Fashion Illustration Career Information

Find information about academic requirements, career outlook and salary potential for fashion illustrators. Learn about the skills and qualities you'll need to work in the field, as well as profiles of related design and modeling careers.

Career Definition for a Fashion Illustrator

In general, illustrators use pens, pencils, ink and computers to create images and visuals for a variety of printed materials. Fashion illustrators often work on a freelance basis, bringing designers' creations to life for magazines, department stores, advertising agencies or other marketing outlets. Other fashion artists work full-time for direct-mail catalog retailers or clothing pattern companies; others may start their own illustration firms and work with a diverse set of clients.

Education Degree program in fine arts, major in illustration
Job Skills Drawing and illustration skills, computer aided design (CAD) experience
Median Salary (2015)* $45,080 (craft and fine artists)
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 2% increase (craft and fine artists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

While formal training is not always required to become a fashion or mainstream illustrator, classes or degree programs in the fine arts can help students develop their drawing skills and advance their career prospects. According to The College Board, a major in illustration can help students learn how to draw for a specific purpose and create visuals for books, cartoons, maps and fashion advertisements or presentations (www.bigfuture.collegeboard.org). Individual schools may also offer concentrated coursework that includes training in fashion drawing and styling techniques.

Skills Required

Advanced drawing and illustration skills are a must, but it's also important for fashion artists to demonstrate proficiency in computer-aided design (CAD) programs. In addition, fashion illustrators should be knowledgeable about clothing materials and proportions, creative, manually dexterous and well-versed in fashion trends. When it comes to interacting with clients and promoting their work, fashion illustrators also need good business, customer-service and interpersonal skills.

Career and Salary Outlook

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report job outlook and salary statistics that are specific to fashion illustrators, it does provide information for craft and fine artists. According to the BLS, these professionals nationwide will experience a 2%, or slower than average, growth in jobs between 2014 and 2024. In May 2015, craft and fine artists, including illustrators, earned a median annual salary of $45,080 (www.bls.gov).

Alternate Career Options

Similar career options within this field are:

Fashion Designers

Fashion designers use computer-aided (CAD) software and traditional sketching techniques to conceptualize and visualize original accessory and clothing designs. Additional activities include creating patterns and prototypes, choosing fabrics and researching clothing and consumer trends. Many aspiring fashionistas pursue undergraduate degree programs in design or merchandising, which may include opportunities for internships. According to the BLS, fashion designers earned a median annual wage of $63,670 in May 2015. Employment prospects for designers nationwide are expected to increase by 3% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov).

Models

While some models may pose exclusively for fashion photographers or wear clothes in fashion and runway shows, fashion illustrators may also require their services. While models do not need a formal education, they will most likely need to meet industry specifications for height, size and weight. Nationwide, employment prospects for models are expected to see little to no change between 2014 and 2024, according to the BLS. Those employed in May 2015 were paid a median hourly wage of $13.23; models in the lowest and highest paid 10% ranges earned approximately $8.20 and $26.28 respectively (www.bls.gov).


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