How Much Do Illustrators Make a Year?

A professional illustrator can earn a comfortable living.

Between graphic and web design, books and newspapers, and the motion picture industry, there are hundreds of job types available for professional illustrators. The amount of money an illustrator makes a year will depend on the type of job and industry, his location, and how much experience and published works he has.

Average Salary

Illustrators of any kind fall into the category of "fine artists" in occupational employment, as they "create original artwork using any of a wide variety of mediums and techniques." The average salary in the United States as of May 2010 in this category is $50,630 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


The most popular industries for illustrators are motion picture and video, specialized design, college and university, and the newspaper and book publishing industry, along with independent artists. Independent illustrators earn less than the overall average salary at $46,080 annually, while those in the newspaper and book publishing industry earn higher at $57,400. The highest paying industry for illustrators is scientific research and development services at $80,040, closely followed by the motion picture and video industry at $79,040.


Delaware is by far the highest paying state in the United States for illustrators, with an annual mean wage of $133,280. California, Connecticut, Michigan and Indiana follow with average salaries that range from $61,000 to $68,900. New York is the state with the highest concentration of workers in illustration, and offers an annual mean wage of $57,180.


With experience comes not only better technique and more job opportunities, but the chance to charge higher rates for illustration work. According to PayScale, an illustrator with less than one year of experience earns between $26,400 and $35,000 annually. An illustrator with five to nine years of experience earns more, ranging between $35,964 and $49,682, and an illustrator with over twenty years total experience earns a range of between $41,116 and $93,483 a year.