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Occupational Profile

Illustrator

Illustrators research and create drawings and pictures to visually portray their own or other people's ideas. They may create illustrations for items such as commercial packaging, games, magazines, storybooks, medical textbooks, annual reports, brochures or advertisements.

  • Avg. Salary $56,532.00
  • Avg. Wage $29.04
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook Down
  • Employed 6,100
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Advertising Illustrator, Artist, Book Illustrator, Concept Artist, Concept Illustrator, Editorial Illustrator, Fashion Illustrator, Freelance Illustrator, Graphic Artist, Medical Illustrator, Technical Illustrator

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

43%
43%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
NOC & Interest Codes
The Illustrator is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Illustrators
NOC code: 5241.2
INNOVATIVE

Interest in synthesizing information to develop and produce realistic or representational sketches and final illustrations, by hand or using computer-assisted design (CAD) software, for printed materials such as books, magazines, packaging, greeting cards and stationery, and in producing 2-D and 3-D animated drawings or computer illustrations

METHODICAL

Interest in precision working to produce illustrations and to assist in developing storyboards for electronic productions such as multimedia, interactive and digital products and television advertising and productions; may adapt existing illustrations

SOCIAL

Interest in consulting with clients to establish the nature and content of illustrations in order to meet their communication needs

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Duties
Updated Dec 15, 2016

In general, illustrators:

  • consult with clients, editors, writers, art directors and others to establish the nature, conceptual direction and content of desired illustrations
  • prepare preliminary drawings or sketches for approval
  • estimate time lines and cost of materials
  • prepare comprehensive roughs in colour to visualize the final image in context and obtain final approval
  • prepare finished artwork using the required medium (for example, computer graphics, pen and ink, acrylic, pastel, pencil).

Most illustrators develop an artistic style with a distinctive look. They may work in a variety fields or specialize in a particular type of work:

  • Advertising illustrators work on storyboards for commercials and create illustrations for print advertisements, labels and packaging.
  • Book illustrators create illustrations that convey the spirit of a story and expand on it.
  • Concept illustrators or artists work with clients and agencies to research, develop and visually communicate abstract concepts, portray complex ideas, objects or scenes which cannot be photographed or easily explained. They may create illustrations for items such as packaging, websites, apps, games, magazines, children's books, brochures or advertisements. They may also create illustrations for video games that serve to guide the 3D modeling team, the cinematic design team, or the character design team.
  • Editorial illustrators create images that support and help communicate the main ideas of articles in newspapers and magazines.
  • Freelance illustrators are illustrators of any type who work on a contract basis often for different companies at a time rather than permanently for one employer.
  • Illustrators employed by television studios create storyboards or courtroom sketches for news broadcasts.
  • Fashion illustrators sketch models in different poses to visualize clothing and accessories. They must be familiar with the latest trends in hair, makeup and clothing, and usually work closely with fashion designers or art directors.
  • Medical illustrators produce realistic and schematic illustrations for medical textbooks, research centres, lectures and other medical purposes. Their illustrations show what a camera cannot (for example, a theoretical process or a cross-section of an organ). Sometimes, medical illustrators are required to create three-dimensional models of their work.
  • Technical illustrators are employed in a broad range of industrial specialties. For example, they may draw enlarged views of machinery parts for operating manuals, create wildlife illustrations, or draw commercial and residential buildings from structural information provided by blueprints. They spend a lot of time researching the products or subjects they draw and often work closely with engineers or scientists to ensure technical accuracy.
Working Conditions
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Illustrators usually work in their own homes or in studios. They may sit or stand for long periods of time and must deal with the constant pressure of deadlines.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Dec 15, 2016

In addition to the ability to draw or paint, illustrators need the following characteristics:

  • the promotional skills required to successfully market their work
  • the ability to pay attention to fine details and work quickly to meet deadlines
  • good organizational and research skills
  • flexibility in working with others' ideas
  • socially aware
  • time management skills
  • ability to concentrate and focus for extended periods of time
  • a self-motivated and independent work style.

They should enjoy synthesizing information, finding innovative ways to present ideas, using a methodical approach to tasks requiring precision (for example, preparing specifications, estimating costs) and consulting with people.

Educational Requirements
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Although related education is not required to succeed in this field, many illustrators have post-secondary training in fine art or graphic design. Regardless of their educational background, illustrators are required to have computer skills and knowledge of illustration software.

Most successful freelance illustrators are known for their personal style or subject matter specialization. Staff or in-house artists may have to be comfortable working with a variety of visual mediums (for example, computer graphics, acrylic, watercolour, pen, pencil, guache, inks and pastels) and able to produce illustrations for various purposes (rough ideas and finished works).

Medical illustrators usually have biomedical training in addition to formal art training. The University of Toronto offers a two year Masters of Science degree in Biomedical Communications. For current information about the program, please check the University of Toronto calendar or website.

Technical illustrators often require specialized backgrounds in biology, engineering, architecture or other scientific areas.

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Below-average occupational growth is expected in Alberta for 2016 to 2020. Job openings are a result of employment turnover and newly created positions.

Most illustrators work on a freelance basis. They may work for:

  • publishers (magazine, newspaper, book, web-based resources and other software)
  • film studios
  • advertising agencies
  • graphic design studios
  • government departments
  • printers.

Medical illustrators work for hospitals, universities, medical schools and pharmaceutical companies.

Fashion illustrators work for:

  • department and chain stores
  • textile companies
  • pattern houses
  • garment manufacturers
  • fashion designers
  • advertising agencies
  • newspapers and magazines.

Freelance illustrators negotiate contracts for each illustration or series of illustrations. Contracts specify deadlines, fees and who will hold the copyright for the work. It can be difficult to get started in this field because clients often prefer to work with artists they have worked with before. To obtain freelance contracts, illustrators may market their services on the Internet or in source books, mail work samples to potential clients, attend trade shows or employ an agent.

Advancement generally takes the form of building a portfolio, reputation and a larger client group.

Illustrators are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5241: Graphic designers and illustrators. In Alberta, 76% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • technological advances
  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Over 6,100 Albertans are employed in the Graphic designers and illustrators occupational group. This group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 1.6% from 2016 to 2020. As a result, 98 new positions are forecast to be created each year, in addition to job openings created by employment turnover. Note: As illustrators form only a part of this larger occupational group, only some of these newly created positions will be for illustrators.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Freelance illustrators negotiate an hourly rate or a flat fee for each project, depending upon several factors: the client, reputation of the illustrator, type and length of usage (regional, national, internation, use in single or multiple media).

Graphic designers and illustrators
NOC code: 5241

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $14.00 $34.82 $22.22 $21.03
Overall $16.00 $53.52 $29.04 $26.01
Top $19.00 $67.23 $35.03 $31.50

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

A: High Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

High Reliability, represents a CV of less than or equal to 6.00% and 30 survey observations and/or represents 50% or more of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Industry Information
Public Administration
Professional, Scientific & Technical Services
Health Care & Social Assistance
ALBERTA, ALL INDUSTRIES
Educational Services
Information, Culture, Recreation
Manufacturing

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

43%
43%

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

12%
12%

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

3%
3%

2015 Vacancy Rate

1%
Related High School Subjects
  • Fine Arts
    • Visual Arts
  • Science
  • Media, Design and Communication Arts
    • Communication Technology
    • Design Studies
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Communications
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
Other Sources of Information
Updated Dec 15, 2016

The Association of Medical Illustrators (AMI) website: www.ami.org

Canadian Association of Professional Image Creators (CAPIC) website: www.capic.org

Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators and Performers (CANSCAIP) website: www.canscaip.org

For more information on career planning, education and jobs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Mar 21, 2015. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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