10 steps to help you become a better illustrator
Drawing on the expertise of our readers, many of whom work as professional illustrators, the following tips address common complaints people face in the industry. So, if you are thinking of becoming an illustrator, or if you are already a veteran, be sure to keep this wisdom in mind to avoid future headaches.
Of course, we’re not saying these are hard and fast rules, and everyone works differently. But we’re confident that the tips in these tips will streamline your workflow and make your working life easier in one way or another. So let’s dive in.
1. Study others
Being an illustrator is not as impossible as it can sometimes seem. After all, many other people have made this ambition a reality. By studying other illustrators, you can gain valuable insight into the progress of your skills and career.
“In addition to the continued practice of drawing (learning, experimenting and playing), I learned a lot by studying other illustrators from a business perspective,” explains illustrator and designer Maz Leyden. “Trying to assess how they work, who they work for, their marketing, their branding, their sources of income, etc. It has been helpful!”
Studying the works of other creatives and recreating them is a common art training method, so why not extend this idea to their business methods as well?
2. Take it easy
It might seem counterintuitive, but relaxing, releasing the pressure, and stepping away from your sketchbook are valid ways to become a better illustrator. In these moments of distraction or apparent inactivity, you might subconsciously resolve the issue that is bothering you when you concentrate.
“Doodle without putting pressure on yourself to do the next big thing and share it right away,” says editorial and editorial illustrator Ste Johnson. “Hard to do, but it can really take you to interesting places and spark your creativity.”
Illustrator and designer Adi Gilbert agrees: “A calm, calm mind makes so much of a difference to me. Plus, it’s good to jot down stuff you won’t show – no pressure training! Also listen to Slayer when the delay is long! “
3. Leave your comfort zone
Rest is good, but the flip side is pushing yourself. If you stay firmly in your creative comfort zone, how can you expect to surprise yourself and your audience with interesting illustrations?
“When I push myself to take a job that seems unusual or scary or rather out of my comfort zone, I absolutely dread it at first,” explains illustrator Tarjis, “but near the finish line I surrender consider how flexible and creative I am. It’s an absolute confidence boost. It’s like leveling up every time! “
So if you still work digitally, why not try switching to analog tools to see how you do? And if you still work with paint, maybe switching to charcoal or pastel would help break your routine.
4. Join communities
Hunching over a tablet or sketchbook all day can get lonely. And without outside input, how do you know if you’re improving or creating something that will impress audiences? After all, it’s too easy to become your worst critic. Fortunately, thanks to the Internet, joining communities all over the world is easy.
“Joining R / fantasyillustrators has helped me immensely,” says the game artist. Rachel george. “Having a group of fellow illustrators to chat with and get helpful reviews with, share resources, tips, exchange ideas and just share everyday things like the challenges we face, has been a huge boost to me.”
Illustrator and host Connie Noble agrees: “This year I have strived to expand my network and become more immersed in the community of illustrators we have here in the UK. I also set up Creative Coffee Morning with Katy Streeter to meet even more people!
5. Create a workspace
We’ve all gotten used to working from home to some extent over the past year or so. And while this setup has its advantage, having a dedicated space for illustration work is a big help. Not everyone will be able to afford a studio, but even just cleaning an area of your home whenever possible can save you precious time.
“Having a workspace that isn’t my bedroom has been a big help,” adds Connie Noble. “Moving to get a studio space seemed a bit risky to me as it is another expense, but it improved my workflow and my ability to concentrate without any domestic distractions! “
6. Use the internet productively
Of course, the internet can be very distracting. It’s too easy to lose track of time when you take a quick break from scrolling through social media, and before you know it, an hour (or more) has passed. But when used productively, the internet is a valuable medium to hone your skills, find inspiration, and market your work. Just keep your memes browsing time to a minimum.
When asked what makes her a better illustrator, Kelsey Davis added, “I say this in all honesty: the internet, getting feedback from IG friends, getting inspiration, creating moodboards, watching tutorials on Skillshare … These are all crucial parts of my process! “
“Google Keep helps me a lot,” adds illustrator and designer Mariery Young. “I can take notes on anything I might forget and create a quick to-do list that I can check off. It helps to break down each task and keep track of projects. “
Take it easy. In these times of distraction or apparent inactivity, you might subconsciously resolve the issue that is bothering you as you concentrate.
7. Create project timelines
Structure can sometimes seem at odds with the creative process, but if you have various projects going on, then “structure” is just what you need. Enter the project timelines. By breaking down a commission into achievable parts and setting aside some time to complete each step, even larger projects can be easier to complete.
“A project schedule that you do your best to stick to can help you become a better illustrator,” says Kat J. Weiss. “The same goes for a support network to cry to if you panic, and in general, try to CHILL TF OUT (most of my stress is self-created).”
8. Learn to adapt and compromise
Compromising is not a bad thing. If you work as a business illustrator, you will inevitably have to adapt to a client’s brief. According to illustrator Ari Liloan, this is an important factor that people should keep in mind.
“As an illustrator, I try to remind myself that above all, I render a service,” she explains. “Some illustrators take an artistic approach with a capital ‘A’, which works perfectly well in a lot of cases, but seeing your career from a business perspective doesn’t hurt either. There is satisfaction in creating a piece. that really matches your clients’ needs instead of mostly trying to add another pretty piece to your portfolio. “
She adds that it would be wise for illustrators to take a look at their work and assess whether or not it is suitable for a potential client. This, in turn, raises the difficult question of whether it’s just a part of your style that doesn’t fit, or if you’re too afraid to explore new topics as an illustrator.
“In practice, that doesn’t mean giving up your style and working to please someone else,” she says. Rather, it’s trying to find a way to appeal to an audience in your style without betraying your work. I admire the stubbornness of illustrators who have this really artistic approach, but I also know that it doesn’t always end well. “
9. Manage customer expectations
Relationships between clients are crucial for the jobbing of illustrators. They form the basis of your income, so everyone should know where they stand and what is expected of each other.
“Know the purpose of your project and treat illustration like design. She has a specific goal and everything must be objective at all times, ”explains illustrator and designer Tatiana Bischak. “Make sure your client fully understands this concept of objectivity as well as the goal, or you are going to have a hard time arguing over them.”
The m-word is linked to this relationship management: money. Many people we’ve reached out to have jokingly suggested that more money would help people become better illustrators, and there’s some truth to that. In reality, however, what can illustrators do to protect their hard-earned pennies?
“Hold on to your art copyright like you bought Bitcoin in 2010,” Tatiana explains. “Ownership of art means you can control how it’s used if it’s changed, what it represents and who makes money from it. If someone wants to snatch it from you, add a zero or walk away.
Also add taxes. Charge extra for rush. Charge late fees. Cover your time outside of the drawing as well as inside. Meetings, paperwork, and research take time, and your time is valuable. Unfortunately, many customers will treat you differently depending on the size of your invoice. Bill accurately. “
10. Take burnout seriously
Unfortunately, burnout tends to hit people in the creative industries, and illustration is no exception. Burnout from overwork can have debilitating physical and mental consequences, so take it seriously and don’t ignore the warning signs of fatigue.
“Recognize the signs of burnout and remedy it as soon as possible,” adds Tatiana. “Burnout can last for months or even years, and this society doesn’t make it easy to wait for you to get creative again. Get plenty of rest, and often, and set strong boundaries. Realize that irritability is a problem. natural sign that you need to rest. “
And if your workplace doesn’t respect your well-being, Tatiana recommends that you head to a place that respects it. “If you find yourself in a toxic work environment, tell the people around you and do what you need to quit. Almost all of the creatives have done a terrible job, and they will help you out by asking around for vacancies. , examining your wallet, or even just being someone to pour out. “