Artworkers produce print-ready artwork across a range of media by taking a design concept from a designer and tidying it up so it can be used in projects and content

The work may involve retouching, reworking or fixing the design, customising typography, colour balancing, resizing documents and eliminating any inconsistencies. You'll have a great eye for detail and will be able to spot potential problems with designs.

Designs can be used across a range of formats and channels, including digital design and graphics for websites, e-marketing and digital media, as well as print.

You'll be involved in the project from start to finish and will work closely as part of a creative team to ensure that the artwork meets the needs of the client's brief and any brand guidelines.

The role is closely related to the work of a graphic designer, and there may be some overlap. However, many companies still employ an artworker rather than incorporating the work into that of a graphic designer.

Responsibilities

As an artworker, you'll typically need to:

  • work closely with and support the creative team as a whole to follow designs and artwork from their conception to final sign-off
  • curate and create corporate designs across a range of formats using Adobe Creative Cloud and programs such as Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator
  • create visual concepts and retouch images to ensure they meet print and web standards, such as colour, typography and image libraries
  • correct and format documents before they're sent to the printers
  • ensure artwork is consistent, accurate and follows any brand guidelines
  • impose variable print files for digital print
  • set up, manage and archive accurate artwork files and supply to relevant stakeholders
  • manage and update an in-house image library
  • carry out proof checking prior to print
  • create web assets to size and scale
  • check printers' proofs
  • adapt existing artwork to alternative layouts and/or formats
  • provide skilled and technically precise input and support to an agency or design studio
  • liaise with external printers and act as a point of contact for the artwork department of the studio or company
  • keep up to date with the latest design trends.

In a senior artworker role, you'll also need to:

  • manage and mentor a team of junior artworkers
  • manage and schedule all artwork for the whole team
  • approve artwork created by junior artworkers
  • ensure all artwork produced meets client and brand guidelines
  • provide artistic direction on projects and strategic planning, as well as creative and promotional marketing services
  • represent the design agency/company at key industry events.

Salary

  • Junior artworkers can expect a salary of £18,000 to £25,000, depending on experience.
  • With experience (mid-level artworker), you can expect to earn between £25,000 and £33,000.
  • Senior creative artworkers and studio managers can earn up to £45,000 per year.

Salaries vary depending on the sector you work in, the type of employer (e.g. design agency or in-house team) and your location, as well as your experience and reputation. The best paid jobs are usually in London and other large cities.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You will usually work a 37.5 hour week, Monday to Friday. However, late finishes and weekend work may be required, especially as deadlines approach.

What to expect

  • You'll most likely be based in a design agency, print house or shared studio. Your day will be varied - you may work alone, in teams, or closely with graphic designers and art directors. If you're working in a freelancer capacity, you'll need to be in regular contact with designers and printers.
  • The work of an artworker often involves sitting and working at a computer for long periods of time.
  • Opportunities for artworkers are available in towns and cities throughout the UK. Employers can vary from small commercial design studios to advertising agencies and publicity departments in large organisations.
  • Although work is mostly studio-based, travel within the working day to meet clients may be required. Working away from home, however, is rare.

Qualifications

You don't generally need a degree or HND to become an artworker as employers are usually more interested in your experience and the standard of your portfolio.

However, most people become artworkers after taking courses that cover desktop publishing and computer graphics software. In particular, training and qualifications in the following subjects may increase your chances of getting a job:

  • 3D design
  • desktop publishing (DTP)
  • DTP software
  • graphic design
  • art and design
  • visual art
  • Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign.

Courses can be studied part time at college or online.

Some employers will ask for a degree, usually in one of the subjects above or a related design area.

It's also possible to gain entry-level positions by training on the job and building up skills as you go.

Skills

You'll need to have:

  • strong retouching and visualisation skills
  • the ability to create visual concepts
  • knowledge of the whole Adobe Creative Cloud and programs like Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator
  • strong layout and typographical skills and knowledge of fonts
  • confidence using the latest DTP software, working with both Macs and PCs
  • skills in archiving images and artwork
  • communication skills to engage with designers and printers
  • collaborative skills to work closely with senior account managers and account executives as well as your clients
  • reporting skills in order to provide progress updates at every stage of the design and artwork process
  • time management skills and the ability to work to deadlines
  • strong organisational skills
  • self-motivation and the ability to work on multiple projects at once in a fast-paced environment
  • problem-solving skills and the ability to know when to ask for help
  • a methodical approach to work and meticulous attention to detail
  • the ability to take instructions and follow direction from other professionals such as designers.

In some roles, you may also need to have the following:

  • knowledge of basic HTML and CSS, along with experience with content management systems
  • experience with QuarkXPress
  • an understanding of areas such as photography, film-making or studio lighting.

Work experience

You'll need to build a portfolio of your work to show to employers. You can get experience to include in your portfolio through various ways. Getting an internship or summer placement is useful, especially if you have a reference who can recommend you and provide evidence of what you've done.

Getting involved in a live project is helpful. Short-term work experience also gives you an insight into the work and helps build up your skills.

Try to ensure your portfolio shows experience with a range of programs and materials.

Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.

Employers

Artworker jobs can be in-house with a design agency, print house or art studio, or you may choose to work on a freelance basis, taking work on as suits you.

Employers are often small commercial design studios, advertising agencies, exhibition companies, firms involved with point of sale and display, television, film and audio-visual companies, and publicity departments in large organisations.

Opportunities for artworkers occur with employers in towns and cities throughout the UK.

Look for job vacancies at:

Vacancies are also advertised in local and national newspapers and on employers' websites. Specialist recruitment agencies also handle vacancies.

LinkedIn advertises jobs and is a great way to network and get in contact with potential employers.

Social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are other ways of networking, showcasing your work and making contacts.

Professional development

It's important to keep your skills and knowledge up to date throughout your career as design trends evolve, and new and updated software packages emerge.

You can do this through in-house training courses, more typical in larger organisations, or by taking specific design and technology courses in areas such as:

  • desktop publishing
  • specific software packages such as QuarkXPress, Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign
  • specific web packages, such as Dreamweaver
  • web languages such as HTML and CSS.

Some employers may fund training courses for you, but it's common for freelance and self-employed artworkers to pay for themselves. It's likely you'll learn new skills to meet the demands of a particular project.

You can also take leadership and management courses to support your continuing professional development (CPD), as senior artworkers may also manage studios.

It may also be possible to become an affiliate member of the Chartered Society of Designers.

Career prospects

You will typically start in a junior artworker role, gaining skills and experience and building your portfolio in order to progress to the role of mid-level artworker.

After a few years, and with an excellent portfolio, you can progress to senior artworker - if there is scope within the company or agency you work for. It may be necessary to move companies to gain a more senior position.

Senior level is the ceiling within the scope of an artworker, but it may be possible to move into other related work. For example, you can use the artworker role as a way into graphic design, although you may need to undertake further training and qualifications to make the transition. For more information, see graphic designer.

If you have strong leadership skills, it may be possible to become a studio manager or creative director.

Freelance and remote opportunities are available, and some artworkers go on to form their own companies.

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