Digital Illustration Styles

by Andrew Hoare · November 2020


Illustration of a boy and girl reading a children's book. Images are coming to life out of the book

What is this article about?


The Illustrators are a graphic design and illustration company in Australia. In this article we will explore some of the popular digital illustration styles and help identify an illustration style for your next project.

From the first caveman drawings, illustration has played an important part in telling stories and in sharing ideas. There are a number of types of illustration, including pen, pencil and charcoal illustration. We are going to focus on digital illustration, which can be used in advertising, video games, books, social media and more.


Illustration of a boy and girl reading a children's book. Images are coming to life out of the book

Anime


Anime (short for animation), is a style of artwork originating in Japan. An anime artist will use colourful images, diverse art styles, wild hair and exaggerated visual effects. An anime comic book is called manga. Anime is based on video games and manga. Here are some examples:

Caricatures




Cartoon



AFL Richmond Tigers
Happy girl with arms wide open
Illustration of a cute baby with a big head
Australian water dragon

Picture Books




Comics


A comic book is made up of individual scenes (panels) of comic art. Panels are designed with a brief narrative and the dialogue is normally contained in speech balloons. Comics can be funny, dark or even weird. Many show captions so readers know what a character is saying or thinking. Here are some examples:


Captain America comic illustration
Comic book example
Comic book superhero
Comic magazine example

Commercial Art


Commercial art is used for advertising products, services and ideas. The primary goal is to drive sales and awareness. Artists design commercial art for logos, packaging, billboards and magazines. An illustrator will design the images for mass-production to help sell products and raise visibility.

Illustration has some advantages over photography: an artist can create a person or character who never existed, bring a dead person back to life or invent a fictional character. Illustration can simplify and explain confusing or complicated subjects. Here are some examples:


Octopus with sunglasses ready to cut sushi

Artist: J. Budryte

Mission Impossible Pig jumping down a throat

Artist: Therese Larsson

Rollercoaster concept art for 7-Eleven

Artist: The Illustrators

Retro artwork with women sitting in an octopus

Artist: The Illustrators



Concept Art


Concept artists create original characters for advertising, video games and movies. They build worlds that are used to inspire the development of broadcast media and promotional material. Concept artists create preliminary artwork, graphic design and marketing material. Here are some examples:


Native meets the city concept art
Female assassin with gun and knife
Fantasy art
Dark haired pretty warrior girl

Fantasy


Fantasy art is primarily used in fantasy books, book covers, games and movies. Fantasy art can portray gods, dragons, demons and magic. Fatasy artwork is often realistic and painterly. Here are some examples:


Beautify woman holding a baby wolf
AJ Cootes Gyeder character man with blonde hair and a sword
Fantasy illustration of a Dwarf in armour holding an Axe
Daenerys Targaryen realistic illustration

Fashion


Fashion illustration is drawing clothes and accessories for commercial use in the fashion industry. It is mainly used by fashion designers to preview and visualize their ideas. Fashion illustration is also used for advertising and in fashion magazines as part of an editorial feature. Here are some examples:


Fashion illustration
Victoria's Secret perfume illustration
Bride in a wedding dress fashion illustration
Fashion colourful dress

Fine art


Fine art is primarily created to express yourself rather than for commercial or practical purposes. Fine art involves creative expression and it may not have broad appeal or traditional beauty. It might convey an idea or an emotion. Here are some examples:


Fine art

Artist: Rich McLean

Fine art

Artist: Rich McLean

Women of colour fine art

Artist: The Illustrators

Underwater party

Artist: The Illustrators



Line art


Line art is typically a black and white drawing with little or no solid areas, colour or background. Line art can be used by itself or in combination with other coloured images. You can find examples of line art in comic books and literature. Here are some examples:


Cartoon boy and girl kissing
Dog line art cartoon pointing leg
Cartoon boy playing a guitar and singing
Squirrel eating a nut

Realism



Ben Elton portrait
Portrait of an old man
Portait of young girl next to a birdcage
Portrait of bloade girl with glasses

Retro


Retro is an art style that is derived from the recent past, sometimes referred to as vintage art from the 1940s and 1950s. A retro style has an old fashioned look and feel. Here are some examples :


Captain America comic illustration
Lady in a Bee costume illustration
Retro sailor illustration
Space scene