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Illustrator

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.

  • Avg. Salary $56,601.00
  • Avg. Wage $29.13
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook avg
  • Employed 6,800
  • In Demand High
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: Illustrators (5241.2) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Graphic Designers and Illustrators (F141) 
  • 2011 NOC: Graphic designers and illustrators (5241) 
  • 2016 NOC: Graphic designers and illustrators (5241) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

44%
44%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Interest Codes
The Illustrator is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Illustrators
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 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

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 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

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

Graphic designers and illustrators
NOC code: 5241

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 20 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Sep 17, 2021 and Oct 18, 2021.

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.
Consult with clients to establish the overall look, graphic elements and content of communications materials
Determine the medium best suited to produce the desired visual effect and the most appropriate vehicle for communication
Prepare sketches, layouts and graphic elements
Develop the graphic elements that meet the clients' objectives
Personal Suitability: Initiative
Personal Suitability: Client focus
Personal Suitability: Team player
Use existing photo and illustration banks and typography guides
Co-ordinate all aspects of production for print, audio-visual or electronic materials
Estimate costs of materials and time to complete graphic designs and illustrations
Educational Requirements
Updated May 19, 2021

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

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

Certification Requirements
Updated May 19, 2021

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.

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 [pdf] 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 (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation

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.

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).

Graphic designers and illustrators

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 $15.00 $37.96 $23.28 $21.58
Overall $18.00 $53.13 $29.13 $26.93
Top $18.10 $58.85 $33.99 $31.10

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
Educational Services
Professional, Scientific & Technical Services
Finance, Insurance, Real Estate, Leasing
ALL INDUSTRIES
Manufacturing
Information, Culture, Recreation
Other Services (Repair, Personal Services and Related)

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

44%
44%)

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

25%
25%

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

5%
5%

Vacancy Rate

3%
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: www.ami.org

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

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

Graphic Designers of Canada website: gdc.design

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

Updated May 19, 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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