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Defining Illustration: What is it?

What is illustration art? A lot of people are confused with the line separating illustration and art, which is the broader term of the two. In the modern world, these lines have become increasingly blurred. Nonetheless, we shall attempt to define it.

According to Wikipedia, illustration is “a decoration, interpretation or visual explanation of a text, concept or process.” One of the functions of illustration is for media and publishing--to highlight and anchor the text in a newspaper or magazine. It also has applications in campaigns and marketing, education and entertainment. In many industries and professions, illustration has an important role in implementing procedures and organizational cohesion. In the world of apps and websites, illustrations play a part in creating user-friendly interfaces.

In all of the above applications, illustration is seen as artwork with a practical function. Something that puts its use above its artistic message. Illustration comes from late Middle English, where the term was used to mean spiritual or intellectual illumination. It further traces back to Latin illustratio, originating from illustra, a verb.


Apart from their artistic quality, illustrations have a purpose. In this case, a poster warns people of the hazards of throwing cigarette butts. Photo by Library of Congress on Unsplash

Illustration makes our world navigable and easier to understand in so many different ways. Traffic signs, emojis, diagrams, patterns on packaging, wallpaper, are all examples of illustrations. While they are pleasant to see and sometimes are meant to bring us a degree of pleasure or enjoyment, they have a more practical purpose than fine art. This practicality and emphasis on purpose draws the technical line between illustration and what is considered fine art.

With the world increasingly becoming digital, it is becoming harder to distinguish between illustration and art. There is a whole new layer being added to the experience. Digital art is often categorized as illustration. Products of graphic design and illustrations created through software are often referred to as graphic art.

Some people believe that the medium used in creating the piece factors into the categorization of the work. While it is true that certain artistic media and materials are preferred for formal art use rather than illustration, no one can stop an illustrator from using oil paint to create his work; also, the use of pencils and ink (used commonly in illustration) is widespread in art, and is in fact a basic foundation of most artwork. Hence, the medium used, while varying in popularity among illustrators and fine artists, fails to spell the definitive difference between the two.

Today, a lot of graphic design products are classified as illustration. However, if the maker of these products or illustrative work considers his output as a form of self-expression, then it would be classified as art as well.

Illustrators are hired by clients to create guides or visual enhancements. They can also be hired to create icons or symbols. This process still lives on even in the digital world. One could say that it is thriving even more. The marketplace for illustrators and her work has never been more dynamic than in the age of the internet.


Illustration has a time-honored and respected tradition in media and publishing. Photo by British Library on Unsplash

A Difference in Brand Positioning

While we might dismiss the debate of distinguishing between illustration and art as a matter of pure semantics, it matters because of one thing: brand positioning.

An illustrator or artist might want to position himself as one or the other for the sake of his clients. Being able to distinguish between the two is the difference between getting hired for a newspaper drawing and a portrait, or between selling package design and selling an abstract painting.

How you sell yourself to your clientele is important.

Building your Illustration Art Profile

If you are an illustrator looking for clients to hire you, you need an online profile to assist in your personal marketing. One way to increase your chances of being hired or your work being purchased is by creating your very own illustration art website. Through your illustration art website you can showcase your artwork in gallery format and provide ways for clients to contact you for commission work.

You can also create an e-commerce page with an illustration art gallery where you can sell your digital illustrations to anyone who is interested. The market for illustration art for sale is expanding. The demand for digital posters and new forms of electronic artwork is growing by the day. Through your illustration art e-commerce page you can sell these items directly to your customers.


Are illustrators artists too? Most often, people who are labeled as artists illustrate, and illustrators regard some or many of their creations as art. Photo by Boston Public Library on Unsplash

How to Showcase your Work through an Illustration Art Website

You need to look for the right website maker that accommodates for the many needs of modern artists and illustrators. It has to be simple enough so that from sign-up to finish, the artist can put together a well-designed website without having to write a single line of code.

Free website templates are ideal when you want to start on your illustration art website without spending a lot of money. There are website platforms that do exactly justice such as Strikingly. Strikingly affords you a visually stunning illustration art website that is easy to build and manage. As an illustrator or artist, you shouldn’t have to worry about complicated processes or having to hire a developer when starting on your illustration art website.

Strikingly also features many beautiful templates that you can choose as your design. These free web templates create the framework for your illustration art website. Here are some great examples of Strikingly sites that balance artistry with functionality.

Here’s how to get started:

1. Outline your goals for creating an illustration art website

You need to ask yourself this important question: what are my specific objectives for building this new site? It can be any of the following:

  • Professionalizing a hobby
  • Reaching out to existing clients
  • Creating a personal brand that distinguishes you from other illustrators
  • Easy access to your portfolio
  • Finding new clients
  • Developing a competitive edge over other illustration artists
  • Building your own illustration art gallery
  • Putting up some of your illustration art for sale
  • Finding collaboration opportunities with other digital illustrators
  • Targeting an international market

Whatever they are, you need to state your objectives clearly. The design and foundation of your website depends on clearly stated objectives. Your content, website design, and navigation depends on this basic statement of project goals.

2. Build an outline to assist in the framework of your illustration art site

Now that you have your objectives set, you will need to create a diagram of the content that you want published on your site and how you want each section of content displayed. You don’t need anything sophisticated. Just envision a few navigation links like “About” or “Profile or “Gallery”. These are basic sections that will help your audience discover who you are and what you do.

When you choose the best website builder, you don’t have to stress over creating this entire website from scratch. You can utilize ready tools that you select while on the platform to have the functionality you envision.

With Strikingly, you can embark on your illustration art website by selecting one of the many beautiful design templates it has on its free options. Make sure that you choose the template that best speaks for you as an artist. Just like the famous illustrators of today, you need to carefully craft your brand and determine your signature palette, style and presentation. You can search for popular illustrators sites to find inspiration.

You also need to make room for e-commerce functionality, should you decide to include this in the future. As an artist, you likely already have the great images to go with your chosen Strikingly design template. Use your best-reviewed or most popular illustrations, as these are better at eliciting a response. These will go a long way in helping your illustration art website to be noticed among your target customers.

3. Start adding your portfolio

If you’ve amassed a large portfolio of artwork, it’s time to start showing your pieces publicly! This is the only way for your clientele to understand your artistic vision better.

Your very own illustration art website is a chance for you to build a full showcase of your range as an artist. Make the best use of this space and be selective. You can further categorize your work so that viewers can see the scope of what you can do.

4. Fill it with quality content

A great illustration art website is not just about static art pieces. It is about words and videos too.

When you can, start uploading relevant content to your site. Upload videos that give a glimpse of your illustration process as an artist. Create premium content accessible only to members. Make sure that the accompanying text is written carefully to optimize search and make the most out of your site’s potential.

Your brand is all about your personal story. When you add quality content to your website, it further enhances your profile as an artist. It makes you stand out from the many illustrators out there who are competing with you for clients and patrons.