You’ve come a long way since the days you doodled in your notebooks.
You always loved art, and now you get to make a living by creating it as a professional illustrator.
It’s a childhood dream come true…but there’s just one problem. You’re having a hard time finishing your resume.
Staring at the blank page that’s supposed to reflect your skills and experience feels a lot like an artist’s block, and you just can’t seem to paint yourself the way you want to.
But have no fear!
In this article, we’re going to help you illustrate your professional know-how, step by step.
We’re going to cover:
- What Makes a Great Illustrator Resume Example
- 10 Steps to Writing the Best Illustrator Resume
- What to Include in Your Illustrator Resume
Let’s sketch it out.
Illustrator Resume Example
Now that’s a resume that paints a picture any illustrator would want to show a hiring manager.
Let’s see what this resume does right:
- Uses the reverse-chronological resume format. This is hiring managers’ favorite format since it shines a light on your most recent work experience and achievements first.
- Provides professional contact details. Your contact information section isn’t the place to show your creativity. Make sure to include your full name, professional email address, phone number, location, and links to any professional websites or social media that are appropriate for the application.
- Includes an intriguing resume summary. To grab the hiring manager’s attention from the start, this illustrator resume example uses a strong resume summary to convey their top skills and achievements,
- Focuses on achievements. By focusing on accomplishments over day-to-day tasks, the illustrator resume example above immediately shows the hiring manager what the candidate can bring to the table.
- Uses bullet points. Using bullet points instead of blocks of text throughout the body of the illustrator resume keeps it visually neat and makes it easy to skim through.
- Tailors the skills section. The candidate might be skilled in different mediums but they’re specifically listing the skills they possess that are required for the job.
- Keeps the education section short. Hiring managers care more about your professional experience than your education. So, this illustrator resume example keeps the education brief and only lists their highest degree.
- Leverages optional sections. The illustrator resume example includes optional sections which can add value to their resume and set them apart from applicants with similar work experience and skills.
10 Steps Toward the Perfect Illustrator Resume
Now that you’ve seen what a job-landing illustrator resume should look like, it’s your turn to create one.
We’ve split the process into steps you can follow:
#1. Choose the Right Format
Consider your resume as a painting of your career journey and your chosen resume format is the canvas.
There are three resume formats you can pick from:
- Reverse-chronological (sometimes called chronological)
- Functional (sometimes called skill-based)
- Combination (the combination of reverse-chronological and functional formats)
In 99% of cases, we recommend that you pick the reverse-chronological resume format when making your illustrator resume.
The reverse-chronological resume format puts your most recent work experience and achievements first, which makes it the perfect format to highlight your strengths.
Not to mention, it’s the most popular format worldwide of the three, and it’s what hiring managers expect to see, so it’s your best choice.
Let’s look at an example of the reverse-chronological resume format:
#2. Pay Attention to the Layout
With the formatting out of the way, now it’s time to think about your resume layout.
After all, before the hiring manager gets to read your resume contents, they’ll see what it looks like - and a messy, unorganized document won’t make much of an impression.
Here are some basic resume layout tips you should keep in mind to avoid this from happening:
- Adjust the margins. Make sure to set your resume’s margins to one inch on all sides of the page. This way your resume will look neat, instead of stretched out or empty.
- Chose the right font size. Your resume font should be easy to read, so you shouldn’t make it too small. But if you go overboard on size, it could make your resume spill over to page 2. Stick to 11-12 pts for the body of your illustrator resume and 14-16 pts for any resume headings and subsection titles.
- Use bullet points. Instead of paragraphs, use bullet points to organize the bulk of the information on your resume. This way your resume will look neater and the hiring manager will be able to skim through it faster.
- Keep it short. If you want a hiring manager to give your resume a chance, you have to keep it to the point and attention-grabbing. Since they go through hundreds of resumes every day, a one-page resume is more than enough.
- Pick the right file format. Your resume should always be saved as a PDF file, and the only exception is if the employer requests you use a different format. By sending in your resume as a PDF, the layout will stay the same across any device or software that the hiring manager uses to open it.
Or Use a Tried-and-Tested Resume Template Instead
As an illustrator, you likely have other artistic projects to pour your creativity into instead of designing a resume.
Rather than spending time and energy tweaking margins and adjusting font sizes, you could be finishing your next illustration.
So why not skip all the hassle?
Try one of our free resume templates and create your resume in minutes.
Each of our templates is designed in collaboration with HR professionals to make sure your resume is ATS-friendly, easy to read, professional, and visually appealing.
So choose a beautiful resume template that shows off some of your personality and creative flair, and see how it compares to a standard text editor resume template:
#3. List Your Contact Details (the Right Way)
Whatever your artistic style is, your resume’s contact information section should be strictly factual.
Here’s what this section should include:
- Full Name. (E.g. Claudia Corsu)
- Professional Title. Match the title in your resume to the exact job title you’re applying for. (E.g. Book Illustrator)
- Phone Number. If you’re applying for a job abroad, make sure to specify your phone number’s dial code.
- Email Address. Your resume should always list a professional email address. Try to use a variation of your first and last name, not your email from your teenage years.(e.g. email@example.com, instead of firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Portfolio Link. Add a link to the platforms you use to showcase your work. Depending on your medium, these might include Behance, Instagram, or a personal website.
- Location. Add your city and state/country. If you’re willing to relocate for the job, or you’re applying for a remote position, specify this on your resume.
Not too complicated, right?
Just remember that the information you provide needs to be factual. A typo in your phone number or an anime reference in your email address won’t get you any interviews.
Claudia Corsu, Book Illustrator
+39 359 530 9881
Claw C., Doodler
0359 530 9881
Somewhere In Europe
#4. Write a Resume Summary or a Resume Objective
Hiring managers go through a lot of resumes. So you only have a few seconds to convince them yours is worth reading.
This is where your resume summary or objective comes in. It’s a short 2-4 sentence paragraph in your resume’s header that summarizes who you are as an applicant and what you can bring to the table.
Depending on the amount of work experience you have, you can choose one of the two options for this section:
- Resume summary. If you’re an experienced illustrator, write a resume summary. This way you can give the hiring manager an eye-catching introduction to your years of experience, top skills, and achievements.
- Resume objective. For an inexperienced illustrator, we recommend using a resume objective instead. This paragraph gives an overview of your technical skills as an illustrator, relevant experience, as well as professional goals and ambitions.
To give you an idea, here’s an experienced illustrator’s resume summary.
- Imaginative character illustrator, looking for a position at Animation Studio X. 5+ years of experience in digital and traditional art, designing characters and creating concept art in close collaboration with writers and art directors. Proficient in Adobe Creative Suite, including Photoshop and Illustrator. Motivated to work as part of a team that pushes the limits of 2D media.
This resume summary can definitely spike the hiring manager’s interest and get them to read the rest of the candidate’s resume.
Now let’s see an entry-level illustrator’s resume objective.
- Motivated Digital Arts graduate looking to start as a children’s book illustrator at Publishing House X. Experienced in creating digital artwork for freelance commissions with various software, including Corel Draw, Procreate, and Photoshop. Knowledgeable in Color Theory and Shape Language. Passionate about transforming stories into whimsical images.
This goes to show a great resume objective doesn’t require a ton of work experience.
That being said, consider that illustrators can work across a wide variety of industries.
Character design, book covers, marketing, video games, and film productions all need skilled illustrators with different sets of skills and experience. And some of those skills will be different from the ones needed by medical, forensic, or technical illustrators.
The best way to navigate job applications as an illustrator is to specify the type of work you’re experienced in or aiming for, such as environmental concept art or comic book character design. Just add a line to your resume summary or objective that mentions your specific skills, experience, or projects you’re interested in, so the employer knows what to expect.
#5. Prioritize Your Work Experience
Your work experience section is like the double-page spread of your resume that’s meant to wow the hiring manager
Here’s how you should format this section:
- Use the reverse-chronological order. Always begin with your latest work experience and work your back to older roles. But don’t go too far back – your part-time job while you were a student 15 years ago doesn’t belong on your resume.
- Specify your job title. Be accurate when describing your former role and don’t use any buzzwords. As creative as the title at your previous job might have been, use the proper title, not a nickname. (e.g. Graphic T-Shirt Designer, not T-Shirt Doodler)
- Add the company details. Key company information is all you need to add, such as the company’s name and location. If it’s not a household name, you can provide a short company description.
- Mention the employment period. Instead of adding exact dates, use the mm/yyyy format throughout your illustrator resume.
- List your responsibilities and achievements. Add no more than 5-6 bullet points for your most recent positions, and 2-3 for older ones.
Now you know how to make this section look neat and reader-friendly.
But your work experience is your main selling point, and you want to make it pop.
So let’s talk about how you can take this section from good to great:
- Tailor your work experience section to the position. Make sure the work experience you list is relevant to the position you’re applying for. If you have a lot of illustrator experience on your belt, you might want to scratch out a few of your older roles.
- Highlight achievements over responsibilities. Your accomplishments are much more impressive than your day-to-day responsibilities. By focusing on listing achievements in your resume, it’s easy for an employer to see how you can be a great fit for their company.
- Back everything up with numbers. Drive the point home on all your achievements by backing them up with data. (e.g. ‘Drew portrait commissions’ isn’t as good as ‘Completed 40+ pencil portrait commissions in the span of 3 months.’)
- Use power words. The hiring manager won’t be impressed reading what you were “responsible for” because they have a pile of resumes that say the exact same thing. Instead, use powerful resume action words to make your work experience section stand out from the crowd. (E.g. Conceptualized, designed, collaborated, spearheaded, etc.)
Here’s an example of a perfected work experience section:
Book Cover Illustrator
Balena Publishing House
04/2020 - 02/2023
- Designed and delivered a series of 12 commissioned portraits for the biographies of leading historical figures, resulting in a 7% increase in book sales compared to previous editions.
- Illustrated covers for a popular romance trilogy, leading to the series being featured in a leading literature magazine's "Top 10 Must-Reads of the Year".
- Developed and conceptualized 20+ cover designs for a renowned mystery and crime author.
- Partnered closely with authors and editors in brainstorming sessions, resulting in 2 cover designs being shortlisted for the National Cover Design Awards.
- Met 100% of project deadlines over a three-year period, illustrating over 50 book covers across various genres.
What If I Don’t Have Work Experience?
If you’re a recent graduate or entry-level worker, chances are you don’t have much work experience. And that’s fine because hiring managers don’t expect you to.
But you can still land a job as an illustrator with no work experience on your resume.
As an artist, you probably have enough relevant skills and experience outside of work to fill up your resume.
So instead of work experience, expand on any illustration experience you have, including:
For example, if you have a social media account where you post your art and do requests or commissions, you can highlight that in your resume.
Let’s look at an example:
The Sleepy Fire Cat - Art Blog
02/2019 - Present
- Completed over 170+ art requests and commissions since starting the blog and accumulated a following of over 5k.
- Designed over 80 unique characters for various fantasy, sci-fi, and post-apocalyptic settings using traditional art methods and PaintTool SAI.
- Created dozens of Dungeons and Dragons illustrations, two of which were shortlisted for the Fantasy Artists Awards digital contest.
- Researched and referenced complex facial expressions and poses to draw more dynamic characters.
- Refined anatomy and was selected to illustrate the cover of an art textbook, leading to a 20% increase in followers.
A popular career start for many artists is to become a freelance illustrator and do commissions. This way you can gain more professional experience that you can add to your resume and more art pieces for your portfolio.
#6. Create Your Portfolio
As an artist, you already know your portfolio is extremely important. The samples of your best work show employers exactly what you can do.
Depending on the amount of space you have on your resume, you might want to dedicate a section to it. Just title it “Portfolio” and add a clickable link to the website where your work is hosted, such as a Behance or Artstation profile.
Portfolio - artstation.com/YourArtStationUsername
- Editorial illustration - Created over 300+ illustrations for newspapers, magazines, and online publications using mixed-media techniques, primarily watercolor paint and digital retouching through Adobe Photoshop.
- Caricatures - Drew over 70+ satirical comic strips and caricatures for local newspapers through traditional mediums such as pencils and ink pens.
- Advertising and commercial illustration - Conceptualized and developed images for over 11 marketing campaigns and product launches, including a new and successful organic baby powder brand.
#7. List Relevant Hard and Soft Skills
Illustrators are skilled artists but the exact skills you need depend on the job you’re applying for.
Your skills section shows what you can do, what tools you can use to do it, and how much an employer will need to train you.
But the truth is, the hiring manager doesn’t care about how skilled you are in areas that have nothing to do with the job.
For example, if you’re applying for a job as a medical illustrator, there’s no need to mention how good you are at drawing sci-fi backgrounds or creating metallic textures. Instead, focus on your knowledge of anatomy and physiology.
You might be a jack of all trades but you need to show the hiring manager that you’re a master of the specific trade you’re applying for.
So just tailor your skills to the job advertisement and you can take your skill section to the next level by following these tips:
- Analyze the job description. Use your eye for detail to carefully look through the job advertisement and take note of any required skills. Then add the skills that apply to you to your illustrator resume, including mediums you’ve worked with, software you’re proficient in, and other technical skills.
- Research trends for the industry. Illustration is a creative industry and the trends constantly change. Try to keep track of the different methods and developments in the field so you know what the in-demand skills are. You can also look at our list of 101+ essential skills for your resume and add the ones that apply to you.
- Separate your soft skills from your hard skills. If you create distinct categories for your skills, your resume will be easier to navigate. Just split your skill section into soft skills and hard skills so the hiring manager can find what they’re looking for faster.
Are you drawing a blank trying to think up what skills can go on your resume?
Have no fear! We’ve prepared a list of the 50 most common soft and hard skills for illustrators.
50 Most In-Demand Illustrator Skills for 2023
13 Illustrator Soft Skills
37 Illustrator Hard Skills
- Graphic design
- Character design
- Background design
- 2D illustration
- 3D illustration
- Visual storytelling
- Environmental storytelling
- Concept art
- Digital art
- Traditional art
- Project management
- Data visualization
- Color theory
- Adobe Creative Suite
- Adobe Illustrator
- Adobe Photoshop
- Adobe After Effects
- Adobe InDesign
- Affinity Designer
- Corel Painter
- Corel Draw
- Paint Tool SAI
- Microsoft Office
#8. Keep Your Education Section Brief
Your work experience, portfolio, and skills carry your illustrator resume and those are the sections the hiring manager is mainly looking for.
So your resume’s education section should be brief and not too detailed, unless you literally just graduated college and have minimal work experience, that is.
Start by listing your latest degree, and work your way back. Only mention your high school education if it’s the highest degree you have.
Here’s what your education section should include:
- Degree Name. E.g. BFA in Painting
- University Name. E.g. Royal Academy of Art
- Location (optional). E.g. London, UK
- Years Attended. 2018 - 2021
Now let’s look at an example of this section on a resume:
BFA in Book Illustration and Print Design
National Academy of Art
09/2017 - 07/2021
#9. Take Advantage of Optional Sections
Do you still have some leftover space on your illustrator resume?
Don’t worry! You can leverage it by including some optional sections.
Optional sections can help you back up your skills and experience and set you apart from candidates with the same professional background as yours.
Here’s what you can include:
- Awards. There’s no harm in showing off some of your achievements. In fact, if your art has earned you any awards, this is the best place to show it.
- Certifications. Whatever medium you use, keeping up with industry developments and expanding your skillset is always a plus. If you have any courses or qualifications outside of your degree, list them in this section of your resume.
- Projects. Whether you were part of a complex university project or you’ve dedicated time and effort to your passion projects, this section is where you can let them shine. Your projects can show skills, experience, and a passion for your field.
- Hobbies and interests. Adding hobbies and interests to your resume can show who you are outside of work, though it’s always best to add relevant ones to your resume (e.g. drawing and painting for an illustrator, instead of horse riding and Dungeons and Dragons). Some companies even encourage candidates to add information about their hobbies and interests.
Here’s an example of how your illustrator resume can use these optional sections:
- Best Inktober Submission for 2022
- 2nd place in the annual Ink & Think: Philosophical Illustration Competition, 2021
- Advanced Adobe Photoshop: Crash Course
- Illustration of Storyboards for Cinema and Advertising
Hobbies & interests
- Animated movies
- Historical fashion
#10. Write a Memorable Cover Letter
Cover letters are still crucial to a successful job application and your job application won’t be complete without one.
According to Forbes, 56% of employers prefer that candidates send in a cover letter with their resume.
Writing a cover letter shows the hiring manager that you’re attentive to detail and motivated to actually join their team instead of just sending out the same generic resume to every job ad in town.
Before you start writing yours, let’s take a look at the formula that makes a great cover letter:
Here are some more practical tips to nail yours:
- Check your contact details. Your cover letter’s contact information should match that of your resume perfectly, so double-check to make sure there aren’t any typos.
- Address the hiring manager. Doing your research can go a long way. If you address the hiring manager by name, they’re likely to remember you more than the dozens of candidates who use the cliche and impersonal “To Whom It May Concern”.
- Personalize the opening paragraph. Start your cover letter with a brief and attention-grabbing paragraph. This should include a couple of your top skills, achievements, or qualifications, for a strong introduction.
- Expand in the body of your text. Explain one or two of your top achievements or skills in more detail, and make sure to cover anything you didn’t have the space to address in your resume. (E.g. Elaborate on a career gap between jobs or why you’d like a remote position, etc.)
- Wrap it up with a call to action. Write a memorable closing paragraph by inviting the hiring manager to take some sort of action. (e.g. ‘Please don’t hesitate to contact me so that we can discuss how I may further be an asset to your company.’)
- Choose the right closing line. The last line of your cover letter should be an appropriate closing line. (e.g. Best regards, not See you soon,)
And here’s an example of a great illustrator cover letter:
And that’s the rundown of how you can make an illustrator resume!
If you followed our detailed tutorial, you’ll be well on your way to your dream job as an illustrator.
Let’s recap what we’ve talked about so far:
- Highlight your recent work experience by choosing the classic reverse-chronological resume format.
- Catch the hiring manager’s attention by writing a resume summary that lists your years of experience, top skills, and achievements.
- Make your work experience stand out by focusing on your accomplishments and backing them up with relevant data, so your employer immediately sees the benefit of hiring you.
- Focus on in-demand skills and showcase the best and most relevant work from your portfolio to give your application a better chance.
- Complete the full picture of your application with a matching cover letter to go with your illustrator resume.