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Our top illustration trends for 2019

In an era so focused on digital, illustrations can offer a more evocative and memorable way of communicating with your audience. According to Behance, custom made illustrations can convert seven times better than any stock photography. With illustration on the up, we took a look at the hottest trends for 2019 to give your doodles that extra edge…


Bright and bold

Experimenting with bright colour combinations and bold shapes in illustrations will keep you on trend for 2019. “There’s something so raw and appealing about strong colour palettes and bold images making, especially if you’re a human magpie like me,” says Kay Wilson, a London-based freelance illustrator whose own work largely embodies this trend. “I can be more of a reserved person, so having my work take up a lot of space and command attention that I otherwise wouldn't is very cathartic.”

Brazilian agency DPZ&T tapped into this trend when they created the Big Mac Can, celebrating 50 years of partnership between the McDonald’s icon and Coca-Cola. With clean straight lines and blocks of colour, the can is visually striking and immediately evocative of the fast food giant’s most recognisable offering.

Image via AdWeek

Tap into the trend: The global swatch tool in Illustrator mean you can keep tweaking colours across your whole illustration without needing to select each shape individually.

Organic and hand drawn

Unique, hand drawn illustrations can give an image a pop of originality. With a wealth of digital drawing tools available to creatives, it’s possible to create something that appears completely organic and hand crafted even if created digitally, opening up the opportunity to inject more personality into creative work. “This style is very popular at the moment in everything from product packaging to editorial illustration,” says Simon, an independent illustrator (and of our graphic design team). “It lends a fun, personal feel to even the dullest subject matter.”

“I think we’ve seen a real upward trend with using illustration, and I love what Mailchimp has done,” says Matt Barratt, Lead Creative at Strawberryagency. “Not only have they gone against flat digital-style illustration, but they’ve been brave and confident in how they use highly stylised hand drawings in their branding.”

Image via MailChimp

Tap into the trend: Wacom tablets or iPad with Apple Pencil are great for capturing the spontaneity of a quick doodle straight into design software, without having to scan in physical designs.


Pop art

Originally emerging in the 1950s and flourishing in the 60s and 70s, pop art was (and is) inspired by movies, packaging, music and comic books. Thick outlines and bold colour palettes are key components of this illustration trend. “Pop art has such a strong visual hold in our culture, it's become style short hand,” says Kay. “The audience knows how to read pop art and what to expect from it.”

One brand ahead of the game when it comes to using pop art illustrations is Benefit Cosmetics, whose branding has always used bold, comic-style illustrations in their packaging, displays and websites. An ongoing campaign, the Bold is Beautiful charitable initiative, effectively employs this style across videos, landing pages and pop-up experiences to raise £282,500 for their chosen charities – and counting.

Image via Benefit Cosmetics

Tap into the trend: Photoshop has a range of methods for easily creating the classic threshold effect from a source photograph, with full control over the halftone textures for an extra retro feel. Alternatively, Illustrator’s vector brushes provide a way to work with thick, comic book style strokes that are fully editable and scalable.


Illustration within photography

Combining photography with illustration is a great way to make static images come to life, adding an extra layer of personality to catch the eye of your audience. “Compositing illustration and photography is a great way to bring a touch of the extraordinary to an everyday image,” says Simon. “It’s often used in advertising to present branding elements in a relatable, real-world context.”

“Illustration and photography have often been at odds with one another,” says Kay. “So the marriage of the two is the perfect rivals becoming lovers story. Both these mediums have so much to offer each other, and it's great that we are starting to see the potential of them coming together!”

Pepsi’s ‘LOVE IT. LIVE IT. FOOTBALL’ campaign, in partnership with the UEFA Champions League, combines portraits of various football players by renowned photographer Danny Clinch, with vibrant illustrations created by artists from each athletes’ home country. The result is a striking (pun absolutely intended) set of posters and products that embody the energy of the game, and the spirit of each individual player.

Images via Pepsi

Tap into the trend: With the way Creative Cloud apps integrate with each other, it’s simpler than ever to work in both vector and raster formats and see the resulting design updating instantly. For example, you can place images created in Illustrator into Photoshop, and create a link between the two. When you edit the original file back in Illustrator, those changes will be reflected in Photoshop.



Frequently adopted by tech companies who want to illustrate their products and services in a visually engaging way, isometric and 3D illustrations are a strong trend for 2019. “I find isometric illustration perfect for informational pieces like maps or infographics,” says Simon. “It’s a simple way to produce an eye-catching 3D look and I find it works best when shapes are kept simple and geometric and the colour palette minimal.”

“There's something incredibly satisfying about isometric illustration,” adds Kay. “It really appeals to the part of our brain that's always searching for patterns and consistency, it's like the feeling you get when you put the last piece in a jigsaw puzzle. It feels so complete and resolved, even when the images are full of little details and things to explore.”

eCommerce platform Magento, part of the Adobe Experience Cloud, use a series of subtly animated isometric illustrations on their website to demonstrate how their product integrates with your systems. Rather than flat images that add little value to the viewer, their illustrations work to further illustrate the benefits of their solutions.

Images via Magento

Tap into the trend: An isometric grid is simple to make in Illustrator, and fun to build up shapes into a flat illustration with a real sense of depth. Read how you can do it here.


The industry standard: Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is the industry-standard for vector graphics software, whether you’re creating logos, icons, typography or illustrations (check out our mini tutorial to find out how you can create vector graphics for print and web with Adobe Illustrator!). As discussed above, Illustrator is full of features to help you tap into the latest trends, such as isometric grids, vector brushes and global swatches.

Illustrator is available separately or as part of a Creative Cloud subscription, so not only can you create amazing illustrations, but also collaborate across desktop and mobile with powerful syncing tools to make sure you’re always one step ahead of the creative curve.

The best tools for the best illustrations  

Loved by designers and illustrators the world over, Wacom tablets are market leaders for precision input, making them perfect for pushing your creative boundaries. The Cintiq 16 in particular is a slim, powerful interactive display tablet, which is a great entry-level tool for new designers to use as a sketchpad for illustrations on the go. Paired with the ergonomic Pro Pen, with a pen on paper feel, you’ll have precise control over your creations even if you’re new to designing with a tablet. If colour accuracy is essential for your work, take a look at the Cintiq Pro series, featuring a wide color gamut so you can be sure what you see on screen is what you're going to get in your final output. Plus, Wacom tablets are brilliant to use with Adobe Creative Cloud apps – read about our top tips for using the two together here.  

If you’re using iPad Pro, the Apple Pencil has been completely redesigned to turn your favourite tablet into the ultimate digital sketchbook. Super responsive, with sensors determining pressure and tilt, it offers illustrators an incredibly natural on-screen drawing experience. New functionality means that buttons can be customised to change functions, like switching between brushes in your favourite drawing app to switch up your styles. 

Ready to tap into the latest illustration trends with top creative kit? Give our team a call on 03332 409 204 or email For all the latest news, trends and events, follow us on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.


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