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What is the best way to land a job as an illustrator?

I plan to major in illustration/animation at San Jose State University but am clueless on how to go about finding a job after college. I've never had an adult who was into the arts the way I was, so I haven't found much solid advice. I realize that it will take time and experience, but my goal is to become a concept artist (I'm still undecided for what media so any advice is welcome). #illustration #animation

Thank you comment icon Hey Netanya, It always goes back to what you’re passionate about. No matter what the industries or the world tells you what’s or how’s the right way to do it. Do what you do best and do it diligently. You’re good at painting? Make the greatest painting like it was your last. You wanna design or animate something? Make it so that people see your essence in your art. You don’t owe the world anything the world owes us your art. Michel
Thank you comment icon Hey Netanya, my best advice is absolutely, 100% work with your career adviser, talk with your professors and find out how they got started, be passionate about your work (make all your personal projects passion projects) or if you're working on a school assignment, find something within that to show who you are as an artist. Keep drawing no matter what because you will always find new ways to create and you never know who you will meet. Start working on a portfolio as soon as you can and always be prepared to share some of your work. :) You've got this. Courtney Brewer

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Karen’s Answer

Always be creating--draw every day. Draw all sorts of things. Draw from life, draw what you see (a direct representation of a person leaning on a building), and then draw what you want others to see (instead of a direct representation of a person leaning on a building, draw a pirate leaning on a ship's mast... do so by looking at the person leaning on the building as reference and blend in your experience and imagination to create something).


Identify art that you love and try to find a "making of" that artwork. This is easier for film art (art books and behind the scenes extras on blurays). This will give you a better understanding of the things people do and how they approach creating the art that they create. This will help you settle your eyes on what you want to do as a career and hone in on your craft. As it is, you mentioned being a concept artists. You can be a concept artist for different industries--gaming, television, film--and for different objectives within the work--character, props, environment.


If your aim is to be a concept artist for characters, you should have a solid foundation in drawing human figures and anatomy. Take figure drawing courses and read figure drawing books/youtube figure drawing channels. Many community centers or arts centers will have figure drawing classes (not for academic credit, but your skills will improve markedly). Draw from live figures, not just books or youtube channels.


If your aim is to be a concept artist for environments have a solid understanding of perspective and drawing organic figures like trees.


If your aim is to be a concept artist for props, have a solid understanding of drawing an object in many different ways (20 different backpack concept for a character, for example)


As a 3D animator, I would suggest at least expanding your thoughts to 3D modeling and 3D sculpting to make yourself more versatile in the digital realm. This could be used in gaming, film, or TV/advertising.


Lastly, always help another artist. Animation is a small community and people remember who helped them be a better artist--connect with your fellow artists at school and always be involved in groups or guest lectures. Ask questions of professors and visiting artists. You never know where connections may lead.

Karen recommends the following next steps:

draw all the time
research art that you like to figure out what you want to do
use that research to direct what kind of art you should create all the time
learn some 3D skills
always help another artist
Thank you comment icon Great advice, Karen. I found that collaborating with friends helped me build my skills a lot! I teamed up with a designer after work and we had fun pushing each others artistic limits and seeing what kind of fun new things we could make together. It helped having someone hold me accountable for practicing, and to get feedback. She is an illustrator and I'm a motion graphics artist, so most of the time she would give me an illustration with a vague idea of how she imagined it moving, then I was responsible for making it come to life. I also agree with Karen in studying 3D modeling. That is very much on the rise and will be more and more in high demand as the years come. The ability to translate on-point concept art skills to 3D will be a very valuable skill. Kelsey Wilkerson
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Eli’s Answer

Your portfolio will speak louder than your degree. I was helping clients visualize their goals before I ever graduated but I was lucky enough to have a network that already knew about me. I'd start by participating in groups of other artists on Facebook and share your work with relevant tags on social media. Make a page on Squarespace and invest time and energy into yourself and your craft. Save for an Oculus Rift and a high end computer and download Medium to learn 3D. There's will be absolutely no reason to learn how to make 3d with a keyboard and mouse once you learn VR. It's a game changer.


I have never been able to produce at the capacity I am now and it's because I've introduced Vr into my workflow.

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Gautam’s Answer

Practice , learn, draw as much as you can , read books , make collaborations with artist , join some art forums, research on industry, make your art as not last , keep creating!

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Xavera’s Answer

Make sure you have a professional demo-reel, that highlights your best work. This should no longer than 20-30 seconds visual of what you specialize in, and want to pursue in your career.

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Anna’s Answer

Hey Netanya, my name is Anna and I'm a recent graduate from college. My major was in 3D character modeling and graphic design. I'm still in the job searching process but I do have some advice for you. I know college can be intimidating but just keep at it and remember to always put 100% into your portfolio. Like most of the people above said, companies tend to focus more on your demo reel/portfolio than your resume. I would also suggest trying to apply for internships during the summer to get experience because that will pay off in the long run. Make sure to get to know your classmates better because they might be able to help find a job later on. Go to school career fairs as much as you can. Talk to your academic adviser periodically because they will be able to help you get into the best classes for your particular field. Never give up on your dream. You seem very passionate about the arts and animation which is already a plus. The industry wants people to who are passionate about what they do. Keep trying and focus on the goal at hand. You got this and always remember that everybody goes through the same struggle after college so don't feel like you are the only one. Last thing, keep in touch with your classmates and friends from college.
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Wayne’s Answer

experience and determination

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PARISA’s Answer

In my perspective illustrator has some special capacities that Photoshop does not have.Most of time when i make a motion graphic I try to make a picture with this software.As we know After effect has an ability to show vector pictures with vector format that helps our work seems very sharp.Another thing is that using of this SW for creating Illustration books

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Eli’s Answer

It really depends. For one thing, you should start off making an online presence, whether it'd be through a website or even a business card. That, and you should always brush up your portfolio so you can create quality content that will impress clients and potential employers who wish to showcase your work. Bottom line, just get your work out there to everyone as much as possible.
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Donnie’s Answer

Freelance and stay inn contact with major studios.

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Nahúm’s Answer

Be determined by what you learn. Be specified in your portfolio, then, you will capture the attention of companies that are dedicated to it. Maybe you could dedicate yourself to the design and art of characters for videogames or digital animation.

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Marcelo R.’s Answer

In my opinion, the best way to land a job as an illustrator is to constantly practice your illustration skills, whether it'd be drawing by hand or for a digital computer, also looking at other illustration pieces as influence, perhaps to gain some ideas for yourself or a client.

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Nelson I.’s Answer

Create and put together a strong portfolio that will stand out during an interview or job application.

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Kev’s Answer

whether you choose to pursue illustration, animation or related creative paths, also consider the different industries these touch on: games, interactive, learning, broadcast/digital media, film, marketing/branding, manufacturing, engineering, etc. Like art has a nuance of style, Each of these has their nuances in technology, workflow and methodology. So knowing where your interest lies, even broadly, will help give you some focus.


additionally, you want to put yourself out there through social channels, forums, organizations, and even conventions. The purpose being to build a network to lean on for peer support, advisement and mentor ship.


finally, developing a strong portfolio exhibiting knowledge and competence in the fundamentals of art is key, and showcasing the sub specialties you are looking to work in as well (concept art, design, 2d animation, 3d animation, and so forth).


not knowing where your your focus lies i’ll offer some game centric resources that show a range of expertise and discipline.

  • artstation.com
  • sketchfab.com


realize that an art centric path is a very competitive space and, like anything worth having/doing, will require effort, sacrifice, diligence and above all persistence.


best of luck.

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W Scott’s Answer

I have a friend whose mantra is "Practice, practice, practice! Research, research, research! Network, network, network!" It's some of the best advice I've ever heard. To break it down:


Draw! Draw everything! Draw from life, draw from imagination, draw all the time. You get to be good by practicing. Never stop. Fill sketchpad and hard disks with your work. Work on the hard stuff - faces, hands, feet, odd perspectives. Hold on to the best of it, then go back every year or so and compare it to your current average to see how you've grown.


Research! Find artists whose work you like and study how they do what they do. Read tutorials. Watch videos. Know what you're drawing. Study the things you want to illustrate, be they spaceships, buildings, historical fashions, vehicles, armor, animals, trees, dance, martial arts, riding, or whatever. Study the industries and studios you might like to work with. What's their pace, their workflow, their culture?


Network! Get to know people. Be friendly and helpful with your fellow students - they will be your coworkers. Seek critique from peers, teachers, and those you admire. Learn to give gentle and constructive critique as well. One who can both do and teach is twice a master. Remember names, stay in touch, and be someone who you'd like to work with. Use LinkedIn, join some clubs or meetups, tell people what you do, and if they say "I've know someone you might like to talk to," take them up on it.


To run back through the list again:

  • Do the work. Lots of it. Especially the hard stuff. Remember that you're going to be competing and working with pros. You need to be that good, and the surest way to get there is practice!
  • Learn everything you can. Learn what things look like, how they move, what makes them work. Learn the tools of your trade, from pencil and paper to the best software you can get your hands on. Learn how to learn. Learn how to teach and critique others and yourself.
  • Meet people. Be friendly. Make connections. Let people know what you do and where you want to go. As another friend likes to say, "It's not what you know, and it's not who you know. It's who knows you know what you know." When you're given a name, contact them. When you're given an opportunity, be reliable and professional. While you're doing this, help others get where they're going. It's a small world, and people remember those who are as helpful and fun to work with as they are skilled.
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Kid’s Answer

Finding illustration jobs for companies is not an easy task. There are plenty out there and one key to finding them is to be well balanced in acttuall drawing skills and strong computer skills and knowing or at least having a basic understanding of various software that is out there. Start by knowing Photoshop, Illustrator and Premier. Understanding how 3D software works and knowing your way around some if it helps as well knowing how to make stellar presentations for board meetings and sales.


Did I mention you should have drawing abilities as well? Learn to draw on paper as well as on a computer. I once owned an ad agency and when I looked for an artist to hire I had a hard time finding an artist that could actually draw. About 90% of the so called artist that applied could not draw on paper only on a computer. So learn good drawing skills on paper as well as computer. That will give you a leg up on those that need a computer to draw.

Joining sites like LinkedIn and networking helps slot also. If you're the shy type or introvert then you need to break out of that shell and start meeting and talking to everyone you can. You never know where the next job or career opportunity will come from.

If you are thinking of going freelance then it's a good idea to take a short small business course. Check with the Small Business Administration and they might be able to direct you to somewhere to take a short course on running your own business.

Good luck and I wish you success.




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Drew’s Answer

Draw, draw, draw!!! I know that sounds simple, but if you're just getting started in school, I would recommend taking as much Life-Drawing classes as possible. This really helped me when I started in a community college then went on to a four year school. Also, in school do your best to learn all of the software that the animation/game industries are using, both 2D and 3D. Check online job boards to see what they list as software they are using for the type of job you would want someday! (Maya3D for animation and Photoshop with Cintiq for illustration are the most common in my experience...student copies of these programs are often MUCH less expensive).

As a matter of fact, once you are finished with your 4 year degree, or maybe even during, sign up for short term animation/illustration classes near your area, taught from industry veterans. For example in Los Angeles there are a number of small schools that offer short term programs in very specific areas of study...Concept Art, Storyboards, Background Design, 3D Modeling, 3D Animation, etc... (Some L.A. area schools Twitter accounts: <s>@</s>CGMasterAcademy<span style="color: rgb(20, 23, 26); background-color: rgb(245, 248, 250);"> </span><s>@</s>Brainstorm_Sch<span style="color: rgb(20, 23, 26); background-color: rgb(245, 248, 250);"> </span><s>@</s>AnimationMentor, <s>@</s>SchoolismLIVE, <s>@</s>CDA_Staff...) Check them out, some people prefer this to even a 4 year school. This is also where you will meet people who can put you in touch with others who might need your skills.

Whatever way is right for you, remember always become the best artist you can be...my biggest regret from college, (a four year BA degree in Graphic Communications) is that I did not major in studio art, and focus more on my artistic skills...Just make sure you are doing what you want to be doing while in school. And DRAW, DRAW, DRAW!! You can't control who will hire you, but you can control how hard you work to make yourself a better artist!

Blessings and good luck!

Thank you comment icon Thank you for this very thorough answer! I'm taking everything to heart and appreciate the links. Netanya
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