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45 Markets of Illustration
A Passion to Illustrate

by John Roman

An overview of the numerous markets that currently exist for illustrators reveals a surprisingly vast and deep pool of potential freelance opportunities. Originally compiled as an aid for my illustration classes at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, the list catalogs many lesser-known, supplementary markets beyond the traditional, more-populated avenues for illustration assignments. Despite limited budgets in some areas, the demand for quality illustration remains high in many esoteric markets. Illustrators with a passion to earn a living by way of their art are forging new career paths as current economics make “specializing” essential.

A brief inventory of the more familiar venues includes editorial illustration, which has changed dramatically since the “golden days” of Norman Rockwell. Yet, today hundreds of smaller trade magazines still rank as potential clients. Book illustration covers commercial, trade and education, while children’s illustration includes books, but can reach beyond to educational publishing. Also, advertising continues to be a strong base.

Comic book and comic strip illustration are distinct, yet similar fields. The comic book artist will usually work with a team of artists, each providing a specialty to the final comic. Comic books cover much more ground than stereotypical “superheroes.” Non-fiction graphic novels, educational comics, children's comics, self-published and underground “zine” publications and even comic books designed to sell products or promote public issues are prevalent. Comic strip artists work individually or in partnership with another writer or artist. Strips branch into markets such as advertising but most are published/syndicated for newspapers and the Web.

Humorists who enjoy cartooning but are not interested in comic books or comic strips, can find a place in the world of humorous illustration. Humorous art touches editorial, advertising, publishing, computer games and toys and limited-edition prints. Similarly, humorous illustrators with an interest in politics can express their viewpoints through political cartooning. The room on this stage is tight, however, and it's best to start locally if one has hopes to enter the state or national scene.

One’s imagination sets the limits for fantasy and science fiction. There’s a worldwide hunger for science fiction, fantasy and new-age/spiritual art. Book covers, magazines, graphic novels, video and computer games, tarot cards, astrology products, Halloween art and religious items barely skim the surface of the demand in this ever-growing emporium. An awareness of the trends will make a career in this genre a reality.

Medical illustration is a technically oriented, science-based art, the importance of which is immeasurable. Its production has evolved significantly over the years and the field remains strong. Medical artists also delineate animal biology.

The unique field of archaeological illustration involves traveling to distant lands, living on-site with archaeologists and rendering all aspects of a geological/archaeological dig. Archaeological art may be the right path for those who love to travel, are enthusiastic about history and science, and who wish to blend those interests with their love of drawing. Botanical illustration is an area for artists with a knowledge of and interest in plants and who can accurately and stylistically render flora of all types. The roots of this market reach into several industries.

Biological illustration and marine biology art address separate scientific disciplines. A biological artist details the microcosmic worlds of the plant, animal and insect kingdoms, while a marine artist depicts both the microcosmic and macrocosmic realms of aquatic life. Those who admire and study birds are well aware of ornithological illustration. Accurate and aesthetically illustrated bird life, in all mediums, is sought after by book publishers and research organizations. Animal illustration ranges from technical animal art to all types of animal/pet portraits for the public; it’s also in demand by the science and publishing trades as well as producers of farm and pet products.

Infographic/technical illustration ranges from informational and instructional imagery to “how-to” assembly drawings. Offshoots include 2-D/3-D charts, graphs and diagrams. A separate category of infographics is courtroom presentation art. Unlike traditional courtroom drawings, the graphics produced are used in trial courts to explain complex cases in layperson’s terms. These artists work with medical people, insurance personnel and others servicing the legal profession. Roman
John Roman ( is a freelance illustrator who specializes in technical, architectural and illustrated map art. His clients have included Time, the US National Parks Service, Marriott Hotels, Golf Digest and The Thoreau Society. Roman is also an assistant professor of illustration at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston. He has won many awards from the Society of Illustrators, the American Society of Illustrators and Communication Arts. Roman wrote the Business column.