Book Illustrator

By TACP Staff on July 14, 2021

Book Illustrator

Book illustrators breathe life into the written word. Whether the topic is scientific, imaginary or age-specific; these talented fine artists must invite the eyes to embrace images that properly correspond to the authored content. Illustrators can work in literally every genre of publication and within a variety of environments. Whether freelancing or in the employ of a business or corporation; book illustrators create the pictures which are worth “at least a thousand words.”

What Is Book Illustration?

Book illustration is a form of fine art that is used to create drawn pictures and images for books. Illustrations are meant to be much more than pretty pictures, however. They will usually help add to or enhance the story in some way.

Generally speaking, illustrations are more commonly found in children’s books. Some children’s books may consist of nothing but pictures, although many children’s books also have words as well. Not only do these pictures add visual appeal for a child, but they can also help a child understand the words of the story as well. As a child becomes more adept at reading and understanding stories, they will typically begin reading stories with fewer illustrations.

Illustrations are also commonly found in some books for adults as well. Instructional books, for instance, often contain a number of diagrams and charts, which help readers see each step of a particular process. Medical and health books, along with wildlife and nature books, also usually have a number of illustrations as well.

What Does a Book Illustrator Do?

A book illustrator is a professional that creates drawings and other illustrations for books. The images that illustrators add help convey the ideas and messages of the books, as well as help, bring the stories alive. Many illustrators will usually specialize in illustrating certain types of books, like picture books or books in certain genres. Some book illustrators may write the books that they illustrate, but many simply add illustrations to existing manuscripts.

During the illustration process, a book illustrator will sometimes work directly with the author of the book. Many times, however, an illustrator will never meet the author of a book. Instead, illustrators will usually be contacted by editors or publishers. Successful illustrators must be able to read stories, interpret them, and use their own intuitions and imaginations when illustrating a book.

When creating illustrations, a book illustrator may use several different methods. Some simply use pencils, paint, or other traditional art mediums, for instance. Others, however, may take a more modern approach to illustrate and use computer software.

In general, book illustrators should be artistic individuals. They should have advanced drawing or painting skills, for example. Because they need to come up with countless unique illustrations, they should also be extremely creative individuals with limitless imaginations.Book illustrators who write their own books will also need to have excellent writing skills as well. Otherwise, they should be able to understand and interpret the text written by existing authors.

Book Illustrator Education & Training Requirements

A formal education is not always necessary when pursuing a career in book illustration. Many illustrators, however, will choose to attend an art school in order to fine-tune their skills. Some art schools specifically offer degree programs in book illustration, but aspiring illustrators can also choose to enroll in an illustration school or graphic design school.

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Book Illustrator Salary & Job Outlook


Book illustrators may be compensated in a couple of different ways. Many are paid a lump sum for each project that they complete, but some might receive royalties instead. Either way, a career in book illustration can be very lucrative for many talented individuals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fine artists – including book illustrators – made an average annual salary of $58,370 in 2018. Some more successful illustrators, however, are able to make much more.

Job Outlook

The majority of book illustrators are freelancers. They usually get work after showing their portfolios to authors, editors, or publishers. Some book publishers might also hire illustrators as salaried employees, but this is rare.

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