Definitions of Illustration

V Mineker Illustration: A girl in the jungle and her dog Definitions of Illustration
©Vivian Mineker. All Rights Reserved

Definitions of Illustration; 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. An illustration is typically created by an illustrator. The illustration also means providing an example; either in writing or in picture form.

Illustration (noun)

A picture illustrating a book, newspaper, etc..
E.g. an illustration of a yacht.
synonyms: picture, drawing, sketch, figure, image, plate, print, artwork, visual aid



  • picture, drawing, sketch, figure, image, plate, print, artwork, visual aid
  • exemplification, demonstration, showing, example, typical case, case in point, object lesson, analogy
  • representative, instance, example
  • exemplification


  • Illustration by Dixie Leota
  • This use of illustration in accounts of life in railway works is significant in several ways.
  • However, Clarke is also known for his work in illustration.
  • The most vivid illustration of India’s efforts to use soft power as a tool of foreign policy came recently in Afghanistan.
  • By the close integration of text, commentary, and illustration, he gave the renaissance world a definitive anatomical thesis.
  • Consider as an illustration Sartre’s example of a young man torn between joining the Free French and caring for his aging mother.

Word Origin and History

1325-75; Middle English < Latin illustrātiōn- (stem of illustrātiō) the act of making vivid, illustrating.

c.1400, “a shining;” early 15c., “a manifestation;” mid-15c., “a spiritual illumination,” from Old French illustration “apparition, appearance,” and directly from Latin illustrationem (nominative illustratio) “vivid representation” (in writing), literally “an enlightening,” from past participle stem of illustrare “light up, make light, illuminate;” figuratively “make clear, disclose, explain; adorn, render distinguished,” from assimilated form of in- “in” (see in- (2)) + lustrare “make bright, illuminate,” related to lucere “shine,” lux “light” (see light (n.)). The mental sense of “act of making clear in the mind” is from the 1580s. Meaning “an illustrative picture” is from 1816.

Definitions of Illustration


The illustrations of medieval codices were known as illuminations and were individually hand-drawn and painted. With the invention of the printing press during the 15th century, books became more widely distributed, often illustrated with woodcuts.

Some of the earliest illustrations come from the time of ancient Egypt (Khemet) often as hieroglyph. A classic example of illustrations exists from the time of The Tomb of Pharaoh Seti I, circa 1294 BC to 1279 BC, who was the father of Ramses II, born 1303 BC.

1600s Japan saw the origination of Ukiyo-e, an influential illustration style characterized by expressive line, vivid color, and subtle tones, resulting from the ink-brushed woodblock printing technique. Subjects included traditional folk tales, popular figures, and everyday life. Hokusai’s The Great Wave of Kanazawa is a famous image of the time.

During the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe, the main reproduction processes for illustration were engraving and etching. In 18th Century England, a notable illustrator was William Blake (1757–827), who used relief etching. By the early 19th century, the introduction of lithography substantially improved reproduction quality.

Illustration styles

Contemporary illustration uses a wide range of styles and techniques, including drawing, painting, printmaking, collage, montage, digital design, multimedia, 3D modeling. Depending on the purpose, an illustration may be expressive, stylized, realistic or highly technical.

Specialist areas include:

  • Architectural illustration
  • Archaeological illustration
  • Botanical illustration
  • Concept art
  • Fashion illustration
  • Information graphics
  • Technical illustration
  • Medical illustration
  • Narrative illustration
  • Picture books
  • Scientific illustration

The illustration as fine art

Oberon, Titania, and Puck with Fairies Dancing by William Blake (1786)
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.

Definitions of Illustration, illustrated by Dixie Leota

Definitions of Illustration, Research and Written by Arifur Rahman

Read also

  1. Definitions of Cartoon
  2. Definitions of Caricature
  3. Definitions of Artwork
  4. Definitions of Comic

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Written by Arifur Rahman

Cartoonist, Animator, Illustrator, and Publisher of Toons Mag.

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