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How to Become a Successful Illustrator Designer in 5 Steps

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Becoming a successful illustrator designer takes more than just having good drawing skills. It requires a combination of creativity, business acumen, technical skills, and perseverance. If you are considering a career as an illustrator designer, here are five steps to get you started on the path to success.

Step 1: Develop Your Skills

Being a successful illustrator designer requires a deep understanding of drawing techniques, digital software, and color theory. As such, you must invest time in learning and practicing these skills. You could sign up for online illustration courses or attend traditional art schools to help you achieve these goals. During this learning phase, it’s critical to build up your body of work to showcase your progress and development.

Step 2: Build Your Portfolio

Your portfolio is your marketing tool, and as such, it must showcase your best work. A well-curated portfolio can be the deciding factor in landing an illustration gig. Ensure your portfolio has a mix of styles, techniques, and showcases diverse themes, from editorial illustration to children’s illustrations. Update your portfolio regularly and tailor it to specific clients’ needs to enhance your chances of securing that elusive job.

Step 3: Network

Networking is a crucial aspect of being a successful illustrator designer. You need to put yourself out there and meet people, attend events and conferences where your target market congregates. Through such events, you could connect with other creatives, mentors, and clients, and get career opportunities.

Step 4: Learn the Business Side

While your creative ability and technical skills are essential in getting an illustration job, knowing how to navigate the business side of things is equally important. Illustration is a creative business, and like any other industry, knowing how to manage finances, negotiations, and project management is key to success. Learning these fundamental business skills will help ensure that you not only secure jobs but also negotiate favorable compensation packages.

Step 5: Never Stop Learning

As an illustrator designer, you must stay ahead of the curve in terms of trends, techniques, and tools. It means continuously honing your skills and keeping abreast of industry advancements. Attend workshops, read blogs, take courses, and experiment with new trends and techniques. Continuous learning keeps you motivated, pushes your creativity, and enhances your competitiveness in the job market.


Becoming a successful illustrator designer takes time, dedication, and hard work. Following these steps helps you build your portfolio, hone your skills, network, learn fundamental business skills, and stay current with trends and techniques to push your career forward.


1. Can you become a successful illustrator designer without formal education?

Yes. While formal education is an advantage, it’s not necessary to become a successful illustrator designer. With the wealth of online learning materials and the right attitude, you can become an excellent illustrator on your terms.

2. How much does an illustrator designer make?

Illustrator designers’ salaries vary depending on skills, experience, and the job description. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for illustrators and graphic designers in May 2020 was $52,110.

3. Can an illustrator designer work from home?

Yes. Many illustrator designers work remotely from the comfort of their homes. With the growth of the gig economy, freelance illustrator designers have an opportunity to work for clients worldwide.

4. How can you get better at color theory as an illustrator designer?

Color theory is a fundamental concept in illustration. You could attend color theory classes or access online resources such as tutorials, videos, and articles.

5. How long does it take to become a successful illustrator designer?

There is no set time to become a successful illustrator designer. The journey is different for everyone. However, consistent practice, networking, and acquiring fundamental business skills while staying on top of industry advancements can help you expedite your success.

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