Photo credit: Soh

Jobs 101: Illustrator

She turned her love for drawing into her day job.

Stephanie Soh

Published: 13 July 2017, 12:56 PM

Illustrator Tan Hui Tian is one of the lucky ones who are able to do what they love for a living.


Youth.SG had the pleasure of visiting soft spoken illustrator’s studio, Collateral Damage Studios, for a peek into her life.
Who: Tan Hui Tian, 26
What: Illustrator
Studied: Diploma in visual communication (now known as communication design) at Temasek Polytechnic


Tell us more about yourself!


I’m quite an introvert (laughs).


When I am not illustrating, I like to game. I’m currently obsessed with Heroes of the Storm. I also enjoy reading and tend to immerse myself in non-fiction and novels.


At the moment, I am revisiting anatomical studies to ensure that my foundational skills are up to par.
A fascinating bento box digitally illustrated by Hui Tian. Photo Credit: Collateral Damage Studios
How and why did you become an illustrator?


I have always loved drawing as a child, and that passion followed me to my teens. After graduating from secondary school, I enrolled in visual communication for advertising, as I did not think there would be a job in illustration.


In school, I was an illustration major. I particularly enjoyed learning typography, the history of graphic design and how design permeates every aspect of our lives.


When I was scouted as a game artist after my graduation show, I jumped at the chance. As an illustration major, the draw of creating visuals pulled me in. As that required me to do research, having studied the history of graphic design was helpful.


While I enjoyed my work as a game artist, I decided to join Collateral Damage Studios as an illustrator, as I always had an interest in anime and games.


Describe a typical day at work.


I begin each day by looking through my clients’ feedback and editing them accordingly. For each project, our client gives us a brief on the characters or setting that they want.


Some clients have specific visions, so they provide detailed briefs. Others provide general ones, allowing us greater creative freedom.
Hui Tian working on a client’s piece. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/STEPHANIE SOH
We provide various interpretations based on their briefs which they feedback on. I work in the edits before sending them back.


Once our client is satisfied, I colour in the sketch and put on the finishing touches.
In April 2017, Hui Tian held a solo show at Artblovk Gallery. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/STEPHANIE SOH
Do you have a personal favourite project?


I enjoy working on board games, as I find the process of creating an interactive product interesting.


I was the art director for Aether Captains by MAGE Company, so we had more creative freedom to incorporate our ideas into the game.


How has the industry changed over the years?


Since I entered the industry six years ago, social media has made it easier for artists to get noticed. Building a strong social media presence allows you to gain a foothold in the industry.


Instead of physically showing your portfolio to art directors, it can be viewed on online platforms like Facebook. I post personal art pieces on my Facebook profile that is listed as an artist in Singapore. I also link my DeviantArt account to it.


As a result, I often receive offers to create commissioned art pieces. This helps in boost my portfolio and presence in the industry.
One of Hui Tian’s pieces that was featured at her solo show at Artblovk Gallery. Photo Credit: Collateral Damage Studios
What advice would you give to youths considering a career as an illustrator?


Since there are many specialisations, like visual effects and 3D art, you should specialise in what you enjoy doing. For myself, I tend to steer clear of 3D art as I have motion sickness (laughs). I personally find that the process can be rather slow as well.

But if you are unsure of what specialisation or illustration style you enjoy, you can consider joining a company that already has a house style.


Finding a mentor is helpful as well. They can give you constructive criticism and insight on what the job entails.

Educational requirements: Qualifications are not as important as possessing a strong portfolio and foundation in drawing.

Qualities needed: A drive to improve and an ability to accept criticism.

Salary range: The basic salary starts from $2,000. If you freelance as well, you could earn more.

Working hours: Hours are flexible but we roughly spend nine hours in the studio. It depends on your work pace and the number of projects you have.

Career prospects: You can choose to freelance or work at larger design studios as an art director or manager.

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