Graphic Designer Vs Illustrator

Graphic designers and illustrators both work with art, although graphic designers work with many elements of design while illustrators focus on artwork. Gain more insight into how these careers are similar yet different.

Comparing Graphic Designers to Illustrators

Both graphic designers and illustrators work with images to construct visual displays for clients. Graphic designers create layouts using computer software, while illustrators may draw or paint images and upload them to make digital copies. Keep reading to find out more about the similarities and differences between these art-based careers.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Graphic Designer Bachelor's degree $47,640 1%
Illustrator High school diploma; postsecondary education is common $50,790 (for all fine artists) 3% (for all fine artists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Graphic Designers vs. Illustrators

Graphic designers and illustrators are both trained to use artwork in a specific manner for those who are paying them. Graphic designers tend to work with digital images to meet the needs of their clients or employers, usually those involved with advertising, magazines, or websites. They often work in studios or private offices. Illustrators, on the other hand, work primarily with what they can draw rather than piecing together images and text, like graphic designers do. Illustrators can work for companies in art studios, but they may also work from home.

Graphic Designer

Graphic designers work with individual illustrations like illustrators do, but their job is often to skillfully mix images with text to produce something that catches a consumer's eye. Using special design and photo editing software, they create artwork for magazines, websites, brochures and advertisements. In addition, some design logos and retail packaging. They must usually work closely with copywriters and other professionals who are giving input on a project. They usually also have to incorporate images given to them by clients or employers into their project layouts. Graphic designers often work indoors in offices or studios, usually during normal business hours. However, if they have a pressing deadline, they may have to work overtime at odd hours.

Job responsibilities of a Graphic Designer include:

  • Meet with clients on their time rather than during normal business hours
  • Choose colors and fonts for layouts
  • Complete changes prescribed to them by clients or employers
  • Look closely at their work for mistakes before turning it in
  • Stay current with the newest software programs


Illustrators are essentially fine artists who work for employers or clients who want their art in publications or commercial products. They may draw or paint their creative images. Usually their artwork goes into publications like books or magazines, or it is printed on products like stationary or wrapping paper. Illustrators are more often using computer programs to digitize their art, but their primary medium is not software. They may draw a picture and then scan and upload it, or use a tablet with a stylus to create images. Illustrators, like many fine artists, work regular full-time hours, though they may work more than that to meet deadlines.

Job responsibilities of an Illustrator include:

  • Display their art to customers or employers
  • Develop new project ideas for their art
  • Look closely at projects for areas that can be improved
  • Build their portfolio to promote their artist services
  • Become more efficient by not repeating past mistakes on future projects

Related Careers

Someone interested in working as a graphic designer might also think about becoming an architectural drafter, since both use design to set up projects. Those who are considering a career as an illustrator should also think about what it means to be a cartoonist, since both may use drawing in their work.

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