Lavinia Aparaschivei

Lavinia Aparaschivei

August 20, 2021
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August 20, 2021
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Illustrators shape our childhood.

Children’s first memories and earliest thoughts are often the product of the drawings in picture books.

Image Source: Balázs Kétyi 

This journey with illustration continues as you mature, shifting to comic books, films, advertisements, fashion illustrations, and other forms of illustrated media.

Famous illustrators are behind the scenes of our favorite book illustrations and movies, but you might not be familiar with their names. 

We’re hoping to change that.  

This article will explain what illustration is (in case you’re not already familiar), break down the difference between illustration, drawing, and graphic design, and go over some of the most famous illustrators. 

If you’re wondering how to become an illustrator, this guide is a great place to start.

What is Illustration? 

Traditionally, an illustration was an interpretation of text into a visual format, often drawn by hand. 

Recently, digital illustration has become popular with illustrators and artists. 

Digital illustration is the depiction of text or an art piece in a graphical form. Using design software, illustrators can create digital illustrations that can easily be used online or in print.

Image Source: Balázs Kétyi 

Illustrations are commonly seen in posters, books, teaching materials, animations, video games, and movies.

There are so many things you can do with illustration. The illustrators on this list have created book illustrations, magazine illustrations, fashion illustrations, and so much more. 

Traditional illustration began with drawing and painting and advanced to other techniques like block illustration, ink illustration, woodcut illustration, watercolor illustration, to name just a few. 

There are various illustration styles, including fantasy, comics, fashion, children’s books, and cartoons. 

Now, let’s make some distinctions between what illustration is and what it is not. 

Illustration Compared to Drawing

You might be thinking, how is illustration any different from drawing?

Although drawings and illustrations are both visual representations that depict text or convey a message, they do differ from one another. 

The main difference is that while drawing is a self-expression technique, illustration is often (although not always) used for commercial purposes. 

Additionally, drawings typically are done without a need for text to explain their message. Illustrations generally are accompanied by and meant to convey meaning through text. 

Now, let’s talk about how illustration is different from graphic design, another commonly confused concept. 

Illustration Compared to Graphic Design

Graphic design is the creation of visual communications and graphics intended to convey messages with specific objectives. 

It is an art form created after the digital age that depends on technology and software.

Image Source: Good Good Good 

Illustration is often confused or conflated with the art of graphic design, but there is a difference between the two. 

Here’s the key difference, in just a few words:

  • Graphic design focuses on digital storytelling  
  • Illustration centers around the creative interpretation of a text 

Essentially, illustration is created to interpret or accompany a text, while graphic design is used to tell a story with design. 

Famous Illustrators to Know 

Now that we’re familiar with what illustration is and what it isn’t, let’s check out some of our favorite illustrators’ brilliant designs.

We’ll cover some of the oldest and best-known illustrators, plus up-and-coming illustrators to keep your eye on. 

The designs on this list are inspiring and nostalgic; many of them are taken from children’s books or old movies. Others are bold and creative designs from new designers. 

We love to see the progression of this art form go into the digital world.

Let’s get started with our first illustrator, Beatrix Potter.

Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter was a British illustrator known for children's books.

She was also a natural scientist and conservationist. She is perhaps the best-known illustrator on this list and one of the beloved artists who defined many childhoods.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit is an acclaimed children's book written and illustrated by Potter. The book focuses on a young rabbit named Peter Rabbit, as he gets into trouble in the garden of Mr. McGregor.

Wanda Gág 

Wanda Gág is an author and illustrator known for her beloved book, Millions of Cats

Millions of Cats is a picture book written and illustrated by Gág in 1928. Impressively, it is the oldest American picture book still in print.

Gág passed away in 1946, but her home has been made into a museum honoring her artwork for children and storytelling abilities.

Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki is a Japanese animator and illustrator.

He used his love of illustration to create animated movies. Miyazaki is also a director, producer, screenwriter, author, and manga artist. He co-founded Studio Ghibli, the studio that brought you Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, and Princess Mononoke.

In his art, Miyazaki focuses on the theme of humanity's relationship with nature and technology.

E. H. Shepard

E. H. Shepherd is an English artist and book illustrator known for illustrations of the anthropomorphic animals in The Wind in the Willows and Winnie-the-Pooh

If you’re anything like us, Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin were significant parts of your childhood and your earliest memories.

We have E. H. Shepard to thank for the lovely illustrations that brought Pooh and his friends to life. 

Jerry Pinkney 

Jerry Pinkney is an American illustrator and children's author who has illustrated over 100 books. 

He is known for watercolor illustrations and is recognized for his work on The Lion & the Mouse, published in 2009. 

Pinkney is still creating beautiful illustrations. One of his recent book illustrations is A Home in the Barn, by Margret Wise Brown, which was published in 2018. 

Tove Jansson

Tove Jansson is a Swedish-speaking Finnish author and illustrator known for creating the Moomins, which has been translated into over fifty languages. 

The Moomins are books for children about a family of trolls, which Jansson started writing in 1945. 

In addition to the Moomins, she also created prolific murals in public spaces from the 1940s onwards. She has also created comic illustrations and written short stories.

Jansson died in 2001, but there is a lovely website devoted to her work and her legacy.

Yuyi Morales

Yuyi Morales is a Mexican-American children's book author and illustrator best known for her books Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book, Little Night, and Viva Frida.

In 1994, Morales left Mexico and moved to the United States. She spoke no English but found solace and inspiration in her local library.

She became a children’s book author and has since won countless awards, including the Pura Belpre Medal for illustration and a Caldecott Honor.

Her books celebrate Mexican culture and focus on family, immigration, and growing up. She has a blog, social media, and a YouTube channel

Quentin Blake

Sir Quentin Blake is a British cartoonist, illustrator, and children's author who has illustrated over 300 books

He is best known for his work with Roald Dahl, with whom he collaborated on 18 books. He is known for his use of colors and vibrant characterizations. 

Quentin is active on social media and has been creating coloring books as part of a 'Wave of Hope' effort to respond to the events of 2020. 

Jean Jullien

Jean Jullien is a French illustrator and graphic designer who created an instantly recognizable style with his distinctive characters. 

His work as a designer has been made into clothing, posters, and exhibits. He specializes in magazine illustration, and his work has been featured in some major publications, including the New York Times, New Yorker, and National Geographic.

You can follow him on social media to keep up with his ongoing work.

Bijou Karman

Bijou Karman is definitely an illustrator, artist, and designer to keep an eye on.

Her work focuses heavily on the female form and colorful patterns. Her work is popular among major fashion brands such as Prada, Nike, and Harper’s Bizarre. She has created an impressive collection of art, including portraits, books, fashion designs, and prints.

Check out her Instagram account, and give her a follow so that you don’t miss her upcoming posts. 

Wrap Up 

Creating this list left us feeling warm and fuzzy inside, and we hope you feel the same way. 

Let this list inspire you to create your own unforgettable illustrations, or just remember the brilliant illustrators who brought us these fantastic designs, book illustrations, and movies. 

​​You can use Vectornator to create digital illustrations and designs. Our software is entirely free and easy to use for beginners. 

Our Pen Tool, Gesture Control, and Auto-Trace features are perfect for illustrators. Plus, we have access to free stock photos, templates, and more.

We want to see your designs! If this post inspires you to create something unique, follow us on socials and tag us in your creations. We might even post them onto our page.


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