A position as an artworker is a great starting point for anyone looking to build a career in graphic design, with the right experience in desktop publishing software and working on live design projects

Artworkers produce print-ready products by taking a design concept from a designer and tidying it up before it is sent to print. This may involve reworking or fixing the design, including colours, typography, placements and any inconsistencies.

Professional artworkers have a great eye for detail and can spot potential problems with designs that are intended to be used across a variety of media, including digital design and graphics for websites, e-marketing and digital media, as well as print.

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

Responsibilities

Your typical responsibilities as an artworker include:

  • curating and creating corporate designs
  • creating visual concepts and retouching images to ensure they meet print and web standards, such as colour, typography and image libraries
  • correcting and formatting documents before they're sent to the printers
  • imposing variable print files for digital print
  • using expert skills in Adobe Creative Suite and programmes like Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator
  • providing artistic direction on projects and strategic planning, as well as creative and promotional marketing services
  • providing skilled and technically precise input and support to an agency or design studio
  • liaising with external printers and acting as a point of contact for the artwork department of the studio or company
  • working closely with the team as a whole to follow designs and artwork from their conception to final sign-off
  • being flexible enough to learn more about unfamiliar subjects as required.

Salary

  • As a graduate starting out in your career, you can expect a salary of around £20,000 to £25,000.
  • an experienced artworker can expect to earn between £25,000 and £32,000.
  • Senior creative artworkers and studio managers can earn up to £40,000 per year.

Salaries may vary depending on the employment sector, location and your experience and reputation. The best paid jobs are usually in London and other large cities. In-house design teams tend to offer higher salaries than in design agencies.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You will usually work a basic 39-hour week, Monday to Friday. However, late finishes and weekend work may be required, especially as deadlines approach.

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.

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

Relevant subjects for artworkers include those that involve desktop publishing and computer graphics software. In particular, training and qualifications in the following subjects may increase your chances of gaining a position:

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

Most people enter this work after taking a relevant course, for example, in one of these subjects. These courses can be studied part-time at college or online. Others gain entry-level positions by training on the job and building their skills as they go along.

Many roles don't require a degree or HND, as job offers may be based on the standard of portfolio work and not on educational qualifications. Some artworkers go on to become graphic designers, although in this case they may also have to study for some additional qualifications to gain a higher-level position.

Skills

You'll need to be able to demonstrate:

  • strong retouching and visualisation skills
  • ability to create visual concepts
  • knowledge of the whole Adobe Creative Suite and programmes like Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator
  • strong layout and typographical skills
  • confident using the latest DTP software, working with both Macs and PCs
  • good 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
  • great progress reporting skills at every stage of the design and artwork process
  • skills in archiving images and artwork
  • creative flair and an eye for design
  • strong organisational skills
  • meticulous attention to detail
  • ability to work well to deadlines
  • ability to take instructions from others, e.g. designers.

In some positions, depending on seniority, you may also need to demonstrate the following:

  • knowledge of basic HTML and CSS, along with experience with content management systems
  • experience with Quark Xpress
  • outside interest in photography, film-making or other art-related hobbies.

Work experience

Experience through an internship or placement is extremely useful, especially if you have a reference who can recommend you and provide evidence of what you've done. It's extremely valuable to have been involved in a live project, along with building a portfolio of your work, but equally, experience gained in using desktop publishing software, whether in an artworker position or not, is very useful combined with portfolio evidence of what you can do.

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:

As well as using recruitment and design agencies, vacancies are advertised in local and national newspapers and on employers' websites. Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers.

Professional development

Continually updating your skills and knowledge is always beneficial and can be done through:

  • in-house training courses - more typical in larger organisations
  • specific design and technology courses, such as desktop publishing, or those that relate to specific software packages for print, such as QuarkXPress, Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, and for web packages, such as Dreamweaver and Flash
  • private study, such as a range of online courses can be used to enhance the skills mentioned above
  • additional qualifications relating to the job or to enhance other skills such as leadership and management can be undertaken as part of continuing professional development (CPD), as many more senior artworkers also manage studios.

Career prospects

If you start work as an artworker as a graduate in an entry-level position, after a few years and with an excellent portfolio you can progress to senior artworker - if there is scope within the company or organisation you work for.

Senior level is the ceiling within the scope of an artworker, but some progress from here into different positions. You can use an artworker role as a way to get into graphic design, although while this may help to build a portfolio of similar work, further training and qualifications may be required to make the transition.

If you have strong leadership skills, there is the possibility of progressing on to become a studio manager or creative director.

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