Home Student Life Illustration School 101: An Introduction to the Field

Illustration School 101: An Introduction to the Field

by Academy Contributor

When your sketching hobby is starting to take over your days, it may be time to think about how you can turn your love of drawing into a career.

Illustration is more than the technical skills behind shadow and form, it’s a creative pursuit that can open doors in any number of fields. Illustration can be an illustrious career once you know just how many opportunities there are to explore.

The Illustration Industry

Even in modern times, illustration can start with little more than a pencil and paper. Some illustrators will create two or three pictures for a children’s book, for example, while others will draw hundreds of sequential images for comic books. You may find you enjoy drawing panels for storyboards, or drawing court sketches at the most noteworthy trials.

In illustration school, you will still be taught the technical aspects of drawing, including digital and traditional techniques that may help you decide where your strengths lie. However, you’ll also learn the business side of your field. A potential employer will need to see a strong portfolio and your personal style before they consider hiring you. Before you get your first job, illustration school can show you what it means to market yourself and your ideas.

Versatile and Profitable

In 2018, the average salary of an illustrator was $48,960 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This data, however, does not necessarily refer to just one particular industry or practice.

This career path is actually a lot more versatile and flexible than most people realize, and sometimes they even spill over to other industries.  It’s so varied that you may be hired by an animated studio one day, and then as an illustrator of the four chambers of the human heart for a medical textbook the next.

You may find that advertising illustration allows you to flex your creative muscles more so than working with authors. Or you may fall in love with game design concept art and its ability to fully immerse the player in the world of the game.

Some people choose to delve even further into the illustration industry as a visual development artist. This position is responsible for mapping out the larger concept of the story (e.g, comic book, animated movie, etc.). The visual development artist sets the tone, mood, and colors for the larger team of illustrators to create.

Illustration Student work by Celine Qian You
Illustration Student work by Celine Qian You for Graphic Novel

Careers in Illustration

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the many careers in illustration:

  • Book artist: Make children’s stories come to life through the power of pictures, or create book covers that intrigue.
  • Interactive illustrator: Create the art seen on interactive devices, such as smartphones and tablets.
  • Medical illustrator: From science textbooks to research journals, you’ll educate countless professionals.
  • Reportage: Sketch images that document current events for mediums such as newspapers, the internet, and TV.
  • Storyboard: Show the director what to shoot and where to focus with your storyboard panels.
  • Freelance: This versatile position can jump from making a poster one day to a comic book the next.
  • Concept artist: Develop the overall vision of the work and work with a team to bring it to life.

There’s even room to explore different positions within careers. For example, you may want to create line art for comic books rather than draw the pages as a layout artist.

If you love the visual art of storytelling, you don’t have to dismiss it as a serious career choice. When you choose the right illustration school, you have a chance to discover an array of potential career paths before deciding the best job for you.


 If you’re all set to get your future illustration career going, apply now to join us at Academy of Art University. Need more information? Our admissions representatives are more than happy to help.

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