Illustration facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Wilcox
Illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith (1863–1935)

An illustration is a decoration, interpretation or visual explanation of a text, concept or process, designed for integration in published media, such as posters, flyers, magazines, books, teaching materials, animations, video games and films.

The origin of the word “illustration” is late Middle English (in the sense ‘illumination; spiritual or intellectual enlightenment’): via Old French from Latin illustratio(n- ), from the verb illustrate.

Contemporary illustration

1916 Western Engraving ad 02
"Illustration beats explanation" Western Engraving & Colortype Co. (1916)
Alice par John Tenniel 02
The White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, illustrated by John Tenniel (1820–1914)

Contemporary illustration uses a wide range of styles and techniques, including drawing, painting, printmaking, collage, montage, digital design, multimedia, 3D modelling. Most illustrators work on a freelance basis.

Depending on the purpose, illustration may be expressive, stylised, realistic or highly technical.

Specialist areas include:

  • Book illustration
  • Botanical illustration
  • Concept art
  • Editorial Illustration
  • Fantasy Illustration
  • Fashion illustration
  • Lifestyle Illustration
  • Political Illustration
  • Technical illustration
  • Medical illustration
  • Scientific illustration

Technical and scientific illustration

Gear pump exploded
Exploded-view diagram of a gear pump (c 2007)
1942 Nash Ambassador X-ray
Cutaway drawing of the Nash 600, an American automobile of the 1940s (1942)

Technical and scientific illustration communicates information of a technical or scientific nature. This may include exploded views, cutaways, fly-throughs, reconstructions, instructional images, component designs, diagrams. The aim is "to generate expressive images that effectively convey certain information via the visual channel to the human observer"

Technical and scientific illustration is generally designed to describe or explain subjects to a nontechnical audience, so must provide "an overall impression of what an object is or does, to enhance the viewer's interest and understanding".

In contemporary illustration practice, 2D and 3D software is often used to create accurate representations that can be updated easily, and reused in a variety of contexts.

Illustration as fine art

In the art world, illustration has at times been considered of less importance than graphic design and fine art.

Today, however, due in part to the growth of graphic novel and video game industries, as well as increased use of illustration in magazines and other publications, illustration is now becoming a valued art form, capable of engaging a global market.

Original illustration art has been known to attract high prices at auction. The US artist Norman Rockwell's painting "Breaking Home Ties" sold in a 2006 Sotheby's auction for USD15.4 million.

Images for kids


Illustration Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.