Design, arts and crafts

Career outlook for illustrator

Average UK salary


Currently employed in Scotland


"LMI for All" supplies our salary and employment status information. "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would draw the pictures or diagrams used in products like adverts, book covers, greeting cards and product instructions.

Your drawings, paintings or diagrams will help to make products more attractive or easier to understand. You could illustrate all sorts of products including:

  • Books
  • Book jackets
  • Greetings cards
  • Advertisements
  • Packaging
  • Detailed technical diagrams

Your customer would describe their requirements –called a brief – and you would produce the illustrations. You’d need to use your imagination but also make sure that you meet the brief.

You would:

  • Discuss the brief with authors, editors or designers
  • Negotiate costs and timescales
  • Decide on the right style for illustrations
  • Draw or paint the illustrations by hand or using computer design software
  • Speak with the customer and change the designs if necessary
  • Make sure the work is completed within set budgets and deadlines

You may be able to specialise in one type of illustration. For example, in heritage illustration you’d design pictures for guidebooks, leaflets or maps for stately homes and castles.

If you work in educational illustration you could design websites, leaflets and publications for an academic institution.

Other illustrators create archaeological illustrations and children's books.

If you are self-employed, you’d also have to market your goods and services, deal with your business finances and promote your business.

Working conditions


You would usually arrange your own working hours, depending on your workload and the deadlines you have to meet.


You could be based at home or in a studio.


You may spend time visiting clients to market your work and discuss briefs. If you are involved in technical, scientific or engineering illustration you may also make site visits.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Adaptability
  • Attention to detail
  • Working with technology
  • Researching
  • Innovative
  • Designing
  • Creative

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.

Foundation Apprenticeships

Choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 can help you get a head start with this type of job.

You'll get an SCQF level 6 qualification (the same level as a Higher) plus valuable work placement experience and skills you can't learn in a classroom.

Interested? Find out what's on offer at your school on


Most illustrators have a Higher National Certificate (SCQF level 7), Higher National Diploma (SCQF level 8) or a degree (SCQF level 9/10) in

  • Illustration
  • Visual communication
  • Graphic design
  • Art and design 

You can enter an Art and design, Graphic design, Illustration or Visual communication Higher National Certificate (SCQF level 7) or Higher National Diploma courses (SCQF level 8) with National 4/5 qualifications and one to two Highers or equivalent qualifications.

Entry to a degree (SCFQ level 9/10) requires National 5 qualifications and a minimum of four Highers or a relevant HNC/HND.

Useful subjects

Courses often require:

  • English 
  • Maths
  • Art and Design
  • Graphic Communication.

Other ICT and design-centred subjects may be helpful.

You will also need

A portfolio of your work when applying to courses and to jobs.

Helpful to have

Qualifications that demonstrate creative, digital and visual communication skills such as Skills for Work Creative Digital Media (SCFQ level 4) or Creative Industries (SCFQ level 5).

Work-based qualifications such as a Diploma in Creative and Digital Media (SCQF level 7).