Web & Print Production Artist Careers: Salary & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of an art career in Web and print production? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a Web and print production artist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Web and Print Production Art

Web and print production artists work closely with graphic designers and art directors to convert pictures and text onto the Web or printed page. Consider some of the pros and cons before deciding if this is the right profession for you.

Pros of Working in Web and Print Production
Opportunities for multimedia artists should increase through 2012*
Digitally literate prepress technicians will have good job prospects*
Creative and interesting work environments*
Employee paid training to update technical skills*

Cons of Working in Web and Print Production
Overall employment for prepress technicians is expected to decline by 13% through 2022*
Competition for jobs is fierce*
Tight work schedules and difficult deadlines can be stressful*
Long periods of time spent on the computer can lead to eyestrain, back pain and muscle aches*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job descriptions, Career Outlooks and Salaries

The technical expertise required for Web design and print production means that professionals typically concentrate on one field or the other. Web production artists use computer software to bring hand or digitally-created images to, what is sometimes, movable life online. They are often asked to create e-mail campaigns for advertising firms or create the landing pages, which are the online pages the browser comes to after clicking on a link. They may also draw storyboards for television commercials, movies and cartoon features.

Print production artists are the technicians responsible for preparing and finalizing the technically accurate files needed before they go to press and become the printed page. Sometimes this person will be asked to set the type and alter photographic images according to the designer's specifications before producing the finished product.

Web Production Artists: Job Outlook and Salary Expectations

Web production artists can find work in advertising, computer system design, film production or game design. Consumer enthusiasm for special effects and demands for more realistic video games and 3D animated movies have made the overall field of multimedia arts and production a growing one. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipated a 6% increase in job growth for multimedia artists and animators from 2012-2022. As of July 2015, the median annual wage for productions artists who specialize in working on the Web was nearly $59,000, as reported by Salary.com.

Print Production Artists: Job Outlook and Salary Expectations

These prepress technicians are typically employed by small print shops, printing firms and newspaper publications. According to the BLS, opportunities for print production artists are expected to decline dramatically as advances in electronic typesetting and page layout have greatly decreased the need for their services. However, those professionals with excellent customer service and computer skills will still find themselves in demand. The BLS reported that the median annual wage for prepress technicians and workers in May 2014 was more than $37,000, with California, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania providing the highest number of jobs.

Education and Training Requirements

As stated by the BLS, most multimedia and prepress technician jobs require formal training. An associate's or bachelor's degree program in graphic design offered by community and 4-year colleges will help students develop their digital imaging and print production skills. Good eyesight, manual dexterity and the ability to operate industry-related equipment are a must for both Web and print production artists. Other standard requirements include:

  • Attention to detail
  • A good eye for color
  • Proficiency in the use of Mac computers and graphics software
  • Excellent communication and customer service skills

Sample Job Postings from Real Employers

Professional degree programs in graphic design can prepare students for direct entry into the job market. Prepress technicians who are already working in the industry can update their skills by taking computer graphics classes offered by colleges and vocational schools. Employers look for candidates who have expertise in animation software and specific programs like InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Transmit or FlightCheck. The following sample job postings from February 2012 will give you an idea of the creative and technical skills employers are looking for in these highly competitive fields.

  • A Wisconsin marketing corporation is advertising for a candidate with an associate's or bachelor's degree in graphic or multimedia design to work as a Web production artist. This position requires proficiency and experience with various digital software, such as Adobe Suite and Photoshop. This person will produce e-mail campaigns and landing pages in an extremely fast-paced environment.
  • An electronics and computer company in Santa Clara, CA, has an opening for a Web designer/production artist who can create advertising banners, landing pages and page layouts for the Web. Applicants should hold a degree in design, visual communications or a corresponding field and have a minimum of three years experience working with online design, as well as experience in Web optimization and artwork.
  • A corporate office in Calabasas, CA, is looking for a production artist with a graphics art background and a good eye for type to produce magazine advertisements, monthly retail flyers and newspaper inserts. The individual's responsibilities would include doing layouts and page production, as well as handling corrections. The ideal candidate will have excellent English skills and experience working with Macintosh desktop computers and Adobe Creative Suite.
  • A Blue Springs, MO, company that specializes in the production of displays, menus and decorative signage has an entry-level opening for a print production artist. The job requires that the candidate hold adegree in graphic arts; a year's experience as a graphic artist can be accepted in lieu of a degree. A working knowledge of Adobe Suite that includes Acrobat, InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop is also required.

How to Stand Out in the Field

While the first thing that any potential employer will see is your resume, a way to make yourself stand out in an interview is with a strong portfolio that displays your best work. According to the BLS, a good portfolio is an essential part of the interview process with employers looking to hire any kind of artist. Being able to show work accomplished through an internship can also be a major plus.

Continuing Education and Professional Development

It is important that Web and print production professionals remain vigilant about technological and visual trends. This is especially true for print production artists, or prepress technicians, who can have the nature of their work changed by new computer software and printing technologies. Professionals who want to remain current and employable need to update their skills regularly, either through formal or self-directed training. You can accomplish this by:

  • Pursuing a more advanced degree in graphic design, including a Master of Fine Arts
  • Enrolling in specialized classes through colleges and technical and art schools
  • Taking advantage of computer and software training offered by employers
  • Reading industry-related publications to remain aware of current trends
  • Joining a professional organization such as the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA)

Related Career Paths

Web and print production art are almost inseparable from graphic design. Artists and technicians typically hold degrees in graphic design, and their skills are transferable to other related fields. The demand for Web marketing and online advertising will translate into more opportunities for those artists with website design and computer animation skills, according to the BLS. Professionals who have started their careers as prepress technicians and want to exercise their creative talents may want to transition into graphic design or desktop publishing.

Graphic Designers

Graphic designers combine words and images to send a visual message using traditional design techniques and specialized computer software. In addition to print materials, graphic artists design Web pages, television and movie credits and other interactive or multimedia sites. The decline in print publishing, where many designers are still employed, may affect the anticipated growth rate of 13% reported by the BLS. As of May 2010, graphic designers earned a median salary approaching $43,000.

Desktop Publishers

Desktop publishers use computer software to format text, illustrations and photographs for publication. According to the BLS, 21% of desktop publishers already work in the industry. The BLS also reported that employment opportunities for these professionals are expected to decline by 23% from 2008-2018, with affordable and easy-to-use publishing software making desktop publishing more accessible to nonprofessionals. Desktop publishers earned a median salary of nearly $37,000, as reported by the BLS in May 2010.

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