Hire the top 3% of illustrators

Toptal is a marketplace for meeting and hiring a top freelance illustrator. Top companies and start-ups trust Toptal when they need illustrators for hire on their mission critical design projects.

No-Risk Trial, Pay Only If Satisfied.

Clients Rate Toptal Illustrators4.1 / 5.0on average across 68 reviews as of Jul 4, 2020

Hire Illustrators

Korana Jelovac

Illustrators DesignerAdobe PhotoshopAdobe IllustratorAdobe InDesignSketch 3Axure RP ProBrandingPrototypingUX DesignUI DesignUser Interface (UI)User Experience (UX)Wireframing + 0 more

CroatiaToptal Member Since February 16, 2016

With 15 years of experience in design, Korana's work spans over a varied number of UX/UI and graphic design projects. She's designed for Adidas, Pacific Disaster Centre, and Noteworth and is a co-founder of Zingword.com, a startup translation marketplace. She enjoys UX challenges and uses custom illustrations to give character to her designs. In her spare time, she does stop-motion animation.

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Alexandru Pitea

Illustrators DesignerAdobe PhotoshopAdobe IllustratorAdobe After EffectsAdobe Experience Design (XD)AndroidMobileWebWireframingIconographyInformation Architecture (IA)User Interface (UI)User Experience (UX) + 0 more

GermanyToptal Member Since October 17, 2015

Alex is a passionate digital product designer with over 10 years of UI/UX experience. He has worked together with both boutique design studios and large IT companies and feels most comfortable in a creative environment where visual design is second only to usability.

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Ivana Miličić

Illustrators DesignerAdobe PhotoshopAdobe SuiteAdobe IllustratorAdobe InDesignBrandingLogo DesignAdobe CC + 0 more

CroatiaToptal Member Since September 23, 2015

Ivana has more then fifteen years of experience in visual design, working on various kinds of projects ranging from branding, corporate, and promotional materials to books, magazines, packaging, and web design, with clients and teams of all sizes and from different backgrounds. She enjoys solving problems and giving creative solutions. She also works as an Adobe Certified Instructor and Assistant Lecturer at Algebra University College in Zagreb.

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Oscar Antino

Illustrators DesignerPhotoshop CCWeb App DesignIllustrator CCAdobe DreamweaverUser Interface (UI)Logo DesignBrand IdentityBrandingPitch DecksCreative DirectionWeb DesignUX Flows + 0 more

SpainToptal Member Since March 7, 2017

Oscar is a visual/UX designer with 18+ years of experience in building digital products/brands and managing international creative teams. He specializes in user interface design and online branding for both B2B and B2C industries. His process is multidisciplinary and user-centered.

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Angela Ji

Illustrators DesigneriOSWireframingBrandingUser Experience (UX)User Interface (UI)Web App UIWeb App UXAdobe IllustratorProduct DesignDashboard DesignData VisualizationWeb Design + 0 more

United StatesToptal Member Since January 29, 2016

Angela is a full-stack UI/UX product designer, multidisciplinary designer, and creative director with over 15 years of experience She's an expert in UI, UX, mobile design, web design, responsive design, marketing design, advertising, branding, presentation design as well as experience in designing for integrated marketing strategy, social media campaigns, sales/business initiatives, and more.

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Ana Marija Lach

Illustrators DesignerSketch 4User Interface (UI)Photoshop CCIllustrator CCInDesign CCAndroidInterface DesignUX DesignUI DesignApp UIApp UXAndroid App Design + 0 more

CroatiaToptal Member Since December 5, 2017

Ana is a UX/UI designer with several years of design experience and a career specializing in digital interfaces and design systems, primarily for dashboards and mobile apps. Ana loves working with content, analyzing, and making strategic design and user-centered decisions. Ana then transforms these into concepts then wireframes, mockups, and prototypes that all lead to the development of intuitive digital products with seamless user experiences.

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Tom Kendrick

Illustrators DesignerIllustrator CCeCommerceUX DesignWeb Design + 0 more

United KingdomToptal Member Since January 27, 2018

Tom is a UX designer based in Newcastle with a background in industrial design. He specializes in creating tangible, user-centered design solutions and has a wealth of experience developing websites, web apps, and apps. He loves building brands from the ground up while also being comfortable working within tight specifications for blue-chip clients. His minimalist approach to design allows him to create elegant and intuitive digital experiences.

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Dainius Valiunas

Illustrators DesignerDigital Product DesignWeb DesignMobile UI DesignUX DesignUI DesignMobile App UXSketchPhotoshop CCeCommerce DesignMobile App DesignWebsite RedesignsResponsive Web Design (RWD) + 0 more

SpainToptal Member Since March 11, 2016

Dainius is a digital product designer with more than 11 years of experience. His work was used more than 500 million times totally. Dainius enjoys creating minimal, clean interfaces with a strong focus on good user experience and usability. Dainius has a good knowledge of front-end code and experience of leading a development team, so collaboration is always easy and smooth.

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Juliano Fredriksson Dill

Illustrators DesignerSketchAdobe PhotoshopAdobe IllustratorAdobe InDesignVisual DesignLogo DesignUX DesignUI DesignAdobe Experience Design (XD)Product DesignWeb Design + 0 more

BrazilToptal Member Since July 6, 2018

Juliano guides solutions to make design memorable, with sexy interfaces, and meaningful experiences for mobile and web. He was a co-founder of a design studio focused on digital products and branding. He has been working on multiples projects around Europe and North America developing concepts, creative and interaction assets from the beginning to the end. He also holds a Master of Science degree in Design Thinking with practice as a researcher and professor.

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Jan Roose

Illustrators DesignerSketchAxure RP ProAdobe PhotoshopiOSiOS UI DesignUser Experience (UX)User Interface (UI)PrototypingUX TestingUX ResearchFigma + 0 more

Czech RepublicToptal Member Since January 5, 2017

In the past, Jan has led design teams to create the first AI-powered satellite imagery analysis platform in a space startup based in SF, SpaceKnow. Being accepted to Toptal, the top 3% of the world's designers, at 21 made him one of their youngest members ever. His clients include Coca-Cola, Foxconn, Beng & Olufsen, and the projects he's worked on were featured in TechCrunch, CNN, the Washington Post, and Bloomberg among others.

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Omer Ercan

Illustrators DesignerBrand IdentityVisual DesignBranding + 0 more

United StatesToptal Member Since August 4, 2017

Omer is an art director with 12 years of design experience, building bridges between brands and people. In order to deliver the highest standard of service and provide excellence, he strives for the best and always incorporates the client's digital strategies in his designs.

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A Hiring Guide

Guide to Hiring a Great Illustrator

Now more than ever, illustration is used online to bring ideas, products, and services to life. Hiring an illustrator is a giant step toward connecting target customers with your organization’s unique attributes. Finding the right illustrator can be a challenging process, especially if you don’t know what to look for. This hiring guide explains the value of illustration, what the illustration process entails, and how to hire an illustrator that your organization can partner with for years to come.

Read Hiring Guide
Trustpilot
Toptal in the press

... allows corporations to quickly assemble teams that have the right skills for specific projects.

Despite accelerating demand for coders, Toptal prides itself on almost Ivy League-level vetting.

Our clients
Building a cross-platform app to be used worldwide
Thierry Jakicevic
Building a cross-platform app to be used worldwide
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Creating an app for the game
Conor Kenney
Creating an app for the game
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Leading a digital transformation
Elmar Platzer
Leading a digital transformation
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Testimonials

Michael is an incredible designer, and has been a great fit for our project. He just gets it in a way that can’t be taught. My goal was to pay Toptal to find me a high quality designer for my project, and that is exactly what happened. It was easy. Being able to see the portfolio work on Toptal’s platform is what gave me the infomation I needed to choose Michael. I have nothing but good things to say about Toptal and am looking forward to using Toptal for other projects in the future.

Edward Daniel, Co-Founder

improvemygun.com

I've worked very closely with Martina for over a year and have to say she is one of the best people I have ever worked with. Instead of simply following instructions blindly, she thinks through the task at hand, becoming a thought partner to help with whatever the project may be. Besides being super talented at design, she possesses specific qualities that make her exceptional to work with given the fast paced nature of being a startup. I would definitely recommend her to anyone looking for a talented, professional designer who doesn't need much direction to hit the ground running.

Sahil Khanna, Sr. Manager, Marketing

LeanTaaS, Inc.

Darko did a great job figuring out the user architecture for our concept, which led him to produce terrific wireframes. His knowledge of usability and design was a perfect match for the outside voice we needed to help jumpstart our project. We would certainly recommend him and work with him again in the future.

Rich Danker, Founder

Prose Market

Carlos has the unique talent of blending both quantitative and qualitative research to keenly identify UX challenges and opportunities. He thinks methodically, emphatically, and holistically to produce data-driven strategies and well-executed designs. Over the past 8 years of working with fully or partially distributed teams, Carlos manages working remotely far better than anyone I've encountered because of his strong communication and presentation skills. He is the first on my list the next time I need a UX designer.

Michelle Krogmeier, Project Manager

Union Station

Rafael is an amazing designer. His aesthetic sense is spot on, and he seems to be able to anticipate our needs before we even know what they are. He's taken the time to understand both our company and our clientele, and his solutions are consistently in-line with our values, interests, and our customers' needs. He delivers on time (if not earlier), works quickly, is well organized, and very effective. He's a pleasure to work with, and we're very happy to have found him through Toptal.

Ethan Brooks, CTO

Langlotz Patent & Trademark Works, Inc.

Toptal gave us access to the best designers out there. They’re not easy to find. Those designers integrated very quickly with our existing teams. They very quickly understood our business case and the value of our solution. Toptal really allowed us to focus on building the best possible product and save a lot of time on the typical administrative pains that goes with it -- specifically, finding the best talent. Toptal designers were very responsive, always online -- and that made life very easy for us. We have ambitious goals on how to grow the application and already Toptal has been a key contributor to that success.

Thierry Jakircevic, General Manager, Digital Solutions, Bridgestone Head Office, Tokyo

Bridgestone Corporation

We had an amazing experience working with our Toptal designer. In only two weeks, we accomplished what would've taken most companies 3 months to complete. We also enjoyed working with the Toptal team to make sure we were paired up with the right designer that would fit both our company culture and working style.

Ted Blosser, Head of Sales and Customer Success

WorkRamp

Dean blew us away. He ranks right up there as one of the top five designers of the hundreds I have worked with in the past. He listened, was totally professional, and came up with a 3D rotating cube design completely on his own. We didn't even ask for it, and yet it has become the centerpiece of our app and how users engage with it right off the bat. What he produced inspired all of us at Votify, and put us on track for launch and investor funding.

Michael Lawrence, Founder & CEO

Votify LLC

How to Hire Illustrators through Toptal

1

Talk to One of Our Industry Experts

A Toptal director of design will work you to understand your goals, technical needs, and team dynamics.
2

Work With Hand-Selected Talent

Within days, we'll introduce you to the right illustrator for your project. Average time to match is under 24 hours.
3

The Right Fit, Guaranteed

Work with your new illustrator for a trial period (pay only if satisfied), ensuring they're the right fit before starting the engagement.

FAQs

  • How are Toptal illustrators different?

    At Toptal, we thoroughly screen our illustrators to ensure we only match you with talent of the highest caliber. Of the more than 100,000 people who apply to join the Toptal network each year, fewer than 3% make the cut. You'll work with design experts (never generalized recruiters or HR reps) to understand your goals, technical needs, and team dynamics. The end result: expert vetted talent from our network, custom matched to fit your business needs. Start now.

  • Can I hire illustrators in less than 48 hours through Toptal?

    Depending on availability and how fast you can progress, you could start working with an illustrator within 48 hours of signing up. Start now.

  • What is the no-risk trial period for Toptal illustrators?

    We make sure that each engagement between you and your illustrator begins with a trial period of up to two weeks. This means that you have time to confirm the engagement will be successful. If you're completely satisfied with the results, we'll bill you for the time and continue the engagement for as long as you'd like. If you're not completely satisfied, you won't be billed. From there, we can either part ways, or we can provide you with another expert who may be a better fit and with whom we will begin a second, no-risk trial. Start now.

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How to Hire a Great Illustrator

There are many ways to communicate visually. Typography, photography, and graphic design are tried and true, but none matches illustration’s ability to make ideas immediately memorable. In today’s eCommerce landscape, digital illustration is a powerful way to enliven information and strengthen brand identity.

Illustrations help customers quickly grasp the value of goods and services, but hiring a professional illustrator requires an understanding of the field and its practitioners. Knowing what you need, what to look for, and what questions to ask are paramount to finding the right digital illustrator.

Children's book
Whether working on a children’s book, WordPress website, or infographic, the best illustrators know how to make complex ideas immediately clear and memorable. (Brad Cuzen)

What Is Illustration?

Illustration has much in common with drawing, but there’s a key distinction. Drawing is observational. People, places, and things (real and imagined) are rendered on a surface, and while styles may vary, the intent is to document what is seen or envisioned.

Illustration offers a twist. Subjects are rendered to communicate messages. Humor and social critique are common. Illustration is used to draw comparisons, explain technical concepts, showcase ideal scenarios, and tell stories. Drawing is observation. Illustration is commentary.

Infographic
Similar to graphic designers and logo designers, illustrators rely on a keen sense of composition when designing print items like greeting cards, book covers, and business cards. (Mary Kate McDevitt)

What Does an Illustrator Do?

No matter the project, illustrators face three recurring challenges.

1. Understand the message.

  • What needs to be communicated, and why?
  • Who’s the audience?

2. Uncover a unique aspect of the message.

  • Why should anyone care?

3. Find an effective way to visually communicate the message.

  • What image-making techniques will make the message instantly obvious and unforgettable?

Image-making techniques are endless. Programs like Procreate, Affinity Designer, and Adobe Illustrator provide illustrators with pixel precision, while styluses and touchscreens replicate the look and feel of traditional artistic media.

Many illustrators prefer the immediacy and unpredictability of analog techniques. Pens, brushes, and printmaking tools of every shape and purpose are widely used.

Some of the most prominent illustrators of the past decade are known for blurring the lines between digital art and analog. Model building, food art, sculpture, and traditional crafts are among the many analog techniques executed by hand, photographed, and digitally enhanced in programs like Adobe Photoshop and Affinity Photo.

Graphic designer
Some illustrators contrast handcrafted character design and digital painting with photography. (Jack Chadwick)

Define Your Illustration Project Needs

Illustration projects are unlikely to be successful without clearly established goals. Even the most talented illustrators with multiple years of experience require direction. If no brief exists, communication problems are sure to arise.

Experienced illustrators can help mold and refine project briefs, but before hiring takes place, it’s important to answer questions like:

  • Why is an illustration needed in the first place?
  • Who are the illustrations for and in what environment will they be seen?
  • What ideas, themes, or emotions should the illustrations convey?
  • Is there a specific illustration style you are looking for?
  • Are there established brand guidelines that the illustrations must follow?
  • How much creative input and freedom are you willing to give the illustrator?
  • Do you need an illustrator who is also an animator?
  • Are you willing to consider candidates that live outside of the United States?
  • Who will provide the illustrator with feedback during the project?
  • Who is responsible for the final approval of the illustrator’s work?
  • What’s the project timeline?
  • Has a budget been established and how will payments be managed?
Book cover
Illustrators work on many types of projects including book illustrations, t-shirts, magazine cover designs, and more. Whatever the needs of a project are, they should be clearly outlined in the work agreement. (Cytonn Photography)

What to Look for When Hiring an Illustrator

Defining project needs will make it easier to find and hire the right illustrator. Factors like rate, availability, and temperament are important, but the first thing to look for are work examples that align with your quality expectations. Instead of relying on Google, the quickest way to find illustration portfolios is by browsing platforms like Dribbble and Behance.

Because illustration is such a visual art form, it’s easy to sort and identify candidates who seem like a good match stylistically. During this phase, it’s important to separate personal preference from the aesthetic expectations of your business and customer base. There will be candidates with stunning work examples that simply aren’t a good fit.

It’s not uncommon for illustrators to include process sketches in portfolios. Not only are these interesting to look at, they also provide insight into an illustrator’s creative process.

Logo design
Before creating final renderings, concept artists may use watercolor storyboards to flesh out the details of their work. (Brian Edward Miller)

Illustrator Interview Questions

After narrowing candidates, schedule time for conversations. Video calls are great because they allow for face-to-face interaction and screen sharing. Full-time illustration positions are rare, meaning that many illustrators are freelancers. Avoid making interviews feel like one-sided examinations where candidates feel pressured to give “right” answers.

Think of the interview as a time to meet, share ideas, and learn about the ways candidates work. Ask questions that help both sides determine whether or not a partnership would be fruitful.

  • How would you define your illustration style?
  • What type of illustration projects do you typically work on?
  • How would you describe the visual look and feel of our brand?
  • How do you generate and communicate illustration concepts?
  • What does your illustration process look like?
  • Are there any parts of the project brief that concern you?
  • Is our project timeline realistic?
  • Do you have any initial ideas that you’d like to share?
  • What kind of feedback and availability do you need from us?
  • How many other projects are you working on?
t-shirt
There are freelance illustrators for hire all across the globe, and tools like Zoom open up a world of interviewing possibilities. (Visuals)

How Does the Illustration Process Work?

Individual illustrators will have their own ways of working, so make sure to discuss this with candidates. By and large, the illustration process follows a similar progression. Here’s what to expect once a candidate is hired.

Work Agreement

It’s imperative that a work agreement or service contract be signed by the client and the illustrator before the project begins.

Research

Like designers in other disciplines, illustrators research at the beginning of projects. Typically, this means collecting visual reference material and learning more about business goals and customers.

Art Direction

It’s common for illustrators to assemble mood boards that communicate the look and feel of the illustrations they envision. This step ensures that everyone is on the same page before concept development.

Sketching

When art direction is established, most illustrators start sketching. Don’t be surprised if initial sketches are rough and unfinished. These early sketches help illustrators sort through their ideas and narrow in on more refined concepts.

Refined Proofs, Color, and Iteration

Once concepts are dialed in, illustrators create refined proofs and add color. Refined proofs will become final illustrations, so it may take some back and forth to get the details just right (iteration).

Don’t hesitate to provide specific feedback during this time, but also avoid asking illustrators to make wholesale changes this late in the game.

Deliver Design Files

When the project is finished, it’s the illustrator’s responsibility to format, save, organize, and deliver design files via email or a cloud-sharing service.

Payment

There are a number of ways to structure payments, so details ought to be covered in the work agreement. For instance, some illustrators ask for a 50% payment at the start and end of a project, while others bill at predefined project milestones.

Children's book illustrator
Landing page illustrations, like these retro-themed nature images, have the same whimsy one might expect from a children’s book illustrator. (Mike Kus)

Maintain the Relationship

It’s not uncommon for an illustrator to work on multiple projects for the same client. If all goes well with the illustrator you hire, there are simple things you can do to maintain the relationship.

  • Thank them for the work they put in.
  • Ask if they’d be willing to partner with you in the future.
  • Pass along any compliments or positive feedback that their work receives.
  • Check in a few weeks before your next project to see what their availability is.

It’s much easier to rehire a talented and trustworthy illustrator than it is to go through the entire interview process again. Likewise, it’s a good idea to assemble a small roster of backups in case your go-to illustrator is booked.

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Top Illustrators are in High Demand.

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