Finding an illustrator is a piece of cake. What’s difficult is generating illustration ideas. Here are 12 illustrations ideas you can do to come up with illustration concepts that are sure to look amazing:

1. Use photography as a reference

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Get your camera out and take pictures of everything that you find interesting. Go for walks and bring your camera or phone with you. Not only will you get ideas for your illustrations, but you’ll also be exercising your mind by doing the following:

  • Framing
  • Composition
  • Storytelling
  • Attention to detail
  • Contrast

Plus, you get to slowly practice the seven elements of photography: line, form, shape, color, texture, pattern, and space. 

Create an album to store your photographs. Make sure that you keep them all, as these can be helpful in so many ways. You can use them as inspiration or use them directly to combine with your illustrations. Doing this assures you that the photographs you’re using are original and all yours.

2. Write down ideas as they come, not just when you need it

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While looking around for that special photograph, carry a notebook with you. Or anywhere you go, make sure that there’s something you can jot down your thoughts into. And if you’re not a fan of writing on a notebook, use note apps on your smartphone. Some great app illustration ideas come in a flash, don’t let them get away.

Go over your inventory of words from time to time. Organize them and see if there’s something you can make out of them. You can also write down additional concepts and build up a story or idea. You may not immediately have a use for them, but at least they’re safe where your memory may lose them.

3. Don’t underestimate mood boards

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Better yet, create a mood board for all your photographs, notes, doodles, and inspirations. Place snippets of random images, a font style you liked, your recent food cravings, or anything that will give you inspiration. The mood boards of today are created virtually, but it would also help if you have a physical one.

Some apps and websites offer a platform for online mood boards. Pinterest and Sampleboard are two examples to create mood boards. Alternatively, find a small space on your wall to create your physical board to tack that beautiful leaf or a piece of cartoon you did as a child. Either way, a mood board can help you make tiny decisions that can lead to something bigger.

4. Look at your competitors 

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We live in a highly competitive world. It’s a wise move if we take note of what our competitors are doing. This helps you steer away from what has already been done to avoid being labeled as a copycat.

Moreover, looking at what your competitors are doing can give you insights on what to do next. See what’s working for them and what’s not. This will help you learn from their mistakes to prevent yourself from doing them. Overall, looking at your competitors can let you create better and more unique illustrations. 

5. Interpret keywords in an artistic manner

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Give meaning to keywords by artistically interpreting them. Keyword targeting is essential to illustrations as much as it is in businesses. If you have a list of targeted keywords, get inspiration from them.

Figure out how you can describe a set of keywords that would help your website rank high on searches. Make sure that you name your illustrations with these keywords so that they will come up when someone searches for them.

6. Keep a sketchbook for doodles

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Just like having a notebook to jot down your thoughts, always have a sketchbook with you when inspiration sparks unexpectedly. Draw the following:

  • Things that you find funny
  • Things you find beautiful
  • Questions that you constantly ask yourself
  • Interesting shapes and colors
  • Your current emotions
  • Random insects and animals you see

Whatever you see worth drawing, create a doodle for it, even if the result doesn’t make much sense. You can always work on it and build up as the ideas pile up. It’s better to have them in your notebook than realizing it’s a great idea but can’t remember what it is.

7. Illustrate a word for the day 

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Make a list of words that you can play with using illustrations. Then focus on one per day and start sketching. It can be your favorite dish or any mundane word you can think of. You can also try to challenge yourself by illustrating random, abstract concepts such as love, success, democracy, and many others. Do this by jotting down two opposite words in two columns, then randomly pick a word from each column and visualize the bizarre pairing.

Doing this can generate ideas that you can use later or match with previous illustrations. Even if the results aren’t mind-blowing at first, you can go back to them at a later time. Continue work on these sketches, and you’ll come up with brilliance soon enough.

8. Write down your interests

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Drawing about topics that interest you is a great way to get started on ideas. Write down what you like and take inspiration from them. Here are a few examples, then add your own:

  • Electronic dance music
  • Fanfiction
  • Baseball
  • Yoga
  • Caramel latte

The list is endless, so you’re assured of a comprehensive collection of illustrations ideas. You can then break these interests down into details so you’ll have more to draw. Sketch what you like about the topic and what you don’t like just so you can have variety.

9. Look at your surroundings 

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Walk, jog, bike, drive around your neighborhood and immerse yourself in your surroundings. That tree looks incredibly unique, draw it. Let your imagination run free and add tree fairies while you’re at it. Get inspired by the rising sun or the falling snowflakes.

Take notes, pictures, doodle what you find memorable. Even a peek at your window to the outside world can help you generate concepts for illustrations. Spending time outdoors can inspire a sense of awe, whether these are ranges of mountains or a series of tall buildings.

10. Take a creative trip

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Other than simply looking at your surroundings, take the initiative and plan a creative trip for yourself. Pick the best day and time to explore museums, historic sites, or exhibits that will surely fuel your artsy mind. While on the trip, be sure to take note of every detail that you find interesting. 

As you explore, you’d be surprised at how other artists express themselves through their art. Be sure to immerse yourself and try to put yourself in their shoes. And by the end of the day, you’ll have an idea or two to start your next campaign. 

11. Swap ideas with friends

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Your friends are great resources for illustrations ideas. If they aren’t illustrators themselves, it doesn’t mean they can’t have wild imaginations. Swap ideas with them or get feedback for yours. This is an excellent way to see firsthand where your concept will take you.

You can also try joining community groups to have exchanges with. There are many resources online you can go to, and these can serve as your sounding boards. You can discuss ideas or the doodles you have in your sketchbooks and get encouragement along the way.

12. Take a break

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If, after all these, you still feel the creative block, maybe it’s the right time to take a break. Free your mind from thinking about generating illustrations ideas. Write a book, take a cold shower, or do some needlework, anything to keep your mind off illustration. 

Not only are you giving your mind a break, but you’re also getting your mind open and ready for your next illustration. After that much-needed break, just draw! Start with a shape and turn it into something else, a cat’s face, for example. You’ll get a fresh start and be renewed in finding concepts for your project.

Final Thoughts

Illustrations are a great way to tell stories, add impact, and get people’s attention. However, coming up with good illustrations ideas can be a challenge. Penji’s team of illustrators can help you do this. Watch our demo video here to learn more.

Sign up today and take 15% off your first month to get custom illustrations that you can use on all your marketing campaigns.