How to Become an Architectural Illustrator


If you want to become an architectural illustrator, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits:


• Do you enjoy using manual sketching and drawing techniques and design software?

• Do you enjoy preparing drawings, plans or 3D models?

• Are you able to analyze and interpret architectural design concepts?

• Do you enjoy the idea of collaborating with architects and other professionals?

• Are you are flexible when working with the ideas of others?


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as an architectural illustrator. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



General Job Description

Architectural illustrators are responsible for creating visual renderings that help communicate an architect's ideas for a project to the client that commissioned them for that project.


They help clients better visualize architectural projects by sketching the imagery of the project, as well as accurately highlighting the scope, scale, size, dimensions and environmental details of the project.


In order to prepare architectural renderings, architectural illustrators must make use of a variety of traditional and modern illustration techniques, such as creating scale drawings by hand, using computer aided design software, and using various forms of 3-D animation and technology.



Typical Responsibilities Involved

• Visualize the architect’s idea for a design project

• Determine what a project will look like

• Provide information about the materials to be used before construction begins

• Function as a liaison between an abstract idea and a fully completed project

• Communicate and receive instruction from architect regarding project specifications

• Reduce misunderstandings between client and architect

• Provide sketches of architectural projects, including the shape and scale of the architectural designs

• Ensure renderings are accurate and thorough, which involves being well informed of the varying architectural designs within a project and the details thereof



Education Needed to Get Into This Field

Although you may not be required to complete formal, post-secondary education to become an architectural illustrator, many aspiring architectural illustrators choose to pursue a diploma or a degree in a field such as architecture, fine arts, visual arts or graphic design.


There are many benefits for pursuing a diploma or degree programs if you want to become an architectural illustrator, including:


Internships: If you are a college or university student, you will have exposure to a wide variety of internship opportunities. These opportunities may or may not be a program requirement; either way, your instructors and school career guidance office can help arrange these opportunities for you. Pursuing an internship will help you earn school credit while gaining valuable work experience. The employer may even offer you a job once you have graduated.


Skills and Knowledge Development: Pursuing formal education in a field related to architectural illustration will help you fine-tune your skills in manual illustration techniques, as well as your computer aided design (CAD) skills. Courses related to architectural design will also help you gain a good understanding of the architectural design process, as well as how to create renderings that accurately communicate the vision and design of architects.


Portfolio Development: Being a student in a field related to architectural illustration will teach you develop and maintain a proper portfolio. Your portfolio will be crucial to your success as an architectural illustrator, as it is used to demonstrate your abilities to prospective employers and clients of yours. Your portfolio would include work completed for projects, work completed during an internship, and projects you’ve completed on your own, independent from your studies.


Courses related to architectural design may include:


• Computer-aided design (CAD)

• 2-dimensional drawing

• 3-dimensional drawing

• Digital media

• Typography

• Perspective and design concepts





Who Employs Architectural Illustrators?

Architectural illustrators are often self-employed, though many work as full-time, part-time, or contract-based employees. Whether self-employed, or working as an employee, architectural illustrators typically have the following types of organizations as clients or employers:


• Small, medium-sized and large architectural firms

• Interior design companies

• Graphic design companies

• Construction companies

• Landscaping companies 



Typical Salary Level in This Profession

The salary level of architectural illustrators can vary depending on their level of education, their level of experience, the size of their employer, and many other factors.


Salary - Canada (Alberta Figures Only): According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey (the latest figures available at the time of writing - June 4, 2019), Albertans working in the Illustrators occupational group earn an average salary of $58,099 per year. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories. 


Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of American workers in the Graphic Designers occupational group is $44,150 per year.




Skills Needed to Be Successful

To be competent in a career as an architectural illustrator, you need to posses a certain set of skills. These skills will allow you to perform your job duties with competence, and are likely listed required skills on architectural illustrator job postings.


• Well-versed in all aspects of design and composition

• Manual drawing and sketching skills

• Proficient with computer aided design and drafting (CADD) software

• Promotional skills; required to successfully market work

• Able to gain a deep understanding of an architect's design philosophy and intent

• An understanding of exactly what each architectural illustration is to be used for

• Able to effectively collaborate with architects and other professionals 



Personality Traits Needed

In order to enjoy performing the duties involved in this career, you'll need to have certain personality traits. Enjoying your duties as an architectural illustrator is important, as it helps you maintain a positive attitude towards your work, which usually leads to having a long and successful career.


• Enjoy work that requires visual precision and attention to fine details

• Flexibility in working with the ideas of others

• Able to take direction from others

• A self-motivated work style

• Enjoy finding innovative ways to present ideas

• Enjoy using manual sketching and drawing techniques to create illustrations

• Enjoy using CAD software to create illustrations 



Architectural Illustrator Job Opportunities

Our job board below has "Architectural Illustrator" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.


Career Advancement in This Profession

Some architectural illustrators are able to enter the profession immediately following graduation, although many begin their careers by working as entry-level computer-aided design (CAD) operators.


With sufficient experience, those who work in entry-level jobs in architectural illustration may move into jobs of greater responsibility and higher pay. With even more experience and training, architectural illustrators can move into supervisory and management positions.


Architectural illustrators that are self-employed typically gain a larger client base as they become more experienced, provided they have the business and entrepreneurial skills to adequately service and manage that client base.



Similar Careers in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to architectural illustrator, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Drafting Technician

Graphic Designer

Advertising Illustrator


Architectural Technologist




Please utilize the references below to find more information on the various aspects of this profession.


Occupations in Alberta:Illustrator.” (March 21, 2015). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved October 23, 2019.

Occupational Outlook Handbook - Arts & Design:Graphic Designers.” (September 4, 2019). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved October 23, 2019.

My Story:Architectural Illustrator.” Bobby Parker (n.d.). WhiteBirch Studios website. Retrieved October 23, 2019.

Articles:How To Become An Architectural Illustrator.” John Kordela (June 14, 2007). website. Retrieved October 23, 2019.




Scholarships for Becoming an Architectural Illustrator

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming an architectural illustrator can be found on our Architecture Scholarships, Fine Arts Scholarships and Graphic Design Scholarships pages.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant Fields of Study

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for working in this field. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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