Illustration | Inspiration

5 Best illustration competitions for you in 2021 FREE ENTRY!

You ever just stare at the “awards” section on your resume or LInkedin page and it’s just cobwebs. I have considered adding that 100m dash I won in kindergatten and I’m sure you have too.

Well, chin up. There are a lot of competitions and contests coming your way in 2021 you can apply to. Better yet, I’ve compiled a list of illustration competitions that don’t charge you an entry fee to participate. The contests on this list are completely free to enter and are open to international artists.

Should you apply to contests?

Illustration competitions are a great way to showcase your art. If you end up on a shortlist, you could gain exposure to professional studios and clients who could commission your work. If you win, you not only take the cash price, but your art could be shared by millions and your name will be echoed in a lot of creative meetings. Whether it’s children’s book, fashion or digital illustration, the opportunities are vast, and the outcome might change your life, even if you’re a runner up. There’s also very little to lose, especially if the illustration competition is free to enter like those on this list.

1. Nami Concours 2021

Nami Concours is a picture book illustration award that is organized by Nami Island, of Korea, every 2 years. It is open to all international picture book illustrators. Nami island is a major tourist attraction in South Korea. Nami Concours was an initiative to provide a platform for children’s book illustrators around the world to showcase their talents to a global audience. There were 1,844 entries from 98 countries in 2019. The awards ceremony is held online during the 2021 Nami Island International Children’s book Festival. A catalog of the shortlisted candidates is published for international promotion purposes. The illustration contest has a diverse, international panel of jurors.

Application Period: 1 December 2020- 31 December 2020

Eligibility: Open to all picture book illustrators in the world

Awards: Grand Prix (1) Plaque USD 10,000, Golden Island (2) Plaque and USD 5,000, Green Island (5) Plaque and USD 2000, Purple Island (10) Certificate and plaque

Nami Official Website

2. Fumetto Competition 2021

Fumetto Competition is an annual event by Fumetto Comic Festival Lucerne that gives comic creators an opportunity to showcase their work to the public and contest for prizes. The awards are based in Switzerland but are open to international comic artists.

The entrants have to create a comic based around a theme. The theme for this year “ Without Borders”. The theme engages freedom, carefree happiness, feelings of euphoria and insecurities, or however the artist interprets it.

The topic poses the questions; how do you create these chances for yourself? Where do you stand and what does it mean to you to live without borders? The artist is to draw a comic about this topic.

The application is free, however, it has to be sent by mail (not e-mail) and include a return postage (see cost and address in official website). I know, it’s weird to have to send your artwork by mail in this day and age, but they may have a good reason for it, or it’s just tradition.

There are three categories for participation: 18 years or older, 13 to 17 years and up to 12 years of age. Students are eligible to enter through their school. The jury will nominate 40 to 50 comics that will be exhibited at the festival from 20th-28th of March 2021, while those not nominated will appear in folders. They will award 3 prizes in each category and the festival visitors will vote for the people’s choice award.

Deadline: 4th of January 2021

Eligibility: Comic illustrators and artists, and students.

Awards: see website

Fumetto offical website

3. The Penguin Student Design Award 2021

The Penguin Random House is one of the most well-known book publishers in the world and their Design Studio is giving you a life-changing opportunity. This illustration competition, now in it’s 15th year, involves a real cover design brief from a selection of non-fiction and fiction children’s books. The winning creatives get a £1,000 prize money and paid work placement at Penguin Random House UK! How exciting is that!

The competition is open to anyone studying on a Further Education or Higher Education course – part time or full time, in any subject and at any level at the time of the deadline for entries (Tuesday 2 March 2021). Participants must also be aged 18 or over by 1 July 2021. It is however not open to graphic design professionals. There are no restrictions on nationality as far as I can see on their website.

You are provided a choice of three briefs of different categories. Once submitted the judges select a shortlist. It doesn’t end there. They then email the shortlisted entrants with individual feedback and art direction. The shortlisted students then resubmit the work and they proceed to the final round of judging.

Application Period: Wednesday 2 December 2020 until Tuesday 2 March 2021 at 2.00 p.m.

Eligibility: Further Education or Higher Education Students, 18 years of age and above.

Awards: £1,000 and paid work placement at Penguin Random House UK.

Penguin official Website

4. Poster Contest Animayo 2021

The Animayo poster contest is a poster design competition to find a poster that will be used as the promotional image for the Festival Animayo 2021. Animayo is an inspirational event founded in 2006 by Spanish Director and Producer Damián Perea.The event is centered around the visual effects, animation, video games and virtual reality disciplines. The competition has awarded a winner every year since 2011. The poster’s theme is “a world of creativity and imagination” and will also represent one or several of these three aspects: animation, visual effects, virtual reality.

The competition is open to international artists of all nationalities, 16 years of age and above. Visit the official website to download the rules and guidelines. The winning entry gets 500€ in cash. Applications are sent via e-mail and is completely free.

Application Period: February 2nd, 2020 to 23:00 PM February 1st, 2021

Eligibility: International artists, 16 years of age or older.

Awards: Winner gets 500 euros

Animayo official website

5. BICeBé Poster Design contest 2021

This poster competition is open to illustrators, students, photographers and graphic designers of all nationalities and age.

Each contestant can submit upto 10 posters in the four categories: Cultural, social, advertising or commercial and Unpublished. The topic or theme is “No course to the Interior Space” (see poem in website). Motion designers can submit in a fifth category, Motion Design poster, that does not have a topic/theme restriction.

Read the instructions carefully in the official website

The contest has an international jury of designers who will select the winner  during the BICeBé 2021 week. The winner will be announced at the main ceremony at the National Museum of Art in La Paz, on Wednesday, November 17, 2021.

The posters will be submitted through their website registration. The application and submission process is free and online.

Deadline: FRIDAY, MARCH 12 2021 (23:59 pm -04:00GMT)

Eligibility: All Nationalities, All ages

Awards: BICeBé will award  the First, Second and Third Place of all categories with a Diploma of Honor and Medal. The First Place in Category D Unpublished Poster: NO COURSE TO THE INTERIOR SPACE will have an additional award of USD 5000

BICeBe Official Website


Free international illustration competitions are few and hard to find. I’ll try and keep updating this post as I discover them. If you’ve also spotted one that’s not in this list, you may share it with the community through the contact form in the about us page. The prize money in some of these contests is a good sum, but the opportunities you may get from participating are limitless. Now you can’t use the “too much fees” excuse with this list. Good luck! Get that Bag.

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