101 Projects for Artists and Illustrators

101 Projects for Artists and Illustrators

Don’t know what to do with your extra time? There are plenty of odd jobs and tasks that an illustrator can do in between assignments. If you’re looking for some inspiration, here’s a long list of projects, ideas, and necessary chores to help make your free time more productive.

    Tell a Story

    Many images are used to help a narrative, and as an illustrator it is important to keep developing this skill in your off-time.

  1. Make a book cover for your favorite classic novel.
  2. Create a series of illustrations that show the passage of time.
  3. Illustrate a song.
  4. Make a narrative advertisement for a soft drink.
  5. Illustrate your favorite childhood memory.
  6. Make a children’s book spread for a fairy tale.
  7. Illustrate the four seasons.
  8. Why did the chicken cross the road?
  9. Make a series of black and white “chapter” drawings for a novel.
  10. Retell a short story in graphic form.
  11. Create a theater poster for a Shakespearean play.
  12. Create a series of illustrations that shows a person aging.
  13. Make an instructional poster for a favorite recipe.
  14. Illustrate a day in the life of a cat, dog, fish, or monkey.
  15. Make a picture book dummy.
  16. Illustrate the seven days of the Creation.
  17. Interesting stories to consider: The Odyssey, the Bible, Aesop’s Fables, Edgar Allan Poe, Shakespeare, nursery rhymes
  18. Make a magazine cover for a current news story.
  19. Illustrate a famous historical event from: 20 years ago, 100 years ago, 1000 years ago, Prehistoric times
  20. Illustrate family life in the future, at least 100 years from now.
  21. Academic Exercises

    Time to get back into the classroom! Refresh your skills every now and then so you don’t lose sight of the basics.

  22. Make an illustration influenced by your favorite illustrator.
  23. Paint a landscape with only three colors.
  24. Create a painting in a medium you’ve never used before.
  25. Study and draw figures from each source: Bridgman, Vanderpoel, Hogarth, and the masters
  26. Make an abstract painting.
  27. Paint a self-portrait.
  28. Create a full painting in 30 minutes.
  29. Draw a figure in: 1 hour, half hour, 10 minutes, 5 minutes, 1 minute, 30 seconds.
  30. Fill a page of your sketchbook.
  31. Create two versions of the same painting — one with warm colors, one with cool colors.
  32. Sketch in a public place.
  33. Paint a traditional still life.
  34. Paint the same still life in your illustrative style.
  35. Read a book.
  36. Watch a movie.
  37. Read other artists’ thoughts.
  38. Watch how other artists work.
  39. Take a class, if there are any available in your area.
  40. Research a particular era, artist, or style and create a few paintings influenced by it.
  41. Take a trip to a zoo or aquarium to sketch animals from life.
  42. Practical Projects

    Don’t let the promotion and organization of your business get pushed aside.

  43. Create a series of spots to use on your website.
  44. Make an illustration for a postcard.
  45. Design a new logo for yourself.
  46. If it’s near the holidays, create a Christmas card to send out.
  47. Create a Thank You card to send to clients.
  48. Draw a self-portrait in your illustrative style to use on your promotional materials.
  49. Create a business card.
  50. Make a small sampler, such as a booklet, that contains your artwork that you can use to give to prospective clients.
  51. Create a piece of artwork to enter into a competition.
  52. Take a moment to archive your traditional paintings through scanning, digital photography, or slides.
  53. Backup your digital files to a disk, hard drive, or server.
  54. Create sample sheets of your artwork that art directors can file easily.
  55. Update your website with new artwork.
  56. Work on creating samples for styles, markets, and subject matter that you are lacking in.
  57. Create stationery for your business.
  58. Make computer desktops or e-cards to distribute on your website.
  59. If you are a children’s illustrator, create some coloring pages for your younger fans.
  60. Create a fresh, new illustration to be used in a sourcebook or other advertisement.
  61. Clean your work area.
  62. Catch up with your paperwork.
  63. Creative Exercises

    One of the hardest tasks that illustrators have is to stay fresh and original. Use your free time to keep the creative juices flowing.

  64. Design a character for a book/movie/tv show.
  65. Draw a caricature of your favorite movie star.
  66. Illustrate a fortune from a fortune cookie.
  67. Create an illustration that integrates your name.
  68. Make an album cover for your favorite band.
  69. Create a modern movie poster for your favorite classic movie.
  70. Create a classic movie poster for your favorite modern movie.
  71. Design a creature that is a combination of at least two different animals.
  72. Design a car from 100 years in the future.
  73. Paint a landscape painting of an imagined land.
  74. Draw a treehouse. Include as much detail as you can.
  75. Draw 50 thumbnail sketches of the same object.
  76. Make an illustration for each month of the year.
  77. Design a deck of cards.
  78. Make up your own fairy tale land and characters.
  79. Research and draw characters/objects/settings from: the Mob, the Middle Ages, the Samurai, a Pirate ship.
  80. Draw a monster a day for a month.
  81. Illustrate a song from the Sixties.
  82. Create illustrations of current events and topics such as global warming, airport security, new technology, or education.
  83. Illustrate a stereotype.
  84. Online Communities

    These are resources I have found across the internet that will help you grow as an illustrator.

  85. Participate in Illustration Friday.
  86. Create a Moji.
  87. Start a blog.
  88. Help other artists who ask for critiques of their work.
  89. Join an artists’ forum and participate in discussions.
  90. Find and study online tutorials.
  91. Look at other artists’ work through portfolio sites and blogs.
  92. Subscribe to Drawn!
  93. Subscribe to Lines and Colors.
  94. Listen to what other artists have to say through podcasts.
  95. See what other artists’ like on de.li.cio.us and StumbleUpon.
  96. Contribute to the ThreeThumbsUp Gallery.
  97. Read EmptyEasel.com.
  98. Check out AmateurIllustrator.com.
  99. Join a community like the Little Chimp Society or Illustration Mundo.
  100. See the point of view of an art director.
  101. Stay up to date with your industry: SI, SCBWI, GAG, IPA
  102. Find illustration competitions.
  103. Online portfolio sites: Portfolios.com, iSpot, Illoz.com, childrensillustrators.com
  104. Read book reviews: the Sandbox, Fuse #8
  105. And Last But Not Least…

  106. Subscribe to DaniDraws.com for illustration tutorials, videos, and more great articles like this one. ;)

Have any ideas for illustration projects? What tasks do you get done first when you have spare time? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment on DaniDraws.com.

44 thoughts on “101 Projects for Artists and Illustrators

  1. Matt

    Many thanks to you for posting this list. It seems like just the sort of boost that I need often. You’re doing the rest of us a service, and just wanted to let you know that it’s appreciated. Keep up the good work!

  2. otomo

    thank you very much. i will humbly and in deepest gratitude for this great list serve you the rest of my life. :-)

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  4. John Boissy

    It’s funny you should have this list on your blog, I’ve been struggling with a creative block the size of the Titanic for a few years. Last week, I figured out what my problem was… I don’t want to entertain people any more. I used to enjoy doing ‘toons and designs that made people smile, now I don’t care. In fact, I don’t even draw to entertain myself. I used to go thru 4-6 sketch pads a year, now I’m lucky if I fill two.

    Any suggestions? This realization shook me up quite a bit. :-(

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  11. skip wiley

    Very impressive list you’ve put together, Dani! Great job.

    One thing I’ve learned my humble explorations is that it isn’t the programs, hardware, or skills you possess that make you great… it is the hard work. There is simply no substitue for it. I’m calling myself out on it more and more when I think learning “one more tutorial” will make me who I want to be, but it isn’t about that… its about busting your hump and implementing the things you learn! I believe you said this in your “10 commandments” post.

    We can gather seeds all day long, but unless we plant and foster the saplings, no great tree will ever take root. Thanks for the motivation.

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  16. Heather

    We are heading up 4 traveling journals and were looking for “ideas and inspiration” in case any of the artists got stuck. Thanks for posting this list for our artists to draw from :)
    We will also be letting the participants know about your blog in case they are looking for another artist’s point of view :).

  17. Urbanmonk

    Hey there Dani.

    Just found your site. So much good stuff it will take me ages to get to it all. Ill be back:)

    you must get this thousands of times but if you have a moment, I would appreciate some feedback on my drawings, Urbanscratchings dot blogspot dot com. Ive been painting and drawing for years, but im looking at how I can get some of my stuff published.

    Really appreciate any feed back you can give me.


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  19. RAZ

    Hi Dani,
    this is a great source ,
    in my spare time i’m usually draws or sketch a different race of people around the world, it’s also fun to do :)

    your blog is good to link


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  22. Kerio

    Thank you so much for posting this! Very creative and interesting ideas.

    I’m not sure how much of a dent I can make in the list, but I’ll try!

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  24. Jason

    This is an outstanding page, so simple, yet it has so much to offer, especially for beginners like me that are stuck in a rut and drawing the same type of stuff over and over. The online communities are good resources too, and linking to them is like having another 1000 things in this list. Thanks!

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  26. Danielle

    I was stuck for inspiration and ideas to help me start my portfolio to apply for uni and I am so happy I came across your page! Its clear, straight to the point and such a huge help I just thought I would say a huge thanks you have definately helped fill me up with such great creative and innovative ideas :)

  27. Jackie

    Thank you so much for the very great and innovative ideas you have shared. I was at a loss to know where to start for a new and creative portfolio

  28. Kjsart

    This is a really great list. I`ve been trying to think of some illustration ideas for a while now. This has totally taken away the creative block I was experiencing. Thank you so much for these.


  29. Ms. Veronica

    I want to share gratitude like all of the commentators…I’m an Art teacher for a Pk-8 school and I’ve exhausted recycling some of my own ideas…it was a life-saver to run into some of your new ideas…Thank you so much! I’m even more excited to share these with my 8th graders who I’m helping with their portfolios to get into highschool. You’ve been a big help!

  30. syd

    thanks for this cool list. some times its a little difficult to think for things to draw…this will help loads

  31. jen

    thank you! i’m a beginning illustrator (new direction) & (more experienced) art teacher, am creating a new illustration unit for my 7th graders, you have given me so many ideas, got my brain unlocked both for them & me.

  32. Mela

    Big thanks for these great ideas! Can I share this post in my blog? Proper credits will be linked and provided. Thanks! :)

  33. Owain Bugler

    Thank you for the time and effort that you put into your website and for the 101 inspirational ideas you have published here. I am just starting out on the adventure of making illustration my career and these first few steps are more than daunting. Your website is a fantastically helpful support with techniques and ideas and a behaviour model of good professional practice. Thanks again!

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