Simple illustration ideas for beginners

Have you been staring at that blank page for longer than usual? A creative block gets the best of us, all you need are some prompts to get that vivid mind rolling. Feeling uninspired is something every great artist and professional faces especially when they create daily. Every artist has a unique way of overcoming the block. Some watch videos on YouTube, scroll through Pinterest, or simply go through their portfolio for a creative boost.

While others look for new ideas and prompt to get their pens moving. Lucky for you we have simple illustration ideas and design prompts for you to kick-start your next project!

What is an illustration? How is it different from Graphic Design?

“The details are not the details. They make the design,” says Charles Eames.

An illustration is a medium of communication through visual arts. The visual explanation can be of anything, say text, figures, etc. Moreover, illustration can be considered as a process or a concept. The use of illustrations is far-fetched and every medium or published media generously uses illustrations to communicate with their audience. Different mediums like films, books, newspapers, and magazines, have varying illustrations. 

Graphic design, on the other hand, is the projection of ideas and communication with the combination of visual elements and text. This is why you call graphic design a communication design. 

An illustration is an element that you can use in a graphic design to portray your message. Other tools like images, vectors, and words together make a good graphic design. 

Types of illustrations

Based on the types of materials and technology, which has evolved over the years, you can classify the wide spectrum of illustrations into two — traditional and modern.

Earlier artists were limited to paper, paints and pencils. That is how the concept of sketching and drawing came into the light. But with the progression of the world and the advancement in tech, artists now have access to various 2D and 3D software like Adobe, Canva, Picsart, etc. which have tools to imitate the texture and style of pencil and paper apart from special effects, textures, and features like color wheels. Modern digital art tools possess endless possibilities allowing you to explore new art forms. In fact, despite the distinction in types of illustrations, you can also create traditional illustrations using modern tools or combine both art forms. Let us explore some of the most popular types of illustrations that exist for you to get started.

List of simple illustration ideas for Beginners

Traditional Illustrations

The fundamentals of traditional illustrations can be incorporated into a modern design using digital tools. Read below to know how.

Simple Woodcut illustrations

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Woodcut illustrations became popular because it was the most popular technique used in developing manuscripts back in the middle ages. It was massively deployed in the printing press and was the major contributor to the popularity of mass-produced books. 

Artists today who want to integrate a rugged feel and texture into their design use techniques like larger strokes and the contrast of light and dark shades, similar to that of carved block illustrations.

Charcoal illustrations

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The technique of blending and texturizing is the most important aspect of charcoal illustrations. The use of this technique to create objects, elements or figures adds shadows and a certain depth to the design. Back in the day, artists used softer materials like tissues or fingers to blend the painting. Similar blending techniques can be found in digital tools and software. 

Charcoal textures are very similar to that of pencil illustrations. The only difference is that the edges of charcoal pencils or tools are much thicker, darker and softer in quality as compared to a pencil.

Metal etching illustration

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The metal etching illustration technique is a complicated yet fascinating process. These carvings were made on copper, zinc or steel metal plates which were laced with wax because it is resistant to acid. The carving was made on the wax surface using a sharp etching needle which would expose the metal surface. Once this is done, the metal was, then, put in an acid solution and passed through a printing press with high pressure. The paper in the printing press would collect the ink and the engraved lines would be exposed appearing like a watercolor or pencil illustration. 

Pencil illustrations

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Pencils are affordable, accessible and easy to use. They come in different shades, hues, and thickness, enabling the artist to control intensity and texture with pressure and lines. 

Pencils are never going out of trend. Every creative professional prefers to start out with the good old pencil and paper. Pencil illustrations can be as simple as outlines to as intricate as Victorian architecture. 

Watercolor illustrations

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Watercolor illustrations have been trendy for a lot of platforms. They are used in children’s books, fashion sketches, lifestyle-centric genres etc. The subtle hues and colorful look that this technique gives a refreshing look to any design. Blending colors and adding soft and airy textures are possible using watercolor illustration technique.

Pen and Ink illustrations

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Pen and ink illustration technique allows you to create high-contrast artwork with a minimal budget just like pencil illustrations. Much like woodcut illustrations, the ink techniques also allow you to create larger contrasting strokes with the ability to make it finer and more appealing. 

Ink illustrations are popular when you want to create line art and elegant sketches. It provides a minimal touch to the design without compromising on the intricate details.

Modern Yet Simple Illustration Ideas

Carrying forward years and years of painting and drawing techniques and blending them with technology gave way to what is known as digital art. You can find a lot of traditional illustration inspiration in modern artworks, the only difference is that artists can now use every type of technique, all in one software with the use of a tablet, mouse or pen. 

Modern illustration techniques are broadly divided into two categories:

Freehand illustrations

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Like traditional artwork, digital artists can draw freehand using a graphic tab and stylus in illustration software like Adobe. Using spectacular digital tools like effects, textures, brush strokes, pen and pencil of varied weights and sizes, artists can create digital illustrations for various project types. Freehand illustrations are utilized in many kinds of projects like anime, magazines, advertisements, social media, concept arts etc. 

Vector illustrations

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Vector graphics always maintain and represent coordinate axes that determine the path of the design. These types of artworks are mostly used to add details than photo-realistic art and for platforms that require high-resolution files. When you create vector illustrations you do not have to worry about pixelating during zooming or scaling, therefore it helps the artist blend, shape and define lines precisely. These illustrations are popular in print media, logo designs, packaging art, websites, etc. 

Now that we have covered different types of illustrations, it’s time to scroll through the list of prompts.

Creative yet simple illustration ideas & projects

Portraits

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Digital portraits have become quite popular these days. GenZ is crazy over adding cool illustrative effects on images. Pick the photo of your favorite celebrity, idol or loved one, and get started. Focus on its facial expression, moods, colors and features. Draw outlines around it and give your own creative touch to it. 

Animated GIFs

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GIFs are the simplest form of animation, especially for beginners. Create animated GIFs using multiple geometric shapes and colors. They are cool, swift and easily shareable. You can even create a personal GIF library for your close friends or family. Or, create a GIF library of your favorite show.

Logos

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Although logos are an essential part of brand identity and marketing, you can have fun creating logos for individuals and businesses. Adding illustrations to logos immediately tells the audience a story. You can recreate the existing logos of popular brands or help out a business in your neighborhood or of a friend with a new logo. 

Take inspiration from the most popular logos of all time and design them in your style. Cartoon logos work well for fun brands with young adults as their target audience. So, find out the best style and get your creative juices flowing.

Expressive illustrations

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Expressive illustrations are an effective visual media to communicate. Much like paintings in art galleries, expressive artworks adopt a certain concept/theme/emotion/message for the audience to decode. Use your art to express your opinion and thoughts. Remember not all people will have the same opinion. Expressive illustrations are open to interpretations. 

Doodling

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Let your pens run wild and free. Fulfill your classroom doodling dreams because this illustration is fun, peppy and trendy. Doodling is surprisingly used in a lot of projects these days mostly because it adds a funky element to any project. Use doodlings on business cards, logos, posters and so many other platforms, it is a great way of storytelling. See what Mr Doodle is up to these days and get inspired.

Fantasy art

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Your imagination opens endless possibilities. Pour out your imaginations, dreams and fantasy on paper. Graphic novels, games, movies, animation movies and anime are all the results of fantasy art. It’s time to create your own supernatural creatures, mythological-inspired projects, and landscapes. 

Simple Illustration ideas for social media

Creating illustrations for social media is fun and exciting. You can experiment with as many trends as you want. Here are some new social media projects for you to play with. If you haven’t tried your hands on social media, it’s a sign for you to test it out.

Fan Arts

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Get your art out there and build a community of followers. Fan arts are a great way to show gratitude to your icons and appreciate their effort. Additionally, it helps you connect with people with similar interests and ideas across borders. You can create abstract art of your favorite characters, build theories about your favorite show and generate engagement on your social media page.

Geo Filters

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AR filters are widely popular among netizens these days. Get creative with it. A funny filter, a simple beauty filter or something that generates memes. The platform and choice is all yours. Show off your skills and let people enjoy your artwork. These forms of new media are the key for you to get out of your creative block.

Video Memories

You must have noticed how Facebook and Snapchat give you flashbacks of your memories. Animated illustrations on these videos make them fun to watch and increase their shareability. You can also create a memory lane for yourself and your loved ones. 

Simple Illustration tips for beginners

Hand draw your sketches 

Before digital art became accessible and popular, a simple pencil and notebook used to be the artist’s best friend. Most illustrators draw their sketches by hand before turning them into digital sketches. When you constantly sketch in your free time, it improves your motor skills as well as your critical thinking ability which can give your design output the edge it deserves. 

Befriend digital tools 

Getting familiar with digital art tools and software is a must for illustrators. You don’t have to do an extensive course if you don’t want to learn illustration. Just open YoutTube, watch a bunch of videos, and practice hands-on. Turn your old art into digital to get started. You will master these tools in no time. Digital tools open unimaginable possibilities for you and help you create newer arts within minutes that would have taken hours otherwise.

Get familiar with shortcut keys 

The creative flow is a very important thing for every designer, you don’t want interruptions due to technical inability in the middle of designing. To bridge this gap and make designing quick, software and tools have hotkeys etched into their code. These hotkeys are easy to remember and use. So learn them.

Creative exercises 

Just like your body needs warm-ups before exercising, the mind also requires some shaking up. Before you begin sketching, do a few creative exercises like drawing basic shapes, and practicing simple sketches and straight lines. Don’t let the blank page scare you.

Refurbish your existing work 

Take a look at your existing portfolio and pick out your favorites that can be accentuated with existing illustrative trends. You don’t have to re-work it from scratch, rather add elements and details that your current eye must be seeing when you relook at that work you did a few years ago. Making upgrades to your existing work not only boosts your confidence but at the same time tells you exactly how much you’ve learned over time.

Conclusion

As a beginner, designing illustrations can be challenging especially when you don’t have a project to work on. However, learning about the techniques, mediums, and art forms can prompt you to experiment with new styles and widen your creative horizon. Pick up any project idea that you like and start drawing. 

The block does not stay for long and once you know how to break that barrier, ideas and inspirations flow. Browse through our list of simple illustration ideas to brew some inspiration. It’s time to get back into the creative zone.

Head to Design Shifu to explore curated lists of ideas and examples for other business assets like logos and business cards to fuel your creativity.