8 huge illustration trends for 2016

Discover this year's biggest illustration trends - and which illustrators are leading the way.

Whether you're just learning how to draw, working on some new Illustrator tutorials or already a pro when it comes to drawing, there are some big things in store for the illustration world in 2016.

For a long time photography has held sway over the illustrated image, but for a variety of reasons – cultural, technological, finanical – the pendulum seems to have swung back and illustration is in demand again. So, what do you need to know?

Here are a few well-placed predictions of things that will become or remain relevant in 2016...

01. 3D illustration

It's illustration, sure, but not quite as we know it and creatives like Sarah Illenberger and Kyle Bean have long led the way when it comes to tangible illustrative treatments. Nissan's recent campaign – for which Owen Gildersleeve made a life-sized origami car – was both fun and memorable.

02. Illustration-photography combinations

Illustration trends 2016 Joe Cruz

Dive, by Joe Cruz

Kate Moross is one of those who predicts that 2016 will be a big year for new types of illustration and photography cross-overs. Hattie Stewart will be big again, but watch out for the excellent Joe Cruz too.

03. Moving image

As Hugo & Marie's Jennifer Gonzalez says, "I feel movement and sound can arrest a lot of attention, and it can sometimes capture more emotion than a still image." Nicolas Ménard and Jack Sachs both bridge the illustration/animation divide with aplomb.

04. Arts and crafts

Illustration trends 2016 Manual

Manual for Fort Point Beer Company

As The Partners' Keith Hancox points out, the craft beer/vinyl records/artisan coffee movement shows no sign of abating. For better or worse, the Americana-tinged retro style is set to be everywhere again this year. Manual's work for the Fort Point Beer company is a good example of this done well.

05. Limited colour palette

Illustration trends 2016 Natasha Law

Image by Natasha Law

Retina-searing colour explosions still have a place but increasingly limited or refined colour palettes seem to be gaining traction. The likes of Natasha Law and Ugo Gattoni are excelling in this field, as is Alice Bowsher and her playful black and white creations.

06. Cinematic imagery

Illustration trends 2016 Tom Haugomat

Cars to live in, by Tom Haugomat

Another ongoing trend but there still seems to be a real taste for the theatrical, the noir-ish and the dramatically-lit. Malika Favre remains the best, but others like Tom Haugomat have a real way with isometric perspective.

07. Vector, done better

Illustration trends 2016 Steve Simpson

Steve Simpson designed and created this cool character for Wired magazine

Vector illustration is still hugely popular but Alice Moloney is not alone in calling for better quality control. As Nick Finney of NB Studio says: "You can see through vector illustration when it's done poorly. How do you make yours different to somebody else's?"

08. Instant responses to current events

Illustration trends 2016 Jean Jullien

Peace for Paris became a symbol of solidarity

The success of Jean Jullien's Peace for Paris shows how well-received an immediate response to an unfolding event can be. Sometimes it can seem quite cynical, but Jullien's work always feels relevant and not exploitative.

Words: Rob Alderson

Discover more about the future of illustration in Computer Arts issue 251, on sale 4 March.

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