Graphic Illustration: A Guide to Graphic Design and Illustration

With widening availability of digital art programs and software, design and illustration are becoming increasingly more accessible to a larger audience. While they may seem similar from an outside perspective, graphic design and graphic illustration are two different mediums with different skill sets and goals. Understanding the differences between the two can help ensure you're making the correct design choices, hiring the right people, and even using the best software.

What is graphic illustration?

Graphic illustration is the creation of images that express ideas, sell or promote products, and/or provide information. It can be found in a variety of contexts from book jackets to fabrics to websites in a diverse set of industries including television, publishing, video games, and more.

Graphic illustration vs. graphic design

It's easy to confuse graphic illustration and graphic design, especially as increasing preference for digital art and changing style trends make the two more and more similar. Though they are similar, there are still important distinctions to make between graphic design and illustration that can help to more fully explain exactly what makes graphic illustration unique.

Fine art vs. design principles

Graphic illustration and graphic design differ in terms of educational background and necessary knowledge. Graphic designers tend to focus more on products, publication, and website design, while graphic illustrators spend more time honing their creative educations with classes in drawing, painting, art history, and digital illustration. These different backgrounds and skill sets then lend themselves to different jobs post-education.

Creation vs. communication

In general, graphic illustration tends to skew more toward fine art, while graphic design is often more commercial. In other words, graphic design is trying to communicate a message to an intended audience for purposes like marketing, while graphic illustration is more focused on creative interpretation and expression.

Both are important, but usually serve different functions. Graphic designers work on building overall brand identities or creating a coherent website to convey the appropriate message to a brand's potential clients. This can include considering typography, composition, overall color schemes, and may even include unaltered photos. Graphic illustrators, on the other hand, create new designs for things like product packaging, comics, logos, and other materials. They may be less inclined to worry about things like type and rarely if ever use unaltered photographs.

How to choose the best graphic illustration software


One of the biggest considerations when it comes to graphic illustration software is price. The price range for this type of software can vary. There are free options available, but these tend to have limited functionality. On the other end of the spectrum, high end graphic illustration software can have all the bells and whistles a professional might need, but could end up setting you back a hefty amount. Depending on your needs, spending that much on software might be a worthwhile investment if you'll use it often. If you only need to make a few simple images something more cost effective may be a better fit for you.


Along with price, features are also important to consider when choosing graphic illustration software. Low-end graphic illustration software doesn't provide users with as many options when it comes to brushes, effects, plugins, and other things a more experienced graphic illustrator might be looking for. On the other hand, simpler features could be perfectly fine for a beginner who might get overwhelmed by the options provided by more complex software.

Ease of use

Finally, when considering different graphic illustration software, make sure to take into account ease of use. Beginner graphic illustrators should look for software that is simple to understand and learn. Honing your graphic illustration skills is enough of a challenge without adding a confusing, difficult program to the mix. It might also be useful to check into whether either the creators of the graphic illustration software or the community of users have made any tutorials. This can be a valuable resource to make use of when first starting out.


Searching for the best graphic illustration software can be an arduous process with so many different options available. CorelDRAW has made it easy for anyone from beginners to professionals to find the best graphic illustration software for their needs. Check out our products page for a full listing of our software options, and take a look at our tutorials for helpful hints and tricks to make the most of your software.

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