Have you ever seen an illustrator who describes themselves as “award-winning”? There are so many good opportunities for illustrators to get noticed and stand out through illustration competitions and awards.

Taking part in illustration competitions can open many doors, even if you don’t win. You will be able to create new work and get your art seen by the decision-makers of the industry.

And if you win or get shortlisted you will gain massive exposure to potential clients. I know many cases when even the shortlisted illustrators end up with a publishing deal.

Also, being an “award-winning” illustrator will help you charge more for your work in the long run.

There are many illustration competitions out there but not all of them cut the grade in terms of quality and exposure opportunities.

Here is my list of top 7 best illustration competitions to enter in 2020-2021.

Best Illustration Competitions

  1. Bologna Children’s Book Fair Illustrators Exhibition

Bologna Children’s Book Fair is the main event in the children’s publishing industry. Each year the fair runs a competition for illustrators. The winners get exhibited in the special section of the fair.

Beside this, the artists selected are offered other chances:

  • To win the International Award for Illustration – BCBF-SM Foundation (for under 35s only); US $15,000
  • To win the ARS IN FABULA scholarship (for under 30s only);
  • To be chosen to develop the visual identity of the next BCBF edition

2. V&A illustration awards

The Awards celebrate excellence in three categories of contemporary practice: book cover design, book illustration and illustrated journalism. There is also a special award for students.

The winners are each awarded a £3,000 prize and trophy. The Student Runner-Up receives £2,000 and trophy.

3. Silent Book Contest

This competition is asking to create a picture book with no text in it. The author of the book project selected as the winner by the International Jury will receive a money prize of Euro 4.000 as an advance for copyright with publishing agreement. 

4. Golden Pinwheel

China is a thriving new market for picture book illustrators. To compete in this competition, illustrators must be between 16 and 39 years of age.

5. World Illustration Award by the AOI

The AOI (Association of illustrators) is a UK-based organisation supporting illustrators. They run a yearly competition where you need to pay an entry fee. In return, the winners get a lot of promotion through exhibitions and published catalogues.

6. FIDA Digital Fashion Illustration Award

If fashion illustration is what you love then take part with this award with the likes of Dior and Hermes in the jury. This Award is part of the Digital Innovation Fashion Awards with Conde Nast and Wired Magazine.

7. Cheltenham illustration Awards

The selected work will be showcased at the exhibition and published in the Annual which will be distributed to institutions and industry publishers.


The exhibition then travels to other venues for the year. Past exhibition spaces have been the likes of Pitt Rivers – Oxford, The Wilson Museum and Art Gallery, The museum in the Park Stroud and the London Book Fair.

Illustration Awards for Students

If you are lucky enough to be a student, you can take part in these student illustration awards:

  1. Penguin Student Design Award

Every year they run a cover design competition across three categories: Adult Fiction, Adult Non-fiction and Childrens

If you are not a student but fancy a portfolio project you can set yourself a brief for portfolio development. However, you won’t be able to submit your entry unless you are studying on a Further Education or Higher Education course (part time or full time) in any subject and at any level.

2. Macmillan Prize for Illustration

Macmillan Prize lets people submit their own dummy book on a certain story. Again, it is a great opportunity for a student artist, as their book can end up getting published. Sadly, you can only use it as portfolio practice if you are not a part time or full time student.

Let me know if you entered any illustration awards in comments!

2 Comments

  1. Art awards neither make good artists nor confirm bad ones. What they do attest is that a selection of judges like the work and, if the art gods are smiling, hand over a hefty cheque to prove it. If you can afford the Entry Fees and maintain a zen-like tranquillity if your work doesn t make the cut then you re all set enter these UK art competitions. If your work does get selected then an exciting exhibition awaits and you can practice that astonished winner s acceptance speech. Fingers crossed Competitions are listed in chronological order by submission deadline date.

    • Anya Kuvarzina Reply

      Hi Tamiflu,
      I understand by your sarcastic tone that you are not 100% sure whether the competitions are beneficial to illustrators, have you had a bad experience with them in the past? I do not view these awards as a popularity contest. They should be seen as a promotion tool in the first place to help illustrators stand out from the rest. Actually, many of these competitions are free to enter and have people who are really passionate about the industry in the jury. And no, they are not in a chronological order sorry! 😁

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