What are the Different Types of Illustrations?

If you don't know what an illustration is, or you don't know what types of illustrations there are, or if you want to refresh your knowledge, then you have come to the right place.

These are the main types of illustrations:

  1. Publishing and editorial illustration;

  2. Illustration for websites or applications;

  3. Illustration in advertising;

  4. Conceptual art;

  5. Fashion illustration;

  6. Illustration for the interior design;

  7. Technical illustration.

The word illustration we are used to calling so any image that accompanies or explains the text. This definition conveys the meaning of the word well, but it is no longer relevant.

A modern illustration isn’t limited to explaining the text; it can tell an independent story or solve some problem, for example, a commercial one.

Illustrations thrive in both the digital and real world. Modern illustration becomes multidimensional and interactive. Its main function is to become a “trigger” for the brain, namely, to grab attention, surprise, and give a new experience.

In this article, you will learn about the techniques and types of illustrations, and you will see examples of illustrations in different styles.


Types of Illustrations: Where and How to Use the Illustration?

1. Publishing and editorial illustration

Illustration as a genre began its development precisely thanks to the mass production of printed editions. Magazines, newspapers, brochures, and albums use all possible and ways to compete for attention through bright visual design. 

Particular attention should be paid to children’s books because children’s perceptions differ from an adult’s - the colors and plot can be very detailed, and appear in close conjunction with the details, in the text to fully reveal the world of the story. Pictures can make reading more emotional and teach you to get a broader picture of what's going on.

Music production also uses graphic language to better find its fans. Album covers become identifying beacons for music lovers, and on tangible media - collectibles.

2. Illustration for websites

There is an opinion that print publications are fading into oblivion, and the bulk of the information is consumed from digital books, blogs, and programs. The digital-first approach focuses on materials that are not printed but are sold and distributed online. 

How computer editing differs from the traditional paper illustration formed over the centuries:

  • adaptability - universal placement of components on a screen of any size

  • animation - video, gif, or code, it doesn't matter - directs the focus and mesmerizes

  • interactivity and gamification - time flies when we are in the game

  • software capabilities are evolving like never before

Regardless of technique, human attention obeys a visual hierarchy. It takes some time to read and understand the text. Visual information penetrates instantly and faster than other types of information, answers the questions like who, what, where, and how.

The main aim of the illustration is to influence the audience. Many online resources use different types of author's illustrations uniquely. When it comes to a specific subject or person, of course, photography does better. But when it comes to processes and states, even a very simply drawn but successful image will complement the text much more effectively.

For example, the resource for creators of 99u is full of professional illustrations of various types. 

3. Illustration in advertising

Business needs to talk about itself and communicate. What does a brand look like is the tip of the marketing iceberg? The corporate identity is implemented after market research, business analysis, and translation of ideas into a textual and figurative plane.

The style of a brand bases on values, character, needs, mission, differences, etc. And illustrators can express the quality of a product exclusively and democratically, restrained and bright. And it does not matter whether it is a traditional style of illustration or modern, the main thing is that it interests a potential buyer.

4. Conceptual art

These are illustrations for animation, games, and other similar projects. The essence of conceptual art is that the artist embodies several interpretations (concepts) of the object and develops them.

Artists make sketches and then add volume, color, and space. Drawing elements can be very detailed and picturesque, and sometimes the idea is more important than the technique. Objects for visualization can be a character, environment, artifacts, or scenes. And their interaction reveals characters and states.

Authors who have the skills of 3D modeling can create entire worlds, which then come to life through the efforts of many people. For example, the Star Wars saga is the result of the work of dozens of artists.

Comics and manga can also be considered concept art, as the coolest graphic novels end up being animated.

With the help of drawing and freehand illustration, you can recreate the plot with precise details and make any fiction believable and existing in a digital world. A skilled artist creates the illusion of dynamics and depth on a flat and stationary sheet.

5. Fashion illustration

Fashion illustration is a fairly independent form of art and design because it is both a discovery of the future and a rethinking of the current world of fashion.

If the photo captures ready-made objects, the illustration shows you not yet existing or conceptual models. The compositions involve people in certain poses, and there are traditions in the proportion of faces and bodies. The main focus is on clothing and accessories, cosmetics, and jewelry.

Example of traditional fashion illustration.

A great example of freehand digital fashion illustration:

6. Illustration for the interior design

A person is in the room 88% of the time. And the environment directly affects the state and behavior. Walls are being built to divide space and make life more comfortable. But these surfaces can also carry artistic and cultural significance. A few years ago, most people chose traditional, hand-drawn original illustrations, but now conciseness and simplicity are in demand. Several geometric shapes can completely change the look of the room.

Murals - (large-scale drawings in the exterior) can be called an illustration for the building. Areas with high-level street art are becoming the city’s property and gaining significant status and value.

7. Technical illustration 

A strong scientific illustration conveys meaning faster with the help of a graphic language - form, line, color, composition. Often, this visualization is side by side with tables and infographics.

Designers use a scientific approach to research and analytics. This means that information is transmitted as accurately as possible, and the insignificant is omitted. Journalists, bloggers, and marketers use these visualizations and accompany them with conclusions that are easier for a reader to understand.

Techniques Illustrations

The important thing is not the way the illustration is done, but how the technique is combined with the concept and conveys the desired content and mood. This means that when choosing a material, first of all, you should focus on convenience, practicality, and pleasure from the process. Anything can be drawn with different lines and with varying degrees of detail. Also, any picture can be colored in different ways.

There are traditional techniques for creating illustrations, namely live, physically existing. 

In this direction, illustrators use pencils, pens, markers, and so on. Although we live in a digital world, now traditional illustrations are quite popular, and their value is only growing.

In the digital age, all material drawings must be carried to Photoshop after a photo or scanner. Graphic editors allow you to correct errors, add color or details. Many people see the point in creating digital images at once, without the material part, but to affect as if it had been drawn by hand. It is called freehand digital illustration. Regardless of the input device (graphics tablet, Apple Pencil, regular mouse), working on a computer is a virtual response, unlimited layers, the possibility of endless editing and versions. The lack of weight and thickness in digital works requires a specific perception of space.

Both traditional and digital art have their style and beauty. You can see this by looking at the works on our website.

Types of illustrations FAQs

  • What tools are used to make illustrations?

  • soft materials such as pencil, pastel, and even charcoal;

  • ink, pen, ink liner;

  • watercolor;

  • acrylic and gouache;

  • collage;

  • freehand digital painting;

  • vector graphics;

  • 3D

  • How to make money from illustrations?

- Portfolio. It is very important to be able to describe and present your work; the ideal customer comes to you exactly like a person and shows your work in references. Required for freelance services.

- Freelancing. It is important to deal only with adequate clients. Your communication skills are also important - when working with a client, you need to check everything on time and directly, often even train. It is difficult to optimize time and improve the quality of work. Pros: piecework maintains tone; initiative, independence, and intuition are best pumped.

- An agency is teamwork, the experience of art directors, strict deadlines and requirements, time management, and distribution of tasks. The team increases fluency, flexibility, and the skill to freely expand ideas about the structure of things.

  • What is the sequence of creating a commercial illustration?

Example of a workflow to order:

  1. Request

  2. Coordination of terms, copyrights, budget

  3. Consultation on the topic of work(you can minimize the number of edits by clearly setting tasks)

  4. Estimation and terms of reference in writing

  5. Preparation of contract

  6. Moodboard and references (photos, lighting, details, elements, atmosphere, colors, pose, etc.)

  7. Sketches + feedback, revision

  8. Creation of finished work + feedback, revision

  9. Acceptance of the project and provision of files, payment of bills, and transfer of rights

(Sep 3, 2021) Clemence Servonnat Getting started

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