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Illustrators research and create abstract or realistic drawings and images to visually portray their own or other people’s ideas using a variety of media. They may create illustrations for items such as commercial packaging, games, magazines, storybooks, medical textbooks, annual reports, brochures or advertisements.

Also Known As

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

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used.

Here is how this occupation has been classified over time.

2006 NOC

  • 5241.2: Illustrators

2006 NOC-S

  • F141: Graphic Designers and Illustrators

2011 NOC

  • 5241: Graphic designers and illustrators

2016 NOC

  • 5241: Graphic designers and illustrators

2021 NOC

  • 52120: Graphic designers and illustrators

2023 OaSIS

  • 52120.02: Illustrators
Updated May 19, 2021

In general, illustrators:

  • Consult with clients, editors, writers, art directors and others to establish the nature, artistic style, conceptual direction and content of desired illustrations
  • Prepare quick initial rough drawings or sketches (called thumbnails) for early conceptual approval
  • Estimate timelines and cost of materials
  • Prepare more detailed rough drafts (often in colour) to visualize the final image or series of images in context, work out details and obtain final approval
  • Prepare finished artwork using the required medium or mix of mediums (for example, digital graphics, pen and ink, paint, pastel, pencil)

Most illustrators develop a signature artistic style with a distinctive look. Unlike cartoonists, illustrators create images that are either more abstract, or more physically accurate and realistic. They may work in a variety of 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 and complex ideas, objects or scenes that cannot be photographed or easily explained. They may create illustrations for packaging design, manufacturing, 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
  • Fashion illustrators sketch models and garments in different poses to visualize how clothing and accessories will look. 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 or elaborate on what a camera cannot (for example, a theoretical process or a cross-section of an organ). Sometimes, medical illustrators must create digital drawings or 3-dimensional models of their work
  • Sketch or storyboard illustrators or artists can quickly capture expressions, poses or entire scenes, in order to record and communicate a moment’s relevant details to others. Sketch artists may do courtroom or accident renderings for news broadcasts and television studios, while storyboard artists help computer gaming, TV and film directors block out and explain their desired shot sequence technicalities to the rest of the filming crew
  • Technical illustrators are employed in a broad range of industrial specialties. For example, they may draw enlarged or expanded views of machinery parts for operating manuals, create wildlife illustrations, or draw what completed commercial and residential buildings will look like 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 May 19, 2021
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg

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.

Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.


2006 NOC: 5241.2

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group

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


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


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

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

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 for this NOC group 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 About Interests


Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Traits & Skills
Updated May 19, 2021

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

  • Flexibility in working with others’ evolving ideas
  • Diplomacy and communication skills
  • Social awareness
  • Self-motivation and an independent work style
  • Promotional skills, to market their work
  • Attention to details
  • Organizational and research skills
  • Time-management skills and ability to work quickly to meet deadlines
  • The ability to concentrate and focus for extended periods of time

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)
  • Consulting with people

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

Graphic designers and illustrators

2016 NOC: 5241

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 100 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Mar 11, 2024 and Apr 15, 2024.

Review these skills to learn:

  • Whether or not this occupation matches your skill set
  • What training you may need to get these skills
  • What skills to highlight in your resumé, cover letter, and interview.
Tasks: Prepare sketches, layouts and graphic elements
Tasks: Develop the graphic elements that meet the clients' objectives
Tasks: Co-ordinate all aspects of production for print, audio-visual or electronic materials
Tasks: Determine the medium best suited to produce the desired visual effect and the most appropriate vehicle for communication
Tasks: Consult with clients to establish the overall look, graphic elements and content of communications materials
Tasks: Consult with clients to determine the nature and content of illustrations in order to meet their communications needs
Tasks: Estimate costs of materials and time to complete graphic designs and illustrations
Attention to detail
Tasks: Use existing photo and illustration banks and typography guides
Tasks: Establish guidelines for illustrators or photographers
Educational Requirements
Updated May 19, 2021
  • Minimum Education Varies

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 artistic style or subject matter specialization. Staff or in-house artists may have to be comfortable working with a variety of visual media (for example, computer graphics, acrylic, watercolour, pen, pencil, gouache, inks and pastels) and be able to produce illustrations for various purposes (both rough ideas and finished works).

Medical illustrators usually have biomedical training in addition to formal art training. The University of Toronto offers a 2-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.

Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated May 19, 2021
  • Certification Not Regulated

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated May 19, 2021

Most illustrators work on a freelance basis. Many freelancers accept many different types of work. For example, they may work for:

  • Publishers (magazine, newspaper, book, web-based resources and other software)
  • Film or television studios
  • Advertising agencies
  • Graphic design studios
  • Computer gaming or digital animation developers
  • Government departments
  • Printing companies

Some illustrators, especially those who specialize, work for companies. For example, medical illustrators may work for:

  • Hospitals
  • Universities
  • Medical schools
  • Pharmaceutical companies

Fashion illustrators may 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 illustrators they have worked with before. Illustrators may begin as staff at a graphic design house, then progress to freelance work. To obtain freelance contracts, illustrators typically market their services on the internet through posting their portfolios onto their own website or various graphic design sourcing sites. They may also purchase space to showcase their work in graphic design source books, or mail work samples to potential clients, attend trade shows or employ an agent.

Advancement generally results from building a portfolio and a reputation. With these, a freelance illustrator can attract a larger client group over time.

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 5241: Graphic designers and illustrators occupational group, 79.6% of people work in:

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the industry or industries from the previous list

In Alberta, the 5241: Graphic designers and illustrators occupational group is expected to have an average annual growth of 1.9% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 116 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: 2019-2023 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

Related Alberta Job Postings
Wage & Salary
Updated May 19, 2021

Freelance illustrators negotiate an hourly rate or a flat fee for each project, depending upon several factors, including: the type of client, the reputation of the illustrator, the scope of the project, and the type and length of use of their work (for example, one-time or ongoing use, for regional, national or international, in single or multiple media).

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Graphic designers and illustrators

2016 NOC: 5241
Average Wage
Per Hour
Average Salary
Per Year
Average Hours
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 5241 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

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.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

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.

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $15.00 $50.00 $25.08 $20.19
Overall $16.00 $53.48 $29.09 $25.00
Top $16.00 $56.01 $33.13 $29.40

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.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

Industry Information

Wholesale Trade
Information, Culture, Recreation
Finance, Insurance, Real Estate, Leasing
Professional, Scientific & Technical Services
Educational Services
Other Services (Repair, Personal Services and Related)
Public Administration

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years
Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties
Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months
Vacancy Rate
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Communications
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
Other Sources of Information
Updated May 19, 2021

Association of Medical Illustrators (AMI) website:

Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers (CANSCAIP) website:

The Canadian Association of Professional Image Creators (CAPIC) website:

Graphic Designers of Canada website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 31, 2021. 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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