Having an illustration style can give artists a sense of uniqueness and identity. While illustrators and artists may give varying opinions regarding the adoption of a particular style – it is generally accepted that having a unique “style” that makes your illustration different is a good idea.
For solo or freelance illustrators, specializing in a particular illustration style is okay, especially if you are targeting a specific client. Most illustrators prefer styles that reflect their personalities or tastes. Sometimes, this can be unintentional as some illustrators are not yet comfortable exploring different styles.
Even if it’s intentional, most critics can perceive a “signature” among illustrator’s work. The good thing is that this signature usually gives a unique personality to the illustration.
This article will discuss the common ways of developing a unique illustration style.
How to Develop a Unique Illustration Style?
There are a lot of questions that you are advised to answer as you thinking on developing your illustration style. However, here are some general tips to develop your illustration style:
Most established illustrators did not become illustrators overnight. It took years of practice and experimentation for them to develop their own illustration style.
Therefore, if you want to create a unique illustration style, make sure that you get out of your comfort zone and try different mediums, materials, and styles. The digital age also allows us to access numerous pieces of art on the internet. See where you are most inspired or most confident. Try with basic hand-drawn illustrations, or if you’re feeling techy – digital illustrator software is a powerful tool for illustrators.
Try drawing what interests you, whether it is food, people, or objects. Check and experiment freely to “calibrate” yourself and find your interest. If you feel that you are confident in a particular style, try experimenting on it further (i.e. increasing the details, shifting from traditional to digital art). Have colleagues critique your work too.
2. Know Your Goals
Once you have a clue of what illustration style you want to focus on, it is also nice to set some goals. Do you want to illustrate as a hobby or as an illustration a first stage for developing more complex skills such as motion graphic design?
Do you wish to start teaching other aspiring illustrators or do you want to focus on 2d and 3d design? Whatever your goal is, it is very important to have a plan in mind.
If your goal is to commit to clients and become an illustrator-for-hire, then it is sure to say that you should be a bit flexible in choosing your styles. Study your target client and see if the current demand for a particular style meets your taste. Having a goal in mind will give you a sense of direction.
At the same time, however, don’t think too much about chasing money. Art should be made for art’s sake primarily. We don’t advise sticking to popular styles that are in demand, as trends generally change over time. Always aim big and even if you do not meet your goals perfectly, the practice and experience gained are still priceless.
3. Go Formal
If you have watched an explainer video, you will know that self-study and self-experimentation are undeniably the best methods for developing your illustration style. Nonetheless, enrolling in classes is still advised. Teaching the fundamental concepts can develop one’s pathway.
Professional classes will help you go deep into the concepts needed to develop own ideas and execute them smoothly on the illustration. Furthermore, enrolling in a professional class will allow you to consult with professional illustrators. As an aspiring illustrator, you will get a lot of illustration tips and layout tips from professional illustrators to help you take your skill to the next level.
4. Be Flexible and Patient
There are moments where illustrators appear to be stuck when it comes to developing a particular skill. These “dead-ends” can be as simple as trying to draw perfect facial expressions or even more complex ones such as pencil shades.
Despite your best efforts, there are probably some styles that you may not be able to illustrate at first. Some artists hold into as they think they invested too much time and effort to learn a particular style.
While it is normal to feel this way, be careful not to fall into a “sunk cost fallacy”. This is bad behavior where the learner continues trying a skill even though the cost of doing so outweighs the benefits.
There is no shame in not being a master of all styles. So, if you are in this situation, it is advised to redo the experiment phase and try other methods or styles. You may also opt to try other mediums like stencils or digital. The world of illustration is huge. What is important is that you enjoy what you are doing.
5. Get Inspiration from Established Illustrators
Do you have artists that you admire and draw a lot of inspiration from? If so, then it would be good to study their style and try to emulate some of their styles. With time, you will make your own innovations that will help you stand out as an illustrator.
With a sense of direction, patience, and flexibility, it will be easier for you to create unique illustration styles that will help you connect with others. Start slowly and gain confidence without trying to obsessively find perfection.
Over time, you will improve your skill. Also, take note that the path to developing one’s illustration style may vary from person to person. Everyone has different talents, traits, and personalities.