Hire the Top 3% of Illustrators

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

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Micah Bowers

Illustrators DesignerAdobe IllustratorAdobe PhotoshopBrandingLogotypeLogo DesignUX DesignCorporate IdentityUI DesignUser Experience (UX)Digital DesignVisual Design

United StatesToptal Member Since January 3, 2016

Micah uses brand design and illustration to tell stories on behalf of his clients. He believes that design must identify a need, stir a desire for change, and shed light on a path that is uniquely helpful, hopeful, and human.

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Patty Castaneda

Illustrators DesignerFigmaWeb UIApp UIUI ComponentsUI DesignUser Interface (UI)User Experience (UX)BrandingMobile UXMobile DesignIcon DesignSaaS

United StatesToptal Member Since June 7, 2017

Patty is a nomadic UI/UX designer who codes a bit and gravitates toward creative strategy, branding, front-end coding, AB testing, and illustration. She's worked with companies such as Kissmetrics, Dice, Roc Nation, and more. Patty designs for user needs and is fond of JTBD for user research and atomic design for iterative prototyping. She believes that people don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole (TL).

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Matt Schroeter

Illustrators DesignerSketchAdobe IllustratoriOS UI DesignInterface DesignWebUser Experience (UX)User Interface (UI)Responsive Web Design (RWD)Visual DesignProduct Design

CanadaToptal Member Since February 18, 2016

Matt is an expert in product design, front-end development, illustration, and branding. He often works with global brands and organizations, including the World Health Organization, IDEO, and Uber. His first job was being a photojournalist, working for newspapers to tell stories about people in their communities. He learned to listen intently, welcome other perspectives, be patient, and let ideas grow. Those values still lead him to make quality things today.

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Ciro MacCord

Illustrators DesignerUser Interface (UI)Visual DesignFigmaAdobe PhotoshopDigital DesignWireframingBrandingPrototypingDesign SystemsProduct DesignUI DesignPresentation Design

BrazilToptal Member Since September 15, 2022

Ciro is an experienced Brazilian designer focused on UI and UX. He has more than 15 years of experience in the visual field across a broad range of industries—from illustration to graphic design. Over the last few years, Ciro has been crafting digital experience solutions for companies and startups, placing users at the center of his design process.

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Jackie Jack

Illustrators DesignerIllustrator CCLogo DesignBrandingVisual IdentityBrand DesignVisual DesignCreative DirectionAdobe PhotoshopAdobe IllustratorCorporate DesignColor TheoryLogotype

United StatesToptal Member Since August 18, 2022

Jackie is a passionate designer with over 15 years of experience in branding. He is a dedicated creative thinker with a strong ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously in fast-paced environments. Jackie specializes in brand identities, illustration, and graphic design, always striving to learn more.

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Will Gregson

Illustrators DesignerAdobe CCAdobe IllustratorFigmaSketchWeb DesignProduct DesignDesign SystemsBrandingIconographyDashboard DesignRebrandingVisual Identity

AustraliaToptal Member Since November 26, 2021

Will is a product designer, illustrator, graphic designer, and experienced team leader who took his first steps in the creative industry over ten years ago. He has worked for clients across the globe in industries such as fintech, engineering, health, dating, sports, and sales to deliver web and mobile app designs, illustrations, animations, print, and development projects. Will designed a mobile application that now boasts over ten million users worldwide.

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Ruby Henderson

Illustrators DesignerBrandingBooklet DesignPitch DecksLogo DesignBrand GuidelinesBrand StrategySketchAdobe IllustratorAdobe PhotoshopAdobeDigital ArtIllustrator CC

GermanyToptal Member Since August 15, 2022

Ruby is an accomplished brand designer and art director with ten years of multi-disciplinary experience. She specializes in brand identity systems, creative direction, print, typography, and illustration. Ruby's key strength is her ability to blend imaginative, boundary-pushing ideas with data-driven marketing strategies to deliver outstanding results for her clients. Additionally, Ruby is highly attentive to her clients' needs, ensuring their expectations are not only met but exceeded.

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Braian Roberts

Illustrators DesignerFigmaSketchUser Interface (UI)AnimationBranding

ArgentinaToptal Member Since May 1, 2020

Braian is a UX/UI designer with a background in art direction, illustration, and motion graphics and 10+ years of professional experience. He has worked in ticketing and streaming platforms as well as eCommerce sites and mobile apps for dating, medicine, security, and gaming. Braian helps companies achieve their goals through flexibility in the UX/UI process and a user-centered design approach.

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Elizaveta Ishchenko

Illustrators DesignerAdobe IllustratorAdobe PhotoshopWebiOSUI DesignSketchMobile DesignVisual Design

RussiaToptal Member Since July 18, 2019

Lisa is a UX/UI designer with a passion for illustration and a knack for critical thinking. She has nearly a decade of professional experience working with international cross-platform teams and startups, launching them into new markets and helping their marketing campaigns to stand out. She takes a user-centered approach to all aspects of the creative process and she can manage design flow from initial concept to final, polished deliverable.

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Peter Kocur

Illustrators DesignerAdobe IllustratorAdobe PhotoshopUser Experience (UX)App UIWeb DesignSketchBrandingEditorial IllustrationCorporate Identity

SlovakiaToptal Member Since June 12, 2017

Peter Kocur is a brand and product designer specializing in visualizing concepts and ideas which mostly end up in the areas of branding, product design, interactive design, illustration, or anywhere in between. His work is used by worldwide corporations as well as small businesses. He has a theoretical fine arts background and has studied marketing along with six years of experience from agencies, studios, and freelance work.

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Carmen Nacher

Illustrators DesignerSketchFigmaPhotoshop CCIllustrator CCInDesign CCBrand Identity

GermanyToptal Member Since August 9, 2021

Carmen is a digital designer with eight years of working experience focussing on UI, branding, and illustration. With a background in graphic design, she worked for renamed fashion design clients learning the importance of typography, visual language, composition and care for detail. Bringing her experience to the digital world, Carmen has designed websites, apps, UI assets, and CI guidelines, together with the device of social media campaigns, including illustration and animation.

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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
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
Creating an app for the game
Conor Kenney
Creating an app for the game
Leading a digital transformation
Elmar Platzer
Leading a digital transformation
What our clients think
Clients Rate Toptal Illustrators4.2 / 5.0on average across 150 reviews as of Aug 5, 2023

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


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


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


Talk to One of Our Industry Experts

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

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.

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.


  • 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 200,000 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.


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.

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?
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.


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.


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.


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.

Top Illustrators are in High Demand.

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