Illustration is one of the most versatile forms of design and graphic design work, allowing visual artists and creatives to work in nearly any field.
Some illustrators are advertisers, creating illustrations for companies and gaining a strong understanding of how products are made. Others illustrate journalistic stories or create children’s book illustrations, visualizing the written word.
“Illustrators are the link between design and fine art. We are not designers, nor are we fine artists. We work in a commercial industry that provides images for clients in a sort of lending atmosphere. Because we generally do not sell our original work outright, we fall into an odd category: We create images that sell ideas, push boundaries of the imagination, sell products, decorate and compliment text like nothing else. We are in a unique creative zone.” – Holly DeWolf, Breaking into Freelance Illustration: The Guide for Artists, Designers and Illustrators
Illustration requires you to be open-minded—to not get too caught up in the design world, but to go out and experience the aspects of the world that will spark your creativity and develop your strength as an artist.
Learning and practicing illustration require a variety of creative resources, from pure passion to the more logistical aspects of the field.
Because so many illustrators frequent PrintMag, we decided to round up some design resources just for you. See our illustration books and collections below for both inspiration and business advice.
9 Creative Resources for Illustrators
By John Roman
“A targeted search of the web reveals a surprisingly vast territory of prospective clients for illustrators and brings to light literally dozens of ways for artists to forge a career path. This book catalogs the many popular and well-known avenues in illustration as well as numerous esoteric markets that exist outside of the public eye.” – John Roman
From comic strip and biological illustration, to tattoo artistry, military art, and more, this thorough guide plays an essential role in any freelance illustrator’s job and career search. While your impression may be that the field of illustration is difficult to land a job in, the 50 out-of-the-box markets presented break the industry wide open. Take advantage of the opportunities these markets provide, discover your specialized skill-set, and find the markets that will allow you to practice your passion. Get it here.
Medical and Biological Book Illustration:
By Lawrence Zeegen, Caroline Roberts
Delve into the vibrant history of contemporary illustration with Fifty Years of Illustration by Lawrence Zeegen and Caroline Roberts. Whether you want to learn more about the flagrant idealism of the 1960s, the austere realism of the 1970s, the superfluous consumerism of the 1980s, the digital eruption of the 1990s, or the rapid diversification of illustration in the early 2000s, get an in-depth look at the historical contexts pertaining to the important artifacts and artists of the illustration industry in the latter half of the 20th century. Get the book here.
Inside this collection of amazing illustration and conversations with illustrators and art directors about the field, you’ll find:
- Drawn Together: Conversations with 12 exceptional European illustrators
- Earthly Delights: With her lush colors and quiet sense of joy, the illustrator Maira Kalman creates a world we want to inhabit.
- My Son the Art Director: Two generations of illustrators reflect on the family business.
- And more stories about illustrators and their work…
By John Roman
This is the first book ever to fully explore the fascinating world of “illustrated” conceptual maps. Author and map artist John Roman traces the roots of imaginative mapping from their beginnings over two thousand years ago, and shows us how the human mind is programmed to instinctively relate to the geographic exaggerations illustrated maps are famous for.This book maps the origins and history of creative cartography, analyzes why our brains so easily relate to conceptual maps, presents how professional artists create illustrated maps, and showcases the works of contemporary map illustrators from around the world. Get it here.
By W. Glenn Griffin, Deborah Morrison
Most design books capture the results of good ideas, but very few capture the idea-generation process in way that can inspire fresh thinking and better work. However, The Creative Process Illustrated represents a rare and remarkable look into the creative process of the top minds in advertising, and answers the question, “How are big ideas born?” Get it here.
Illustrative designer Von Glitschka will teach you several systematic illustrative design methods you can immediately integrate into your design process. You’ll not only expand your creative potential, you’ll also be far better equipped to handle your next great concept, even if it does include illustration. Get this download here.
Give your design ideas a home and raise awareness for endangered animals at the same time with the Extinct Collection from Absoloot and the Jane Goodall Institute. Each notebook cover features a different endangered animal, as well as species information and conservation status on the inside cover. Made with environmentally friendly paper, you can contribute to a great cause while also giving yourself a creative space to sketch wireframes, brainstorm, or jot down notes. Get one here.
An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers
By Danny Gregory
An artist’s journal is packed with sketches and captions – some rough, some polished. An Illustrated Life offers a sneak peak into the wildly creative imaginations of top illustrators, designers and artists from around the world through the pages of their personal visual journals. Popular visual journalist and author Danny Gregory reveals how and why keeping a consistent, visual journal leads to a more fulfilling creative life. Get it here.
An Illustrated Journey: Inspiration From the Private Art Journals of Traveling Artists, Illustrators and Designers
By Danny Gregory
Discover the artistic ideas behind the art journal pages of more than 40 famous and up-and-coming artists. Danny Gregory provides you with insights into private travel journals, helping you find artistic inspiration of your own. These art journal ideas are inspiring, creative, and fun to read. In each essay the artist discusses experiences, materials and techniques alongside images of present pages of their art journal. Get it here.