24 Styles

24 Styles are here for you to give your ideas an identity. And you can mix and match. I am currently simplifying this process, and each little icon below will lead to a separate page for that style. There will be recommendations for similar styles but bunching them into families just complicates things with names. This way you choose by eye.

Click on the grey links below to see work in each style.
squishy hardline
zen japanese


simple line
zen zany
pencil &
pure pencil


When the meaning is obvious and we can play a little, these fun styles can be a welcome change from the ‘normal’ illustrations.


Grobby is versatile for emotion and humour, especially for young adults. Younger readers may think another child drew it. Well. Not wrong, really.

Icing style can evoke traditional African embroidery as an alternative to the Legend style. Or it can resemble actual icing.

Paper is graphic and elegant, good for simple concepts and perk up dry or earnest material. And it can do that without being flippant.

Stylised covers a lot of ground. Here are the styles that fit nowhere else. It’s a broad, but recognisable label.


Flat comprises flat shapes forming a picture. It’s a little like Paper Shapes without a third dimension.
(UPDATE 2016: Flat got texture!)

Icon has thick coloured outlines and is great for, well… icons. But not only icons! Good for mascot characters too.

Legend has heavy outlines too, but they are black, like the work of the Ndebele people, Australian Aboriginal, Maori and Native American art to name only a few.

Scraperboard has a similar indigenous African feel to Legend, with more texture within the shapes themselves. Both convey an ethnic art feeling, with as much or as little detail as the story needs, and sometimes these two styles blend.


Expressive lines convey more than just the outline or shape of something, they add a sense of light and shadow, and energy.

Squishy Hard often combines with Scribbly or even just adds some dimension and interest to Simple Line. Squishy isn’t fussy. Good for communicating in a relaxed or serious way and very versatile. A squishy line changes from thin to thick. 

Softline is more decorative and can become quite sentimental on occasion. 

Scribbly is self-explanatory. It can indicate texture, provide an interesting alternative to cross-hatching when shading, and generally makes itself useful. 

Chinese is of course the president of squishy. I will say no more, except that it nearly landed with the minimals because there’s usually no background. But it got all squishy and emotional so here we are.


The ‘clean styles’, these are my four minimalist styles where it’s mainly about the line.

Zen Japanese is a decorative style, leaning heavily on Japanese drawings and the peace they evoke. The subject doesn’t always need to be Japanese; it’s useful for Art Deco drawings too. It is usually a line of uniform thickness.

Simple Line
just explains it clearly with no fuss. Good for ‘how-to’ illustrations. Here too, the hand needs to be steady. It differs from Technical in that there is little dependence on the computer, except for the straight lines. I produce a patient and serene mood for these, by listening to gripping stories. The Simple Line is the most difficult…

is as perfect as human hand plus machine can produce. My sister once observed that when perfection is possible, perfection is expected. The machines are beautiful… 

Zen Zany is distorted and funky, but not as extreme as Grobby. This style is fun but it takes itself very seriously. Lines can not wobble, deviate or be diverted from delivering the funny.


‘Hand drawn styles’ are great for pictures that tell a story or convey information. If there’s some leeway for a bit of artistry, versatile pencils add interest.

Pencil & Colour is great for the more serious, real-life stories with a bit of drama.

Pure Pencil  is good to use for monochrome books with cheaper paper due to budget constraints. But fine pen lines (Simple Style under MINIMALIST) also work.

Pencil Crayon: always popular, and if necessary, can be bolstered with a thin pen line for impact.

Tinted Strokes is a fun way to add a new, contemporary dimension to plain pencil drawings. 

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