Graphic Designer vs. Illustrator: Everything You Need To Know

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Graphic designers will work on design elements and structures, providing a visual message/brand for a company in order to sell a product or service.

Illustrators, on the other hand, will typically do commercial work for companies like comic book houses, publishing houses, and advertising agencies. They do a lot more drawing, designing of product packaging, working on book illustrations, and creating company logos.

Graphic design degrees require a concentration in product design, website design, and publication design. Illustration students have some graphic design training, but most of their coursework includes art history, drawing, and painting. The illustrator doesnt have the advanced knowledge of a graphic designer.

If you like to draw and illustrate concepts, illustration would be a good fit. If you prefer to code, make websites, and do detail-type work, then graphic design might suit you better.

The main difference between graphic design and illustration is how and where you use them. Typically, graphic design leans more commercial, while illustration is related to fine art. As more and more commercial projects often require emotive and distinct visuals, those differences are becoming less obvious over time.


What is an illustrator?

An illustrator is a visual artist who uses various media to represent or explain texts and ideas. Illustrators might provide clients with a single piece of artwork, or they might create multiple illustrations in a particular style. Organizations and individuals hire illustrators to entertain, provoke or communicate with audiences. Common uses of illustrators work include:

What is a graphic designer?

A graphic designer is a visual media expert who creates a unified style that people can identify with a company, product, campaign or place. Graphic designers may do some artwork by hand, but they mostly use specialized software programs to combine images, text and other visual elements into a series of graphics.

Graphic designers help their clients tell stories, communicate values and create public interest. They might freelance, work for a specific company or work in a dedicated graphic design firm. Here are some common uses of graphic design:

Graphic designer vs. illustrator

The primary difference between graphic designers and illustrators is the intention of their work. Graphic designers communicate on a clients behalf. Their individual identity, opinions and beliefs are usually not relevant. They intend to provide information quickly with visuals that obviously represent the client. Illustrators may serve a similar purpose, but often clients hire illustrators for their unique ideas and styles. Clients might benefit from associating themselves with the message or meaning of the illustration.


Common duties for graphic designers include:

Illustrators duties usually consist of:

Career paths

Here are common career paths for graphic designers and illustrators:

To become a graphic designer, you might pursue a bachelors degree, take courses in graphic design or teach yourself using online resources. Masters programs in graphic design are also available. Your education likely prioritizes learning industry-standard graphic design software and any related programs for photo editing or font creation.

Clients and employers typically expect candidates applying for freelance work or full-time positions to have a portfolio of work. You can develop your portfolio as you learn by volunteering to make flyers for school productions, designing campaign materials for classmates in student government or creating t-shirts for student organizations or local bands.

Most graphic designers start in junior designer roles, either with a marketing or advertising department or in a creative firm. You can earn promotions to a midweight designer role, followed by senior designer position. From there, you can find work as an art or creative director or begin your own business. If you want to freelance, you may benefit from gaining some full-time experience first so clients have confidence in your abilities. Otherwise, you can pursue graphic design on a part or full-time basis.

To become a talented illustrator, its important to begin practicing as early as possible. Pursue any art courses your school offers and consult any online resources available to improve your abilities. Training in various mediums, such as pencil, ink and paint, also can help develop your skill sets.

Many schools offer undergraduate study in studio art, and some grant bachelors degrees in the field. For further training, you might consider a Master of Fine Arts degree. Illustrators also benefit from developing a portfolio of their best work throughout their educational career. Practical experience opportunities include contributing illustrations to school newspapers or magazines and submitting work to online art publications.

Illustrators can find work in film and television, publishing, creative firms or as freelancers. Some illustration roles are more technical than creative, such as medical illustration. For such specializations, there may be credentials you can pursue, such as the Association of Medical Illustrators board certification.

Salaries and job outlooks

Work environments

Graphic designers work in a variety of environments. If graphic designers work for themselves, they likely work independently in their home or personal office. If working within a company, graphic designers might be a department member in a corporate setting. Some graphic designers find employment in graphic design firms where they collaborate with other creatives to meet client needs.

Some illustrators do secure full-time positions and work within settings such as a studio or corporate publisher. However, most work freelance and complete projects in their own studios or homes.


Which is better illustrator or graphic designer?

If you like to draw and illustrate concepts, illustration would be a good fit. If you prefer to code, make websites, and do detail-type work, then graphic design might suit you better.

Are illustrator and graphic designer the same?

It’s possible for one person to be both a graphic designer and an illustrator. This usually happens when a person has a strong artistic background. This is a common situation and happens mostly with freelancers.

Who Earns More graphic designer or illustrator?

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.

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