How to Become an Advertising Illustrator


Career Path Guide

Some advertising illustrators have jobs with publishers as well as design and advertising agencies, although many are self-employed. Those who are self-employed must develop and maintain a strong reputation in order to secure a steady flow of work.


If you wish to become self-employed as an illustrator, it may be a good idea to maintain a steady job while you develop your client base; this will ensure your financial bases are covered, and will take the pressure off rather than panicking and struggling to develop a steady client base in a short amount of time. It will take some patience and marketing ability to get your business built, so be patient and work hard.


If you wish to land a job with a design or advertising agency then it is recommended you make a list of such companies in your area or in other areas if you are willing to relocate. Once you have created this list, contact these organizations directly and express your interest in obtaining employment with them, or an internship if available. Ensure that you are keeping track of who you spoke with and when.


They may not hire you right away, but that sort of initiative can pay dividends down the road when they do hire. You should also supplement your hidden job market search efforts with an online job search by means of online job boards and newspaper classifieds.



Education, Training and Certification Needed

Specific training and certification requirements for becoming an advertising illustrator may vary by client or employer. Related education at the secondary and post-secondary levels is not typically a requirement for success as an advertising illustrator, however many who have succeeded have post-secondary training in fine arts or graphic design.


Knowledge in using illustration software is crucial in this field, whether it is acquired formally or informally. Enrolling in business and marketing courses at a college or university is a great way to learn about various aspects of self-employment, which is likely to pertain to this field. 





Advertising Illustrator Job Description

Advertising Illustrators research and create drawings and pictures to visually portray their own or other people's ideas. They create illustrations for items such as commercial packaging, brochures, and various other forms of advertisement. If working freelance, advertising illustrators must promote their work to potential clients, or hire an agent to do so. This also involves negotiating fees, timelines and other project details.



General Job Duties

• Consult with clients, writers, editors, art directors and others to establish the creative direction and content of the desired illustration

• Prepare preliminary drawings and sketches for approval

• Prepare comprehensive rough drafts for the purpose of visualizing the final image and ultimately obtain final approval for the illustration

• Estimate timelines for the completion of any illustrations for the project and their associated costs

• Prepare finished artwork using the desired medium, such as ink, acrylic, pastel, pencil, or computer graphics





Where Do Advertising Illustrators Work?

Advertising illustrators have a variety of employment options available to them. Most advertising illustrators work as freelancers, while some are able to find permanent employment. Some may choose between the various employment options, while circumstance, such as a lack of experience or opportunities, may dictate the route the illustrator takes.


Some typical settings may include, but are not limited to:


• Freelance work

• Advertising agencies

• In-house employment with an advertising company



Typical Work Environment

Advertising illustrators typically work out of their home office, although if employed permanently by an organization they may work in an office setting. In this line of work there are typically strict deadlines, so normal working hours may be extended into the evenings or weekends in order to complete a project on time. 



Is This Occupation Right for You? Consider This:

• The ability to draw is crucial for success in this field.

• Having artwork published at any capacity can be extremely satisfying.

• Developing a successful career as an illustrator requires the ability to accept blunt criticism of one’s work.

• Having to prepare illustrations based on the direction and instruction of another person can be a test of patience and creative restraint for the illustrator.

• Advertising illustrators may have a difficult time finding work during the early stage of their career, as many potential clients prefer to work with artists that they have worked with before.

• You must have the ability and motivation to promote one’s work and negotiate contracts.



Advertising Illustration Jobs

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





How Much Do Advertising Illustrators Earn?

The median salary of advertising illustrators in the United States was $53,400 in 2010, when considered part of the larger occupational group, 'Fine Artists, including Painters, Sculptors and Illustrators'. (1) The median salary of advertising illustrators in the United States was $58,510 in 2010, when considered part of the larger occupational group, 'Multimedia Artists and Animators' (2)


(1) Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Fine Artists, including Painters, Sculptors and Illustrators. (visited February 13, 2013).


(2) Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Multimedia Artists and Animators. (visited February 14, 2013).


Success Tip: Freelance illustrators, while free to set their own fees, must ensure not to over-value or under-value their work as this can result in an inability to attract potential clients, or not being properly compensated for their hard work.



Similar Careers in Our Database

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


Architectural Illustrator


Graphic Designer

Logo Designer



References for This Guide

Please consult the following web resources to read more about what advertising illustrators do, how much they earn and other details of the profession.


Occupations in Alberta:Illustrator.” (March 21, 2015). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved October 19, 2019.

Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2018:Fine Artists, Including Painters, Sculptors, and Illustrators.” (March 29, 2019). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved October 19, 2019.

Careers:Becoming a Professional Illustrator: An Insider's Guide.” Emma Block (November 10, 2011). The Guardian website. Retrieved October 19, 2019.

Job Profile:Illustrator.” AGCAS editors (October, 2018). Prospects website. Retrieved October 19, 2019.



Scholarships for Relevant Fields of Study

The 'Relevant Majors' section below shows fields of study relevant to a career as an advertising illustrator. 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 for Becoming an Advertising Illustrator

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


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