What does a Commercial Artist do?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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A commercial artist designs graphics for print and online magazines, advertising campaigns, and packaging materials. He or she meets with a client or boss to get a general idea of a project concept, and then creates several drafts until the finished product is accepted. Commercial artists may draw by hand or work primarily with computer design programs. Professionals are employed in many different settings, including large corporations, magazine publishing companies, graphic design consulting firms, and private freelance studios.

Commercial artists in large companies often work with teams of other designers and advertising experts, while a self-employed professional typically handles all aspects of a project. An artist is usually given a basic concept for a project and allowed to work out the details independently. He or she helps the client determine the best designs based on the type of product or advertisement and the target customer base.

Once a plan is established, the artist can begin forming hand-drawn or computer-aided drafts. It is common for a commercial artist to speak with clients throughout the design process to explain the project's direction and receive input. The artist may create several versions of a finished project so that clients can choose their favorites.


Besides expert drawing abilities and computer proficiency, a commercial artist needs to possess strong communication, organization, and problem-solving skills. He or she must keep careful records of client profiles, project deadlines, and payment schedules. If many projects are undertaken at the same time, the artist needs to be able to prioritize daily activities and communicate frequently with clients to keep them abreast of progress.

There are no set requirements to become a commercial artist, but most professionals hold degrees in art or advertising. It is important for a prospective commercial artist to put together a thorough art portfolio that demonstrates his or her abilities and versatility. Artists who are interested in freelance work often begin their careers by offering free design services, in order to prove their skills and create strong business relationships. With experience and networking skills, an artist usually enjoys ample opportunities for contract jobs and full-time employment.

A successful commercial artist may be able to advance within a company to a supervisory role or art director position. As a supervisor, the artist normally is more involved with seeking out new clients and arranging the details of particular job, such as deadlines and cost of services. Artists with a strong business sense may be able to hire assistants and open their own design firms.


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Post 3

How would I train to become a commercial artist? Obviously I need to be an exceptionally good draftsman, but what do I need to do beyond this? Is it absolutely necessary for me to go to art school if I want to pursue a career in commercial art? If so, what is a good school to consider? I know that not all art schools are geared towards the commercial artist.

Post 2

Would a portrait artist be considered a commercial artist? They make art with the express purpose of selling it and they work according to their client's directions. This sounds a lot like a commercial artist to me.

Post 1

People may try to dismiss commercial artists as some kind of lesser form of artists because they work for businesses and there work has a commercial intent. But this does not mean that their work is any less interesting or more beautiful to look at than a "real" artist.

There is an anthology that get published every year of the best commercial illustrations to appear from around the world in the previous year. The anthology never fails to amaze me. There is amazing work being done for magazines, retail campaigns and online publishers every day. Don't write off the commercial artist until you have given their work a serious look.

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