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How Do I Become a Fashion Illustrator?

Research what it takes to become a fashion illustrator. Learn about the education requirements, key skills, job outlook and salary to find out if this is the career for you.

What Is a Fashion Illustrator?

Fashion illustrators work for clothing designers, cosmetics companies, retail department stores, fashion magazines and advertising agencies. They create original clothing designs, both by computer program and by hand, that will become the exciting new trends of tomorrow. Their images may be used for advertising and marketing. They select the colors and layouts of their images. Fashion illustrators typically present their ideas to a creative director or upper management for approval and suggestions. Depending on their place of work, some may be involved in the business aspect of selling their images, brands and products. The following table lists the general requirements for a career as a fashion illustrator.

Education RequiredBachelor's degree
Training Required Hands-on training in illustration and computer graphics
Key SkillsTalent for drawing human body by hand and by using specialized computer programs;
Understanding of fashion design and merchandising;
Business skills if you choose to freelance
Other Requirements Portfolio of your best artwork
Job Growth (2018-2028) 3% for all graphic designers; 1% for fashion designers*
Median Salary (2018) $50,370 for all graphic designers; $72,720 for fashion designers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics*

What Kind of Education Do I Need?

To prepare for your fashion illustration career, you can pursue associate, bachelor's or master's degrees. These are offered by colleges, universities and art schools. Most college degree programs require you to complete general course studies, such as English, natural science and social science, in addition to your art courses. If you chose to attend an art school, your education will be more focused on the development of your skill as an illustrator, and you will learn art history and theory.

Many of your classes will take a hands-on approach to honing your ability to draw the human body. You may wish to experiment with a variety of art mediums, such as watercolor, pen and ink, pastels, charcoal and acrylic paint. You can also learn how to use illustrating software such as Adobe Illustrator, InDesign and 3-D. For a Master of Fine Arts, you may be expected to stage an exhibition of your work. Building a portfolio on paper or online that showcases your best work and is essential to finding fashion illustrator jobs

What Skills do I Need?

To become a fashion illustrator, you need talent for drawing by hand or on computerized design (CAD) software. A sense of color, texture, visual perspective, lines and shading are important, as are personal style and creativity. Also, you need to understand fashion design and merchandising. In this career, you may have to consistently meet deadlines and work under some pressure.

If you choose to be self-employed, you will need an enterprising nature for approaching potential clients, which may include magazine and newspaper publishers, advertising agencies, pattern makers and fashion designers. The ability to handle many business matters yourself would be a helpful skill as well.

Once you've graduated from a fashion illustration program and built your portfolio, you might find work in a variety of organizations. In a degree program, you may be able to participate in internships and study-abroad experiences.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Art directors, technical writers and industrial designers are just a few of the related careers that require a bachelor's degree. Art directors develop and maintain a particular visual style for various forms of media, such as magazines and movies. Technical writers produce the written content for technical and complex works, like an instruction manual. Industrial designers are responsible for creating designs and concepts for all sorts of products, including toys and cars.