Illustration vs. Graphic Design vs. Graphic Illustration: Understanding the Difference

Art and design are becoming increasingly accessible; therefore, mixing up different mediums with one another is bound to happen. For example, think of an illustration, graphic design, and graphic illustration. One can easily confuse these entwined, closely linked art forms.

So, the question is, what exactly is the difference between these?

The illustration is associated with fine art, and on the other hand, graphic design is viewed more as commercial art. Since commercial projects increasingly and frequently need dynamic and clear visuals, the differences are becoming less apparent gradually.

In this blog, we will take a deep dive into graphic design, illustration, and graphic illustration, how they differ from each other, and a few exciting ways you could use graphic illustrations for your upcoming projects.


Graphic design and illustration have their own set of techniques, channels, and artistic goals. The easiest way to distinguish them is that graphic design has a commercial motivation while illustration is mostly seen as fine art.

To put it in simple words: graphic design can send crystal-clear messages, which makes it a significant force in today’s design world. It is implanted in the modern commercial infrastructure. However, in contrast, illustration with its vagueness and indirect ability to communicate emotions and feelings becomes too risky even to be permitted to set foot in the corporate bloodstream.

A graphic designer remains more anonymous compared to illustrators since their focus is to convey somebody else’s ideas using typical design elements. People often seek out illustrators depending on their personal aesthetic and artistic skills.


An illustration is a visual means to illustrate or depict a written text. It might help describe an idea, tell a story, or even decorate something. Illustrations come in many forms, including both traditional as well as digital forms.

The most commonly used illustration styles include drawings in both colors as well as black and white. Both soft lines and sharp edges can be made in pencil drawings. Ink drawings demonstrate contrast beautifully. Charcoal drawings are often the preferred tool when it comes to illustrating stories as they are capable of creating dramatic shadows.

Illustrative paintings are crafted using watercolor, gouache, and acrylic to tell stories. Watercolor illustrations tend to incite generic feelings of femininity and softness. Gouache paint is a little bit expensive, and usually, commercial artists use it to make comics and posters as it dries quickly. Acrylics are versatile, easy to use, and can be used on various surfaces.

Some more physically intensive illustration techniques include etchings, woodcut art, and collage. A collage involves collecting and pasting found materials and objects (that might not necessarily be related to each other) to build a finished art piece. Woodcut art includes carving the illustrations into a real piece of wood. This is one of the oldest illustration techniques developed during the Medieval Period and is still being used by modern illustrators who like a textured look better. Etchings are a time-intensive technique that involves artists scratching illustrations onto a metal surface.

You can spot illustrations anywhere, especially in print media such as posters, magazines, flyers, educational materials, books, etc. Illustrations can also be found in the digital space of websites and apps, made by both freehand (using a laptop, for example) and vector graphics (using shapes and colors to copy an illustrative style).

While illustrations come with a unique freedom to exist without any words, they still possess the power to convey ideas via their dynamic storytelling. Minute details such as the characters’ facial expressions help illustrations to incite deep connection and emotion.


Graphic design is an art and profession that involves using visual compositions for solving problems and conveying ideas via imagery, form, typography, and color. While the illustration is all about creative interpretation, the graphic design focuses on communication with its target audience. Typically, marketing and branding strategies (instead of text and stories) fuel the graphic design process.

In both the print and digital worlds, there are numerous types of graphic design. Some examples of mainly physical print works include logos, flyers, billboards, posters, packaging, and business cards.

Web design and email marketing rule the digital landscape.

Often, graphic design starts with a visual identity which is a type of design that conveys a brand’s story, personality, and emotion via color palettes, typography, images, logo, and style guidelines to ensure uniformity through all the other designs.

Traditionally, marketing has been focused on print media such as magazines, newspaper ads, and flyers. Publication graphic designers create layouts, handpick typography and organize artwork for long-form projects such as catalogs, newspapers, books, and magazines. Packaging graphic designers communicate with the customers directly through the physical products.

In addition to all this, the internet has also unlocked other new ways for graphic designers to generate brand awareness via digital mediums. UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) designers focus on creating better interactions between users and websites, apps, and games. Motion graphic design is used for online media, web banners, presentations, TV and film crafts ads, trailers, GIFs, etc.

Usually, graphic designers possess one design specialization at the minimum, but since the industry is ever-changing, they should be flexible as well. This can often mean trying more fine art techniques and styles.


What happens when we combine graphic design with classic illustration?

We get graphic illustrations!

Graphic illustration takes attributes from both of them.

While graphic design gives more prominence to communication with the target audience, illustration is inclined more towards fine art, and graphic illustration is what happens when we blend these both. In a nutshell, it is the best of both worlds!

Graphic illustration employs the typical design principles of layouts, colors, shapes, and form to assemble and demonstrate the original artwork. They help visually express ideas, explain concepts, sell products, educate and promote, just like graphic design and illustrations individually do.

You can find them anywhere, including flyers, posters, websites, packaging, books, fabrics, advertisements, and much more. Graphic illustrations can use any technique ranging from drawing and printmaking to graphic representation of statistics and data.

Graphic illustrators have a skill set that includes painting, drawing, digital illustration, art history, business, and marketing. They need creative thinking as well as artistic skill to be able to convey theoretical ideas simply and effectively.


Turning to graphic illustration is an ideal option when your business requires a much more specialized and stylistic approach to your marketing. It keeps creative expression in the front and center while also ensuring to stick to your design elements and marketing strategy at the same time. It provides you with an incredible opportunity to establish a deeper relationship between your target customers and products or ideas.

Are you looking to build a powerful aesthetic and illustrated character to serve as the face of your brand? Or do you want to promote a detailed illustration of your company culture on your site’s homepage? Such opportunities are excellent to introduce this stylistic technique to your brand. In essence, the graphic illustration is indeed the best of both design worlds!


We can easily define the current design era as ambiguous. But we can’t ignore that it also gives a chance to separate art forms and practices to intertwine their unique skill sets and share their potential. And if truth be told, that’s just the way art develops. Graphic design, illustration, and graphic illustration are three different art forms that are indeed closely related but still have some apparent discrepancies. Understanding these differences is not only vital for the designers but also for the businesses so that they can choose the most suitable art form for their project. We are living in a dynamic world that is continually evolving. Therefore, designers need to be more flexible than ever to stay in the competition and diversify their skill sets. Grasping different forms of art and design will benefit you in the long run in ways you couldn’t have imagined. Keeping all the differences and similarities aside, graphic design, illustration, and graphic illustration give you some incredible opportunities to take your business to the next level. Be sure to make the most out of it.

Hariom Balhara is an inventive person who has been doing intensive research in particular topics and writing blogs and articles for E Global Soft Solutions. E Global Soft Solutions is a Digital Marketing, SEOSMOPPC and Web Development company that comes with massive experiences. We specialize in digital marketing, Web Designing and development, graphic design, and a lot more.

SOURCE : Graphic Design vs. Graphic Illustration

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