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The Best Illustration Competitions and Awards for 2018/2019

These top illustration awards offer a shot at big prize money and acclaim. Here are our favorite drawing contests and illustration competitions for 2018/2019.

This article has been updated with all the latest illustration contest information for 2018/2019. Check the contest websites for the most up-to-date submission deadlines!

No matter what illustration field you work in—whether it’s science diagrams, fiction book covers, or cartoons—there’s an illustration competition for you. And we’ve rounded up the best ones in the world for you to choose from!

More great news: many of these illustration awards are free to enter, so whether you’re an emerging or established illustrator, you have nothing to lose by submitting your work.

If you’re new to the illustration game and worried about your chances of winning while going up against more experienced artists, don’t worry: many illustration awards offer separate categories for new and experienced illustrators. (Looking for more illustration student awards? Head over to our guide to the best illustration, design, and photography contests for students.)

Here are the best drawing contests, illustration competitions, illustration awards, drawing competitions, illustration contests, and illustration prizes for 2018/2019—which one will you enter?

Before You Get Started…

Before you start applying for any drawing contests or illustration awards, it’s important to have a wicked online illustration portfolio to show off to the judging panel and any online voters. (Haven’t updated it in a while? Check out our guide on how to curate images for your portfolio.)

Don’t have one yet? No worries! Find a website builder that offers a free trial so you can get going in a flash. Pick one that offers cool themes and flexible layouts.

If you’re in need of a little inspiration from your fellow illustrators, take a look at these 20 incredible illustration portfolio examples!

Now that you’ve got your portfolio sorted, let’s check out the year’s most exciting illustration competitions.

Illustration Competitions

2018 Winner, Shih-Hsien Hsu

World Illustration Awards

Prize: Cash prizes of up to £2,000, plus your work is exhibited on a 12-month national tour, featured on the Association of Illustrator’s (AOI) website, and highlighted in AOI’s archive.

Entry Fee: $33 for a single entry, $60 for multiple image entry.

Eligibility Requirements: This drawing contest is open to illustrators in any country working in any medium or context, allowing entrants to apply in either the new talent or professional categories. (New talent entrants are classified as undergraduate students, post-graduate students, or graduates who graduated less than two years ago. Professional entrants are all other professional illustrators.)

What You Need To Know:

This will be the 43rd year of the World Illustration Awards, one of the most comprehensive and significant awards for illustration in the world. The awards welcome all skill levels and can be entered by the work’s creator or by any third-party agent, designer, college, or publisher.

The exposure offered by the World Illustration Awards for both established and emerging illustrators is hard to come by. Plus, many art commissioners and industry peers browse shortlisted applicants and contact them directly; award winners have their work circulated to all major illustration commissioners. To see some illustrations by past champions, check out this round-up of World Illustration Awards winners.

Society of Illustrators Annual Competition

Prize: Medals and certificates, and your work gets published in a full-color catalog and displayed in an exhibition.

Entry Fee: $35 per single image, $75 for a series up to five images. (Members pay $20 for a single image and $50 for up to five images.)

Eligibility Requirements: Open to artists worldwide.

What You Need To Know:

This illustration competition is known as the premier showcase for illustrators. The selected entries are reproduced in full color in the Society of Illustrators’ annual catalog. The work also gets shown at an exhibition at the Society of Illustrators’ gallery in New York City.

Work can be entered in several categories such as editorial, book, advertising, institutional, and uncommissioned.

International Award On Scientific Illustration

Prize: €600.

Entry Fee: None.

Eligibility Requirements: The only requirements for this drawing competition are that the subject must be science- or nature-related, and has to have been created between January 2018 and June 2019. Each participant is only allowed to submit a single work.

What You Need To Know:

The International Award on Scientific Illustration is organized by The National Museum of Natural Sciences and the Catalan Association of Scientific Communication. Its goal is to highlight the importance of scientific illustration and promote it in all its forms.

There are two categories: science and nature, and the contest is open to all people aged 18 and over worldwide. If you’re looking for more information on getting into the world of scientific illustration, take a peek at our guide on how to become a medical illustrator.

World Gallery Of Cartoons

Prize: $1000.

Entry Fee: None.

Eligibility Requirements: Entries must be original hand-drawn works.

What You Need To Know:

The World Gallery of Cartoons, established back in 1969, celebrates the power and diversity of the cartoon medium. It is the only event of its kind from Macedonia, and one of the longest-running cartoon and satirical drawing celebrations in the world. The illustration contest offers three categories: cartoons, satirical drawings, and comics/strips.

This drawing competition is open to all levels of cartoonists, so whether you’re professional, semi-professional, or amateur, the World Gallery of Cartoons levels the playing field to let your work shine beside illustrators whose work you may look up to.

The 3x3 International Illustration Show

Prize: $1,500.

Entry Fee: $15 for the student category, $35 for the professional categories.

Eligibility Requirements: The competition is open to all illustrators at all levels in all countries.

What You Need To Know:

The annual publication created from the 3x3 International Illustration Awards’ winning work is one of the few illustration annuals distributed worldwide. All winners are invited to take part in the Illustration directory, which is sent to 6,000 art directors and art buyers in the U.S. Winners are also promoted online and in the media.

2018 Finalist, Su Bonfanti

Derwent Art Prize

Prize: Ranging up to £6,000.

Entry Fee: £15 for the first work, £5 for additional works.

Eligibility Requirements: The illustration prize is open to all artists worldwide. All works entered must be created in pencil. This includes water-soluble, pastel, graphite, charcoal, or coloring pencils.

What You Need To Know:

After launching five years ago, the Derwent Art Prize is one drawing competition that has flourished, turning into a biannual event that has attracted over 7,000 entries from 67 countries worldwide.

Its goal is to reward excellence by showcasing the very best works created in pencil. Previous prize winners have had their entries shown in exhibitions at the Mall Galleries in London and on tour across the United Kingdom.

Cheltenham Illustration Award

Prize: Exhibition in Cheltenham and having your work published in the 2016 Cheltenham Illustrations Awards Annual.

Entry Fee: None.

Eligibility Requirements: Open to all illustrators.

What You Need To Know:

The Cheltenham Illustration Awards are produced by the University of Gloucestershire and consist of two sections, student, and emerging and established.

The student category is open to all full-time students worldwide who are 18 years of age. The emerging and established category is open to both new and experienced illustrators who are looking to gain exposure of their work.

This drawing contest is considered to be one of the top three international shows for illustration, and welcomes contestants from around the world. The most exciting part is that the international panel of judges featured at the awards are some of the top design directors, art directors, graphic designers, editors, and illustrators working today, meaning your work goes in front of a powerful roster of industry insiders.

2018 Winner, Max Loeffler

The Book Illustration Competition

Prize: First prize of £5,000 and £500 each for five finalists.

Entry Fee: £25, or £15 for students.

Eligibility Requirements: Open to illustrators worldwide who haven’t been previously published by The Folio Society.

What You Need To Know:

This drawing competition asks entrants to illustrate a book chosen by The Folio Society. It involves submitting three illustrations, each for a different chapter of the book, as well as a binding design. The judges look for unique interpretations of the book.

The £5,000 prize is actually a commission to complete nine illustrations for the book and have your work published!

2016 Winner, Weronika Przybylska

Clairvoyants International Illustration Competition

Prize: €2,500, and have your book published.

Entry Fee: None.

Eligibility Requirements: Open to new and experienced artists worldwide, whether working alone or as part of a team.

What You Need To Know:

This illustration contest is organized by the Dwie Siostry Publishing House and aims to nurture the creative potential of young artists and authors. Entrants have to create a draft of an illustrated children’s book in English or Polish. The book draft should include a script or storyboard for the whole book, as well as three finished double-page spreads and the cover.

Entries are judged based on originality, artistic quality, and content.

2018 Winner, Anastasia Suvorova

Illustrated Silent Book Contest

Prize: A €4,500 advance as part of a publishing agreement.

Entry Fee: €50 per project submitted (up to a maximum of three).

Eligibility Requirements: Open to all illustrators with a new book.

What You Need To Know:

This illustration contest is dedicated to silent books, i.e. illustrated books without words. It aims to highlight the idea that illustrations and pictures are not secondary to written language, as they have a universal power that overcomes any barrier of language or genre.

Entrants are challenged to come up with a silent book on any subject that’s intended for a wide audience. Submissions should include a complete layout for the book.

The contest winner will receive the €4,500 award as an advance on royalties for a publishing agreement.

Animate Europe International Comics Competition

Prize: Four finalists receive grants of €800, and the winner gets an additional €500 prize.

Entry Fee: None.

Eligibility Requirements: Open to illustrators worldwide.

What You Need To Know:

This comic drawing competition was started in 2013 by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. Every year, it challenges illustrators to create comics that tell stories with a focus on the European Union. For instance, one previous year’s focus was stories on the future of the European Union.

The submissions can be graphic short stories with or without words. Artists are free to submit works in black and white or color, and either fiction or non-fiction.

iJungle Illustration Awards

Prize: Work is published in the iJungle Illustration Annual.

Entry Fee: $20 for single image entry, $30 for two entries, $40 for multiple image entry.

Eligibility Requirements: Open to illustrators worldwide.

What You Need To Know:

This international drawing competition was created to celebrate the art of illustration. It calls for submissions in seven categories: book, editorial, comics, commercial, new talent, self-promotion, and video game art.

All winning entrants have their work published in iJungle Illustration Annual, a book that’s made available for free online. It reaches thousands of illustrators, representatives, gallerists, curators, and art directors around the world. Also, the gold medalists from each category are interviewed for an online magazine about their work, and receive extensive promotion on social media.

2018 Winner, Zharia D. Shinn

CA Illustration Competition

Prize: Winning entrants have their work published in the Communication Arts Illustration Annual issue and are given a personalized award.

Entry Fee: $40 for a single entry, $80 for multiple entries, $20 for students.

Eligibility Requirements: Open to illustrators worldwide. The work submitted must have been produced within the past year.

What You Need To Know:

This illustration competition is organized by Communication Arts magazine, a publication that is well-respected in the advertising, design, illustration, photography, typography, and web design communities. Winners have their work published in the magazine’s special annual issue, including both the print and digital editions, as well as on the commarts.com website. In addition, winners receive an attractive personalized award that’s milled from solid aluminum.

You can submit illustrations in a range of categories including advertising, books, editorial, institutional, self-promotion, unpublished, and student work.

V&A Illustration Awards

Prize: £5,000 grand prize, £3,000 for “best in category” winners.

Entry Fee: None.

Eligibility Requirements: Open to illustrators who reside in the UK or have published work in the UK. The student category is open to anyone who has studied in the UK in the past year.

What You Need To Know:

This illustration competition has been running since 1972; past winners include well-known illustrators like Ralph Steadman, Posy Simmonds, and Sara Fanelli. It is held by the V&A museum in London, the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design.

The contest has three categories for published works: book cover, book illustration, and editorial illustration. There is also a student illustrator category where you can enter your unpublished work. Finalists have their work displayed at the museum.

Art Competitions Open to Illustrators

2017 Winner, ​Claudine O'Sullivan

Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize

Prize: £3,000 cash prize, a £500 voucher for art supplies, and a solo exhibition in an art gallery.

Entry Fee: £20 for first entry, then £10 per additional entry up to a maximum of five.

Eligibility Requirements: Open to everyone. No restrictions based on age, training, or location.

What You Need To Know:

The Emerging Artist Prize was created five years ago by international law firm Ashurst and art consulting firm Oaktree & Tiger. Their goal in creating the contest is to find, build, and support the careers of talented emerging artists around the world.

Submissions are judged based on whether they show significant potential, interesting ideas, a relevant message, and skillful execution. The prize is open to all art genres, styles, and media. Artists can submit work including drawings, paintings, original prints, photography, and digitally produced artworks.

Infected By Art Competition

Prize: Ranging from $125 for fifth place to $1,000 for first place.

Entry Fee: $10 per entry.

Eligibility Requirements: Open to artists worldwide.

What You Need To Know:

This illustration contest asks entrants to submit artworks to help illustrate an upcoming book. The contest focuses on the creation of a new book every year, but they always fall into the fantasy/sci-fi/horror genre.

Entries in all mediums are accepted including drawing, painting, and digital. However, sometimes there are specifications given about which mediums are preferred for the current book. For example, the 2018 competition focused on a fantasy/horror book presented in a sketchbook style, so artists were encouraged to choose media that matched that style, such as ink, graphite, acrylic, and watercolor.

2017 Winner, ​Matthew Polluk

Wildlife Artist of the Year

Prize: £10,000 first prize, £1,000 second prize, seven £500 prizes for best in category winners.

Entry Fee: £25 per entry.

Eligibility Requirements: Open to amateur and professional artists over the age of 17.

What You Need To Know:

This annual art competition calls for art that focuses on wildlife. It was started in 2008 by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, a conservation charity that works in Africa and Asia to save endangered wildlife.

There are seven categories for submissions: animal behavior, urban wildlife, human impact, Earth’s wild beauty (featuring wild landscapes), into the blue (focuses on water and marine life), wings (focuses on winged wildlife from birds to insects), and vanishing fast (focuses on species listed as endangered or threatened).

Finalists have their work shown at an exhibition that’s held in a London gallery and open to the general public.

International Compostela Prize For Picture Books

Prize: €9000, plus the prize-winning work will be published in multiple languages by the publisher Kalandraka.

Entry Fee: None.

Eligibility Requirements: The International Compostela Prize for Picture Books is open to all publications in the picture book category. Books can be published in any of the official languages of the Iberian Peninsula, but they must be original and unpublished works. The award is open to everyone worldwide.

What You Need To Know:

Winners have their work published in multiple languages and see their books made available for purchase around the world. Normally, publishing a picture book could take years to go from manuscript to official printed copy. Yet with the International Compostela Prize for Picture Books, winners see the process accelerated to being less than a year long! Now that’s a great illustration prize!

2017 Winner, ​Jesi Lee

Bucktown Arts Fest Annual Poster Contest

Prize: $200, or complimentary admission to next year’s festival. Winners also have their poster displayed on all fest materials (posters, t-shirts, postcards, program, collateral, press releases, and signage).

Entry Fee: None

Eligibility Requirements: The contest is open to everyone worldwide.

What You Need To Know:

The Bucktown Arts Fest is a great festival to be associated with: it’s a fun, non-profit, volunteer-run, neighborhood party meant to celebrate the arts. All proceeds raised from the event help fund, develop, and support arts education programming in Chicago’s Holstein Park and in the Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhoods.

This poster drawing contest affords anyone the opportunity to design a poster for a large arts festival. If you’re a young illustrator just starting out, this competition is for you. Not only is designing a poster for the festival a fantastic piece of experience to put on your resume, but young illustrators can also take advantage of the fact that bigger names likely aren’t going to be entering, freeing up loads of space for new talent to be seen.

Illustration Competitions for Students

2017 Winner, ​Elina Ellis

The Macmillan Prize

Prize: £250 to £1,000.

Entry Fee: None.

Eligibility Requirements: The illustration competition is open to all students in higher education establishments in the United Kingdom during the academic year 2018/2019.

What You Need To Know:

Now in its 34th year, the Macmillan Prize is a drawing contest that was established by Macmillan Children’s Books to inspire new work from young illustrators in art schools, and to help them take the first steps in their professional lives.

The judges are ultimately looking for original, high-quality illustrations, suitable for children’s books.

YCN Student Awards

Prize: Being honored at YCN’s Annual Awards Ceremony, and in the pages of the YCN Student Awards Annual. Winners also get a shot at internships, mentoring, and other professional development opportunities.

Entry Fee: None

Eligibility Requirements: Open to students and recent graduates in Europe and North America.

What You Need To Know:

The YCN Student Awards is one of the most respected student awards out there. The awards focus on a collection of live creative briefs that are given to applicants.

The competition’s theme centers around the idea that creativity is an invaluable tool in solving commercial, social, and organizational challenges. For the awards, applicants are asked to work to solve these challenges through the medium of illustration as well as film, animation, digital innovation, and graphic design.

Because of this, young illustrators often find themselves pushed creatively, and challenged to broaden the scope of their work in order to come up with new ideas for the drawing competition. Plus, there’s a ton of exposure that comes with participating in the YCN Student awards, and the judging panel is made up of some of the world’s top illustrators.

Don’t Forget to Update Your Online Portfolio With Any Wins

Now that you’re all caught up on the best illustration competitions out there, it’s time to start applying away! If you win a competition (or are even named a finalist), make sure to update your online portfolio with that info. It’s a real feather in your cap that shows people you’re a skilled illustrator, and it makes a great addition to your portfolio’s About Me page. Potential clients will be stoked to see it!

…And Check Out Other Contests You May Qualify For

Not sure if any of these are the best fit for you? Maybe you have expertise in design, photography, or art as well? Take a gander at our round-ups of the best design contests, best fine art contests, and best photography contests.

Good luck—we’re rooting for you!

Want more illustration industry advice?
Who Pays Illustrators (And How Much)
So You Want To Be A Freelance Illustrator?
The Best Online Illustration Classes for Artists

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