You can really become an Illustrator even without a degree.

This very detailed and revealing article contains all the ways and tips for really making that happen.



There are a variety of ways in which we can learn.

One of those ways is through trial and error when we are presented with a challenge, and we take a certain action and sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t.

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Another way that we can learn is through the actions of others.

Through those actions, we can learn what to do and what not to do.

One of the most effective ways in which we can learn is through schooling.

School is often a combination of the educational experience of an instructor using a textbook to help us to understand a concept, the workings of the world around us, and learning about ourselves and others.

Education is extremely important.

Another significant way in which we can learn which can be very powerful and yet simple is through pictures.

Sometimes, people may say sarcastically about having to draw us a picture when we don’t understand something.

That’s not all bad and sometimes a picture is needed to understand the concept, utilize an entertainment value, and have that picture teach us to bring clarity.

You have a dream to become an illustrator but there are challenges that you are facing which could include time and money to receive a formal education.

Let us, therefore, draw out a plan of action to where you can become an illustrator without earning a degree.


25 Ways & Tips for Becoming an Illustrator Without a Degree


1. Know all about what an Illustrator is

An illustrator is an individual who has artistic talent and enhances writing or expands words in a book or other written narrative by providing a visual representation.

The concept that a picture is worth 1000 words is fully embraced by an illustrator.

It is this concept and the visualization or illustration that is created that helps the reader to understand the words that are being said.

That is why illustrations are an integral part of children’s books.


2. In Demand?

The career of being an illustrator continues to be an artistic talent that is still in demand.

It has never been easier for an individual to create and publish their book or e-book given the variety of available technology tools.

Therefore, the demand for illustrators to incorporate drawings within these books or create an engaging book cover also increases proportionately.

In addition, to providing content for these books, the opportunity to use your illustrative talent can be utilized for online work through the various available applications.


3. Time

To fully utilize your drawing skills and talents it is important from the start that you commit devoting time and effort to your dream of becoming an illustrator.

This means that you will need to believe in yourself and invest in yourself and your talent.

This commitment can be practiced through daily writing discipline, taking classes, searching online about illustrations and possible courses that are provided, learning from others, etc.

It is important to stay the course.


4. Work Ethic

Another important aspect of working toward your goal of being a quality illustrator can be evidenced by your work ethic.

Perhaps a plan of action or strategy can be implemented with the goal is not just becoming an illustrator but a quality illustrator.

Your methods to obtain this goal could include:

  • Practicing daily
  • Associating with other illustrators
  • Learning consistently
  • Submitting work for peer review
  • Etc.


5. Portfolio

As you hone your profession, there are certain illustrative creations that you will be particularly proud of.

Make these illustrations that stand out as part of your portfolio.

Variety in the illustrations is also a good strategy and therefore your artistic talents should be a reflection of your entire range and scope of your talent.

A powerful way of making your portfolio visible is by creating your webpage and uploading your illustrative work.

The web page will be utilized to display your professional services and provide an opportunity for individuals to view your illustrations or portfolio.

Your portfolio should be a broad sampling of all of your work ranging from the potential of having book covers, illustrative drawings utilized in books, etc.


6. Focus

It is important to understand that your talent and skill are as unique as you are.

No two illustrators are alike and have different styles of drawing and reflecting their imagination.

Therefore, it is important not to be “pigeonholed.”

In other words, draw what you want and allow your drawings to represent your uniqueness.

Your focus should be on your gifts and talents and presenting those attributes through your illustrations and not be something that you are not.


7. Skills to Become an Illustrator

To be a quality illustrator is more involved than just picking up a sketching tool and creating a design.

An illustrator should have not only the basic drawings skill or talents but will also need the ability to interact with others at a certain level.

Some of those other skills or traits would include:

  • Ability to listen to what the client wants
  • Communicating or offering ideas
  • Good social skills
  • Professional
  • Considerate
  • A firm grasp on storytelling through your illustrations


8. Advice

It is important to interact with other professional illustrators to glean from their experience and their skill set.

Types of advice that you might hear from a peer or mentor could include:

  • Keep a sketchbook
  • Look for ways to be inspired
  • Allow your style to evolve as you grow
  • Create your briefs
  • Show your work


9. Compromise

As it relates to submitting your artwork to your client, the reality is that compromise may be needed as to what has been presented and what the client was or is looking for.

Obviously, as an illustrator, you are proud of your work and feel that you have captured the essence of what your client is looking for.

It is, however, a strong possibility that the first draft is not quite totally embraced by your client.

Hence the phrase “back to the drawing board.”

It is important not to be caught up in this compromise emotionally but to listen to what is being said and be confident in your work to push back slightly and indicate where you are going with the illustration

As with all things, it is important to compromise but still maintain the integrity of your illustration so that your client is happy and that you are satisfied with your illustration presented and its reflection of hard work and imagination.


10. Creative Community

As with all professionals, it is important to interact with others who have the same desire and passion for the acumen that they are blessed with and have embraced.

Being an illustrator is no different and therefore, a creative community for support, mentoring, and advice should be sought.

Interacting with others who have the same professional desires as you, will be a benefit and will provide support, encouragement, and insight to all involved.

Examples of where a creative community can be found are through social media platforms or a variety of apps available for this purpose.

Some of those apps include:


11. Draw Every Day

One of the key components in learning how to become an illustrator is the discipline of picking up the illustrative tool of choice and practicing every day.

This investment of time, in any discipline or endeavor in which you wish to excel, is enhanced in direct proportion to the level of involvement.

For example, if you put $5000 in your savings account and add to that $5000 daily then your investment over some time would be that $5000 plus any other monies that you deposit.

The more money you put in the greater your reward and the growth of your savings account.


12. Learn the Basics

As with the beginning of anything, you need to know the basics and all that is entailed in what you are trying to learn.

Learning to become an illustrator is no different and therefore, a good place to start is through taking courses or reading books.

One website that has different components or teachings as it relates to illustrating can be found at:


13. Don’t Rush 

Rome was not built in a day nor will your career as an illustrator.

Being an illustrator is a journey that is marked with milestones along the way.

Those milestones include the daily trek or practice of your illustrative skills, the mile markers of taking classes and interacting with others, the various destinations realized along the way when job opportunities come, and so forth.

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It is impossible to arrive immediately from point A to point B.

Your journey of becoming an illustrator is a process.


14. Looking for Jobs

At some point in time, you will want to earn money for all of your hard work invested into being an illustrator.

There are several freelancing websites where you can search for employment opportunities.

Those websites include and

Also, some websites are designed specifically with the illustrator in mind and these websites are looking for refreshing and new talent.

Some of those websites include Behance, Dribbble, and Coroflot.


15. Social Media

Social media is also a powerful medium to promote yourself and market your skills, talents, and illustrations.

Through these platforms, you can showcase your skills and talent and when others access these platforms, the likelihood of them coming across your work and engaging your services is a possibility.

In particular, a significant segment of the business community that utilizes illustrators is the restaurant business.

Sometimes the old-fashioned way of interacting with potential clients by meeting and greeting them at their place of business can be effective.

Therefore, you could make an appointment with a restaurant owner, show your illustrative examples, and suggest to them that this can be done when they need modifications on their menu or even illustrate the various menu items of the day as part of the bill of fare for their customers to view.


16. Tools

There are a variety of tools for an illustrator to take advantage of.

Of course, there are the basic sketch pads, pens, and pencils that can be classified as “old-school.”

Added to the mix are several illustrator software packages that can be used.

The software packages can range from moderately priced to expensive and of course the more expensive the software package the greater the functionality of the software.

Some of those software packages include :

  • Adobe Photoshop – high-end drawing tools
  • Adobe Illustrator – specifically for vector graphics
  • Corel Painter – powerful software for an illustrator
  • Rebelle 4 – keeper and good drawing tools
  • ArtRage Vitae – less expensive, less variety of tools
  • Krita – drawing tools can be used for free
  • Artweaver – an extensive set of tools can be used for free


17. Online Courses

To enhance your training as an illustrator without earning a degree is to take online courses.

The best way to research and pursue taking a course online is to conduct your research by accessing a search engine and entering the keywords of “illustrator online classes.”

There are classes for illustrators that range anywhere from learning how to use software to illustrating, gathering ideas and inspiration, and teaching different techniques (shading, volumizing, sketching, etc.).

At there is a listing of courses that are provided at no charge.


18. Read

A significant way of learning additional techniques, tips, and insights as it relates to being an illustrator is to read.

There are many quality books on the market that can be purchased or possibly borrowed from other individuals.

Three of those potential informative books include:

  • How to Be an Illustrator by Darrel Rees
  • Thinking Visually for Illustrators by Mark Wigan
  • Illustrating Children’s Books by Martin Salsbury


19. Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Before being fully engaged as an illustrator and making this your livelihood, if you currently have a job, it would be a good idea to maintain that job until a specific point in time.

That specific point in time would be determined when you have had the opportunity to get additional training and tutoring, gain your first customer or two, have everything in place and ready to go as it relates to your business, etc.

Having a “day job” will help to bring money into the household and bridge the gap between having a steady income and moving into the business of being an illustrator.


20. Workshops

It is also a good idea to attend workshops that will provide a practical experience as the workshop presents a variety of topics as it relates to being an illustrator.

You can search online and use the keywords of illustrator workshops.

At there is a listing of scheduled workshops that can be attended either physically or through the online option.

There is an associated cost with these but there may be workshops that are provided at no cost.


21. Business

If your goal and pursuit of becoming an illustrator are to earn a living by utilizing your skill and talent, then you’re going to need a certain mindset.

That mindset is that you should focus your attention and efforts, not as an individual artist but come from the perspective that this is your business.

Not only are you going to have to provide illustrations and fulfill the contracts that you agree to but you’re going to have to market your company as well.

Consequently, a marketing plan and a strategy are paramount.

Some of those components of a marketing plan can include:

  • Using your social media platform to attract followers
  • Having a dynamic website that your followers and others will access
  • Be involved with business associations and organizations
  • Engage actively in your community
  • And more


22. Tutor

During your professional progression in your illustrator career, you will have progressed from the beginning stages and advanced into more intermediary or higher learning and experience.

At this point, you can use your accumulated skills and talent to teach others.

You can become a tutor to other students who are in the beginning stages of their love for illustration and teach them some of the basics and help them to move forward in their career paths.

You can advertise your tutoring classes through your social media sites, webpage, and even through online sites such as


23. Network

Networking or an illustrator is critical on a variety of fronts.

By networking, you can be encouraged by others, learn from others, socialize with others as it relates to sharing the same passion, etc.

Networking is good for you as not only an individual on a personal level but a professional level.

Ways that you can network include :

  • Social media platforms especially Instagram
  • Attend events and follow up with potential customers
  • Develop an elevator speech
  • Be genuine
  • Network for the right reasons – not to use people but to engage people.


24. Start Small 

It is always good to have high expectations as it relates to your being successful as an illustrator.

This is healthy and it is a good indicator of your passion and confidence

On the other hand, it is important to manage those expectations and take baby steps as it relates to gaining business and gaining customers and starting your business.


25. YouTube

Another great resource in which you can learn how to be an illustrator as well as gain some practice and insightful tips is YouTube.

Often, individuals will post various videos about a variety of subjects and one of these would include being an illustrator.

It is important to take advantage of these presentations and the offering of lessons provided at no charge.


Personal Story

My dad was a traveling salesman and usually was out on the road from Tuesdays until Friday when he returned for the weekend and then started the process over again the following week.

As such, he wasn’t home very often for events in my life such as baseball games, hockey games, etc.

It certainly was okay because he was a good father and provider for the family.

However, my commitment, because of this, was to make sure that I had time with my boys every evening.

Often, we would go out bicycling, throw the baseball around, and then when bedtime came around there was always a bedtime story.

The process was for me to read, use as much as possible my dramatic voice, and then show the illustrations of the books that they had chosen.

In retrospect, I certainly am thankful for illustrators who brought to life these stories that were being shared with my family.


Becoming an Illustrator Without a Degree FAQs


Out of Curiosity, What is Involved in Earning a Degree in Illustration?

To earn a Bachelor’s in Illustration one would need to attend a school that offers this curriculum.

The curriculum would involve the teaching of several specific and technical skills as it relates to receiving the degree.

Some subjects that would be taught as part of the curriculum would include:

  • Animated illustration
  • Concept art
  • Digital illustration
  • Drawing of the graphic novel
  • Children’s book illustration
  • Commercial illustration
  • And many more topics


What is the Average Annual Salary for an Illustrator?

The average salary of an in-house illustrator is $65,020 per annum.


You Can Do It

You have a talent and natural illustrator ability but possibly time does not permit nor do your financial resources allow you to gain a degree.

You have opted to build on your natural talent by engaging with others, networking, attending seminars, taking online classes, etc.

The reality is many roads lead to a specific destination and the road that you have chosen will provide you with success given your hard work and focus on being successful.



The use of illustrations to communicate a message dates as far back as when our early day ancestors drew on the walls of caves.

Today, the process is far more sophisticated, and a variety of tools and powerful software programs can be used.

However, the initial idea is the same in that a message can be conveyed not only by words but more powerfully through a picture.

Again, this company has paid $25+ million to members:

SurveyJunkie (only USA, Canada, Australia residents allowed). You can earn money sharing your thoughts. They have already paid $25+ million to their 20+ million members just for sharing their thoughts and opinions. Click here to join SurveyJunkie for FREE

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Apart from being a seasoned Personal Finance expert who has written for top publications around the world, I bring significant personal financial experience. Long story short... through bad financial choices... I found myself $100,000 plus in debt. I was able to dissolve this indebtedness and regain financial solvency. This financial turn around was accomplished through reading, studying and implementing a financial plan. My financial plan included paying down my debt through budgeting, being cognizant of where my financial resources were being spent, changing my attitude about money and understanding the binding chains of the improper use of credit. Today, and for 10 years, I have been debt free and have invested wisely to enjoy my current retirement. This is allowing me to write to help others make, save and grow money wisely!