Illustrations can help educate, inform, and inspire audiences; whether they accompany text or stand on their own, and they’re a unique way to decorate, differentiate, or deliver a dose of delight. Artists create illustrations in a variety of styles, using a multitude of methods — some of which are literally changing shape as technology and new tools evolve.
Isometric illustration is one such techniques. From infographics to magazine illustrations, the 3D style seems to be everywhere lately, and we’re convinced it’s only going to get more popular. Here’s why we believe these cool, 3D-looking designs are poised to become the next big creative trend.
What is isometric illustration?
Simply put, isometric illustration is a cool way to create 3D-looking objects as crisp 2D vector art; artists use geometric planes and isometric projection to make their flat designs pop. The result is a design that’s basically an illusion — while 3D drawings have a vanishing point that can make something look bigger or smaller from different viewpoints, an isometric object is created with flat layers and will appear the same size no matter where it sits.
Not sure if you’ve spotted isometric illustrations before? You’ve likely noticed whimsical, retro, or colorful SimCity-esque landscapes or Googley office scenes on your favorite websites or smartphone apps. You’ve probably seen some eye-catching isometric icons in the mix, too: the trend has become popular because it helps make standard, flat icons (or icon-like elements) appear more realistic.
Why are artists, designers, and illustrators interested in isometric illustration?
Artists love isometric illustration because it’s based on shapes, can be done with a surprisingly straightforward process, and it’s fun!
Isometric illustration is easy to make no matter what your skill level: novice illustrators can use simple geometry and shapes to create basic illustrations in a matter of minutes, while advanced artists can add more creativity to their work by compiling different shapes and snapping them to an artwork. A cube can quickly become a decorative box or crate, and shapes can be pieced or dragged together to create something more detailed, like a city skyline. Some take it a step further by adding animation to their designs.
Many creators are able to save time on detailed illustrations by setting up smart guides in a program like Adobe Illustrator; this helps them automate design steps and save time on tedious, repetitive actions for complex work. They often finish by rounding out their work with extra elements, like color, to give it flair or brand personality.
How do artists create isometric illustrations?
Wonder how you can begin creating isometric illustrations in a program like Adobe Illustrator on your own? While illustrators create the designs using different methods, tools, and programs, they all start with the same mentality — by encouraging beginners to think “cubically”, or imagining flat shapes like a cube. This technique is helpful because most isometric illustrations call for using a shape’s three planes: its top, left, and right sides.
DKNG Studios, a powerhouse design duo, encourages newbies to start by doing research about a specific object, making a thumbnail sketch on isometric paper, and uploading their sketch to a program like Adobe Illustrator or Gravit. Next, they outline their sketch with the pen tool and add layers for custom color and design strokes, background effects, and lighting. Some creators prefer to work with a more technical illustration process to align a shape’s planes one at a time. This approach uses the scale, shear, and rotate tools.
Many illustrators remark about how quick and easy creating isometric illustrations can be. Reflecting on his first attempt, Creative Director Von Glitschka, who has taught tutorials on Isometric Illustration for Adobe Illustrator recalls, “I said to myself, that’s it? That was easy! I had expected a more complex process.” Product Designer Nitish Khagwal echoed Glitschka’s feelings in his own tutorial for creating dazzling, isometric illustrations with a geometric technique using the three planes in Adobe Photoshop. “Voila! Easy, Huh!”
What does isometric art look like?
Isometric art includes icons and simple shapes, as well as more involved designs and animations. Illustrations can be black or white, colored, and involve varying levels of design detail. Despite the wide range of creative approaches to isometric illustration, works are always flat and two-dimensional.
Here are some Skillshare student examples we love:
1. Isometric Block by Carol L. We adore this colorful, layered cityscape, which the artist created by starting with an isometric sketch. The windows are a great use of repetition within a design.
2. Isometric Home by Mila M. This illustration by Mila, a lettering artist, is still a work in progress. We love the way Masina has exposed her creative process to date, including before and after versions of her design that demonstrate the difference adding color can make.
3. Isometric Design by Natalia M. Flat letters get isometric treatment in this composition. It’s hard to believe they aren’t 3D, isn’t it?
4. I-pho-metric by Liz G. This fun illustration project was inspired by the artist’s lunch. We love how Liz used photos to inspire her sketch, and are impressed that this is her first ISO freehand project. Like Glitschka, Liz credits Adobe Illustrator’s actions for saving her tons of time while creating the more tedious parts of her design.
5. BLT + PBJ by Clinton F. Clinton used isometric illustration to bring a cartoonish touch to two of our favorite sandwiches: the BLT and PBJ. In each illustration, all of the shapes pop with just a little bit of design detail.
Isometric illustrations can add pizzazz to any composition, piece, or page. You can use several different approaches to make simple or complex designs — and it only takes a few minutes to get started. Dream up a creative idea, take some time to practice a technique, and have fun!
Want to learn more about Isometric Illustration? Check out DKNG Studio’s latest class, 3D Illustration: Creating Isometric Design in Adobe Illustrator to learn easy techniques you can start using today.