How to become an Illustrator

Illustrators create drawings and designs for books and magazines, advertisements, film, television and multimedia. Illustrators work on paper, and two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) models. They may use traditional or computer-based techniques, or a combination of both. Illustrators can specialise in illustrations for websites, phone apps, augmented reality development, magazines, children's books, scientific work, technical manuals, fashion and product packaging. Many work as freelancers. They may have to work very long hours when a deadline has to be met.

Personal requirements of a Illustrator

  • High level of drawing skill
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Excellent listening skills
  • Willingness to experiment with different techniques
  • A feeling for movement and timing
  • Aptitude for working with computers

Education & Training for a Illustrator

You can work as an illustrator without formal qualifications. Skills are usually developed through practice and experience. Entry to this occupation may be improved if you have qualifications. You may like to consider a VET qualification. As subjects and prerequisites can vary between institutions, you should contact your chosen institution for further information. You can also become an illustrator by completing a degree in animation, graphic design, digital media, new media design, fine arts, creative arts, visual arts or visual communication. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education with English. Applicants may also be required to attend an interview and/or submit a folio of work. Institutions have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information.

Duties & Tasks of a Illustrator


  • study the project brief (instructions) and select an appropriate style, technique and medium to use
  • research a topic by looking at photographs, artworks, advertisements and books, and by observing people, animals and plants
  • prepare sketches, layouts and storyboards to try out different ideas
  • create illustrations using charcoal, pen, ink, paint, photography and computer graphics software
  • create and model creatures, characters, environments and interiors for 2D and 3D computer animations
  • discuss the project with clients and the production team, making changes as requested.

Employment Opportunities for a Illustrator

Most work is in the eastern states or overseas, with designers, game developers, mobile app developers, book and magazine publishers, advertising agencies and film production studios. It is a highly competitive industry. Computer-based techniques for illustration and animation have taken over from traditional techniques to a large extent, so having strong skills in both these areas is very important. Freelance animators may develop their own characters and stories to produce features to sell to television or film distributors. Others work in commercial animation studios as part of a team, performing a variety of production tasks, such as colouring drawings or painting backgrounds and characters for film and television studios and game developers. Much of the work is concentrated in a small number of animation studios in Sydney. Job opportunities depend on the level of government, private and corporate funding for projects that require illustration. At the individual level, finding employment depends on the quality of the animator's work and their reputation in the industry.



An animator creates models or draws characters and objects in a sequence of different positions to give the illusion of movement. They synchronise lip movements with words, and actions with music and sound effects. Animators can use a range of traditional and digital techniques, including cell animation, claymation, motion graphics, rendering and morphing.


A cartoonist conceives and develops ideas for cartoons, using illustrations and words. Cartoonists may also submit designs and rough drawings to editors for approval, prepare notes and instructions for finishing and layout, supervise a final layout and suggest improvements and supervise photography of artwork.

Avg. weekly wage:


Future growth:


Employment by state:

ACT 1.4%

NSW 35.5%

NT 0.2%

QLD 15.7%

SA 6%

TAS 1.4%

VIC 34.6%

WA 5%

Hours worked:



Lower unemployment

Gender split:

Male 70%

Female 30%

Education level:

Not completed Year 12: 2%

Highest qualification is secondary school: 11.3%

Highest qualification is a Certificate 3 or 4: 4.7%

Highest qualification is a Diploma or Advanced Diploma: 21.7%

Highest qualification is a Bachelor degree: 48.6%

Highest qualification is a Postgraduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate: 10.5%

Age brackets:

15-19 - 0.1%

20-24 - 6.1%

25-34 - 26.8%

35-44 - 22.6%

45-54 - 19.5%

55-59 - 8.2%

60-64 - 7.1%

65 and Over - 9.5%

*The data above is sourced from the Department of Employment’s Job Outlook website.

Related careers