Illustration: Getting Started

Illustration is a type of art that is a visual explanation or interpretation of a written text.

Arrow Shirt Collar Advertisement by J.C. Leyendecker, 1907
J.C. Leyendecker's Arrow Shirt Collar advertisement from 1907
Joseph Christian Leyendecker (1874 - 1951) / Public domain

Types of Illustration

The roots of Illustration started in books but now as an Illustrator
there are many possibilities for careers and jobs to venture into.

  1. Editorial Illustration
    A type of illustration for magazines and newspapers. Editorial Illustration uses images that are conceptual content for an article or decorative content for pages.
  2. Children's Books Illustration
    A large number of images that coincide with writing. The illustrator can also be the author or works with one.
  3. Comic Illustration
    This type of illustration can consist of three artists that work together. One artist makes the line work, the second inks the line work and third colors the images. Independent artists are more likely to do all three.
  4. Graphic Novels
    ​Graphic Novels combine elements of books and comics. They are longer than comics and there is more technique experimentation. A graphic novel may have one artist or many artists working collaboratively.
  5. Advertising Illustration
    This type is used to persuade the audience and communicate a commercial, political, or ideological message. 
  6. Humorist or Satiric Illustration
    ​A type of illustration that is in most publications. There are specific publications that have content solely based on humor and satire that use this type of illustration such as Mad Magazine.
  7. Fantasy or Science Fiction Illustration
    A theme that can be used for specific clients, film and entertainment.
  8. Scientific Illustration
    ​This type of illustration presents an accurate, visual representation of scientific observations of nature.
  9. Biological Illustration
    A branch of scientific illustration with its own branches.
    1. Medical Illustration
      A focus that has advanced knowledge in medicine, science, art, design, technology that explains medical and biological information through imagery. Illustrators will collaborate with scientists or doctors as they translate complex information through images.
    2. Botanical Illustration
      A focus on creating accurate imagery representations of plant life.
    3. Zoological Illustration
      A focus on creating accurate imagery representations of animals.
    4. Paleoart​
      A focus on creating imagery that recreates prehistoric life with the use of scientific evidence and knowledge of those periods of time. This includes representations of fossils and reconstruction of creatures and their ecosystems.
  10. Technical Illustration
    This type of illustration communicates technical concepts visually to be easily understood by any audience. The images need to be as exact as possible in regard to dimensions and proportions of the object.  Often, you will see technical illustration in manuals for consumer objects such as household appliances.

There are more examples listed in
45 Markets of Illustration by Communication Arts.


To learn about the History of Illustration,
read this overview by the Norman Rockwell Museum

"I just wanted to do something important."
-Norman Rockwell: My Adventures as an 

The Saturday Evening Post by Norman Rockwell, 1920
Norman Rockwell's The Saturday Evening Post cover from 1920
Norman Rockwell / Public domain

Here in Ohio

Here are a few organizations, expos, and museums
that focus on different types of illustration.

  • Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum
    Located at The Ohio State University, the world's largest and most comprehensive academic research facility for original and printed comic strips, editorial cartoons, and cartoon art.
  • Cartoon Crossroads Columbus
    A free festival in Columbus, OH. Their mission is to have an international showcase of the best cartoon artists through forms that include comics, animation, editorial cartoons, newspaper strips, and more. 
  • Columbus Society of Communicating Arts
    CSCA is a nonprofit organization that promotes communication design within Central Ohio. They set up guest speaker events by illustrators and other artists in communicative arts.
  • The Mazza Museum
    The Mazza Museum is the largest museum of original artwork by children’s book illustrators in the world. It is located at The University of Findlay in Findlay, Ohio.
  • Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo
    S.P.A.C.E  is the Mid-West's longest running expo of art comics, minis, small press, self-produced and published comics.
  • SÕL-CON: The Brown, Black, & Indigenous Comics Expo
    An expo that supports youth of color to be creative by sharing and expressing their stories through the comic book storytelling arts.

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