Explore tips to help you make the leap from doodling to professional illustration.

Select a focus

Getting into professional illustration requires focus, drive, lots of practice, and getting yourself out there. When you’re pursuing a career in professional illustration, begin by defining your career goals. Do you want to illustrate posters? Children’s books? Icons? Comic strips? Something else? Selecting a focus will narrow your search and help you develop a style.

Build a portfolio

Once you’ve chosen a focus and developed your skills and style, create a portfolio, which is your creative resume. Always demonstrate and display the kind of work you want to get hired to do, knowing that you may need to compromise at times.

When creating your portfolio, ask yourself these questions: 

  • Which samples should I include? Focusing on specific types of work will show your specialty and make them relevant to each opportunity.
  • Is my work accessible and easy to find? People are busy. Show your artwork at full size, optimize your files so content loads quickly, and don’t make people click multiple times just to see your work.
  • Does the work I’m including reflect my capabilities as an artist and a professional? The art that took you months to create may be breathtaking, but it’s important to show that you can create great work on time and within budget. 
Graphic design website shown on a desktop computer

Get yourself out there 

A polished portfolio should never replace networking. Get out there—attend industry events, send out emails pitching your services, and build your social media following. Getting the attention of art directors and possibly even an agent will require some effort, but it’s a worthwhile investment in your short and long-term success.

Graphic design post on instagram account shown on a phone

Be professional

People who hire artists are doing so because they have a specific need that requires your skillset. Once you’ve been hired, part of your job is finding out what that need is. Be clear in your communication and ask a lot of questions.

Art may be a creative field, but it’s also a business. To be successful, you need to be creative and professional. Communicating well and delivering high-quality work on time will help you build momentum as you develop into a professional artist.

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