How to Develop an Illustration Style

develop an illustration style

| Work In Progress from my People Project  |

So, let's just make it clear that I am not the world's leading expert on how to develop an illustration style. I don't have enough years under my illustrating belt yet to have a concrete style of my own anymore, and be 100% sure of myself and my illustration style. I do, however, feel confident that I have grown a lot since I first set my sights on being an illustrator, and that I am taking some positive steps towards finding a style. I also believe, that your style is more apparent to others than it is to you, and your uncertainty is what keeps you developing and growing as a creative person. So, I'm sharing the steps I'm taking so far to develop an illustration style.

1. Figure Out What You Like

Nowadays, I think it is very easy to spend a lot of time 'collecting' images, and never doing anything with them. I think we all feel the desire to pin and bookmark things that we find beautiful and inspiring, but then forget about them and let them languish in  bookmark folders and pinterest boards. What I have been doing recently is making a purposeful effort to collate the images that truly inspire my style. I created a mood board of illustrators who's work I regularly return to, and idolise and fawn over, and pasted them into my sketchbook, and analysed what exactly it was I liked about them. Now, I don't mean to say I am selecting which nose to copy here, and which way for drawing trees there, but more an idea of how they use colour, or how simple/detailed they re. These give me a 'feel' to aspire to, rather than a person to 'copy off'.

2. Find Your Medium

One thing that has helped me tremendously to develop an illustration style is finding a medium I am happy with. I used to spend a lot of time being frustrated over watercolour, and then I discovered gouache. It gave me the blockiness of colour that I admired in digital illustration, but the painterly texture that kept leading me back to panting. It gave me a lot more satisfaction in my work, however, I do feel it is important to keep experimenting with mediums. even if you have found a medium that works and makes you happy, it can be interesting to see how your style transfers over into different mediums.

3. Just Start

I think a lot of the time creative people can get caught up in the thinking side of things, and never start. We can collect and think and ponder and work everything all out, but eventually we have to go and do it. The best way to actually get anywhere with developing an illustration style is of course to start illustrating. It is very frustrating to begin with to not be disheartened because they don't come out how you picture them in your head, and it is scary when you know you are not good at it, but sometimes it is necessary to give yourself a push to get started.

4. Practise Practise Practise

Like I said, the initial illustrations never will never come out how you picture them in your head. It is important to persevere, remain motivated and practise regularly. Challenge yourself to illustrate something small daily, or whenever you watch TV, or take yourself on drawing dates every weekend.

5. Look Back and Evaluate

Already, I've started to accumulate a pretty nice volume of illustrations. I am nowhere near reaching the illustration style I am truly happy with, but I can already see how far I have come. That is reward in and of itself, but what is even more useful about looking back is we eventually begin to decide what we like, and what we choose to discard, in order to refine out style - keeping a nose here, an eye-shape there, etc.

Let me know if you have more tips to share for others hoping to develop an illustration style.