How to Become a Digital Artist


Career Path Guide

Digital artists use specialized design software to create digital images and videos for use as proprietary artwork, corporate branding materials, advertisements, video game designs, visual effects in movies and television, and for many other purposes.


Some who get into this field are self-taught, while many others have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a field related to graphic design or visual communications. Whatever path you take, you’ll need a strong demo portfolio to get hired by big name clients and employers.


If you have a creative eye, a knack for using design software, are able to keep up with technological and industry developments, then you might be a good fit for a career as a digital artist.


If you’re interested in learning more about what it takes to get into this field, read on below! We’ve prepared an overview of what it takes to set the foundation for a career as a digital animator. We’ve even included actual “Digital Artist" job postings, as well as a list of scholarships that are relevant for getting into this field.



Experience Required

Employers typically hire digital artists based on proof of their ability, which is generally demonstrated by way of a portfolio, which serves as a sort of digital resume and gallery.


Employers will also commonly list familiarity with various specialized software programs as requirements for employment, which might be gained as a result of schoolwork, self-instruction or work experience.


Success Tip: You can start building your portfolio while you’re a student. You can also work freelancing jobs online using a talent-to-customer matching service.


Education You’ll Need to Become a Digital Artist

Obtaining a diploma or degree in a field related to Graphic Design, Digital Communications, Interactive Design, or a closely related field is a great way to develop your skills, make industry connections, and learn from qualified instructors.


If you’re not going to be exclusively working as an artist that sells your own proprietary works, many employers and clients may also require that you have such a diploma or degree.


Success Tip: Having a combination of a strong educational foundation and a strong portfolio will give you the best chance of getting hired.





General Job Description

Digital artists are generally responsible for creating digital animation, special effects or other visual images using electronic tools and computer applications. Their work may be used for applications such as


• Proprietary artistic works

• Advertisements

• Trademarks, corporate logos and brand logos

• Stationery and corporate/organizational identity materials

• Annual reports and investor relations materials

• Packaging and image design for consumer products

• Promotional posters

• Sign and wayfinding systems

• Film, television and video graphics

• Diagrams, maps and graphs

• Publication design for books and magazines

• Flyers, brochures and promotional literature



Typical Job Duties

Although the job duties you would be responsible for performing would vary from job to job, you could generally expect to be responsible for performing the following duties as a digital artist:


• Working closely with project stakeholders, such as gallery owners, customers, clients, and managers

• Proactively monitoring artwork quality, accuracy and consistency

• Designing graphics and animation using computer programs and applications

• Participating in the design and production of multimedia campaigns, handling budgeting and scheduling

• Working within tight project deadlines to meet client or project requirements

• Maintaining current knowledge of relevant and upcoming technology

• Creating sketches by hand that are scanned into a computer for editing and further development

• Assisting with production coordination

• Maintaining your online portfolio

• Continuously working on your craft and accepting constructive criticism to hone your skills

• Maintaining a network of artists who can provide valuable feedback about your work, as well as other industry insights, such as job postings or upcoming projects





Are You a Good Fit?

As far as factors for qualifying to work in a job are concerned, being a good fit for a career is just as important as having a proper education and technical skill set. While each individual job and each employer may have their nuances, you’ll need the following skills, interests and personal traits to succeed as a digital artist, otherwise, you won’t enjoy your work and become dissatisfied with it very quickly:


• You have a creative eye

• You’re interested in the reward of bringing your visions into reality by turning your concepts into produced digital artwork

• You’re willing and able to use specialized graphic and visual design software

• You’re keen to push the boundaries of graphic software to create innovative new techniques and artistic outcomes

• You’re willing to keep up with the latest developments in the industry, as well as relevant technologies as they evolve

• You’re willing to take direction from supervisors, managers and clients

• You can handle and assimilate constructive feedback from other stakeholders



Average Salary Level

As with any other career field, the level of pay you could earn as a digital artist can vary, typically depending on the following factors:


• The structure of your employment, such as if you’re self-employed, work full-time or part-time

• The size, type and budget of your future employer

• The geographic location in which you will be working

• The specific responsibilities that will be involved in your job

• Your education, skill and experience level, as well as your professional reputation (if applicable)


Salary - Canada (Alberta figures only): According to the 2015 Wage and Salary Survey of the Government of Alberta (latest figures available at the time of writing - June 15'19), the average salary level of Albertans working in the Graphic Designers occupational group is $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 Americans working in the Multimedia Artists and Animators group is $70,530 per year.



Who Employs Digital Artists?

Digital artists can be employed with a very wide variety of organizations on a freelance or permanent basis; such types of organizations include:


• Film and television production companies

• Video game developers

• Cartography companies

• Private clients looking to hire for small jobs on a freelance basis

• Non-profit and not-for-profit organizations for in-house communications materials, branding, promotional and other purposes

• Small, medium and large corporations in a variety of industries, ranging from real estate to health care, for the purpose of helping to create brand identity through in-house, promotional and advertising materials


Please Note: Not mentioned in the above list, but a relevant option nonetheless is being self-employed as a digital artist, and selling your own proprietary works



Current Job Postings

Our job board has current digital artist job opportunities in your area (when available):



Career Advancement in This Field

As a digital artist there are a variety of career advancement opportunities available to you if you display competence, talent - and if working in the corporate world - teamworking skills.


If your focus is on selling your own propriety works, your career advancement would come in the form of getting more customers for your works, having your audience and reach expand, and getting published more often. Ideally, your work would be highly revered and demand a high price.


If your career focus is using your artistic abilities in the corporate or non-profit world on a freelance basis, advancement could still come in the form of expanding your reach and business opportunities by getting more clients, or opening up your own design studio or production company.


If you’re going to be working as a permanent employee of a company, advancement could come in the form of moving into supervisory or management positions, which would involve greater responsibility and pay.



Similar Occupational Profiles

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to digital artist, in that they may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities.


Art Critic

Commercial Artist

Creative Director

Digital Animator

Graphic Designer


Web Designer




Please consult the following resources to learn more about what it takes to become a digital artist:


• OCC info - Occupations in Alberta: “Graphic Designer.” (March 30, 2015). Government of Alberta - Alberta Learning and Information Service. Retrieved Oct. 4, 2018.

• Occupational Employment and Wages: "Multimedia Artists and Animators.” (May, 2017). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved Oct. 4, 2018.

• Career: “15 Steps to Being a Better Digital Artist.” Jim Thacker. (January 5, 2015). Art Station Magazine. Retrieved Oct. 4, 2018.


Please Note: Some of the information used for this career guide was sourced from actual “Digital Artist” job postings, which, due to the brief nature of their online availability are not listed here as references. 



Scholarships for Becoming a Digital Artist

The 'Relevant Fields of Study' section below shows academic fields that pertain to this profession. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on our 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

Pursuing a major in one of the below fields is an excellent starting point for becoming a digital artist. Click on them to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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