Illustration trends

16 Inspiring Illustration Trends to Try in 2024

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Illustrations, when skillfully crafted, serve as potent tools for brand development, wielding colors and shapes as strategic elements. A compelling illustration isn’t merely decorative; it plays a pivotal role in sculpting a brand’s identity and shaping consumer perceptions.

These visual masterpieces hold immense emotional meaning, forming a bridge between your audience and your brand. They have the power to influence how users perceive your products, projecting an image of chic, vibrancy, or perhaps lack of relevance. While blindly following every trend might not guarantee success, staying updated on these trends is pivotal, offering insight into evolving consumer preferences. Adapting specific trends into your business strategy can effectively captivate and engage your target audience.

The landscape of illustration trends has been constantly shifting in recent years, opening the door to new artistic expressions. Anticipating the trends forecasted for 2023 suggests a blend of classic aesthetics and daring, fresh approaches. Staying abreast of these evolving trends in illustration is a strategic move to maintain a competitive edge.

This article acts as a guide through the currents of illustration trends, shedding light on the significant shifts anticipated to mold the design industry in the approaching year. Delve into it to grasp a holistic view of the creative pathways set to influence the design arena, especially if you’re seeking innovative book illustration services.

Most Inspiring Illustration Trends in 2023

A standout illustration trend on the horizon for the upcoming year revolves around Nostalgia. Delving into the nostalgic realm involves skillfully employing a retro palette, integrating iconic elements reminiscent of the 90s, 3d animation, and embracing fonts from the bygone era. These illustrations have a unique ability to stir emotions, leveraging nostalgia to evoke positive responses from users.

This trend taps into the essence of evoking emotions through concepts deeply embedded in our memories, tracing back to our childhood. By playing with familiar memories and concepts, these illustrations create a powerful impact, leaving a lasting impression on the audience.

The best illustration artists are those who are always on the lookout for inspiration, always searching for a style that helps us convey a fresh narrative.

We’ve compiled 16 styles that have truly sparked our creativity. While nodding to past trends, these styles convey a playful 2023 twist. They’re fantastic additions to have up your sleeve for the upcoming year. Ready to explore? Let’s kick things off!

1. Vintage and Retro

Image Source: Design Stripe

Illustrations inspired by the first half of the 20th century are enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Back in the 1930s, the absence of modern technology meant a slower, more deliberate design process that yielded vibrant and sophisticated designs.

However, this nostalgic style has become more accessible today. With retro filters prevalent in various social media tools, it has made a notable comeback. Contemporary web projects are embracing vintage color palettes, incorporating this retro vibe into their designs.

A prominent aspect of this vintage trend lies in illustrated fonts, where brands infuse a modern twist by using their distinct color schemes. This design trend, having endured over time, promises to impart a timeless and classic feel to your creations.

2. Psychedelic

Image Source: James Jeans

The term “psychedelia” refers to the psychedelic subculture of years past, while the term “psychedelic” is more specific to experiencing an altered state of consciousness. When it comes to a design aesthetic, they’re pretty interchangeable.

Right now, abstract psychedelia is making a righteous statement among the 2021 design trends. While this style is still making moves today, let’s refresh ourselves on when it all started: the Swinging Sixties. Rooted in the music and art of the ’60s, psychedelia is associated with hallucinogens and creative experimentation under the backdrop of social upheaval. Both visually and emotionally, psychedelic style takes you to a new destination, and the overarching goal is the opening of one’s mind. Psychedelic designs and pieces of art take on a life of their own, both in their explosive arrangements and in their complexity—to the extent that no two viewings feel quite the same.

3. Cartoons

Image Source: Cartoons by Barry

Cartoon design epitomizes lively and distinctive illustrations, frequently infused with humor. It’s characterized by vibrant drawings, usually featuring characters and conveying narratives. Opting for cartoon design brings out personality and playfulness into your design, making it a compelling choice over traditional graphics or photography.

Illustrations, especially cartoons, foster a friendly and relatable atmosphere, making messages more approachable and relatable. 

The term “cartoon modern” was coined in the 1950s by designer Saul Steinberg, and its popularity rose in the 1960s and 70s with the advent of computer graphics and the development of new techniques for achieving a clean, minimalist look. Some well-known artists who have worked in this style include Steve Ness, James Stewart, and Herb Emery.

Artists often utilize cartoons to simplify complex concepts, rendering them easier to comprehend. In some instances, the visuals alone are sufficient to convey the intended message without relying on words.

4. Realism

Image Source: Design Swan

Realism is an illustration style that refers to a meticulous and accurate depiction of nature or contemporary life without embellishment. It emphasizes a close observation of outward appearances, rejecting imaginative idealization commonly found in other artistic styles. 

While having been popular for some time, realism is poised to gather momentum in illustration trends 2023. Dreamlike imagery characterized by a surreal style will infuse illustrations with enhanced creativity and style. Although a niche trend, applying this style after comprehending the preferences and mindset of the intended audience can yield remarkable results.

Realism seeks to capture reality in a natural and unembellished manner, focusing on portraying subjects with intricate detail to closely resemble what the human eye sees. Although mastering realism can be challenging, it offers a rewarding approach to showcasing the inherent beauty present in the real world. For artists seeking to excel in this style, using visual A.I. tools might provide an advantage, but that’s a topic we’ll delve into later.

5. Escapism

Image Source: Theaoi

One of the Illustration art styles is the art of Escapism showcases works that offer a chance to break away from everyday routines and momentarily indulge in a range of delightful distractions.

Escapism, a prominent feature in illustrations, revolves around settings that are unreal and out of this world. Artists utilize their imagination without bounds, resulting in visuals that cause human minds to wander and lose themselves in alternate realms. This whimsical and dreamlike quality defines the Offbeat style, offering an escape for many during the pandemic.

Amidst the challenges of being confined at home, numerous designers sought refuge creatively by immersing themselves in their imaginative worlds. Escapism thrives on settings detached from reality, granting artists unlimited freedom to craft surreal landscapes and settings. These illustrations serve as an invitation for people to explore and temporarily lose themselves in the artist’s imaginative escape.

6. Comic Book

Image Source: Vector Stock

Comic art relies on key elements such as the plane, angle, portrayal of a moment, and speech bubbles, present in nearly every comic book. Within this realm, diverse illustration types are utilized, each showcasing its unique style and technique. These encompass penciling, inking, coloring, and digital illustration.

Penciling involves creating an initial sketch while inking defines the sketch’s outlines using ink. Coloring can be traditional with markers or digital through software programs. Furthermore, techniques like photo manipulation and collage use layered images to craft the final artwork. The varied illustration types in comic books significantly shape the mood of a narrative, and artists choose styles based on their preferences and storytelling needs. This finds its relevance in the book illustration services niche.

7. 3D Animation

Image Source: Graphic mama

Exploring various styles such as realism, photorealism, unreal realism, “cartoony animation,” anime, and collages can elevate your product’s presentation. Feel free to leverage the 3D modeling services for bespoke 3D animation art tailored to your business requirements.

With advancing technology, more designers are embracing 3D techniques due to their increased accessibility. Tools like Spline and Womp now enable 3D design directly within web browsers. Additionally, this seems like the perfect opportunity to highlight the in-browser mockups.

The incorporation of 3D designs enables the portrayal of impactful concepts. The added dimensionality enhances the visual appeal of even the simplest shapes and textures. When elements leap off the page, they naturally capture attention.

Utilizing 3D proves transformative in showcasing products and hero images on websites, offering various other practical applications. As technology continues to evolve, 3D is anticipated to gain further popularity throughout 2023.

8. Flat

Image Source: Vecteezy

Flat illustration is a modern illustration style that stands out for its simplistic, graphic design and often employs a restricted color palette. This style finds application in logos, icons, infographics, and various visual content formats. Known for its high recognizability and scalability, flat illustrations are extensively favored in digital media. Utilizing straightforward geometric shapes, lines, and vivid colors, they effectively convey their intended message.

In contemporary times, flat designs have surged in popularity. Their 2D attributes render a vibrant and sharp appearance, be it on digital platforms or in print media.

The essence of simplicity is important in this style, eliminating excess clutter and retaining only essential elements for a comprehensive visual representation. Additionally, its compatibility with text and images further enhances its versatility.

9. Line Art

Image Source: Design Bolt

Before the era of photography and halftones, line art was the standard illustration format in print media, employing black ink on white paper. By using techniques such as stippling or hatching, varying shades of gray could be simulated within these illustrations.

Line art, a form of illustration reliant on lines, shapes, and patterns, embodies a clean, minimalist style, ideal for conveying a broad spectrum of emotions and ideas. Crafted using pencils, markers, or digital tools, this monochromatic artwork is characterized by lines of different weights or thicknesses, often appearing in black and white or a single color against a solid background.

An essential trait of a line is its ability to demarcate the edges of two-dimensional shapes or the contours of three-dimensional forms. It can define a shape through an outline or delineate a three-dimensional figure using contour lines.

10. Micro Animation

Image Source: Dribble

Micro animation illustration refers to modern illustration styles in which the use of small, animated visuals within digital content like websites, videos, or applications to enhance interactivity and engagement. These animations serve various purposes, from highlighting specific elements on a webpage to providing user feedback during interactions or simply adding a sense of dynamism to the content. They vary in style, ranging from simplistic motion graphics to more intricate character-based animations, and are crafted using software like Adobe After Effects, Toon Boom Harmony, or similar animation programs.

These tiny animated snippets play a big role in catching attention fleetingly, drawing users into the narrative, or conveying a message swiftly. They’re strategic in guiding users on websites or momentarily halting their browsing journey.

With the digital space increasingly to focus, micro animations become pivotal. It’s almost as if this style was tailor-made for the humans’ shrinking attention spans. They’re particularly trending on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Dribbble, making them a savvy choice for engaging audiences frequenting these social channels.

11. Colors of the ‘90s

Image Source: Pinterest

Creating nostalgia through designs often involves referencing or mirroring the past using illustrations. Utilizing retro or vintage styles like pixel art, flat design, or pop art can effectively evoke the aesthetics of specific eras or cultures.

The 90s, although not too distant in memory for many, have now become a nostalgic throwback. The color palettes from that era exude vibrancy, bringing to mind memories of MTV, cartoons, and advertisements. If you recall the ’90s cartoons vividly, embracing this illustration trend will be like a delightful trip down memory lane.

Nostalgia illustration encapsulates a deep fondness for bygone eras, invoking sentimental connections to moments, places, or individuals from the past. It’s a form of art that wistfully evokes memories and emotions tied to specific times in one’s life. These illustrations, realized through diverse mediums like watercolors, oils, or digital art, vividly portray feelings of happiness, sadness, or joy, mirroring the setting and subject matter depicted. Widely utilized in graphic design, branding, packaging, and personal artwork, nostalgia illustrations serve as powerful conduits, evoking profound emotions through their heartfelt depictions of cherished memories.

12. AI

Image Source: Dribble

Computer-generative or AI illustrations, a form of digital illustration style driven by artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, are crafted in real-time, often responding to specific inputs or cues. These illustrations blend various abstract representations of shapes, textures, and colors, generating intricate and imaginative images. Commonly utilized across gaming, entertainment, advertising, and scientific domains, this AI-driven art aids in data visualization and numerous other applications.

While many current illustration trends pay homage to earlier styles, the use of AI in design is a more recent concept. As AI technology advances, we anticipate a surge in artwork exclusively AI-generated or heavily influenced by it. Artists may prompt the AI to produce a desired scene or use simple shapes, witnessing the emergence of more intricate designs. The realm of visual AI is continually evolving and promises to take on new forms in the near future. This marks just the inception of its potential.

13. Surreal

Image Source: Webneel

Surreal illustrations, renowned for their dreamlike or irrational imagery, are often crafted through painting, drawing, or mixed media. These artworks depict fantastical or bizarre scenes, aiming to provoke thoughts and delve into the subconscious mind. Renowned surrealist illustrators like Salvador Dalí and René Magritte have significantly contributed to this genre.

The surreal style holds a unique power, allowing the creation of messages beyond real-world limitations. These illustrations present visuals reminiscent of dreamscapes, combining elements that wouldn’t naturally coexist. This artistic trend is emblematic of different illustration styles and illustrator styles, allowing artists to experiment with drawing trends. Its ability to simplify complex ideas makes surrealism an ideal trend, complementing AI tools and enabling the transformation of concepts into visual realities, thus expanding the scope of creative expression.

14. Textures

Image Source: iStock

Texture illustration involves the digital creation of patterns or designs by manipulating image textures or surface properties. This artistic technique finds application in 3D rendering, product design, and game development. Illustration textures encompass various types such as grids, noise, wood, metal, and others, used to impart a realistic or stylized appearance to different surfaces within artworks.

Texture illustration, a subset of different styles of illustration and illustrative styles, offers a means to infuse uniqueness into digital creations. These textures, when subtly applied along with gradients, grant depth and originality to an illustration, setting it apart from similar styles. They captivate the viewer’s attention, compelling them to engage with the artwork for a longer duration. Additionally, this style can cleverly introduce a sense of motion to the illustration, enhancing its visual impact within graphic illustration styles and simple illustration style approaches.

15. Classique

Image Source: fr.dreamstime

Classique illustration, originating in 19th-century Europe, embodies a specific art style renowned for its intricate and detailed depictions, placing a strong emphasis on texture and shading. Artists like Gustave Doré and Alphonse Mucha are notable contributors to this genre, synonymous with highly detailed and meticulously crafted visuals. Often employed in books, comics, and advertising, this artistic approach has resurfaced as a key element in current illustration trends 2023 and continues to inspire illustration in various spheres.

Notably, brands like Nike and New Balance have championed this illustrative style in 2022, using editorial fonts alongside meaningful illustrations to convey impactful messages. This trend echoes the communicative power of Classique illustration, reminiscent of iconic publications like the New Yorker, showcasing its relevance and influence in contemporary illustration art styles.

16. Patterns

Image Source: Vecteezy

An illustration pattern encompasses a recurring arrangement or configuration of shapes, lines, or textures within an artwork, contributing to its visual appeal and thematic expression. These recurring elements—such as colors, geometric shapes, or motifs—serve to convey specific emotions or messages to the viewer. Additionally, they foster coherence and flow within a larger artistic composition. Diverse illustration pattern styles, including geometric, floral, animal prints, and abstract motifs, are prevalent in drawing trends and different illustration styles.

Utilizing patterns in illustrations extends their role beyond mere design elements; they become integral components contributing to the overall visual narrative. Whether employed to infuse dynamism or create a backdrop using brand-specific colors, patterns infuse vitality into spaces, attracting positive attention and serving as versatile brand assets across various contexts.

Design Never Stops

In the evolving canvas of recent years, our lives have undergone seismic shifts, influencing the very trajectory of design trends. Within the graphic design realm, this metamorphosis stands as a testament to the perpetual ebb and flow of creative expression.

Classic styles have experienced a renaissance, seamlessly intertwining with contemporary aesthetics, while the advent of cutting-edge technologies like 3D and AI has broadened the spectrum of creative possibilities.

Navigating through this whirlwind of change emphasizes the significance of staying attuned to illustration trends, a journey often fueled by seeking sources of inspiration. 

Amidst the evolving landscape of design, these trends serve as guiding lights, offering endless possibilities to artists, designers, and creatives alike. Whether you’re drawn to the nostalgia of retro vibes, captivated by the surreal realms of dreams, or fascinated by the vivid allure of micro animations, each trend presents a canvas waiting for your unique expression.

In the realm of illustration, the journey is as significant as the destination. The trends we explore today will shape the visual stories of tomorrow, defining the aesthetics that captivate audiences and resonate with diverse emotions.

As you navigate the dynamic world of illustration, may these trends inspire your creativity, encourage your experimentation, and guide you to craft compelling, resonant visuals. Embrace these trends not merely as styles but as invitations to embark on an artistic voyage, discovering new dimensions, and breathing life into captivating visual stories. Cheers to an artful and inspiring year ahead!

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Adam is a copywriter and content strategist with years of experience covering the latest trends in technology and digital industry. Adam brings a fresh and creative approach to his writing. With his passion for writing as well as amazing research skills, he shares valuable knowledge on multiple trends.