Technical Illustrator

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What is Technical Illustrator And Job Description?

Most people have heard of technical writers. But, if you’ve ever read a piece of technical documentation, you’ve probably noticed illustrations throughout it. The writers themselves, as talented as they may be, aren’t the ones creating those drawings. 

That’s where a technical illustrator steps in. 

Let’s learn more about what a technical illustrator does and what types of illustrations they create, as well as the job outlook for this particular industry. 

Who is a Technical Illustrator?

Simply put, a technical illustrator is someone who creates technical images within a document that are specifically meant to communicate or reiterate the accurate information within the document. Technical illustrators work with non-technical audiences, so while their imagery needs to be professional, it also needs to reach a variety of audiences. 

Technical illustrators today work with a variety of different software applications including Adobe, and AutoCAD, in order to create specific illustrations for anything from manuals for everyday operations to very specific scientific drawings and diagrams. In essence, they need to be able to bring technical writing to life in a visual way that is easier to understand and follow. 

Categories of Technical Illustrations

As a technical illustrator, the work you do will typically fall into one of three major categories: 

1. General audience illustrations: If you create drawings for a car manual or an electronic device, they will typically be viewed by a general audience without any scientific background. These illustrations need to be easy to understand and work as a complement to the writing. 

2. Specialized illustrations: These drawings are more complicated as they are typically used by scientists or engineers. They are to be used for peer-to-peer review, so they often contain very specific imagery and language. 

3. Expert illustrations: There are some subtle differences between specialized and expert illustrations. Expert illustrations are meant for people who have a lot of knowledge or experience in a particular area, such as engineering. 

What Does a Technical Illustrator Do?

A technical illustrator is responsible for creating drawings for various technical documentation. But, they do so by using different types of drawings. Some of the most common include: 

  • Line drawings without shading or hues
  • Exploded view drawings of a specific diagram or picture
  • Cutaway drawings, or 3D graphics
  • Clip art

A good technical illustrator needs to be well-versed in many different types of drawing depending on the particular industry they in. If you choose to be a freelancer, you might have to use multiple techniques all in one day. 

What Does a Technical Illustrator Do?

How to Become a Technical Illustrator

In order to become a technical illustrator, you’ll need to follow a few important steps: 

1. Obtain a bachelor’s degree in graphic design or illustration (or any related field)

2. Either during or shortly after your collegiate years, apply for internships

3. Alternatively, begin freelancing to build up your portfolio while you look for a job

4. Stay up to date with the latest computer software in design and illustration

5. Expand your search when it comes to finding a job, including design firms

The process is easier than you might think, as long as you’re willing to put in the time and dedication, and search for technical illustrator jobs that may be outside the box. 

Technical Illustrator Job Description

When you see a job listing for a technical illustrator, it will likely be broken down into the simplest of terms. With that in mind, the basic technical illustrator job description is: 

An individual who creates illustrations for technical documents and other forms of media. They utilize a variety of graphics and resources to create such imagery. 

The average technical illustrator salary is just over $55,000. But, as the demand for illustrators continues to grow, landing that job may not be as easy as you initially thought. It’s important to have a technical illustrator portfolio with items like: 

  • A listing of your website
  • Your 10 best pieces/jobs
  • A variety of pieces to appeal to different clients

If you cannot find full-time employment with a company, you may want to consider contract jobs or freelancing. Because this is a position that can be done from almost anywhere, it is a perfect “gig economy” job. 

Duties and Responsibilities

As you can see, the duties and responsibilities of a technical illustrator are fairly consistent no matter the industry you choose to work for. But, the skills you will need to acquire in order to become an in-demand technical illustrator have a wide range. Because almost all technical illustrations are now done digitally, advancements in technology have made this an in-demand career. By keeping some of the information from this article in mind, you’ll know which steps to take and what to expect as you start out on your journey as a technical illustrator.

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