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 kindergarten 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.
Skylight House (Casa Tragaluz) is a publishing company based in Medellin, Colombia. The House works with designers, writers, illustrators, journalists, and photographers to create moving stories. Their projects range from poetry to children’s books. They pride themselves in being a flexible group that’s ever-changing, providing a nurturing space for constant learning.
The sixth edition of their annual illustration award looks to find a fresh, inspired artist with whom they could work with on their future books and projects, just as they have done in previous editions. The competition wants you the artist to reflect on these confusing and changing times we find ourselves in and look at revolution as the focus theme of their artwork. What does revolution today mean to you and what does it mean for the future of our communities?
The contest requires you to be 18 years of age and welcomes submissions from artists around the world. Submission is free. Read more on the details and requirements on their official website linked below.
Deadline: August 15, 2021.
Eligibility: 18 years of age and above.
Awards: Seven million pesos (COP 7,000,000) to develop the illustrations for a book that Tragaluz will publish.
Visit the Tragaluz official Website
The Spirito di Vino International Illustrators Competition is an annual contest held by the Wine Tourism Movement of Friuli Venezia Giulia.
The contest calls for cartoonists around the world to submit satirical cartoons about wine and the culture around the beverage. Have a funny idea about wine or have something to say about wine enthusiasts? Draw it.
The contest accepts submissions from artists 18 years of age or older from around the world. Artists will be divided into two categories, those from 18 to 35 years, and those over 36 years of age. Submission is free. Check out further requirements on their official website linked below.
Deadline: October 16, 2021.
Eligibility: 18 years of age and above.
Visit the Spirito divino official Website
3. Poster Contest Animayo 2021/2022
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 2022. Animayo is an inspirational event founded in 2006 by Spanish Director and Producer Damián Perea.The event is centered around 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, 18 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: June 11, 2021 to January 31, 2022.
Eligibility: International artists, 16 years of age or older.
Awards: Winner gets 500 euros
Visit the Animayo official website
The Signature Art Prize was founded in 2007 with the aim of giving emerging artists at the start of their careers a chance to be seen. The award aims to attract students and recent graduates to showcase their work in their own unique themes and perspectives.
Submission is free. You may apply through the registration form linked on their website.
Visit The Signature Art Prize official website.
5. Huluku 2021
Huluku is an illustration competition organized by CIEDA, a not-for-profit organization that champions for inclusion in communities.
The competition aims to celebrate authentic representation for everyone everywhere.
Submission is free. Find more details and requirements on their official website linked below.
Deadline: September 01, 2021.
Prize: £500 Prize Awarded For 1st Place. 2nd & 3rd places win a year’s subscription of the creative online training academy ‘Bring Your Own Laptop’.
Huluku official Website
Expired Contests (watch out for 2022)
The following is a list of contests that are past the submission deadlines, but they are useful. You can check out the winners to see what winning entries are made of, and also keep tabs on their sites for the 2022 competitions.
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
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
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
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 linked below.
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
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.
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.