The world of illustration evolves at breakneck speed, especially in the digital age. In the last few years, countless illustrators have built thriving online audiences with social media. On Instagram alone, some have attracted followings of hundreds of thousands of people. These days, illustration doesn’t belong to one group of people but to everyone, and that means the industry could grow in a million different directions. As our culture shifts, illustrators around the world innovate and adapt, and they aren’t slowing down anytime soon.
In 2018, popular illustration tapped into minimalist aesthetics and current events, and artists around the world incorporated handmade textures and ancient geometric patterns. As we approach the New Year, we asked fourteen talented Shutterstock contributors to weigh in on what they predict for the future of illustration. These artists come from all over the world, and they work across different genres, so their perspectives are varied. But look closely, and you’ll see some patterns emerge. Looking towards 2019, top illustrators anticipate simple designs, offbeat color, customizable templates, cutting-edge software, and images that reflect our times. Read on to learn more.
1. “My predictions for illustration in 2019 include really bold colors for a bright future!”
My predictions for illustration in 2019 include really bold colors for a bright future! I guess we’ve had enough of those millennial pinks and blues and other pastel tones. I personally love and use bold colors all the time (regardless of trends), as they match my personality. I also think minimalist design will reach a new level of simplicity with a clean edge.
And, for those of us who are nostalgic, I think we will take inspiration from the past with some retro influences. From example, I can’t wait for the ’90s aesthetic to come back, as I identify it with my childhood, when I was watching a lot of cartoons and drawing all day long. 2019, here we come!
2. “New trends in technology will encourage new trends in illustration.”
Today, there is a wide variety of styles and techniques, but the main trend, I think, is minimalism; the trend towards simplification in shapes and colors will continue. Another recent trend is vivid colors, and that will continue to be popular. I think original characters are also in high demand in the commercial and fashion realms and also in children’s illustration.
Image by Olga1818
I believe modern technology now allows illustrators to realize original ideas with more creativity, and it will have a key influence on the directions in which illustration develops in the future. New trends in technology will encourage new trends in illustration.
3. “One of the key trends of 2019 will be combining reality with virtual elements.”
Image by elenabsl
One of the key trends of 2019 will be combining reality with virtual elements. As smart devices and AI start to populate our everyday life, the boundary between the digital and real worlds will become fluid. We will see more designs with people interacting with abstract elements, icons, user interfaces, and real-life objects in 3D virtual settings.
Dynamic illustrations will win out over static ones: floating objects, a few vivid colors, and asymmetrical compositions will become popular because they stand out more and catch the viewer’s attention. Rigid lines will be replaced by smooth and natural edges.
It will also be interesting to explore new themes that have not gotten enough attention yet: local cultures, styles, events, and traditions from different parts of the world, as well as new topics surrounding technology, society, the environment, and spirituality.
4. “In the future, users will be able not only to change the design of the template but also to interact with the illustration itself.”
Image by Incomible
New technologies have entered our lives, and anyone can now create designs quickly and efficiently. In the future, users will be able not only to change the design of the template but also to interact with the illustration itself. They will be able to change backgrounds, objects, and details, and they’ll be able to add something of their own. In other words, they’ll be able to fully create an illustration before purchasing.
Image by Incomible
The main trends of the future are simplicity, quality, accessibility, and easy editing, but following trends doesn’t mean all illustrations should look the same. More than ever, successful authors will have their own individual style. Bright, unexpected colors and combinations or an unusual angle and point of view will help illustrations stand out. I think in 2019, our multinational culture will have a big impact on our creativity. Different national traditions will merge in design, art, and illustration. We are all children of Earth!
5. “The future is a mix of 2D and 3D in real time, for Illustrations or Animations.”
Image by Julien Tromeur
I’m a 3D artist, so I see the world of illustration through this “3D to 2D” lens. What is very obvious to me is how the kids are embracing 3D massively now. It used to be expensive and hard, but now with Blender and YouTube, kids are diving in like never before. Now, you can get real-time render engines for free, so you can render huge Illustrations or 4K animations very easily (Eevee in Blender is amazing).
Image by Julien Tromeur
The future is a mix of 2D and 3D in real time, for Illustrations or Animations. Some artists are very impressive in their approach; they draw in 2D on a 3D canvas and move and render their art instantly. Hard surface modeling (versus organic) has seen a huge comeback in these past years. The techniques have improved a lot in Zbrush or Blender, for example. In 2020, I see lots of cool robots, driverless cars, spaceships, etc.
6. “High-quality illustrations will be in demand, both in terms of the final product and the structuring of the layers.”
Image by Roberto Castillo
High-quality illustrations will be in demand, both in terms of the final product and the structuring of the layers. As time passes, clients will increasingly want templates that are easier to edit. So, good, organized layering will be important to keeping loyal customers in the future.
7. “I think trends in illustrations will be set largely by video games and pop culture in 2019.”
Image by Memo Angeles
I see more and more people interested in graphics that can be used on T-shirts, tattoos, and stickers, especially if they are part of a popular meme. I think trends in illustrations will be set largely by video games and pop culture in 2019. I would keep an eye on YouTube and whatever other platform becomes trendy with the kids and make illustrations based on that.
8. “I think that the main trend in the world today relates to the process of globalization stopping or slowing down.”
Image by Potapov Alexander
If we want to forecast trends in stock illustration, we need to understand how our world is changing. I think that the main trend in the world today relates to the process of globalization stopping or slowing down. People are returning to their national interests and cultures.
Therefore, we will see two opposite processes. On the one hand, an interest in authentic graphics that reflect individual cultures will continue to increase. On the other hand, in places where there are fewer illustrators creating this kind of content—some places in Asia, for example—we’ll continue to see an increased interest in simplified, abstract illustrations that can be used in any country in the world.
9. “When I think about illustration the new year, I see abstract animal prints and cute characters…”
Image by Nikolaeva
When I think about illustration the new year, I see abstract animal prints and cute characters: sloths, pandas, giraffes, zebras, cats, dinosaurs, and maybe some new fantastical creations. In 2019, I also expect to see more collages with trendy colors and unexpected patterns.
10. “In 2019, it’s possible that designs will be more simplified, with a minimum of elements.”
Every year, there is something new in the world of goods and services. Someone will invent something, and that product will need to be sold to people. And to promote their goods, image buyers will need something new, bright, and unusual. In advertising banners, they’ll be looking for something fresh, dynamic, and unpredictable. In 2019, it’s possible that designs will be more simplified, with a minimum of elements. We might also see more artistic and handmade touches.
11. “In 2019, I believe we will see a new twist on traditional designs with a more sophisticated color palette.”
In 2019, I believe we will see a new twist on traditional designs with a more sophisticated color palette. If before we saw a lot of vibrant rainbow palettes, now we will see more restrained palettes and harmonies. As my work is mostly concentrated around tropical illustration and I always keep my eyes open for trends, I also believe that we will see designs that are less dense. Popular illustrations will feel fresh and precise, and they will have more space and airflow between their various elements.
12. “I think vintage illustration is here to stay in 2019.”
I feel that we will see a “return to the source.” By that, I mean we will see more and more traditional hand-drawn illustration mixed with some digital-drawn illustration, which gives images a more organic effect. In terms of my own work, I have created a niche portfolio bringing old vintage styles to life and creating custom content in that style, as it can be used in various ways and blends well with what most brands wish to express: a more natural and organic view of their products. I think vintage illustration is here to stay in 2019.
13. “I think that in 2019 the trend towards depth and realism will continue.”
I think that in 2019 the trend towards depth and realism will continue. In top Shutterstock images, you can see more and more complex illustrations. Shadows, volume, and multilevel elements are the main characteristics of these illustrations. Also, I can see an emerging trend towards vertical templates for the Instagram Stories format.
14. “In order to have a fresh vision and an original style, illustrators will need to have the freedom to express themselves and experiment creatively.”
Today, illustrators face a lot of competition, and that will continue to increase. In order to have a fresh vision and an original style, illustrators will need to have the freedom to express themselves and experiment creatively. It’s difficult to predict future trends confidently. Personally, I don’t especially track and follow them. Instead, I make sure my work aligns with my own inspiration as well as the needs of my audience. In the next year, for example, I plan to continue to experiment with integrating digital and hand-drawn styles and search for new drawing techniques.