How To Become An Illustrator: 7 Key Steps To Follow

How To Become An Illustrator

Are you looking for how to become an illustrator? You’re in the right place. The truth is, anyone can become an illustrator. You can become an illustrator and build a highly successful career. But you need passion and determination to keep going. 

However, if you are passionate about storytelling and art, illustration might be your ideal career. But you must follow the right path to have a solid foundation you can keep building on.

Here, we’ll discuss what illustration is, what to expect when you become an illustrator, and how to become one. If you’re serious about pursuing this career, keep reading!

What Is Illustration?

Illustration is another aspect of visual art that involves the creation of unique images and designs to deliver messages or for storytelling. 

As an illustrator, you must be ready to be creative. Whether doing hand-drawn or digital artwork illustration, your work must exude creativity to stand out from the crowd. 

Illustrators take their clients’ ideas and breathe life into them. They turn ideas into life. You imagine the design, create it in your head, and finally bring it to life. 

What Are The Responsibilities of An Illustrator

By now, you may have read something about the responsibilities or things you’ll be doing as an illustrator. Nevertheless, let’s have some discussions on the topic. 

Being an illustrator means you have to be versatile and creative. Your responsibilities would involve planning, including creating sketches and drawings. 

You can work in diverse places, such as for magazines, newspapers, books, catalogs, and creative studios. 

You’ll find illustrators working for websites, video game developers, and prints. They create infographics, drawings, and illustrations for print and digital media. 

The purpose of illustration or the primary role of an illustrator is to deliver a message or clarify an idea via drawings, infographics, and other visual creations. 

Now, what are the primary responsibilities of an illustrator? In other words, what would your task be when you become an illustrator? These would be some of the responsibilities:

1: Discuss and decide on the project’s design with clients and other team members. You’ll be required to brief your team members or get their briefings as an illustrator. However, this is common in large projects. 

2: Decide the possible results of projects and analyze the design constraints with clients and team members.  

3: Plan the project schedule with clients and team members, ensuring the project is completed within the stipulated time. 

4: Create illustration and design concepts for accessible communication to clients and team members. In this case, an illustrator must have started using traditional and digital media. Traditional media includes painting, drawing, collage, drafting, and photography, while digital media uses image capture and manipulation.        

Illustrators can create design briefs with software or even pencil and paper. They provide the sketch and verbally deliver what needs to be communicated to the client and team members. 

Illustration is a gratifying career, depending on where you work. Your experience and skill level can also play a huge role in your earnings as an illustrator.

How To Become An Illustrator: The 7 Key Steps To Follow

Every career has a path one must follow. Illustration has its. You must follow the steps to build a solid foundation and have the confidence that illustrators at your level should have. 

So, if you want to join the league of illustrators, follow the steps below.

1: Decide the type of illustrator you want to become: 

No engineering student studied mechanical, electrical, or computer engineering by chance. A decision was made to study the course. 

However, before studying mechanical engineering, for instance, a student must have considered the other courses available and decided the best fit for their skill and interest is mechanical engineering.

You have to decide the type of illustrator you want to become. So, learn about the various types of illustrators. 

  • Medical illustrator
  • Fashion illustrator
  • Book illustrator
  • Forensic illustrator
  • Technical illustrator
  • Comic book illustrator
  • Children’s book illustrator

So, what type of illustrator do you want to become? Take a stand and do your research to know more about each field.  

2: Keep your regular job:  

Do you have a job? If yes, keep it. Resist the urge to quit your regular job to learn illustration when you have no financial backup or someone supporting you financially. 

It will take a couple of weeks, months, or several years to become an expert illustrator. It all depends on how fast you master the tools and processes.

Even if you finish learning in a few days, there is no guarantee that you will find a job sooner. So, keep your regular job. 

Instead of quitting, have a plan to work and learn. You can do both if you set your mind to it and create a plan. 

A Handy Tip: You may have to sacrifice your social life or dedicate your spare time to learning illustration rather than hanging out with friends. If it gets to that point, do it. 

Not going out with friends won’t make your life worse. The fact that you’re learning a skill that will better your life makes it an important and necessary decision. 

But, if you aren’t working and don’t have a degree, get one. Check out the next tip below.  

3: Obtain a relevant degree:

You can work as an illustrator without a degree. Most freelance illustrators don’t have a degree. They only have the skill, work portfolio, and experience. 

If you plan to work in a corporate setting, acquiring a degree is an important decision you’ll have to make. 

The excitement about attending degree programs in illustration is not the certificate you’ll get at the end of your training. You’ll get hands-on drawing, painting, and even computer graphics training. 

The degree is to show potential employers that you attended a higher institution. The major focus is your skill level. But keep in mind that employers aren’t seeking employees with degrees but can’t deliver. 

So, get a degree and get properly trained. 

A Handy Tip: A fine arts degree offers practical training beneficial to illustrators. You’ll learn how to paint and draw, including computer graphics. 

You can get a bachelor’s or associate’s degree. Employers usually request for either of them. 

While the associate degree takes 2 years, the bachelor’s degree usually is four years. 

If you want to get a degree before starting your career as an illustrator, here are possible courses you can study:

  • Fine arts
  • Animation
  • Graphics design
  • Commercial arts

4: Develop your skills via standalone classes:

An associate’s or bachelor’s degree is good for your career, but a degree alone won’t get you a job. 

Employers would want you to display your artistic ability before hiring. They need to know you’re the right person for the job, not a time waster. 

Two options are available for the standalone classes. You can learn via face-to-face meetings or online. 

If you prefer face-to-face, consider visiting art schools, community colleges, and art studios in your area to learn about the classes available to students like yourself. 

Most people prefer online classes because of their on-demand nature, convenience, and accessibility. If you’re in this category, check platforms offering standalone courses online. 

Standalone classes offer the opportunity to build your skills and knowledge in your chosen area of illustration. You’ll have the skills needed to compete with your peers in the industry. 

5: Decide how you want to use your skills:

You have chosen a field, obtained a degree, and attended standalone classes to acquire the necessary knowledge. Now, the question is, where would you like to work as an illustrator?

You have two options. You can work as a freelancer on platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, Toptal, and others. 

Another option is to secure an in-house full-time or part-time job in a newspaper, magazine, publisher, video game studio, etc. The choice is yours. 

As a freelancer, you won’t earn a regular salary. However, you’ll receive steady offers if you can build a robust job portfolio and reviews. 

If you prefer becoming a freelance illustrator, go for it. But if you choose to work in a corporate setting, go for it. 

 A Handy Tip: Freelancers don’t enjoy the same stability that their traditional counterparts enjoy. But they can choose who to work for and when to work. 

As a freelancer, you can fix your rate and charge different fees for each project. Landing a job can initially be challenging, but if you remain consistent, you’ll start getting jobs and earning a living. 

6: Build your portfolio:

You’ll require more than a certificate to convince potential employers or clients to give you a chance in their company or with their projects. You must convince them that you’re the right person for their jobs.

An easy way to showcase your talent and skill is via your portfolio. Add your best illustrations and designs to your portfolio. 

You can create a portfolio anywhere you want. Create one on a website, Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms. 

The bottom line is to have a place to showcase your designs and creativity. 

A Handy Tip: Build your portfolio regardless of where you want to source for the job. You’ll need a portfolio throughout your career. 

Freelancers can build their portfolio on Upwork and other freelance platforms. However, endeavor to add the most important projects you have completed.  

7: Start hunting for jobs:

You can start looking for jobs now that you have built your portfolio. Now, you have something that will convince potential clients to have confidence in your ability. 

Besides freelance platforms and job boards, you can get jobs via social media platforms. Showcase your skills on various platforms (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc). 

Talk about illustrations and designs on any platform you find yourself. Tweet about it consistently. Share tips and showcase your work. You can never know who is watching or who might be interested in the platform. 

Tips For New Illustrators To Succeed Online

If you want to succeed as an illustrator, follow the tips below. 

1. Build great relationships with professionals in the industry:   

How many illustrators have you established a solid relationship with since you began your journey as an illustrator? If you haven’t, now is the time to start taking action. 

Attend events involving illustrators and creatives. Meet new phases and build a relationship with them. You never know that person who may have a project that needs collaborating and may decide to pick you. 

2. Be active on social media:

Billions of people are active across the social media platforms daily. Some are business executives, startups, tech giants, fashion companies, government agencies, and top brands. 

When you showcase your work on social media, the right people may find you one day. Just ensure you’re good in your niche and have plenty of samples to convince potential clients that you’re good. 

3. Exceed clients’ expectations:

Exceed clients’ expectations. Besides delivering quality output, you must always meet their deadlines. A satisfied client will not only repeat patronage but will discuss you with their colleagues, friends, and business associates who may also need your service. 


You have read how to become an illustrator. We explained how to become a well-trained illustrator and build a successful career. 

Building a career as an illustrator can be highly rewarding. However, keep acquiring more experience and develop yourself in the field. Clients want illustrators who are highly creative and can deliver exceptional results. 

If you are that person, you won’t struggle to find jobs. Just ensure you have the skill and creativity. Another thing that will take you far in this field is passion. 

Md. Julhas Alam, is a seasoned entrepreneur, and top-rated digital marketing professional. He has dedicated over a decade of his life, helping businesses succeed online. Julhas Alam is the founder of several leading digital marketing companies, BitChip Digital, Outreach Link Agency, and Go Savvy SEO . He has helped hundreds of online businesses save millions of dollars, generate millions of dollars in revenue and grow, through result-driven digital marketing services.