Many illustrators have made a career from having a unique and distinguishable style, often associating themselves with one brand or author. However, it doesn’t hurt to familiarise yourself with different illustration and drawing styles to both help find your favoured style but also to give you insight into others work.
Getting to grips with different illustration styles can help professional artists if you are working on commission work or collaborating on projects with other artists and illustrators. If you are an amateur artist then learning new styles could uncover a technique that really works for you but it could also help to refine the work you are doing in your preferred illustration style. We have put together a guide of some key styles and techniques used for illustration.
What are the main styles of illustration?
If you are new to illustration or you are looking to broaden your horizons and try out different techniques then we have put together a list of the top styles. Some of the top illustration styles include:
- Pencil Illustration
- Charcoal Illustration
- Watercolour Illustration
- Acrylic Illustration
- Digital Illustration
- Block Illustration
- Collage Illustration
- Ink Illustration
- Woodcut Illustration
The above is a list of the main mediums used in styles of illustration but there are of course a number of different common themes to illustration work. If you are a professional then you will usually get a brief to work in a theme – this theme could be vintage, retro, hyper realistic, comic, line art or flat style to name a few. We’ll be focusing on 3 of these illustration styles in particular: pencil, charcoal, & watercolour.
How to Illustrate with a Pencil?
If you are looking for tips to aid your pencil illustration then part of the process to good artwork is making sure you have the right materials. You should ensure that if you have a range of different graded pencils to ensure you can draw both sharp and faint lines on your illustrations.
A starter set of 6 pencils is perfect to get started. Another great tip is to use the pencil like a piece of charcoal and draw with the side of the lead rather than the tip. It can help knowing different pencil drawing techniques and using the point for sharp lines but the side of the pencil for shading and different textures. It is worth checking out the artwork of Marco Mazzoni for inspiration, the italian artist draws some spectacularly detailed coloured pencil drawings.
How to Illustrate with Charcoal?
If your medium of choice is Charcoal then you can, of course, use this for illustration purposes too. This would suit a more vintage or retro style of illustration and could be perfect for setting the tone on a novel. An important tip to get the most out of charcoal drawing is to ensure that the drawing essence is in focus, or in other words make sure your focal point is clearly defined.
If you are unsure what kind of charcoal you should be using, a pack of assorted charcoal for beginners is perfect. You should also make sure you have a set of fine point erasers to help with your artwork.
Jerry Pinkney’s The Little Red Hen
How to Illustrate with Watercolour?
Watercolour is a great medium for beginner artists and if you are looking to work on illustration then it is a perfect medium. Although a lot of illustration work today is done digitally, a lot of modern illustration is still done with traditional painting techniques like watercolour. In fact, a lot of children’s books are illustrated with watercolour paintings.
One top tip on how to illustrate with watercolour is to sketch out your piece first before working with paint. You can add colour to pencil rather than painting from scratch and go over faint lines once you’ve added the paint. If you are new to watercolours and are looking for a set to get started, then this set of 24 colours should be perfect.
These are just a few top tips on how to work on illustrations using traditional mediums but there are plenty of other ways to work on illustration projects. The best way to approach this is to research the style you want to use and get some inspiration from other artists and designs.