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 articles 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 the similarities between illustration and drawing so that things can be more precise!

Both are well-known art categories that were used through 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 awakening 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. Suppose we want to know the difference in the context of illustration vs. drawing. In that case, we first need to examine both art terms separately.

So let’s be 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 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 black and white art, made with lines, created using various dry tools, such as pencils, graphite, and charcoal.

Like all things across history, dawing evolved. 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. Before 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 visual arts.

drawing of a butterfly

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

Moreover, artists didn’t use this art form only as a blueprint of their ideas but to show their artistic skills. Leonardo da Vinci was the most famous artist who skillfully used drawing as an independent art form. This renaissance master illustrated 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. The observer can assign the desired meaning because of its complex, unfinished, abstract form.
• Preparatory Drawing – It’s a more refined form than causal drawing, and it’s usually used as a draft for the final artwork.
• Finished Drawing – A entirely independent form 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 known drawings ranges from 30,000 to 10,000 BC. They were discovered in 1870 in the caves of France and Spain and are considered the earliest drawing expression of human civilization.

Also, the figures found in the caves were made using the primitive tools that prehistoric people had. The history of drawing is as old as the human race itself, and 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 the bindings of the old traditions. With the production of new drawing mediums, drawing wasn’t considered a blueprint of the finished artwork, like it was in the renaissance. Still, it became an art form of itself.

Even though drawing originates from prehistoric art, nowadays, artists and designers still use different kinds 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 Banksy (still alive).

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

What Is Illustration?

The illustration is hard to categorize and put in concrete terms, and 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 them on different media, from books posters to websites. As mentioned in this article, the leading parallel compared to drawing is presenting a specific idea to the audience through a visual message.

Who Is An Illustrator?

The lines of who is considered an illustrator are blurry because a vast range of visuals falls 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 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. Still, 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 actual 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. There were prominent writers like Charles Dickens, who used them in their books. At that time, magazines also used illustrated caricatures to make them more vibrant and appealing to the readers.

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

With decreased production costs of different print media, they became widely accessible to the general public. 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 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 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 the artist’s 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 of making the visual message as straightforward as possible so that the observer can tell the creator’s intentions behind the image.

illustration of a woman's face

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

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

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