Graphic Artist vs. Graphic Designer: Understanding the Difference

The ongoing debate between Graphic Art and Graphic Design continues to captivate individuals. While some argue for an overlap, others maintain that these are distinct fields.

In simple terms, graphic designers create imaginative visual solutions by strategically combining text, images, and graphic elements to achieve effective visual communication. On the other hand, graphic artists produce visuals that convey emotions, narratives, or concepts through illustrations, characters, cartoons, and more.

In this article, we will explore the significant differences between graphic artists and designers and their roles. Additionally, we will discuss the necessary qualifications, and prevailing job market trends for both professions.

What is the Role of a Graphic Artist?

Chances are, you've come across graphic illustrations, cartoon characters, and graphic art pages on social media at some stage. Undoubtedly, they appear imaginative, captivating, and thoroughly engaging—this is precisely the work of graphic artists.

As per the definition of a graphic artist, they are creative professionals or commercial artists who produce fine art employing artistic principles, whether abstract or innovative. Utilizing a range of digital tools, software, and techniques such as photography, painting, sketching, hand drawing, and more, these artists craft digital works encompassing:

  • Illustrations
  • Cartoons
  • Characters
  • Digital sketches
  • Book covers
  • Digital music album covers
  • Storyboards
  • Comic strips
  • Art for commercial ads

Graphic artists may incorporate unconventional design principles, infusing their artwork with various dialogue, stylistic elements, or activities to captivate viewers. They have the flexibility to create their artwork manually on a computer or tablet and publish it in either print or digital format. However, the choice of devices and publishing mediums tends to be more influenced by a graphic artist's personal preferences and experiences rather than viewers' preferences.

Similarities Between a Graphic Designer and a Graphic Artist

There are numerous parallels between these two positions that are essential to acknowledge in terms of tools, skills, and principles. Primarily, both roles hinge on visuals, sharing the common prefix 'graphic.' Additionally, they operate within both print and digital realms. To provide a clearer insight, we've outlined key similarities for your consideration:




Bachelor’s degree in graphic design.

Fine arts or advertising specialization.

Certificate courses like illustrations, comic strip making, cartoons, and character designing.


Creativity, active thinking, visual communication, storytelling, animation, and digital arts.


Print and digital.


Mood boarding, Hand drawing, Design principles, Art principles.

Software Proficiency

Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketch, Procreate.

Differences Between a Graphic Designer and a Graphic Artist

One significant distinction between these roles lies in the emphasis each places on different aspects. A graphic artist centers more on the artistic dimension, employing creativity and imagination to generate unique artworks conveying their vision or message.

In contrast, a graphic designer directs their focus towards functionality. Designers leverage their skills and expertise to craft designs that effectively communicate a particular idea or purpose.

For a clearer perspective, here's a concise comparison outlining the differences in both roles:


Graphic Artist

Graphic Designer


Creates illustrations and original artwork.

Creates visual solutions and commercial graphics.


Makes more expressive and subjective artwork to convey emotions, opinions, or perspectives.

Makes more objective and problem-solving designs to answer a question, achieve a goal, inform, or persuade. Uses skills and knowledge.

Work Styles

Works independently on personal projects to experiment and explore their style and preferences.

Works collaboratively on commercial projects based on the client’s brief and specifications.

Work Environment

Works mainly in the entertainment, publishing, and advertising industries.

Works mostly in the marketing, branding, or web design industries.


Uses multiple mediums and artistic tools like illustrations and dialogues to express their creativity.

Uses layout, bright colors, typography, and images to convey a message.


Does not necessarily require a degree but can specialize in various fine arts fields.

Requires a degree or certification course in graphic design or related studies.


Uses unconventional methods to produce original artwork. May not always use design principles.

Relies heavily on design principles and other theories to create strategic designs.


May use software and tools like Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Sketchbook, Sketch, and Procreate.

Has to be proficient in operating Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and CorelDRAW. May also use Adobe InDesign, Adobe Premiere Pro, Sketch, Procreate, and Figma.

Qualifications Necessary to Pursue a Career as a Graphic Artist or Graphic Designer

Now that you're aware of the distinctions between these roles, which one are you inclined towards for your career? Regardless of your choice, it's crucial to understand the qualifications needed to embark on either path.

Graphic Artists

Graphic artists do not necessarily require formal training. They are self-directed learners who explore various art forms, techniques, and stylistic preferences at their own pace. However, for those seeking specialization, obtaining a bachelor's degree in a specific area or fine arts is an option.

Many individuals choose graphic art as a part-time pursuit and may not aim for a degree. In such cases, they can enroll in certification courses to stay competitive in the industry and stay abreast of trends. These courses may cover various art techniques like illustrations, character design, animation, and more.

Graphic artists can take courses in:

  • Drawing
  • Sketching
  • Digital Art
  • Video Graphics
  • Animation
  • Visual Storytelling
  • Game Design
  • Interactive Digital Media Design

Graphic Designers

For those aspiring to become graphic designers, obtaining a bachelor's degree in graphic design or related courses is the ideal path for entering the industry. Some degree options include:

  • Visual Communication
  • Web Design
  • Animation
  • Marketing and Advertising

However, if pursuing graphic design as a full-time career is not the goal or there's limited time to complete a degree, certification courses are an alternative.

In the digital era, learning is more accessible. Reputable institutions, like the IxDF, offer design programs that can be accessed from anywhere, allowing for self-paced learning. Popular online courses include:

  • Design Principles
  • Color Theory and Design Aesthetics
  • UI Design
  • UX Design
  • Commercial Art and Graphics
  • Printing Techniques
  • Visual Design
  • Copywriting

Job Market Trends

Whether you choose to pursue a career as a graphic artist or a graphic designer, both fields offer appealing prospects. The job outlook for graphic designers indicates a potential growth of five percent by 2026, with an anticipated 24,800 job openings for graphic designers in the United States each year.

Both graphic artists and designers enjoy a plethora of employment opportunities due to the diverse applications of design skills.

Nevertheless, expecting instantaneous success is unrealistic. Continuous upskilling is crucial for accessing better roles and higher pay. As long as you maintain motivation, discipline, and a willingness to learn, you can build a rewarding career in the field of design.

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