Greeting Card Illustrator: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Sep 22, 2019

Greeting card illustrator requires little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and portfolio requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Greeting card illustrators often work as freelancers. They need to have not only inherent artistic ability, but also a keen understanding of design software. Formal education requirements vary, though bachelor's degrees are common.

Essential Information

Greeting card illustrators are responsible for decorating greeting cards with pictures and graphics that are relevant to the celebration or topic. Greeting card illustrators must use their artistic skills and experience to succeed in this career. Although formal requirements are not expected of potential greeting card illustrators at companies, a background in graphic design, illustration, and a portfolio is favorable.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in illustration or similar field preferred
Other Requirements Portfolio of artwork
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 1% for all fine artists*
Average Salary (2018) $58,370 for all fine artists*

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Greeting Card Illustrator Job Description

Greeting card artists are responsible for graphically representing a specific emotion, occasion or joke. Illustrators may use drawing software programs to create the graphic content or work in freehand using medium such as paint, pastels, pencil or ink. Most greeting card illustrators work as freelancers and find work on a project-by-project basis. More experienced illustrators may hold permanent positions in large greeting card companies.

Greeting Card Illustrator Duties

While an illustrator's duties may vary according to their area of specialization or employer requirements, most share the same basic duty to create a design in accordance to the card's topic, theme and type. For example, artists often create whimsical pictures for humorous cards or sentimental illustrations for holidays and special occasions.

Illustrators may be asked to bid on projects, as well as submit sample drawings before they are assigned a project. Greeting card companies often require submissions to be in electronic format, such as a CD, or photocopies of the original piece. Most greeting card companies post submission policies on their websites and only accept work that meets their guidelines.

Artists not only design a card with the sentiment in mind, they also have to take into consideration the card's dimensions and how it will look on display. Most projects have a deadline and artists may be asked to modify their drawings after submission to the company's editorial staff.

Since many greeting card illustrators are freelancers, they usually license their work before final submission. The licensing agreement typically outlines how the company may use the graphic and who owns the copyright, which is usually the artist.

Requirements for Greeting Card Illustrators

Although there are no actual requirements for greeting card illustrators, there are a few things that most employers look for when reviewing potential employees. Graphic design training and examples of artwork in the form of a portfolio are often considered essential for this career.


There are very few educational programs specifically tailored for the greeting card industry. However, there are several fine arts programs at the bachelor's and master's level that have a concentration in illustration.

Bachelor's degree programs typically provide a general overview of illustration practices with coursework in narrative drawing, composition, color use and visual development. Graduate programs in this field often allow students to concentrate on a specific style of illustration, such as animal, fantasy, character or cartoon drawing.


The portfolio is one of the most important aspects of an illustrator's resume package and is the capstone in most training programs. Illustrators should focus on building a portfolio of artwork that includes a combination of quick sketches and finished artwork in as many different medium as possible. Additionally, drawings showing characters in different moods or situations are especially useful for card illustrators since they are often asked to create pictures to fit text descriptions or specific themes. Portfolios should also showcase the artist's personal style and highlight the areas in which the artist specializes.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported an average salary of $58,370 for fine artists, including illustrators, painters and sculptors. The BLS predicted only 1% job growth for fine artists from 2018-2028. Artists who can work on Internet-based and electronic publishing platforms may have the best prospects, according to the BLS.

Greeting card illustrators don't always need to have formal education, but many employers prefer a bachelor's degree or completion of a design program. Illustrators usually need a portfolio to showcase their designs to prospective employers and clients. The average annual salary for all fine artists was about $58,000 as of 2018.

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