Everything You Wanted To Know About Styles & Types of Illustration

Illustration, you must have come across this word frequently. To an untrained mind, there is no difference between simple drawing and illustration. This is not correct. There are different styles and types of illustrations which will be discussed in this post.

illustration types

The Concept

Illustration can be a painting, drawing or artwork which reflects the creative idea of the artist. It is used for explaining, clarifying, illuminating, visually representing, or decorating an idea, concept, or fact.

Previously, artists used paper canvas, drawing boards and other materials to illustrate with pencil or paint. With the advent of digital techniques, illustrations are made on computer canvas.

Digital illustrations are drawn on computer screen using 2D software like Adobe Photoshop, illustrator, etc. Literally, any effect can be accomplished that resemble traditional illustrations. Digital tools allow drawing using various materials.

Illustration types which are in practice since long include:

  • Woodcutting
  • Metal etchings
  • Illustrating with Pencil
  • Charcoal
  • Lithography
  • Watercolor
  • Gouache
  • Acrylics
  • Collage
  • Illustrating with Pen-and-Ink

Electronic tools have made it easier for creative artists to give vent to their ideas quickly and smoothly. Ever since electronic handwriting device came into being, advancements in digital illustration have been rapid. Commercial illustrations are mostly made using graphics tablets. Attached pen is used for drawing on the surface. Tablet transfers the illustration to computer software like Photoshop. Reputed companies use a variety of pens, brushes, effects and medium for their diverse illustration projects which simulate the traditional real-world items.

Types of Digital Illustrations

Digital illustration design is of two types.

1) Freehand

  • Shadow and light transitions are smooth
  • Finer details can be captured
  • Complex backgrounds can be drawn
  • Raster format
  • Scaling up is possible to a certain extent as more zooming can result in quality loss

2) Vector Graphics

  • It can be scaled up or down to any size without loss in quality
  • Smooth transition is difficult to achieve
  • Suitable for web illustrations
  • Outlines are clear; shapes and definitions crisp

Illustration Styles

Illustration styles are often defined by the technique used to create them. Broadly, these are classified into traditional style and contemporary or modern style.

Genres are varied and allow artists to express their creativity in different styles.

Various types include:

1) Concept Art

  • Done for games, animations, fantasies, one-pager types
  • A given theme is interpreted in several types by artist
  • Clients can choose appropriate styles
  • Various stages of art development are visible to others

2) Children’s Illustration

  • Can be realistic and detailed or simple and naïve
  • Complement the story and age group of audiences
  • Composed of colors
  • Style is narrative
  • Friendly and beautiful characters used

3) Comics or Novels

In comics or graphic novels, ideas are expressed through images complemented by text and visual hints.

Highlights include:

  • Image panels are presented side by side
  • Speech balloons and captions used for conveying texts
  • Dialogues, narratives and speech effects shown by onomatopoeia
  • Narrative is paced through panels’ arrangement and size
  • Cartoons are primarily used

4) Books and Publications

Earlier, illustrations used in ornamental books were hand colored. Now, illustration art for books can be prepared digitally for printing.

Highlights include:

  • Versatile and complement author’s vision and book’s subject
  • Covers having attractive illustrations make books stand out in crowd
  • Done to capture attention of viewer
  • Book cover offer glimpses into the content

5) Advertisements

  • Such illustration drawing is done to produce the ‘wow’ effect
  • Intention is to make audiences give attention to a brand or product
  • Remain in the minds of onlookers for long

6) Packaging

Illustrated packages are made to give the product a competitive edge over others. This will mostly benefit products related to kids, bakery and jewelry. A touch of intimacy can be given in customized and elegant manner with illustrations.

7) Branding

Brand logos are illustrated in a special manner to ensure that audiences start recognizing brand by the view of logos. Content inscribed in logos should be clearly readable. Brand logos need to be simple and unique. They should grab attention and must be memorable.

Brand identity is also enhanced by

  • Mascots
  • Cartoon representation of employees, processes and products.


This article on illustration types and styles must have offered you actionable insights into how creatively artistic ideas are represented through drawings and painting. You can learn more about digital illustration from various online resources.