Being an illustrator is a very broad term and can mean many things. You might be wanting to find out if illustration is a viable career option for you. Luckily, us humans are a visual bunch, and there is allllways room for pictures. So, you may be wondering, are illustrators in demand?
Illustrators are in demand across a variety of industries, but it is usually up to the illustrators to create this demand. Illustrators need to not only be good artists, but also be business minded and good at promoting themselves to others.
For example, an illustrator who draws really well, but hates marketing themselves may not be as in demand as a mediocre illustrator who is excellent at networking and landing clients.
So, put on some pants and get networking.
(If you would like more information about how to get started, check out my article on How to Get Your First Illustration Job).
What Kinds of Jobs Can Illustrators Get?
Nine examples of in demand illustration jobs are:
- Children’s Book Illustrator
- Medical Illustrator
- Courtroom Sketch Artist
- Caricature Artist
- Character Designer
- Caricature Artist
- Graphic Recorder
- Fashion Illustrator
- Advertising illustrator
These are to just name a few of what jobs are out there in the market. For a more comprehensive list of freelance illustration opportunities, check out John Roman’s 50 Markets of Illustration.
In this article, we will discuss the different kinds of jobs illustrators can have, and how in demand these illustration jobs are.
Let us begin!
1. Children’s Book Illustrator
Okay, this is a popular one that everyone already knows about… So get ready for THE worst sentence of this entire article:
I’m not even sorry. Okay let’s talk about demand…
Are Children’s Book Illustrators in Demand?
As long as there are children in the world, and as long as there are books, then there will always be a demand for children’s book illustrators.
Whenever I go to a bookshop, my favorite section is always the art section. However, since I became a dad, I have learnt that the real art is in the children’s book section.
There are two main things I have noticed about children’s story books that are important: Storytelling and details.
Storytelling: Being able to create complete, finished artworks is one thing, but make sure that all of your pictures are telling a story that will engage the audience.
Details: Well illustrated children’s books always have tiny peripheral drawings in each scene. For example, when reading to my one year-old, he will often see something appearing on every page of a story (that is unrelated to the actual story). It might be a little rabbit or a cat, or even the sun. It’s a bit of extra work, but your readers will appreciate these little things.
If you are interested in working in this industry, make sure you have a website showcasing your portfolio of work which you can send to children’s book agencies.
Alternatively, if you know people who are looking to pay for someone to illustrate their books, skip the middle man, show them your work and go from there.
There is unbelievable talent out there, but if you believe that you have got something to offer the world of children’s book illustration, then you should give it a shot.
2. Medical Illustrator
Medical illustrators have the very important role taking super complicated subjects and simplifying them into easy to comprehend illustrations.
Medical Illustrators often work at hospitals and universities alongside doctors, dentists, surgeons and other medical professionals.
Illustrators in other professions might be sought after for their bizarre imagination and ability to make up weird and wonderful designs. But for medical illustrators, they need to make sure their designs are faithful to real life.
Totes bland, right? I disagree! There is a lot about medical illustration that requires creativity.
Is Medical Illustration Creative?
Although Medical illustrators have a lot of rules they have to adhere to, they still need to think of ways to convey complex concepts in the simplest way for their audience to understand.
Need to draw a layered cross section of a face showing skin, muscle, skull and cranial nerves? You need a lot of creativity to pull that off.
What about determining the best angle to illustrate the hyoglossus connecting to the hyoid bone? You get the idea.
Yep, medical illustrations need to be anatomically correct, but there’s still a lot of problem-solving skills needed to convey your message.
And that requires a lot of creativity… And I guess a few brain cells too.
There are many illustration jobs where formal training is not necessary, but medical illustration aint one of them. To maximise your career prospects, you will need to have undertaken some type of formal training.
Medical illustration is a fantastic marriage between art and science. You basically have to be a less famous Leonardo da Vinci.
Are Medical Illustrators in Demand?
According to explorehealthcareers.org, medical illustrators have an excellent employment outlook. The median salary is from US$62,000 and can go as high as US$100,000. More senior positions can range between $85,000 and $175,000.
You will need 4 to 6 years of formal education to break into this industry. And a strong stomach.
3. Courtroom Sketch Artist
Do you love drawing?
Do you love watching Judge Judy?
Well then I’ve got the profession for YOU! Courtroom sketch artists are highly skilled artists who are employed to create depictions of what goes on inside courts of law.
And yes… I am thinking what you’re thinking: I’m pretty sure we have cameras now, right?
Are Courtroom Sketch Artists in Demand?
Despite the ubiquity of cameras, courtroom sketch artists are nowadays still in demand because many jurisdictions do not allow any cameras to be present in courts of law. If you live in a jurisdiction that does not allow cameras in court, just be aware that this may change in future and may impact the demand for courtroom sketch artists in your area.
4. Caricature Artist
A caricature artist is someone who gets paid to create humorous and exaggerated portraits of people. Some caricature artists get to hang around parties drawing portraits of drunk people (So pretty much the opposite of courtroom sketch artists).
I’m sure there are some people who live double lives as caricature artists AND courtroom sketch artists…
I love drawing caricatures, especially trying to draw the person with as few lines as possible (so that I’ve captured their likeness in the simplest way).
I have massive respect for artists who can effortlessly draw someone sitting right there in front of them. And who can do it so quickly. Sooo much confidence is needed (Something I cannot do – I usually need a few iterations before I capture them).
In my opinion. Caricature artists are the bravest of all artists. Their job is to draw funny pictures of people – surely, you’re going to get in trouble from time to time.
I have worked on caricature commissions in the past where I’ve been scared of offending my subjects (to the best of my knowledge, everyone was happy with their pictures… I think?).
Are Caricature Artists in Demand?
If skilled enough, then Caricature artists are always in demand. They are needed for events, parties, editorial articles and private commissions.
It is usually up to the caricaturist to market themselves in order to find work.
5. Character Designer
Character designers are artists who bring to life characters for movies, cartoons and video games. While character design is considered a very creative job, they need to make sure that they are working within the constraints of their brief.
In movies, cartoons and games, character designers are at the beginning of the production process. Once they have designed a character, it will then be passed on to other members of the project.
3D modellers will use the character design as the blueprint for sculpting and rigging the character in 3D.
Teams of traditional animators will use character design to practice the different angles and poses that the character will need to be drawn in.
Are Character Designers in Demand?
There is always demand for character designers, but unfortunately the market is saturated because so many people want to work in this profession. If you are struggling to find character design work, then perhaps promote yourself as someone who illustrates peripheral (but still important) things like props and video game user interface icons.
I mention this because I recently watched a video by concept artist Trent Kaniuga. In the video he says that there is an oversupply of artists wanting to be character designers, but nobody wants to design props for games (chairs, barrels, lamps etc.). So, if you’re wanting to stand out from the pack, then consider putting together a portfolio of some sweet, sweet bookshelves and cushions etc.
This could be a great way to get your foot in the door and then work your way into designing characters. But hey, you might even love designing props now!
6. Graphic Designer
In an ideal world, illustrators should know a bit of graphic design. And graphic designers should know a bit of illustration.
According to my extensive research (30 seconds of Googlin’) there are way more graphic design jobs than illustration jobs out there.
So… if Illustrators are already creative problem solvers (like graphic designers) and work in programs like Photoshop and Illustrator (like graphic designers), then surely it wouldn’t hurt to learn a bit of typography, text layout and branding as well.
For example, if there is someone who needs an illustration for a logo, who do they think of first? A graphic designer or an illustrator?
Traditionally, it’s graphic designers who are hired for brand jobs. So, if you are someone who can easily bring to life an illustrated logo, then it would be even more beneficial for you if you can use your graphic design skills to expand on that logo and create a whole brand identity for the client.
Are Graphic Designers in Demand?
Graphic designers are definitely in demand. Big Companies, small businesses and individuals often need graphic designers to bring to life their brand identity, marketing, publications, packaging designs. However, like most other creative professions, there’s a lot of competition out there. Graphic designers need to make sure that they not only focus on the work, but also focus on finding work.
Personally, I have often incorporated my illustrations into my graphic design projects (or was it the other way around?).
7. Graphic Recorder / Scribe
Graphic recorders are those trendy, hip looking people you see hanging around white boards at conferences and corporate team building days.
Their role is to bring to life the discussions and ideas that are put forward by the group of people that they are working with.
The challenge of this role is that, in addition to being an artist, you are somewhat of a performer as well. You need to be producing work at quick pace, keeping up with what is being discussed. You need to understand it and then translate it into a clever, inspiring and easy to understand graphic.
Are Graphic Recorders in Demand?
Graphic recording is a relatively new trend, so the demand of this skill will be steadily increasing over the next few years.
From the graphic recorders I have spoken to, it seems that this is definitely one of the more lucrative illustration gigs out there.
Think about where you see graphic recorders working: big corporations. The beauty about big corporations is that they make a lot of money, which means they will spend a lot of money on workshops, team building days and other events where they will be needing graphic recorders.
8. Fashion Illustrator
The role of a fashion illustrator is to come up with concepts, ideas and designs to help fashion designers create their apparel. The illustrations are used to give designers a preview of what the clothing will look like before they start creating the actual clothes.
Fashion Illustration is a pretty old job that’s been around for centuries. In the 1900’s and up until now, fashion illustrations have been created using pen, ink, watercolor and markers. But as you can imagine, fashion illustration is also often done digitally on Photoshop (or other graphics programs that I don’t love nearly as much as PS).
Are Fashion Illustrators in Demand?
I don’t know too much about this particular field of work. But if you love this type of illustrating, and you are able to whip up an amazing portfolio, then you may very well create demand.
9. Advertising Illustration
Advertising illustrators are artists who work with marketing and advertising agencies. Their role is to create illustrations that are incorporated into advertisements on print, digital and television.
Advertising illustration exploded in the 1900s with the rise of commercialism. Artists like J.C Leyendecker and Norm Rockwell became household names owing to their amazing illustration skills and the mass production of their illustrations which were often found in poster and magazine advertisments.
Nowadays, advertising illustrators produce their illustrations digitally, which speeds up the design process. However, depending on the brief, there is still demand for traditionally painted illustrations as well.
Are Advertising Illustrators in Demand?
There is steady demand for advertising illustrators, as long as the illustrator’s style is in line with what the advertising company requires.
Advertising illustrators need to have an open mind to follow strict briefs and instructions from advertising directors and marketing managers. Given advertising budgets for big companies are often high, there will be demand for both in-house illustrators (which will offer a steady income) and freelance illustrators.
We have covered a healthy number of illustration jobs out there in the market. It is safe to say that there is definitely demand for illustrators.
If you are an illustrator (or are interested in a career in illustration), then don’t worry so much about demand for illustrators, but rather focus on the supply of illustrators. Given there are so many illustrators out there, I recommend you:
Focus on having a high-quality portfolio
Focus on the speed at which you can turnaround projects
Most importantly, focus on getting your name out there and building up a network of people who require illustrators to help them with their businesses.
Check out these other articles that you may find helpful:
Best of luck on your illustration journey!