What Is Commercial Art?

Commercial art, often called advertising art, is used to sell goods and services. It is different from fine art, which exists for its own sake. Commercial artists are typically employed by advertising agencies, newspapers, magazines, graphic design firms, television studios and similar businesses. Many commercial artists work for themselves as freelance designers.

Overview of Commercial Art

Commercial art applies artistic principles to a variety of fields. Commercial artists design advertisements, logos, billboards, brochures, book covers, product packaging and other similar artwork. Their work is often used to sell, promote, explain, narrate and inform.


Commercial artists can specialize in graphic design and illustration, among other areas. Illustrators create images for use in books, magazines and stationery. Graphic designers create artwork and layouts for books, newspapers, magazines, television, product packaging and the Internet. Graphic design professionals often work in advertising, marketing or related fields.

Education Requirements

Many positions require an undergraduate degree in art or a related field. Commercial art instruction is commonly available through associate degree programs offered by two-year community colleges. The curriculum in these programs can serve as entry-level training or prepare program graduates to continue their education in commercial photography, media arts or illustration bachelor's degree programs.

Students in an associate degree program can expect to complete courses in commercial art and illustration, color theory, graphic design, desktop publishing, typography, multimedia design and photography. They should also take courses that can familiarize them with the computer software programs commonly used in the commercial art business, such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.

Students interested in commercial art careers might also want to participate in internships to improve their professional skills and develop their portfolio. This collection of work showcases commercial artists' skills to potential employers, and it can be essential to landing a job.

Salary Information reports that as of March 2014, commercial artists earned a median salary of $45,000. During this period, most commercial artists earned between $22,139 and $78,906 per year in total pay, which includes bonuses, overtime pay and other earnings.

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