Production Artist Job Description
Production artists balance technical and creative skills, working with prepress projects to ensure that images, text, and multimedia elements work together and meet client expectations. This role exists in a number of industries ranging from motion pictures to advertising and marketing, but in any of these industries the production artist tends to be the last person on the creative team to see and check projects before production.
In this role, production artists work with many members of a creative team, including writers, illustrators, and programmers, and often serve as project managers. However, they complete a great deal of their work independently, making changes and packaging files for each project.
Production Artist Duties and Responsibilities
While production artists can work in a variety of settings and with different media types, most share several core responsibilities:
Review Project Layouts
One of the central duties of a production artist is reviewing and adjusting project layouts prior to production. This aspect of the role can include a multitude of different responsibilities, from ensuring that page proofs have the correct bleed and checking files for compatibility across devices to proofreading to spot errors in page text.
Adjust Images for Production
Production artists specialize in preparing images for production, adjusting color balance, size, and resolution to ensure that images are of the highest possible quality and that there are no errors in colors or gradients. They may also spot adjust images to correct particular elements or defects using image editing software.
Prepare Prepress Files
Before a project is sent to print (or to the web), the production artist packages the necessary files and ensures that they are accessible and ready to use. Depending on the type of media in which the production artist works, this can include compressing video and audio files to ensure that they are ready for presentation to the end user.
Manage Client Deadlines and Expectations
Many production artists interact directly with clients to ensure that the project meets their requirements and expectations, and serve as liaisons between clients and creative teams. In addition, the production artist may serve as a project manager, gathering information from clients and ensuring that work is completed according to their deadline and budget.
Collaborate with Creative Teams
Production artists tend to work with creative teams that include artists, designers, and writers. Often, a production artist will need to send project elements back to individuals within this team to make adjustments, such as replacing text or images. If the production artist is working on a web application or site, they may need to collaborate with programmers to address functionality issues.
Maintain Image and File Libraries
Finally, production artists ensure that image and media files are available for later projects by maintaining file libraries and databases. A creative team may frequently need vector files of a client’s logo, for example, to use in a variety of projects, so the production artists creates and maintains libraries that contain collateral used across projects and teams.
Production Artist Skills and Qualifications
Production artists work with digital files late in the production process and serve as the final checkpoint for projects. Most workers in this role have a bachelor’s degree in a related field and the following skills:
- Graphic design – production artists play a central role in graphic design for digital, print, and multimedia projects, so familiarity with principles and best practices of visual design is essential
- Proofreading – most production artists also need to examine a project’s typography to ensure that text elements are balanced and free of errors, so they need a strong grasp of typography and editing
- Image editing – production artists frequently need to resize and adjust images before projects are ready to go, so some experience with image editing is vital in this role
- Attention to detail – because production artists tend to be the last members of the team to look at a project before it is completed, they need a high level of attention to detail
- Communication skills – production artists tend to work with teams of editors, writers, and graphic designers as well as clients, so effective verbal and written communication is key
Tools of the Trade
Production artists tend to work in office settings, so they should be comfortable using standard office equipment and software in addition to the following:
- Graphic design software (Adobe Creative Suite)
Production Artist Education and Training
Generally, production artists need at least a bachelor’s degree in a graphic design-related field. Most companies focus on applicant portfolios during the hiring process for this position, so experience with graphic design and layout is essential. There are some opportunities for on-the-job training in this role, since each project has its own set of requirements and challenges, but a background that combines technical skill and graphic design or art is usually sufficient preparation for production artists.
Production Artist Salary and Outlook
Both Glassdoor and PayScale have gathered salary data related to production artists. Glassdoor estimates that production artists earn an average annual salary of $46,242 based on 1,520 reported salaries, while PayScale estimates that workers in this role earn a median salary of $50,368 based on 291 reported salaries.
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide employment outlook information specifically for production artists, its data indicates that employment of graphic designers will grow at a slower-than-average pace of 4 percent through 2026.
We searched the web and found several resources if you’d like to learn more about starting a career as a production artist:
American Institute of Graphic Arts – the AIGA is a professional organization for artists and graphic designers offering access to events and conferences, professional development resources, and career guidance
Graphic Design School: A Foundation Course for Graphic Designers Working in Print, Moving Image and Digital Media – David Dabner’s comprehensive guidebook provides advice and technical information for production artists working in any media
“How to Sell Yourself as a Production Artist” – read this blog post to learn about gaining technical and creative experience while building an effective portfolio to start a career as a production artist
Digital Design Theory: Readings from the Field – in this book, working production artists and graphic designers explore the impact of computers and software on print and digital design
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