illustration vs drawing featured image

Illustration vs. Drawing

Communication is the key to every prosperous society, and it’s the optimal method to convey messages, information, thoughts, and knowledge. Because oral communication has some flaws, the best way to communicate with the world outside of our tribe is through visual messaging. As we all know, a picture is worth a thousand words.

That’s why we will discuss two forms of visual communication in this text – illustration and drawing, their similarities and differences.

Now let’s dive deeper into illustration vs. drawing article so that you can find out all the details about the two.

Illustration And Drawing: What Are The Similarities?

The first thing to consider in this regard is to know what the similarities between illustration and drawing are so that things can be more clear!

Both are well-known art categories that were used trough centuries to deliver a message to the audience in the visual form, with the help of different tools. The two work the best when you are seeking the attention or want to awaken a specific feeling of a viewer without any additional words, but primarily with graphics.

person drawing in a notebook

Because humans predominantly rely on eyesight, drawing, and illustrations have an excellent capability of grabbing the spectator’s attention and awaken their curiosity.

In the eyes of the layman, the two terms might be the same, but for a student of art, they are entirely different. If we want to know what is the difference in the context of illustration vs. drawing, we first need to examine both art terms separately.

So let’s being with the oldest type of the two – drawing.

What Is Drawing?

Drawing is a direct realization of visual ideas. It can be an explanation of a subject, feeling, emotion, or it can even be something entirely abstract.

It is a type of art that emphasizes the form and shape. It is different from painting as it does not focus on mass and color. Throughout history, the meaning of drawing changed. Some used the term for the absent color art, made with lines, created with the use of various dry tools, such as pencils, graphite, and charcoal.

Like all things across history, dawing evolved as well, and artists started using various dry colored art materials to make their work more vibrant.

Drawing – An Independent Artform

Historically drawing was considered as a foundation of the art doctrine, and before the paper became easily accessible to artists, they’ve used wooden tablets as their drawing medium. After widespread use of paper, it started to grow in the field of visual arts.

drawing of a butterfly

So, artists used it as an outline of their feelings and thoughts, as well as a study of different shapes before they started working on their actual artworks.

Moreover, artists didn’t use this art form only for as a blueprint of their ideas, but to show their artistic skills as well. The most famous artist that skillfully used drawing as an independent art form was Leonardo da Vinci. This renaissance master drew anything from animals, self-portraits to future machines.

Categories Of Drawing

Mainly, there are three classifications of drawing:

• Casual Drawing – Sketching and doodling fall under this category. This type is incomplete and has an unassigned function. Because of its hard, unfinished, abstract form, the observer can assign the desired meaning to it.
• Preparatory Drawing – It’s a form that is more refined compared to causal drawing, and it’s usually used as a draft for the final artwork.
• Finished Drawing – A entirely independent form of drawing is called finished drawing. Cartoons and caricatures belong to this class. In fact, this style is frequently confused with an illustration.

The History Of Drawing

The known era of the first knowns drawings ranges from 30,000 to 10,000 BC. They were discovered in 1870 in caves of France and Spain and are considered as the earliest drawing expression of human civilization.

Also, the figures found in the caves were made with the use of the primitive tools that prehistoric people had at that time. Actually, the history of drawing is as old as the human race itself. People used to draw way before they learned how to write.

cave drawings

Cave art has a religious function. Besides that, it gives us a glips of different aspects of prehistoric daily life. From here on, the evolution of drawing began.

Fast forward to the 19th century, which brought the liberation of art from bindings of the old traditions. With the production of new drawing mediums, drawing wasn’t considered only as a blueprint of the finished artwork, like it was in the renaissance, but it became an art form of itself.

Even though drawing originates from prehistoric art, nowadays, artists and designers still use different kids of it, to create everything from UX sketches to finished drawing works.

Famous Draftsmen

In the course of history, there were a lot of well-known draftsmen that left a mark in drawing with their unique style. We already mentioned one – Leonardo da Vinci. Besides him, other renowned ones that walk the earth were Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and in recent times Banksy (still alive).

Now that we covered everything that is about drawing let’s move to illustration, and the first stop on our list is the definition.

What Is Illustration?

The illustration is hard to categorize and put in concrete terms. It falls somewhere between graphic design and art. It is commercially orientated because, commonly, there is a client behind every order.

Illustrations don’t exist only on paper but, you can see it on different media, from books, posters to websites. As already mentioned in this article, the main parallel compared to drawing is the presentation of a specific idea to the audience thought visual message.

Who Is An Illustrator?

The lines of who is considered to be an illustrator are blurry because there is a vast range of visuals that fall under the umbrella of the terminology. Illustrators don’t rely only on dawing, which is still a significant component of this art class.

Yet, they also utilize different media like digital photography, stencils, and collage to create their finished works. As you can see, illustrators work across various industries and use a spectrum of mixed media.

They are like the discipline itself torn between art and graphic design.

The History Of Illustration

Some might say that the origin of the illustration is linked with the cave imagery, but as we clarified before, those are categorized as primitive drawings.

We could say that the earliest occurrence of illustration started in Egipt with the appearance of Egyptian hieroglyphics, which were used to ornament tombs and temples, or as papyrus writing.

Egyptian hieroglyphs on a wall

The real beginnings of illustration emerged in the 17th century in Japan with Ukiyo-e art, and in Europe with engraving and etching duplication process.

In the 19th century, English literature started using illustrations, and there were prominent writers like Charles Dickens, who used them in their books. At that time, magazines also used illustrated caricatures in their issues to make them more vibrant and appealing to the readers.

The golden era of illustration was in the late 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. It came with technological advancement in paper production and print publishing.

With decreased productional costs of different print media, they became widely accessible to the general public. All this combined created a perfect environment for new illustrators, who enriched all kinds of visuals, from books to political campaigns.

As you can see, the mainstream use of Illustration as an independent industry is tied to the invention of commercial printing and publishing methods.

One of the most famous illustrators lived in the 20th century. His name is Walt Disney. He used his illustrating expertise and created, full-fledged animated movies that children and elders enjoyed at the same time.

How Is Illustration Different To Drawing?

As previously mentioned, drawing can be a part of the illustration, but it can’t be another way around. An additional difference is in the set of tools used for the artwork design. When an artist draws, he uses dry media to create their work of art. On the other hand, illustrators can, besides drawing, use a mix of different art styles and techniques to make theirs.

The fundamental difference between the two is that illustrations generally have a commercial background and are tailored to the client’s needs. Contrary, drawing has no commercial intent and is a pure expression of artist emotions and feelings.

Final Words: Illustration vs. Drawing

Historically looking drawing started centuries before illustration was even born. Still, we could say that illustration evolved from drawing, which became one of the fundamental parts of this newer art style.

They both share the idea to make the visual message as clear as possible so that the observer can tell what the creator’s intentions behind the image were.

illustration of a woman's face

In this article, you also discovered that illustration holds more commercial value compared to the drawing. That’s why the demand for professional illustrators is more substantial as for draftsmen. So, if we look at the earning potential of illustration vs. drawing, the former leads the way.

Finally, if you have drawing skills, try combining them with other visual elements, and you will quickly end up in the space of illustration, which might become your new way of artistic expression.

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