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How much do illustration artists make?

We've updated this guide on 5th March 2021

Illustration artists are paid varying rates for work – and this is the case for most creative industries. There’s no single price for a piece of work that is agreed-upon industry-wide. 

For any illustration artists starting out, you should research as much as you can before deciding on your rates. 

  • Look at how much magazines price for illustrative submissions
  • Ask your creative network
  • Calculate the time it takes you to complete various illustration tasks and work out an hourly rate based on that

Which illustration artists make the most money?

This is a difficult question. 

A 2017 survey found that 69% of illustrators can’t live comfortably off illustration alone. But this isn’t to say that you don’t have options.  

If you freelance for corporate or big commercial clients, this will bring in more cash than if you work on smaller independent projects. 

Here are six easy ways for illustration artists to make money:

  1. Online gigs – sign up to a freelance work online platform
  2. Sell posters and prints – like setting up a shop on Etsy
  3. Market your work on social media
  4. Sell vector designs to corporate businesses
  5. Create and sell fonts
  6. Do art commissions

What tax should illustrators pay?

Like all self-employed workers, illustration artists will have to declare their income to HMRC and pay tax on the profits. 

If you illustrate on top of full-time employment, good news! You are covered by the Trading Allowance that lets you earn up to £1000 every tax year tax-free.

Read more about the Trading Allowance here. 

For full-time self-employed illustrators, the tax rules are a little different. You will need to pay the following tax each tax year. To do this, you will file a tax return:

  • Income Tax
  • National Insurance (NI)

You’re allowed to earn up to £12,570 per tax year without being liable for Income Tax. However you’ll still owe National Insurance. 

Take a look at the 2021/22 Income Tax rates:

IncomeTax rate
Up to £12,5700%Personal allowance
£12,571 to £50,27020%Basic rate
£50,271 to £150,00040%Higher rate
over £150,00045%Additional rate

What is National Insurance?

National Insurance qualifies you for certain state-provided benefits such as the state pension. 

A self-employed illustrator will have to pay Class 2 National Insurance and Class 4 National Insurance (which give you access to the state pension, the Marriage Allowance etc.) but you may also want to voluntarily contribute another type of NI. 


Class 1 National Insurance qualifies you for Job Seeker’s Allowance which, in turbulent times like the COVID pandemic, is a useful safety net to have.

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