multimedia (video games, websites, animation)

Specialist areas include scientific, technical and medical illustration. In these fields, illustrators create illustrations for text and reference books that may show new products, processes or techniques.

Although this area of work is open to all graduates and diplomates, the following subjects may increase your chances:

  • Graphic Design/Illustration
  • Fine Art/Visual Art
  • Fashion
  • Printmaking

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not needed, but a diploma or MA in Graphic Design or Illustration may be advantageous.

On average, it takes illustrators around five or six years to build a reputation and become established in the industry. Setting up as a freelance illustrator is risky and many people decide to build up contacts and clients gradually, whilst doing other paid work.

Career progression is relatively limited. The majority of illustrators will remain freelance illustrators and may enjoy a highly successful career. Some will successfully combine illustration with teaching. Others may progress from freelance illustrator to art director with a firm of publishers, and a small number may work as agents for other illustrators.

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