Simply put, illustration art is a visualisation or a depiction made by an artist. It could be a drawing, painting, sketch, photograph or any other form of visual imagery. We may not realise it but the artwork created through illustration shapes the world we live in. It is at once highly visible while being invisible, it gives people a voice and our lives more meaning. Illustration art is visual imagery that is best known for interpreting, depicting, explaining and decorating the books we read, newspapers and online media. They are the drawings that make a website or app more user friendly, the wallpapers that decorate our rooms, the patterns on cereal boxes and coffee mugs. It is one of the most versatile art forms in today’s culture.
It is often debated whether illustration art falls under the category of fine art, applied art or decorative art. However, looking at the various illustrative masterpieces makes it clear that illustration art should comfortably be described to be a form of fine art, placed alongside paintings and sculptures. With the growth of graphic novels and the video game industry and with the increased use of illustrations in magazines and other publications, the worth of illustration artworks have become evidently clear.
Illustration artworks are amorphous and indefinite in nature and it’s constantly evolving and challenging notions of contemporary image-making. Illustration art as a genre has grown broader in its context through new media and technology and thus it has further established itself to be a form of fine art.
Types of Illustration:
The earliest form of illustration to be recorded came in the form of cave paintings that depicted real-life incidents. Since then, illustrations have undergone a drastic change and evolved into different types. The types of illustrations that we commonly come across are as follows –
- Woodcutting – This type of illustration gained popularity in the middle ages and was widely used after the invention of the printing press. As the name suggests, it involved engraving imagery on wooden pieces and it was widely used in China for block printing purposes.
- Metal etching – Though rarely used in artistic printmaking, it was widely used for reproductions in the 19th century. It partially replaced other techniques of thetime such as woodcutting.
- Pencil illustration – Artists used pencils to sketch their ideas while applying different effects through shading, line weight. Either graphite or varying colours were used.
- Charcoal illustration – It was used in stories and portraits for creating beautiful effects and shadows while employing varying hardness as charcoal blended excellently.
- Lithography illustration – Earlier on people used wax, fat or oil to draw on the smooth surface of limestone plate. However, nowadays offset lithography is widely used.
- Watercolour illustration – It is effectively used as a tool for storytelling. It is noted for its detailing and depth and is prominently used in children’s books. Creative combinations of airy and lighter shades are used to create thought-provoking illustrations.
- Acrylic illustration – Artists use acrylic colours on various surfaces such as canvas or cloth to create illustrations. This type of illustration is ideal for beginners. Once the paint dries up it becomes water-resistant. Acrylic paint is available in different finishes.
- Pen and ink illustrations – This type of illustration is noted for its precision and detailing and the varying contrast created between different elements. Despite being monochromatic, detailed work is created by using varying tints of the same colour on the plain surface. Fine lines with varying densities along with dots are used to create technical diagrams.
- Freehand digital illustration – This works the same way how traditional artists using pen and ink used to make illustrations. Instead of a pen, a stylus is used by the illustrator. Stunning digital illustrations are created with the help of various available tools and colours. It is also easier to address errors and make changes quickly. This is used for creating storyboards, animation, recreation, etc.
- Vector illustration – Vector illustration ensures that every point is represented on the coordinate axes. They can be saved in PDF, EPS and SVG extensions. They can be zoomed and scaled without worrying about pixelation. They are ideally used as web illustrations, logos, etc.
Styles and Techniques:
The different styles and techniques are as follows –
- Children book illustration – The illustrations created are aimed towards a young audience. They are usually characterised by a bright colour palette aimed at representing scenes that are easy to understand. This type of illustration is really clear and aims at creating storylines that are easy to follow.
- Concept art – It’s a type of illustration used to convey an idea that is to be used in movies, video-games, comic books, etc before being finally put into the final product. It is developed through several iterations and different designs are explored before settling on a final design and this final design is further refined to ultimately create the finished product in the form of movie characters, video-game characters, scenarios, etc.
- Graphic novel/comics – Unlike the children book illustrations, these aren’t necessarily aimed at a young audience. These will represent words in a more realistic or abstract way depending on the vision of the author. Comics specifically focus on being able to tell a story mainly through images and they possess a limited amount of panels. Comics try and depict a visual representation of the action.
- Editorial illustration – These are focused on creating illustrations for magazines, newspapers and other publications in order to try and engage the readers in the content. Sometimes they literally represent text and sometimes they are more metaphorical in nature.
- Advertising – It aims at conveying a certain message across the readers in order to attract potential clients by using visual elements such as colour.
- Packaging – Illustration is used to define and characterize the contents of a packaged product in order to communicate the brand’s ideology so that potential customers are attracted to their needs. They aid in the brand-building process
- Branding – Illustration is used to establish the brand’s promise and ideology mostly through a human experience. It is also used to maintain a cohesive mood and style in order to maintain the brand’s image
- Logo – The illustration used here plays an important role in making the first impression with the potential consumers and also to grab their attention. It also instantaneously establishes the brand’s image for the viewers.