What is a Forensic Artist?

What is a forensic artist? A creative career that melds art and forensics, these artists are often the professionals who give a human face to victims of crimes. They are an integral part of the criminal justice process and their careers often help grieving families find closure and put criminals behind bars, according to The New York Times.

Art and Criminology

A forensic artist is an artist that uses both traditional and technological mediums to draw up composites of victims, crime scenes, age progressions, and more to assist with a criminal investigation. In some cases, the artist speaks with witnesses and victims when creating their pieces in order to gain a better picture of a suspect or crime scene that has yet to be found. Artists also keep their own records of their cases in case they are called to appear in court, meaning that they combine their artistic and analytical skills in order to be successful in their profession.


Forensic art has different specialties, or disciplines, in which a forensic artist must demonstrate competency in. Many artists also tend to specialize in one field, making them high-value candidates for the agencies or police departments that they work for. The disciplines, as laid out by the International Association for Identification, are: composite art, which focuses on composing a sketch of an unknown individual which could be a victim but more often a suspect; age progression and image modification, wherein an artist composes a sketch or enhances a photograph to update the look of an individual; and post-mortem facial reconstruction, which focuses on reconstructing the face of a decomposed body.


A forensic artist has several responsibilities that go beyond the art. They must interview witnesses and observe crime scenes, compile reports on any interviews conducted, and testify in court as needed. These artists must also continuously train themselves in digital imagery and facial anatomy, perform facial reconstruction using technology or traditional methods, and more. This is a highly specialized field that requires analytical and communication skills, art technique, and attention to detail in order to be able to fulfill the responsibilities of the profession.

Education and Experience

Forensic artists usually obtain an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in graphic art, graphic design, or art from an accredited institution. These programs often offer a specialization in forensic art, which can help students start building their portfolio for employment purposes. Additionally, students must also earn a professional certification from the International Association for Identification. The certification will help them find employment as well as build their background to demonstrate a thorough understanding of how the field works. Recertification for this qualification is also necessary and there are continuing education requirements depending on the state and police department a professional works in.

Related Resource: What is a Criminal Profiler?

As more and more cases are solved with the help of one of these artists, it’s important to remember that the profession has its rewards and challenges. It is still a great career for any artist who wants to make a tangible difference in people’s lives. Now that the definition of what a forensic artist is has been explained, it is up to a professional to decide if this career is right for them.