Difference Between Illustrators & Concept Artists

Creative artistic people are always looking for fulfilling jobs. Illustrators work with pencils and pens, while concept artists work with computer art programs. This article focuses on these career fields and offers some pertinent information.

Comparing Illustrators to Concept Artists

Illustrators and concept artists both work under the art umbrella. Both require creativity and originality, but are different in the mediums and projects they work on. Illustrators create sketches using primarily pencils and ink. Concept artists may work in graphics or animation using their computer skills for their creations. Below is a comparison of these two artistic fields and some job information about them.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary* (2016) Job Growth* (2014-2024)
Illustrator Bachelor's degree $50,790 (for fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators) 3% (for fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators)
Concept Artist Bachelor's degree $65,300 (for multimedia artists and animators) 6% (for multimedia artists and animators)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Illustrators vs. Concept Artists

Illustrators can work in a lot of different media and styles. Many are novel artists, but may create images for magazines, greeting cards or calendars. Others may illustrate medical journals or newspaper advertisements. Concept artists take other people's ideas or concepts and create the visuals they think best represents the description given to them. These men and women will be found working for internet and video gaming companies designing characters or environments. Maybe they will work for Hollywood or small studio animating film and video.


This is a centuries old profession going as far back as the Gutenberg Bible; today, illustrators create visuals for comic books or children's literature. Some are hired to illustrate how-to manuals or amusement park caricatures. Illustrators normally discover their talent as young children by drawing realistic doodles of objects or people. Channeling their own imagination and skill, an illustrator uses paper and creative tools to create an image. If hired by an author, they may have a guideline to follow, but will have the creative freedom to create something unique. If employed in a technical field, the images must be accurately detailed and clear. After completing their sketches, these artists may scan the image into a computer to add enhancements or show the client.

Job responsibilities of an illustrator include:

  • Work with a variety of mediums; pencil, ink, charcoal
  • Prepare sketches for further addition like color
  • Research material for ideas for drawings
  • Collaborate with author(s)
  • Work in a timely manner

Concept Artist

Concept artists fall under the multimedia and animation criteria. These artists work mainly with computer art programs to take a client's conception and bring it to life. These artists get specific details directly from the client, which may include info like personality traits or body type for a character, or the scenery for an environment. Concept artists who work for an advertising company apply their expertise in an animation layout for an internet ad. Many concept artists find they have a knack for computers before adding that art ability to the mix.

Job responsibilities of a concept artist include:

  • Design games, special effects or videos
  • Discuss concepts with art directors and with clients
  • Collaborate with other artists or departments
  • Edit and render work before finalizing
  • Make client presentations

Related Careers

Illustrators and concept artists may work in art but they do not do the same things. There several related career fields for these artists. Illustrators might look into becoming art directors and taking total responsibility of an artistic project for a client or an organization's marketing campaign. Concept artists or multimedia artists may consider becoming graphic designers still using computer software to bring a concept to life and moving a viewer to take some kind of action.

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