As we move into a more technology-oriented era, many artists are beginning to see the numerous benefits of adopting digital art careers. The challenge beginners face however is choosing which digital art field to specialize in and figuring out how to monetize their art. This article provides a comprehensive guide for popular digital art careers, the skills, and tools needed to pursue these careers, the average annual salary range, and where to find jobs for these careers.
Who is a Digital Artist
A digital artist combines art and technology by incorporating digital technology and software into the creative process and thus uses the computer as the primary tool to make art. Digital artists are versatile and may be found in many fields including illustration, video game development, the film–making industry, website design, marketing, architecture, and product design.
Types of Digital Art Jobs
Graphic designers are digital artists who use visual concepts generated by specialized computer software to communicate ideas. Graphic designers are responsible for creating logos, flyers, brochures, magazines, posters, billboards, and packaging. Graphic designers often collaborate with professionals from other fields depending on what they’re working on. For example, a graphic designer who has been employed to design a logo for a company would work closely with the marketing team of that company. A graphic designer can work closely with an architectural firm to create an architectural brochure and so on.
Graphic designers typically work with text, shapes, images, and colors. To be a successful graphic designer, you’ll need to master typography, color theory, and composition.
Tools and Software
Graphic designers may use hand sketches to communicate their initial concepts or ideas but the final product is often digital. Most graphic designers are familiar with the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite especially Photoshop, Illustrator, and Indesign. CorelDraw is also considered a good alternative to Illustrator. In addition to the computer, graphic designers can also use tablets such as the iPad to design as it not only has access to the Adobe Suite but to Procreate as well.
50710 USD per year although this value depends on the exact field of graphic design.
Illustrators create two-dimensional visual representations of an idea. Illustrators come in many forms depending on which field they want to specialize in and which tools they use. Some examples of jobs illustrators can take include concept artist, children’s book illustrator, fashion illustrator, comics or manga illustrator, storyboard artist, and product illustrator.
Ability to draw/sketch. Visual communication. High attention to detail. Ability to draw from written briefs, knowledge of anatomy and zoology
Tools and Software
- Computers and graphic tablets
- Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Indesign, Dreamweaver, Visio, Autodesk Sketchbook, Procreate (iPad), Quixel, Corel Painter, and CAD.
Illustrators have an average salary of 43689 USD per year while concept artists make an average of 55303 USD per year depending on experience.
Where to Find Jobs for Illustrators, Concept Artists, and Graphic Designers
A variety of graphic design and illustration jobs can be found on Linked in. These jobs vary from on-site work to remote work depending on what you’re looking for. These jobs can help you network, meet new people and build clientele. On the other hand, you’d most likely be working for a company with standard work hours and salaried pay if you go down this route.
If you’re a beginner looking for more flexible options, freelancing is a good alternative. Freelancing sites such as Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr, People per Hour, 99designs, and Toptal provide excellent platforms for graphic designers to meet clients. Work hours are flexible as they are dictated by you and you get to negotiate your pay directly with the client. These platforms do charge a commission fee ranging from 5% to 20% so keep that in mind. Sites like freelancer are also littered with scammers so be mindful when applying for jobs there.
You could also showcase your work on online portfolio platforms such as Behance and Dribble or social media like DeviantArt or Instagram. These online platforms help broadcast your work to a wide range of people who can then contact you for commissions. Behance and Dribble offer an additional job–finding service where you can apply to jobs posted by clients. Social media helps build a fanbase that you can then sell custom merch to.
Illustrations could also become comic books, web novels, or manga artists by self-publishing on sites like Webtoon, Amazon Books, Tapas, and GlobalComix.
Finally, you could use online shops such as Etsy, Redbubble, Teespring, and Amazon merch to sell your designs. Graphic designers can upload their designs on these platforms and choose the type of products they want the designs to be printed on (shirts, mugs, pillows, etc). When a certain number of these products are ordered, the online shop takes care of production and shipping for a cut of the profits. You could also cultivate a fanbase on social media that you can promote and sell this merch to. This is a good hustle for graphic designers as it involves little risk on your end.
Animators can be grouped into 2D animators and 3D animators both of whom have specialized skills and tools they need for their respective jobs. In addition to this, animators can be further divided into riggers, character animators, background animators, storyboard artists, compositors, and motion designers.
2D animators work in two – dimensional space creating animations for cartoons, video games, anime, and even motion graphics for presentations. 3D animators generally animate 3D models in 3D environments for major animated films such as Disney and Pixar films, video games, and many more.
2D animation techniques are often combined with 3D animation techniques to create new and unique visual styles. For example, Into the Spiderverse was primarily animated in 3D but the facial expressions of the characters were drawn frame by frame in 2D. Similarly, Disney’s Tarzan is a 2D animated movie but the complex jungle environments were modeled in 3D. Many 2D video games combine 2D sprites with 3D rigging techniques to eliminate frame-by-frame animation.
Animators in general should understand the principles of animation and know how to apply them in their work. A 2d animator should be good at drawing. A character animator should understand anatomy and a background animator should understand perspectives.
Animators use computers and graphic tablets like Wacom as primary animation tools. 2D animators use software like Adobe After Effects, Adobe Animate, Toon Boom, OpenToonz, Blender, Moho, and Animaker. 3D animators use Blender, Maya, Cinema 4D, Houdini, Z-brush, Mudbox and Daz Studio. If you’re looking to go into video game animation, you’ll probably want to add Unity and Unreal Engine to that list.
Glassdoor lists the salary of an animator to be between 58,266 USD and 78799 USD per year depending on experience and career path.
Where to Find Animation Jobs
To work as an animator, you can start applying to traditional animation jobs on linked in, depending on the field you want to work in. Freelancing sites such as Twine, Upwork, Fiverr, Motiongrapher, and SimplyHired provide platforms for animators to meet clients Beginner animators can start a side hustle by creating a Youtube channel or Tiktok account to showcase their animation reels. This both serves as an online portfolio and a way to build a fanbase that can be capitalized on.
Once you get on Youtube’s partner program, you can start earning passive income. You can also set up a Patreon account where your fans can subscribe and pay you monthly for exclusive benefits. You can also set up affiliate marketing links on videos you post to earn a little extra.
Alternatively, you could showcase your animations on Behance, Dribble, Artstation, and Instagram, all platforms where you can network with other animators and meet potential clients.
You can sell your animation on online stores such as Etsy, Lottiefiles, and Vimeo though these have steep commission fees that you have to keep in mind. You could also sell animated NFTs or create animated NFTs if you don’t mind going into the crypto space.
A 3D modeler specializes in 3D asset creation for 3D animation, 3D visualization, and 3D videogames. They build high-quality, detailed low-poly 3D assets ranging from characters to background props for a variety of purposes. 3D modeling jobs typically involve asset creation, sculpting, and texturing.
If you want to be a 3D modeler you’ll need to be well–versed in optimized modeling and UV texturing in whichever software of your choice. If you’re a character of animal asset creator, you’ll need basic knowledge of human anatomy and zoology. 3D artists must understand how lighting and PBR materials work and be able to keep track of the polygons used in modeling.
3D modelers mostly work on computers though sculptors have been known to prefer graphic tablets. Some software common among 3D modelers includes Maya, Blender, Houdini, Unreal Engine, Unity, Mari, Substance Painter, and Quixel Mixer. To be an asset creator for architects you’ll have to master 3DS Max, Sketchup, Rhino, and perhaps Revit.
An average of 58150 USD per year
Where to Dind 3D Modeling Jobs
In addition to finding traditional work on linked-in, you could try any of the freelancing sites mentioned above. You could also showcase your work on social media platforms for exposure.
Alternatively, you could sell your 3D assets on online platforms. For example, if you make videogame assets, you could sell your models on the Unity or Unreal Engine marketplace. Sites such as Turbosquid, CGTrader, Renderosity, Cubebrush, and Sketchfab provide additional avenues for 3D modelers to sell their work.
Finally, 3D modelers can make money by selling 3D printable models on online sites such as Shapeways and Cults 3D.
A user experience (UX) designer focuses on planning the experience of a person when they interact with a product while a user interface (UI) designer designs the aesthetics of a digital product. Both UX and UI designers work to make applications and websites user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing.
UX/UI designers make an average of 80609 USD.
Where to Find UX/UI Jobs
- Linked in
- Freelance sites like Upwork, Fiverr, Toptal (for professionals), ValueCoders, Upstack, Arc.dev, and People per Hour.
- UI designers could showcase their work on Behance, Dribble, and 99designs to advertise themselves to potential clients
- Social media accounts on Instagram and Tiktok can be used to build a following and generate exposure
A VFX artist is in charge of creating special effects in films, video games, and websites. They work in conjunction with 3D modelers and animators to create high-quality photorealistic CG graphics. They focus a lot on post-production and post-processing and work with green screens a lot.
VFX artists should know how to work with greenscreens and blend CGI and real imagery seamlessly. They should have expertise in creating and manipulating particles and fluids in 3D software to generate high-quality special effects. Above all, they should be creative and have extensive animation knowledge.
Animation and FX – Houdini, Phoenix FD, Maya, Blender, Dreamweaver, Adobe CC Suite, Unity, Unreal Engine, 3Ds Max.
VFX artists typically earn an average of 63,283 USD a year.
Where to Find VFX Jobs
Beginner VFX artists can post their work on Tiktok, Youtube, and Instagram and link it to a Patreon for passive income.
VFX artists have many options when it comes to finding work online. The most obvious option is Linked in but other websites offer VFX jobs such as vfxjobs.com, CreativeHeads.net, Zerply, Glassdoor, Ziprecruiter, Lets Work in Visual Effects, Motiongrapher, and a Google Sheets listing run by Chris Mayne.
VFX artists could also showcase their works on Artstation or similar online portfolios which have job listings.
Digital Art Teacher
If you have great knowledge and expertise in any digital art field, you can start offering classes and become a teacher. You can make tutorials teaching digital art and post them on Youtube for exposure. You can also create courses for Udemy and Skillshare and sell them for passive income. You could also apply for online tutoring positions on freelancing websites.
Starting a digital art career may be daunting at first but hopefully, this guide will help you choose the right path and give you the resources you need to monetize your art!