TrendX - April 2024 report about trends in illustration

TrendX - April 2024

It’s time to explore current and emerging trends in illustration based on market data and insights from our team.

In January 2024, we produced our first data-driven trend report for the illustration market. Three months have passed, and researching the second one was a little daunting at first. How much can possibly have changed in the creative industries in 90 days?

However, analysing the data and drawing on our agents’ observations between January and March 2024, several interesting styles and creative approaches are emerging, and client tastes are certainly changing. Some of the trends we’ve identified might be iterations on what we talked about in January, but they do indicate new directions of travel which are useful to be aware of when planning new illustration projects.

Our report is based on data collected via our website (with over 100,000 monthly visits); enquiries received; bookings taken; and the revenue generated by individual artists during the quarter. We’ve taken out legacy factors such as royalties, and have surveyed our agenting team for their stylistic and aesthetic observations in order to better understand what clients have been looking for from each artist with each commission. 

With over 200 artists in our talent pool, from different ethnic backgrounds and located in countries around the world, we’re uniquely positioned to produce a report that is global in scale and reflects the popularity and commercial appeal of the styles they work in. It might help you shape the look and feel of your next project – whether you want it to be on-trend, ahead of the curve or timeless in its appeal.


Trending: Accidentally on purpose

  • Five of our 25 most-commissioned artists work in this style
  • An artist with the joint most enquires in March 2024 works in this style
  • One of our 10 highest-earning illustrators works in this style

Realism is put to one side in light, whimsical imagery where paint splats and exuberant pen strokes escape the forms within a composition for a natural, handmade feel. Spring is here, summer is coming, and people are looking forward to getting outdoors and breaking free of the hard edges and corners of the built environment, and perhaps this easy-going and impressionistic approach from our artists reflects this. We’ll dine al fresco, drinks will be spilled and the breeze will mess with everyone’s hair. 

The happy accidents of life are just the same as the happy accidents that come about in the creative process. However, the decision to preserve them in an image is deliberate on the part of the artist and commissioning clients will never receive a mess of paint splats, but a purposefully crafted work with imperfections that make it feel human.

This is a style that rails against clinical-looking computer-generated art and pieces created using AI tools. Spills, smudges, scribbles and marks go back to everyone’s childhood experience of creativity and seeing them in beautiful, professional illustrations makes the project and its message all the more relatable to its audience.

Artists to watch

Camila Gray

Enya Todd

Briana Kranz


Emerging: The return of cute

  • The artist with the third most enquiries in March works in this style
  • One of our artists in the top 25 for revenue and top 30 for bookings works in this style

Although normally one might regard ‘cute’ as a category of children’s illustration, cute culture is something that transcends the generations. It became a global phenomenon with brands like Hello Kitty in the 1990s but is now much more diverse, manifest in emojis, computer gaming, toys, collectibles, films, books, homeware, food and more.

Now it is seeing a resurgence. The Cute exhibition held at Somerset House in London from January to April was a sell-out and parallel to its popularity we’re seeing increasing interest in artists who create cute characters for their clients. As a leader in children’s illustration, IllustrationX is receiving enquiries from clients with projects aiming to appeal to the inner child of various audiences.

Cute illustration offers a form of escapism in a world that feels harsh and uncertain, with conflict and political instability in the news and the cost-of-living crisis weighing on our minds. As this area has grown, the focus has broadened from the characters themselves to include more nuanced storytelling. Illustrators with a talent for visual narrative have an opportunity to excel, working in publishing, character design, commercial campaigns and retail merchandise.

Artists to watch


Olga Popova

Shiane Salabie  


Trending: Live infographics

  • Enquiries about live event drawing have tripled between November 2023 and March 2024
  • An artist with the joint most enquires in March 2024 works in this style
  • One of our artists in the top 30 for revenue and top 40 for bookings creates live infographics
  • Another artist in the top 40 for bookings works in this style
  • Our forecasting software predicts a high level of enquiries for this style in the second quarter of 2024

In January we identified live fashion illustration as one of five trends occurring at the time. In fact, live event illustration in general remains popular and in the first quarter of 2024 live drawing in B2B contexts was in demand at IllustrationX.

As with live illustration for the fashion and beauty industries, artists creating infographics at business conferences help to make events interesting and memorable for those attending. Illustrating business concepts by hand brings an element of creativity no Keynote or PowerPoint presentation can match, providing the audience with an alternative way of absorbing the information.

Quickly and expressively drawing characters and icons, and finding innovative ways of conveying processes and quantities, live infographic artists can be present at an event itself, or work remotely as part of a video conference or Zoom call set-up. Each board or artwork created can be saved and shared, digitally or in print, for attendees to refer to afterwards.

Often, delegates at conferences and symposiums expect them to be dry and dull. With a live illustrator our clients confound expectation and we anticipate plenty of enquiries in the coming months.

Artists to watch


Farat Design

Scratchy Hen


Trending: The new psychedelic

  • Four of our artists in the top 25 for revenue work in this style

We hadn’t noticed this until we investigated the data, but as winter swings to spring the proportion of artists using bright colours in our top earners list has increased dramatically. In January, we identified playful graphics as a trend for the quarter and those often humorous graphical forms are now being filled with loud colours.

We’ve dubbed this tendency ‘the new psychedelic’ because while the colours do shout they don’t necessarily swirl and collide as they did during the psychedelic era of the 1960s. Here, rich planes of red, yellow, blue, green, orange and pink remain flat and are generally confined within the line work.

This movement is all about impact over nuance. Elements within the images are often big, wild and loud. There is strong positive energy here, a sense of opulence and generosity – perhaps in anticipation of summer coming to the Northern Hemisphere.

Artists to watch

Rachel Winter


Lively Scout


Trending: Retro textures

  • Three of our artists in the top 20 for earnings work in this style
  • Three of our artists in the top 25 for bookings work in this style
  • An artist with the joint most enquires in March 2024 works in this style

Viewed up close, the ink dot patterns used by printers to achieve shading and colour blends create an interesting effect, as does the texture of the rough pulp paper that halftone grids were printed on. A similar effect is achieved with a light spray of dots reminiscent of the soft edges of an airbrushed image. The use of these patterns and textures is nothing new in art or illustration; it evokes a nostalgic feeling and is associated with everything from classic poster art to pulp novel jackets and early comic books.

What is new is the way some of our most popular artists are using these textures in a contemporary context. For some, dot patterns, sprays and scatters add interest and depth to their backgrounds, while the key figures in a composition are rendered in a modern, graphical style. For others, those grainy, paper textures give a touch of character to areas of flat colour bound within the line work and bring tactility to vector art.

Used in imagery that replicates mid-century printing or painting, these textures provide authenticity. However, whether in publishing, advertising or digital campaigns, clients are often looking for a combination of traditional and modern elements. Artists able to balance or even juxtapose the two have been winning a significant amount of work in the last quarter.

Their styles may be considered contemporary or nostalgic, and the imagery might consist of strong graphical forms or looser doodles. Whatever the case, retro textures help to ground the illustrations, making projects more approachable to various intended audiences.

Artists to watch

Denis Freitas

Debs Lim

Barbara Tamilin

Written by Garrick Webster

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