How to Become a Forensic Artist

By The Arty Teacher - November 6, 1989

What is a Forensic Artist?

A forensic artist is a person who is trained in both art and criminal justice. They use their skills to help the police solve crimes. They create sketches or facial reconstructions, based on descriptions from witnesses. Forensic artists also work on ageing pictures of people to help locate missing persons. They work with the police looking at video footage or crime scenes. Their role is vital in helping the police by turning visual information into usable images for solving cases.

What is a Police Sketch Artist?

A police sketch artist is a professional illustrator trained to create detailed and accurate portraits of suspects. They use witness descriptions to create these portraits.

Most police sketch artists work part-time and/or on a freelance basis. (Freelance means they are self-employed and hired to work for different police stations when needed).

Whilst a police sketch artist creates portraits, a forensic artist takes on the wider role described above.

What Skills does a Forensic Artist Need?

To become a forensic artist, you need to be a good listener and have a talent for drawing faces based on people’s descriptions. You need to have an interest in learning about anatomy and how the police work.

What Qualification does a Forensic Artist Need?

Becoming a forensic artist typically involves a combination of education, training, and experience. While specific qualifications may vary, the following elements are generally beneficial:

  1. Education in Fine Arts or a Related Field: Many forensic artists have a background in fine arts, illustration, or a related field. They often holding a degree such as a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA).
  2. Specialised Training in Forensic Art: Forensic artists usually undergo specialised training in forensic art techniques, including facial reconstruction, composite sketching, and age progression.
  3. Criminal Justice Knowledge: A solid understanding of criminal justice procedures, crime scene analysis, and investigative processes can enhance the effectiveness of a forensic artist.
  4. Experience in Law Enforcement Collaboration: Practical experience gained through collaboration with law enforcement agencies, internships, or on-the-job training is invaluable for a forensic artist.
  5. Interviewing and Communication Skills: Effective communication and interviewing skills are essential for extracting accurate information from witnesses or victims to create precise visual representations.
  6. Continuing Education: Due to the evolving nature of forensic art and technology, staying updated through workshops, conferences, and continuing education in relevant areas is crucial.

These qualifications collectively equip a forensic artist with the skills and knowledge necessary to contribute to criminal investigations through accurate and detailed visual representations.

What Can You do to Build a CV to become a Forensic Artist

Here are some steps you can take while still in school to build a CV for a future career as a Police Sketch Artist:

  1. Art Education: Opt for art! Focusing on drawing, illustration, and digital art to develop the skills you need.
  2. Anatomy and Biology Classes: Consider taking anatomy or biology classes to gain a better understanding of facial structures and anatomy, which is crucial for forensic art.
  3. Forensic Art Workshops: Some universities run one-day workshops or introductory talks or seminars. These would look great on your CV and really help you know if this career is for you.
  4. Participate in Art Clubs: Join art clubs or organisations at school to connect with like-minded individuals, share experiences, and potentially collaborate on projects.
  5. Criminal Justice Courses: If available, take criminal justice or related courses to familiarise yourself with the legal and investigative aspects of forensic art.
  6. Build a Portfolio: Create a portfolio showcasing your artistic work, including drawings, illustrations, and any projects related to forensic art techniques.
  7. Learn Digital Art Tools: Familiarise yourself with digital art tools and software commonly used in forensic art, such as Photoshop or other illustration software.
  8. Participate in Contests: Enter art contests or forensic art competitions to challenge yourself, gain exposure, and add notable achievements to your CV.
  9. Seek Internships or Shadowing Opportunities: Reach out to local law enforcement agencies or forensic artists to inquire about potential internships or shadowing opportunities.
  10. Develop Interviewing Skills: Practice interviewing techniques, as effective communication is a crucial skill for forensic artists when working with witnesses or victims.

By actively engaging in these activities, students can not only enhance their artistic skills but also gain valuable experiences and insights that will contribute to building a robust CV for a future career as a forensic artist.

Learn more about Art Careers.

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The Arty Teacher

Sarah Crowther is The Arty Teacher. She is a high school art teacher in the North West of England. She strives to share her enthusiasm for art by providing art teachers around the globe with high-quality resources and by sharing her expertise through this blog.

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