In short, illustration is a visualization made by an artist. It is a drawing (or painting, collage, engraving, photo, etc.) that explains something. The illustration doesn’t have to be drawn—a photo in an encyclopedia is also an illustration, because it explains what is written. So if your drawing is not explaining something, it is a work of art, not an illustration. 

An illustration can explain an idea even without the text nearby. People who look at the picture should see the story, “read” it as they would read the text. To tell a story with an illustration means to convey some meaning, to explain a certain context only with the help of an image.

Interesting fact: the word illustration comes from the Latin illustrate, which means spiritual or intellectual enlightenment.

Illustration art is not art in the literal sense of the word. Art is created to express the inner world of the artist, while an illustration is created to explain an idea. The main goal of a work of art is aesthetics. The main purpose of an illustration is to explain. An illustration is created for the needs of a specific customer with specific goals, and a work of art can be made without it. Good illustrators always think about their viewers’ and their clients’ aims.

Illustration types

Let’s learn more about the types of illustration and where they are used. There are a lot of areas that require visualization; here are some of them:

  • editorial illustration
  • advertising illustration
  • concept art
  • fashion illustration
  • technical (scientific) illustration
  • infographics
  • packaging illustration
Editorial illustration

An editorial illustration is an illustration created to better express an idea from the text, usually used in a book, magazine, newspaper, or web resource. This type of illustration can’t live without the text. 

Advertising illustration

Ad illustration is an illustration that is used in promotional material, and its main aim is to catch the viewer’s attention. It can be used without any text (only the logotype of the company) but express a strong idea to make it easy to remember.

Concept art illustration

Concept art is used in movies, games, and other industries, as working material for finding the best image of the atmosphere of the work. Concept art is usually created in several iterations. The most important thing is not to create a perfectly beautiful image, but to choose the appropriate image. The final product uses the final sketch that went through the art director’s criticism. Concept art is usually made for environments, characters, costumes, and items.

Fashion illustration

Fashion illustration can be used to visualize a piece of clothing before it’s produced. Fashion designers use it a lot in their creative process. The garment should be drawn before being sewn. Also, fashion houses use fashion illustrators’ work to promote their product and to show it in a special style.

Technical illustration

The purpose of a technical (scientific) illustration is to accurately depict an object in order to simplify its understanding. In technical illustration, it is not the image and beauty that is important, but the clarity of the image and the absence of confusion.

Infographics illustration

infographics are a selection of images and diagrams with a minimum of text, allowing you to quickly understand the essence of the topic. Infographics are related to communication and graphic design, but can also be attributed to illustration. Good infographics make it easier to understand information and a large amount of data.

Packaging illustration

Like advertising illustration, packaging illustration helps companies to sell their product. And it also should be eye-catching and grab the viewer’s attention. But also, packaging illustration helps to define the brand, adding a personalized touch and custom feel.

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