Illustrator vs Artist: What’s the Difference

An illustrator is considered an artist, but there are still some differences between the two. For example, if you are an illustrator, usually you are doing illustrations for commercials. But if you’re an artist, not necessarily. 

Now take me as an example. I’m a graphic designer and an illustrator today, but when I was younger, I was drawing for more than 12 years. So, I guess I’m an artist too?

The two are really similar but if I have to identify myself, I would consider myself an illustrator rather than an artist because I do most work for advertising and publishing purposes. And I mainly work on digital arts. 

How about you? What’s your story? Or are you not sure yet? It’s okay. In this article, you will learn the major differences between an illustrator and an artist. 

Keep reading to find out more. 

What is an Artist?

An artist is someone who conceptualizes and creates art such as paintings, drawings, sculptures, music, and writing. Well, this is a general definition of an artist. More like, a skill? 

But really, anyone is an artist. I’m sure you are an artist as well. You must be creative in some things. Maybe you think that you cannot draw, but actually, you can. Everyone can draw. Art is to express yourself in your piece of work, either in drawing or painting, music, or other forms. 

Ok, I guess you are thinking about artists as a profession. Then, that’s a different story. 

Types of Artists

As you know there are SO MANY different types of artists. But according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, all visual artists are classified as either fine artists or craft artists

1. Fine Artists 

Fine artists usually create painting, drawing, printmaking, digital art, etc, using different mediums such as paintbrushes, pens, pencils, watercolors, digital drawing tablets, and others. 

Many fine artists are self-employed. This means you’ll probably be selling your creative work to dealers, in your studio, gallery, or online gallery. 

Actually, if you love teaching and spreading your passion for the arts, you can become a fine art professor as well! 

2. Craft Artists 

Craft artists, literally, create handmade objects, like home decor using different materials and tools. You can be using glass, fiber, ceramic, or anything to create something beautiful for sale. 

Most likely you will be displaying your craft art in a gallery, museum, craft market, cooperate collection, or selling it to dealers or in an auction. 

It’s important for craft artists to keep a good reputation.

What is an Illustrator?

An illustrator is an artist who creates original designs for commercials using multiple mediums including traditional media such as pens, pencils, brushes, and digital programs. 

Being an illustrator, you will produce original creative visuals for publications like newspapers, children’s books, and of course, for advertisement. You can also be a fashion designer/illustrator if you are good at sketching clothing and accessories. 

So, what type of illustrator do you want to be?

Types of Illustrators  

You can work in several different industries as an illustrator such as advertising, graphic design, fashion, publishing, or the science and medical field. 

1. Advertising Illustrators 

You will be working on product illustration, packaging, animation, storyboard, or other creative illustrations for advertising purposes. Most likely you will be working a lot with the digital programs in this field. 

2. Publishing Illustrators 

Working as a publishing illustrator, you will be creating art for books, editorial cartoons for newspapers and online news, magazines, and other publications. 

3. Fashion Illustrators 

Fashion Illustrators are like graphic designers in the fashion industry. As a fashion illustrator, you will show your creative ideas for clothes, jewelry, and accessories through your sketches. You will work closely with fashion designers to produce fashion products.

4. Medical Illustrators

This field requires knowledge of biology, and you will need to complete some training programs that combine medical studies and art training to become a medical illustrator. After that, you are free to go. Jobs like creating illustrations for medical journals and books help us improve our health. 

Differences Between Illustrators and Artists

The biggest difference between an illustrator and an artist is the purpose of the work. Illustrators create images to help promote a function or a product. Artists create art to express emotions. 

In other words, an illustration is a visual explanation of the text, and almost always comes with context. It’s to help sell something, whether a concept, a product or to educate. But a piece of art is selling itself, whether the art itself is beautiful or the idea of the art is provoking. 

Many fine arts and craft arts are not commercial, instead, they are created to provoke people’s feelings and thoughts. Or, simply, to look good. People can buy a piece of art for its aesthetic, not its function. 


What type of art is illustration? 

An illustration is a form of art that creates two-dimensional images to tell a story or for marketing purposes. You can see illustrations in books, magazines, restaurant menus, and different digital forms. 

Is illustration and drawing the same thing?

It’s not the same thing, however, they are related. Drawing usually is part of an illustration. You draw something to evoke a feeling, and you often use illustrations to empathize with a particular text.

What is modern illustration? 

The two types of modern illustration are freehand digital illustration and vector graphic illustration. Many graphic designers do modern illustrations using digital media. 

Can I become an illustrator without a degree?

The answer is YES! Your creativity and skills are much more important than a degree in this field. Most likely your clients won’t care much about your diploma because your portfolio is the key, so make sure to really make a good impression with your portfolio. 


Artists and illustrations are really like brothers with different personalities. Artist creates an image for their aesthetics, and sometimes to express feelings. Illustrator creates art to emphasize context and ideas, usually for commercial purposes. 

Illustration is a form of art. 

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  • Saqib Muhammad

    Very well elaborated. Thanks

    • June Escalada

      You’re welcome. Glad it helps 🙂

  • Fred

    Hello and what a breath of fresh air your page/site is. I am an old hand and started at art school in 1960. I wanted to be a commercial artist, would be today Ithink a graphic artist. I have had a varied career since then but I an using Adobe Illustrator, as a hobby, to create posters and logos for friends and family. So from now on I will be reading and watching your page/site for help. Thank you. Fred.

    • June Escalada

      You’re welcome, Fred. I’m really happy to hear you like my work 🙂

      Designing as a hoppy is probably one of the most enjoyable things!

  • erikwidiarmoko

    really insightful