Digital illustration is the art of creating storytelling (narrative) images with the help of software and programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator and tools such as mouse and stylus (touch). Digital imaging is usually used for projects such as telling a story, conveying a feeling, or selling a product or idea.

In this career guide, all questions about the digital illustration design profession are answered.

How to become a digital image designer?

1. Prerequisites and tools

Digital illustration is often confused with fine art and conceptual art. Fine art deals with how an idea formed in the mind can be brought to life. Concept art is used to create an idea about what message the character and the designed environment will convey. The digital illustration tells a story by combining fine art and conceptual art and explains the idea with images.

Digital imaging is used in the industries of computer games and entertainment, film (pre-production stage), publishing (articles, books, book covers, magazines, and posters), toy and packaging design, clothing and fashion design, and advertising.

Digital images are designed using the software. Unlike traditional art, they require less time and fewer resources. In addition, the number of mistakes will be less. Also, the software is multi-purpose and the designer and illustrator can try different styles and combinations.

2. What do digital illustrators do?

Publishers, movie and game studios, and advertising agencies turn to digital illustrators to create digital illustrations to sell their products and ideas. Usually, customers tell their needs to illustrators. After that, digital illustrators do extensive research by gathering reference sources to create the perfect design. Finally, they modify their designs based on customer feedback.

Illustrators are hired as freelancers, contractors, or in-house employees. The skills required to become a digital illustrator include understanding and mastering the principles of art, creativity and a creative mindset, customer relations skills, and professionalism.

3. How much do digital illustrators earn?

A digital illustrator in the United States earns about $69,000. Location, customer, experience, and expertise are among the indicators that determine the maximum amount of income. For example, illustrators earn more in advertising. They are usually paid hourly and earn five figures weekly.

Illustrators in the publishing industry, including book illustrators, earn between $250 and $1,000 for creating each image. Their experience is very effective on their income. Illustrators in game studios earn at least $50,000. If an illustrator is freelance or contract, his salary is determined based on experience and type of illustration, and the client’s budget.

4. How to become a digital illustrator?

If you are interested in illustration, you will achieve your goal by following the steps below.

1. Mastering the basics of art

Art is the basis of all designs. Mastering the basics of art will help you get to know design elements such as color, light, perspective, and values and create conceptual and attractive narrative images for your audience.

2. Experimental design

Learning helps you gain more knowledge, but the effect of practicing is very important in achieving the ideal result. The practice allows you to try new digital imaging techniques and experience the use of different tools.

3. Search and discovery

If you’re looking for full-time digital imaging work at companies, check out the types of images they want. See if their needs match the type of work you like to do. Avoiding taking on projects you are not passionate about is beneficial and will help you perform at your best in your chosen endeavors.

4. Creating a portfolio

As you sketch and practice, collect your best portfolios and put them up for display on your website or platforms like The Rookies or Artstation. Also, if you want to specialize in a particular field, work on images related to that field. Additionally, you can include your social media links on these platforms or your resume to encourage people to check them out. This method will help you improve your chances of getting hired.

5. Personal branding and networking

Announce your availability through your social media profiles while updating your portfolio. Showcase your expertise with your images and let your audience know what kind of collaboration you are ready for. Focus on personal branding and networking with people who are aligned with your goals. For this purpose, you can go to online illustration groups, events, or meetings related to your field of work to find a mentor and improve your skills.

5. How to design digital images?

Digital illustrators create narrative images using the fundamental principles of art. They use a mouse, drawing tablet, and stylus pen. Also, being proficient in application software such as Adobe Acrobat, MS Word, and Google Docs is considered an advantage.

1. Digital imaging software

There are two types of digital illustration software: Adobe Photoshop for pixel art and Adobe Illustrator for vector illustration.

2. Bitmapped (pixel-based rendering)

Bitmap or Raster creation programs are drawing programs that are made up of small dots called pixels, which are created by placing these pixels together. These programs can create color gradients and provide you with various tools to create works of art.

Often, the outputs of these programs are paintings that have a watercolor look, are handmade or have a look that looks like they were drawn with charcoal. Creating a bitmap or raster image is mainly done using Adobe Photoshop.

3. Vector

Programs that create vectors are known as drawing programs. These programs create perfectly detailed images with attractive and rich colors and lines and allow you to resize the image without losing quality. These programs are more suitable for 2D images and simple art styles. Vector drawing is generally done using Adobe Illustrator. Here are some ways to create digital artwork with Illustrator.

  • Pen drawing tool: You can trace other images using the pen drawing tool. And by the lines and paths that are drawn with this tool, he created the same shape from that image. This tool allows the designer to draw lines or paths using several points called anchor points and draw different shapes by moving and changing them to achieve the desired result.
  • Painting with geometric shapes: simple geometric shapes such as circles and rectangles can also be used to create images. For this purpose, use the rectangle or polygon tool in the toolbar. After creating shapes, by moving and connecting them, the final image can be reached. Of course, the illustrator needs the most useful Illustrator tools.
  • Freehand drawing: Adobe Illustrator allows you to draw freehand without using lines or shapes. Of course, when you draw the lines, the program smooths them out. It will also be very useful to use the shape builder tool to erase the extra lines drawn.


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