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10 steps to help you become a better illustrator

Updated: Nov 24, 2021

There's more to being a successful illustrator than honing your drawing skills (although that's very important). If illustration is your passion and job, then there's plenty of business know-how that you need to be aware of too.

Running through different expertise from the industries and the best illustrator that I have come across, so far many of these people work as professional illustrators in different design sectors and have addressed the following tips of common complaints which people in the industry run into. So if you're thinking of becoming an illustrator, or you're already a veteran be sure to keep this wisdom in mind to save your future arising problems and headaches. Though I won't say it's the hard and fast rule cause everyone works differently. But I'm very confident that the advice I'm gonna share out here today will help you to streamline your workflow very easily and will make your life more simpler. so let's start.

1. Study others

Being an illustrator isn't as impossible as it seems, cause a lot of people has already made this as their career options and has turned this ambition into reality. By studying other people's illustrations or the work process or in simple we can say by looking at their work and how they do, you can really pick up valuable insights into progressing both your skills and career. Along with continuous drawing, practising, learning, experimenting and playing I've learnt a lot from studying other people's illustration works. Trying to access how they actually work in the softwares and skills is a good exercise to learn from. Try to look for who these people work for, their Marketting techniques, branding, income, etc. Looking at other creative people's work and trying to to recreate your own version of it is a common artistic training method.

2. Take it easy

It might sound counter-intuitive, but relaxing, taking off the pressure, and stepping away from your sketchpad are valid ways to become a better illustrator. In these moments of distraction or apparent idleness, you might subconsciously crack the issue that's been bugging you when you're concentrating."Doodle without putting pressure on yourself to make the next big thing and to share it straight away,"."Hard to do, but it can really take you to some interesting places and push your creativity.".

3. Leave your comfort zone

Rest is good, but the flip side of that is pushing yourself. If you're staying firmly in your creative comfort zone, how can you expect to surprise yourself and your audience with interesting illustrations?

"When I push myself to accept work that seems unusual or scary or rather out of my comfort zone, I absolutely dread it at first," says illustrator Tarjis, "but near the finish line, I realise how flexible and creative I really am. It's an absolute confidence boost. It feels like levelling up every time!"

So if you always work digitally, why not try switching over to analogue tools to see how you get on? And if you always work with paints, perhaps switching over to charcoals or pastels would help shake you out of your routine.

4. Join communities

Just sitting idle and creating sketches on notepad, books or creating digital arts or illustrations, can make you leanly. And without getting any external output, you won't even get to know if you're improving or creating something that will be liked by the mass audience. It's very easy to become a critic of your own work. Now being in this generation super fast Internet you get to join the different communities, share your work there ands get honest feedback from people around the globe. Join a community where you get a bunch of other illustrators to chat to and share resources, get critiques, bounce ideas back and forth and just share daily stuff of your improvement levels.

5. Create a working space

Recently due to the pandemic we all got used to working from home to some extent over the few years, and then what we see is that this setup has its own benefits. Not everyone will be able to afford a studio space but even just clearing your work space at home and building a station to work will help you to do so and will save your valuable time.

6. Use the internet productively

Sure, the internet can be very distracting. It's all too easy to lose track of time when you take a quick break to scroll social media, and before you know it, an hour (or more) has passed. But when used productively, the internet is a valuable way to hone your skills, find inspiration and spread the word about your work. Just keep the time allotted to browsing memes to a minimum.

7. Create project timelines

Structure can sometimes feel at odds with the creative process, but if you've got various projects in the pipeline, then "structure" is exactly what you need. Enter project timelines. By breaking down a commission into achievable parts and setting aside a certain amount of time to complete each step, even the biggest projects can be made easier to fulfil.

8. Learn to adapt and compromise

Compromising isn't a bad thing. If you're working as a commercial illustrator, you will inevitably have to adapt to a client's brief. "Some illustrators have an Artistic approach with a capital 'A', which works perfectly fine in a lot of cases, but seeing your career through a commercial perspective doesn't hurt either. There is satisfaction in creating a piece that truly meets your clients' needs instead of mostly trying to add another pretty piece to your portfolio."

9. Manage client expectations

Relationships between clients are crucial for jobbing illustrators. They form the foundation of your income, so everyone must know where they stand and what's expected of each other.

"Know your project goal and treat illustration like design. It has an intended purpose, and everything needs to be objective at all times," says illustrator and designer Tatiana Bischak. "Make sure your client fully understands this objectivity concept along with the goal, or you're going to have a very bad time wrangling them."

10. Take burnout seriously

Sadly, burnout tends to strike down people in creative industries, and illustration is no exception. Exhaustion through overwork can have debilitating physical and mental consequences, so take it seriously and don't ignore the warning signs of fatigue."Burnout can last months to years, and this society does not facilitate waiting around for you to be creative again. Rest well and often, and set solid boundaries. Understand that irritability is a natural sign you need to rest." "If you find yourself in a toxic work environment, tell people around you and do what you need to leave. Nearly every creative has been in a terrible job, and they will help you by asking around for open positions, reviewing your portfolio, or even just being someone to vent to."


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