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Production Artist Career Guide

What is a production artist?

A production artist is a creative professional who works in various industries, like advertising, television, film, software, and other related fields. They are essential in the completion of art-related projects and function as the final checkpoint in the production process, correcting any issues and ensuring the final product aligns with the initial designs and concepts.

Working closely with designers, these artists help bring the designer’s vision to life, ensuring it is prepared correctly for the final production stage. They are integral in industries where visual products are important, ensuring that the end product is flawless and possesses the design qualities initially envisioned. It’s a role that brings both creativity and technical proficiency together, bridging the gap between the raw design stage and the final, tangible product that users can interact with.

Duties and responsibilities

The production artist is responsible for overseeing the final stages of the design’s production process. They take the initial design, inspect it thoroughly, identify any areas that could be improved or might cause problems in the production process, and then correct them. They work to get the design ready for the final production, sometimes working with printers or other production venues to ensure the design is well-received.

Common tasks also include preflight formatting, troubleshooting any problematic files, and finding practical and creative solutions to complex issues. They’re the ones who are responsible for proofing all artwork, graphics, and layouts and then sending them off to printers or publishers. They often use various software tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign to manipulate the work to align with the final product specifications.

Work environment

The work environment for production artists can be quite diverse, depending on their industry. They may work at advertising agencies, publishing houses, corporations’ marketing or creative departments, or graphic design firms. Office workspace setup is typical, with these artists typically using computers loaded with various graphic design software. Depending on the nature of their projects, some may also utilize printers or other production equipment.

Like many jobs in the creative industry, this role often leans to the collaborative side. These professionals frequently work with graphic designers, copywriters, project managers, and other creative professionals as part of a team to get projects to the finish line. The intensity of their work can sometimes increase as project deadlines approach, making time management and composure under pressure critical attributes for success in this field.

Typical work hours

Production artists generally work standard business hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday), particularly those employed in more corporate settings. However, in advertising or movie production industries, the work hours could be more varied, and overtime might be necessary to meet tight deadlines or coordinate with other teams in different time zones.

Some artists might work late hours to meet project deadlines, especially if they are working in a more fast-paced creative agency or on specific film or television projects. The hours could be more flexible or project-based for freelance production artists or those who work remotely. However, irrespective of the working hours, the time is often filled with a mix of creative tasks balanced with practical application and problem-solving.

How to become a production artist

This career guide section outlines the process of becoming a production artist. The key steps involve gaining the necessary education, acquiring industry-relevant skills, and obtaining hands-on experience.

Step 1: Complete high school

The first step is completing your high school education. A high school diploma is typically the minimum requirement for this career. In school, pay extra attention to art and computer classes, as these will provide a foundation for the skills you’ll need later on.

Step 3: Develop necessary skills

Certain skills are vital for a production artist. These include proficiency in design software like Adobe Creative Suite, a good understanding of typography and layout design, and an eye for detail. Take the time to master these skills, as they will be integral to your daily work.

Step 4: Create a portfolio

A portfolio showcases your skills, creativity, and abilities. This can be a physical book, a digital file, or an online website. Include pieces that showcase different techniques and styles, and ensure each piece is finished to a professional standard. Employers often look at a portfolio when considering applicants for a job.

Step 5: Gain experience

After obtaining the necessary education and skills, start gaining experience. This could be through internships, volunteer work, or entry-level jobs. Experience helps refine your skills and provides a better understanding of production timelines and workflow.

Step 6: Apply for positions

Once you’ve gained experience and built a strong portfolio, start applying for production artist positions. Prepare a strong resume that highlights your skills, education, and experience, and be ready to present your portfolio at interviews. Persistence and a positive attitude can help you land the job you want.

Step 7: Continue learning and improving

Keep up with new design trends and technologies by reading industry publications, taking workshops, and networking with other professionals in the field. Continuing to learn and improve over time can help you advance in your career and take on more challenging projects.

How much do production artists make?

Production artist salaries vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. The ability to perform technical tasks efficiently, in-depth knowledge of design software, and experience with different media types can significantly impact compensation.

Highest paying industries

  • Advertising and Public Relations – $66,900
  • Specialized Design Services – $65,120
  • Printing and Related Support Activities – $62,690
  • Publishing Industries – $61,850
  • Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services – $60,170

Highest paying states

  • California – $72,480
  • New York – $69,210
  • Connecticut – $68,730
  • New Jersey – $67,650
  • Washington – $67,380

Browse production artist salary data by market

Types of production artists

Below, we explore common career types and areas of specialization for production artists. This section will give you an overview of this profession’s diversity and potential career trajectories.

Graphic design production artist

These professionals focus mainly on creating visual designs and graphics. They often use computer software to produce designs for brochures, logos, and other marketing materials. Success in this role usually requires an eye for design and an in-depth understanding of color theory and branding principles.

Photography production artist

This specialty entails creating visual images through photography. These specialists may work on product photography for catalogs or advertising campaigns. They might also touch up or enhance photos using software like Photoshop. Good knowledge of lighting and composition principles is essential in this role.

Prepress production artist

Prepress specialists prepare designs for print by finalizing the files and making necessary adjustments to assure prime print quality. They deal with issues like color separation, proofing, and page layout. Understanding the technology used in the printing process is key to this role.

Digital media production artist

Focusing on digital media, these artists produce designs and visuals for online use. This includes creating graphics for websites, email campaigns, and social media platforms. A strong foundation in web design principles and an understanding of digital trends are useful in this role.

Video production artist

As the name implies, these specialists focus on producing and editing videos. They may create content for commercials, instructional videos, or other promotional materials. This role often requires hands-on skills in video equipment use and video editing software expertise.

Top skills for production artists

This section highlights the skills and traits that will lead to career success as a production artist. They should possess a unique blend of creativity, technical skills, meticulousness, and a knack for visual detailing.

Technical skills

Mastery of design software is a primary requirement in this line of work. Expertise in programs such as Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign is often expected from these professionals. Being comfortable using and learning different software tools helps swiftly execute tasks and create visually appealing work.


An essential trait for any role in the creative industry is creativity itself. These artists should be able to conceptualize designs that not only look good but also fulfill the specific requirements of the project. This involves thinking out of the box and being original while still adhering to established design principles.

Attention to detail

Given the nature of their work, those in this field must have an eye for detail. This helps spot potential design errors before they go into final production, saving time and resources. It assists in producing work that is flawless and meets the high-quality standards expected in the industry.

Project management skills

Being able to oversee a project from conception to production is valuable. It involves effectively managing time, coordinating with different team members, and addressing any issues that may arise during the course of the project. Essentially, it is about ensuring the project stays on track and is completed within the stipulated deadline.

Communication skills

Professionals in this role frequently collaborate with various team members such as designers, copywriters, and project managers. Thus, having strong communication skills helps to easily discuss ideas, provide feedback, understand project requirements, and ensure a smooth workflow. Both verbal and written communication skills are important for effective and efficient teamwork.

Production artist career path

If you have embarked on a career as a production artist, many avenues for progression lay ahead of you to explore and pursue. This role provides a solid foundation for many specializations and advanced positions in the design and production realms.

Intermediate and senior roles

In the initial stage of your career, gaining experience and honing skills is the common path, usually maintained for a couple of years. After such time, you could advance into senior or lead production artist roles. This position entails more responsibilities and in-depth project supervision and often involves mentoring junior colleagues.

Graphic design, art direction, and beyond

These skills and experiences are highly transferable within the digital media and design sectors. You may decide to take the leap into roles such as graphic designer, where you’ll create visual content to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, or captivate consumers. Another common path is to enter into the advertising and marketing field, becoming an art director or creative director, where you will oversee the creative strategy and vision of campaigns.

Transitioning between industries

As a production artist, the applications of your skills are incredibly versatile and industry-agnostic. You could contribute to tech companies, advertising agencies, media groups, and many more. With this role under your belt, various sectors are available for your career progression.

Independent and freelance opportunities

After gaining substantial experience, many artists opt for a freelance path or establish their own design consultancy, providing services to multiple clients in a self-directed manner. This path offers flexibility and potentially higher earning prospects but also requires self-discipline and business management abilities.

This field continually evolves, with modern technology constantly influencing the job scope. A significant trend for professionals in this occupation is the adaptation of new software applications. Digital platforms and design software have become game-changers in this industry, prompting these artists to continually upgrade their technical skill sets. Continuous learning is the name of the game in this profession.

This constant pursuit of knowledge is not limited to software. Understanding consumer preferences and trends in the market allows production artists to create designs that engage audiences and meet clients’ needs. Staying on top of market trends and marrying this understanding with technical skills can set you apart in this industry.

Employment projections for production artists

According to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the job outlook for graphic designers, including production artists, is expected to grow by 3% through 2031. The ongoing demand for graphic design in advertisements, magazines, and corporate reports will drive employment for these roles in various industries.

Production artist career tips

Master the tools of the trade

Being proficient in design software is a vital skill for any production artist. Familiarize yourself with programs like Adobe Creative Suite, which includes Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. But don’t stop there. Stay updated with the latest software and technology used in the industry, learning new tools and techniques as they come along to maintain your competitive edge.

Meet the deadlines

In the world of production art, deadlines are of utmost importance. You’ll likely be juggling multiple projects with varied due dates. Solid time management, efficient practices, and good communication skills will help you meet your deadlines without compromising the quality of the work.

Keep an eye for detail

Detail-oriented attributes are crucial in design work. In this role, you may be the last pair of eyes to check the design before it goes off to the printer or published online. An overlooked mistake could lead to costly re-shoots or reprints. Making sure every detail meets the specified requirements should be a priority.

Build a professional network

Creating a strong network within the design industry is an effective way to keep yourself up-to-date on the latest trends and job opportunities and to learn from others’ experiences and techniques. Some associations to consider:

  • American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA)
  • Graphic Artists Guild
  • International Council of Design (ico-D)

Consider continuous learning

Staying up-to-date in this fast-evolving industry is all about continuous learning. Here are a few ways to keep sharpening your skills:

  • Enroll in online classes to master new software or techniques
  • Attend conferences and workshops to learn about the latest trends and tools
  • Obtain certifications like Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) to enhance your credibility

Where the production artist jobs are

Top employers

  • Adobe
  • Saatchi & Saatchi
  • Publicis Group
  • Wieden+Kennedy
  • McCann Erickson

Top states

  • California
  • New York
  • Illinois
  • Florida
  • Texas

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • ArtStation Jobs
  • Behance Jobs


What skills are essential for a production artist?

They must have strong technical skills in using graphic design software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. They should have an eye for design and the ability to follow design guidelines. Organizing and prioritizing work, communication, and teamwork are also important.

Are there typical industry sectors where production artists are needed?

They are needed in various industries, particularly those that require visual communication. This includes advertising agencies, graphic design firms, publishing companies, printing companies, movie and television studios, and more. Some corporations have in-house design teams that include production artists.

What is the role of a production artist in a typical project?

Once a project’s creative and conceptual part is complete, they step in. They take the original concept and create a mechanical quality final piece that can be delivered to the printer or manufacturer. They make sure the final product meets all the necessary specifications for printing or digital output. Their role ensures that each visual element is correctly placed and fixes any errors that might be present. Think of them as the last quality control step in a project’s creative process.

How much interaction does a production artist typically have with clients?

They often deal more with internal teams than directly with clients. They may, however, interact with clients when more detailed explanations of technical issues are required. This can happen if there’s a need to adjust a design due to constraints in production or printing capabilities, for example. Good communication skills can help them explain technical terms and conditions to non-technical stakeholders.

Do production artists need to have a good understanding of print processes?

Yes, understanding print processes is vital. They are often responsible for ensuring that designs can be correctly executed in print. This includes understanding color reproduction, print formatting, types of paper or other materials used in printing, and knowledge of different printing techniques. They make sure the designs are print-ready, which means having the correct color mode, resolution, and file format.

Is it common for a production artist to specialize in a particular industry or type of work?

While it’s common to work across different types of projects and industries, some may indeed specialize. For instance, one might focus on digital graphics for websites and social media, while another might excel in print production for books and magazines. Specialization allows them to develop deep expertise in specific areas, but it’s not always necessary. Sometimes, having a broad range of skills and experiences can be more advantageous, especially in smaller companies or agencies where they may need to wear many hats.

What difference does a portfolio make in the hiring process for a production artist position?

A portfolio can make a significant difference. Even though their focus isn’t necessarily on original creative designs, a portfolio showcasing the ability to execute high-quality, polished work can impress potential employers. Examples of past projects can demonstrate their understanding of various print and digital formats, color management, typography, and other elements of the role. A well-presented portfolio can often give candidates an edge in the hiring process.

What kind of education is usually required to become a production artist?

Many hold a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, visual communications, or a related field. These programs typically cover fundamentals like typography, color theory, graphic design software, and printing techniques. However, getting into the field doesn’t necessarily require a degree, especially with the wide availability of technical training courses and software tutorials online. What matters most is a comprehensive understanding of design fundamentals and software, the ability to deliver high-quality work, and a professional portfolio to show this off.

How does the role of a production artist differ from that of a graphic designer?

While both positions work in the design process, their focus is different. Graphic designers are often responsible for creative concept development. They generate original ideas, layouts, and illustrations, using their artistic skills to communicate the desired message. On the other hand, a production artist is more involved in the technical side of producing the final designs. After the graphic designer has created an initial design, the production artist prepares it for final output, either print or digital. They ensure everything is aligned properly, the colors are correct, and the design is overall ready for production.