Fresh illustration ideas don’t always come easily. When you’re staring at the blank page or screen, it can sometimes feel like inspiration will never strike. The good news is, this is a common challenge, experienced by professional artists and beginning students alike. Everyone has their own tricks for generating ideas: some use illustration prompts, some turn inward and take a look through their portfolio…and some turn to the work of other artists for inspiration. 

Luckily, we have a whole library of awesome illustration projects from Skillshare students and teachers, just waiting to be explored. Here are some of our favorite community creations to date, to get your creative juices flowing.

1. Generate Illustration Ideas From Your Doodles

illustration idea doodle
Big Mountain Doodle by Nicole C.

Remember those doodles you got in trouble for drawing in class? Whether you knew it or not, that was the first step to what would turn into your next illustration project. In his class, Digital Illustration: Doodles to Designs, Jon Burgerman encourages students to let their pens run wild and adopt an entirely spontaneous doodle into an art print. This illustration assignment perfectly demonstrates that you don’t need to be an expert to create something beautiful.

2. Illustrate a Word Assignment

illustration idea: words
Magnetic + Puddle by Hann L.

Sometimes, words are enough to spark the creativity inside you. Roman Muradov’s assignment does just that in Expressive Illustration: From Ideas to Execution. In his class, Roman nudges you to bring together two unrelated words in a single image. Come up with two separate lists of words (or use the one that Roman offers in his class) and choose two from each list. 

Roman recommends using words that don’t exhibit an inherent creative potential, at least at first glance. Although it may seem counterintuitive to rely on random words, you’ll be surprised by what can come out of this non-traditional creative process.

3. Use Idioms As An Illustration Prompt Generator

illustration idea: idioms
You’re an Idiom! by Christina S.

In his class on editorial illustration, Skillshare teacher Mikey Burton instructs students to illustrate a fun phrase that doesn’t mean what it says. Examples are “it’s raining cats and dogs” or “you are what you eat.” The literal meaning of the words can serve as an inspiration as you think of playful and clever ways to portray the phrase. You can get really creative with this project, so feel free to explore different illustration ideas and concepts.

4. Draw A Character Inspired By Your Favorite Food


It’s not surprising that artists and designers find inspiration in day-to-day objects, including food! In Vector Illustration: Design a Playful Character Using Geometric Shapes, Jonathan Ball creates a playful illustration assignment for students, encouraging them to design a character based on their favorite snack. Start off by naming your character: Dillon the Pickle? Louis the Scholarly Carrot? How about Cheesus? A warning: this illustration prompt may make you hungry.

5. Illustrate Your Interpretation Of The Word “Quiet” Or “Loud”

Surviving public transport by Jesper B.
Surviving public transport by Jesper B.

After Skillshare teacher Brad Woodard walks his students through some key design elements of digital illustration, he encourages them to use those tips to illustrate the word “quiet” or “loud.” This leaves open a wide array of interpretations, and sparks inspiration as you think about the best way to visually represent such an abstract concept.

Whether you’re in the process of brainstorming illustration ideas, or are already working on the next masterpiece for your portfolio, one thing’s certain. It always helps to share your work with a creative community that can offer you feedback and encouragement along the way. 

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This original version of this article was published on July 29th, 2016. It’s since been updated.

Written By

Julie Kim

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