How Does an Illustrator Make Money?

You are not in the business of drawing pictures, you are in the business of licensing images
— –Kathryn Adams, 2012

I answered part of this question in a previous post explaining the various fields in which an illustrator can work in, but in this post I will be addressing how an illustrator might go about getting paid within many of the fields I previously mentioned. There are a few ways in which this is possible.

Most commonly, freelance illustrators make their living by licensing their images. What this means is that an illustrator will often create an image but what they are selling isn’t the image itself, rather it is the rights to use the image. Another way freelance illustrators profit off of their talents is through commissioned pieces such as requests for portraits or wall art for someone’s home or office.

Another way an illustrator might make money might be through royalties placed on images, this is usually involved when an illustrator works in collaboration with others to put together content such as illustrated books and images that will be used in merchandising some kind of franchise or serialized story. This can be anything from comic books to story books and even in working with video game creation.


Illustrators are also making quite a chunk of change in the field of content creation on social media. Think about it - we are bombarded with thousands of images a day and much of the time, a lot of those images are created by designers and illustrators. With the monetization of social media pages many illustrators establish a large following and can make money as influencers. This new innovation also opens up a larger possibility for illustrators to make money through self-publishing means. With the innovation of the internet, Self-published illustrators can reach their audience more effectively than they could have ever done before. They can do anything from making their own books to selling their own individual images or merchandise.

So now you know, that starving artist story is all a myth. If you want to be an artist and make some money, there’s certainly a way to do it, you just have to be willing to put in the work.

Maira Canales