Production artists are the unsung heroes of the creative world. They’re responsible for preparing and completing artwork for print or digital media, including packaging, brochures, advertising and other marketing materials. And they work behind the scenes to help ensure the work that goes out the door is error-free and ready for print or digital display.

While the earliest production artists performed paste-up duties for the advertising industry, the role has evolved as the creative sector has become more digitized. Today’s production artists must be well-versed in various software programs and tools to create high-quality visual designs, illustrations and animations.

Add in a strong understanding of color theory, composition and layout principles, plus the communication skills needed to work well with clients and colleagues, and it’s easy to understand why production artists are indispensable — and in-demand — members of any creative team.

Here’s an overview of the production artist job description.

Production artist duties and expectations

While an art director comes up with creative concepts and a graphic designer executes them, the production artist brings them to life. That’s why strong typographic and layout skills; strict attention to detail; and outstanding organizational, project management, file-organization and archiving skills are a must.

The production artist job description often includes the ability to:

  • Collaborate closely with art directors, designers and developers
  • Prepare final, press-ready files based on supplied specifications for several types of printing
  • Make various formats of supplied artwork production-ready and resolve any artwork issues that arise during production
  • Provide image retouching, clipping paths and additional image manipulation
  • Package and prepare files for release to printers or media partners
  • Create PDFs for print and client review
  • Conduct press checks
  • Prepare images for online and mobile applications
  • Maintain production files, including fonts, images, logos and other artwork
  • Follow a development timeline to ensure tasks are being completed on time
  • Troubleshoot problems as they arise with both the creative team and the printer
  • Stay up to date with current graphic design trends, techniques and software

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Professional experience and skills

A bachelor’s degree in design or other related studies is preferred for the production artist position. Significant course work in graphic design, print production, visual arts or a related field, along with an outstanding portfolio and experience demonstrating clear knowledge of print production and design, may suffice in the absence of a degree.

A production artist must have a solid knowledge of printing processes and be adept with software applications such as FlightCheck, Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office—so you’ll likely see these requirements in a production artist job description.

These pros also need to be comfortable using 3D and animation software such as Autodesk 3ds Max, Maya and After Effects. Experience with digital content such as websites, social media, online advertising and email campaigns is also becoming increasingly important for this role, along with basic knowledge of HTML5 and web development software.

A production artist should have strong analytical skills, excellent verbal and written communication skills, and the ability to handle multiple projects in a fast-paced environment. They also should be process-oriented self-starters. Additionally, they must stay up to date with new production techniques and trends through research and education.

Production artist salary benchmarks

What salary could you earn as a production artist this year? Robert Half’s latest Salary Guide can help you determine that. You can use the guide to find median starting salaries for production artists and location-specific salary ranges as well. It also includes exclusive survey data and real-world insights on creative sector trends.