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The Ultimate Guide to How Much Illustrators and Painters Make a Year

The Ultimate Guide to How Much Illustrators and Painters Make a Year

At the time of considering a career, the first thing that comes to mind is how much you can expect to earn. Do you want to enter an art career but thinking about the same thing: how much do artists make? 

The work of illustrators and painters is to create artwork using a variety of art tools, techniques, and media. These artworks may convey emotions, ideas, experience, action, mood, etc. After creating a piece of art, they find some ways to sell or market them. 

Mostly three ways immediately come to their mind: selling original work, selling prints, or going for commissioned work. Yeah, you read it correctly. Most artists market their work to art galleries, while other painters go for selling their paintings to individual buyers. 

Many artists also work on commissioned projects as well. Most of them get college training but formal schooling is not a requirement for the art profession, although degrees or classes are available in this field. 

Today’s guide is all about how much do artists make in a year. Here, I have answered this question according to the income statistics by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average salaries for common art careers are also explained. Moreover, I have listed several ways by which you can make money as an artist.

So, without further ado, let’s take a deep dive into this ultimate guide to making money as an artist. 

how much do artists makeThe Basics of How Artists Make Money

Visual artists or fine artists usually fill the world with beautiful objects whether it is a painting, drawing, sketching, sculpture, or any other piece of art. They can use color pencils, oil paints, or acrylic paints to draw a building or a landscape. Also, artists can draw pictures with a pen or they can go for sculpting certain shapes out of ceramics. 

They may work as illustrators to created detailed images as well as backgrounds of products or they may go for print media. As more and more art publications are switching to the Internet, print artists are losing ground.

Most visual artists work for a company or as a freelancer. Whatever the mode of work is, first, they need to find some ways by which they can market their art pieces. It may be selling art in-store, learning how to sell art online, having art in museums, or art galleries. 

For those painters and illustrators, who want to work for a company, they must build their portfolio and fill it with their most creative work.

Now, you must be thinking how much do artists make? The pay of illustrators and painters depends on their experience, the company in which they are working, and location. Depending on the level of experience, the average salary of most illustrators and painters is between 40,000 to 100,000 US Dollars every year and the hourly wage is an average of $28 per hour.

What is the Starting Salary of Visual Artists?

The starting salary of visual artists ranges from 20,000 to 35,000 US Dollars. This salary range is for entry-level artists who have little or no experience in the field of art. By getting years of experience, the artists including painters, illustrators, and sculptors can earn a more handsome amount. Another way to increase earning as an artist is to move to a high paying state.  This is mentioned later in this guide.

  • The salary per hour of a visual artist ranges from $10 to $15.
  • The average annual salary of an artist at the highest rank is 97,710 US Dollars.
  • A senior rank artist’s average annual salary of an artist at the senior rank is 70,190 US Dollars.
  • The average annual salary of an artist at the middle and junior rank is $49,380 and 31750 US Dollars respectively.

Common Art Careers and How Much Artists Make

Commercial Artist

An artist who works for other people in a business setting is known as a commercial artist. These artists usually use images to communicate a message – particularly for a company, so a message will be commercial.

The roles and responsibilities of commercial artists may vary from company to company. Commercial artists in large companies only create art. They do not do any other work. Whereas in smaller companies, a commercial artist has to do a lot more tasks. They also may have to create art that is not considered artistic. 

The common duties of the commercial artists may include drawing illustrations for products, creating well-designed advertisements, newsletter writing – all contributing to increased sales of a business. In the field of marketing, a commercial artist may be responsible for coming up with amazing logos, brochures, displays, or packaging.

A commercial artist can be a freelance artist as well. This means he/she will have more clients, less security in income but more options for accepting or declining a work.

Usually, the average salary of a commercial artist in the US is 43,578 US Dollars per year according to the statistics of August 2020. According to these statistics, the monthly salary is $3632, the weekly salary is $838, and the hourly salary is $21.

The annual salary of a commercial artist is as low as 16,500 US Dollars and as high as $82,500.

Graphic Design Experts

Graphic design experts are those artists who use photography, typography, as well as illustration for creating visual concepts, either by using computer software (photo editing software and layout software) or by hand. 

These types of artists create art pieces that may communicate ideas to inform, inspire, or captivate consumers. In short, they use art and technology to communicate ideas through designs.

The tasks that graphic design experts include, web and graphic design, designing a publication, brochures, magazines, creating logos, and designing advertisements – all helping to deliver a message. There are many different types of graphic design jobs

For performing such tasks, a graphic designer must have strong graphic design skills, creative and analytical skills, layout skills, strong communication skills, time management skills, and much more.

Similar to commercial artists, the graphic design artists may also work for a company or they can work as a freelancer as well. In this case (freelancing), they will be the boss of their own work. Instead of reporting to an employer, they have to work for various clients. 

Keep in mind that the salary of graphic designers may vary according to certain factors such as education, experience, certification, and skills. As of July 2020, the average salary of graphic design artists in the United States is 75,140 US Dollars per year.

Commission Artists

Artists who work on commission for their clients are known as commission artists. They generate a certain level of predictable income through commissioned artworks. These types of artists create unique art pieces for their clients. 

In this field, a contract is made on the basis of a 50 – 50 percent payment structure. It means that 50 percent payment is made on signing and the remaining amount is paid upon the completion of the task. 

Most of their work is related to portrait art. It means they have to design the portraits of humans, animals, or landscapes but first, they need to gather essential images or outline from the collector. Their work can be sold in an art show, through an art gallery, or from the website of an artist. 

Successful commission artists usually make average money of 42,424 US Dollars per year. 

Teaching Artists

Apart from graphic designers, commission, and commercial artists, there are other artists as well who teach at schools, universities, and community or probation camps. Such type of artists is known as teaching artists. 

They may have educational degrees or not. They usually interact with school administrators and are responsible for day-to-day art program goals.

The teaching artists also teach art lessons in art institutions as well, with the goal of advancing teaching and learning. Most teaching artists give tuitions in their homes and their wages are hourly wages. 

A lot of artists who have access to a computer and an internet connection have developed their websites on which they create a well-designed course- making them generate five or six-figure income.

Most teaching artists who give private art lessons in their homes usually charge between 10 – 50 US Dollars per hour. 

Although the salaries of teaching artists may vary from state to state and employer to employer, if I talk about the average salary, it is 67.795 US Dollars per year in the United States (according to the statistics of August 2020). Location is another factor in determining the salary of a teaching artist who gives art classes in their homes. 

Cover Artists

Cover artists are those who create book covers and other types of covers for their clients.

We cannot deny the fact that the artists who create an art piece that people want regularly earn more. Cover artists may work for a company or they can work as a freelancer. Whether they are working for a company or as a freelancer, they can earn a lump sum amount of money form their profession. 

For example, according to the statistics of August 2020, cover artists and other fine artists get an average salary of 47,601 US Dollars per year. 

What are the Highest Paying Cities of the United States for Illustrators and Painters?

In terms of the highest salaries for visual artists, Philadelphia ranks in the first position. This city offers the best opportunities for visual artists. The average salary for an artist in Philadelphia, PA is 32.44 US Dollars per hour. New York stands second with an average monthly salary of 29.38 US Dollars and Austin ranks third for providing an average hourly salary of $27.78.

Other US cities that are considered as the highest paying cities for artists include:

  • Los Angeles, California (for an average salary of 25.54 US Dollars per hour)
  • Dallas, Texas (for an average salary of 22.83 US Dollars per hour)
  • Burbank, California (for an average salary of 19.62 US Dollars per hour)
  • Chicago, Illinois (for an average salary of 15.64 US Dollars per hour)
  • Las Vegas, Nevada (for an average salary of 14.71 US Dollars per hour)


How much do artists make is a common question for people entering a creative field. So, from all the above discussion, I hope that you have come to know about the salary of fine artists including, painters, illustrators, and sculptors. 

These artists usually stay informed about the new technologies in art, new methods, and techniques along with the work of other artists. 

If you want to become an artist and want to know how much do artists make, this guide is a great resource that lists various jobs that earn a great income. In fact, there are thousands of opportunities. You just need to focus on your creativity and skills. 

As an aspiring fine artist, if you are looking for opportunities to earn a high level of salary, along with searching for jobs, you need

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