How to create best-selling illustrations

We recently launched an illustration section on Iconfinder, focusing on high-quality and modern designs. In the past few months, we have seen great and not-so-great designs.

We noticed that, even if the talent is there, some illustrations are missing a few small yet important details in order to compete and become best sellers.

In this article, we share some tips on how to create illustrations that sell well and compete in the illustration market — from colors, to editing options, to family organisation, and more.

Choose good colors

When designing illustrations, you have a choice of colors. You can choose to make a monochromatic design or to use several colors. If you are new to working with colors, here is a good article on color theory for designers that you can start with.

Colors are powerful tools that can help an illustration go from good to great! Use colors to fit the overall theme and mood of your illustration set.

Examples of Christmas-themed illustrations with very appropriate colors

Strong colors and strident combinations can turn customers away and hurt sales. The examples below show how the color choices for two illustrations can be softened and improved.

Examples of the same illustrations in two different color combinations
Examples of the same illustrations in two different color combinations

Even if you are using vivid colors, there is a lot you can do for the colors to look pleasant and work well together.

Example of illustrations with a great color palette

We recommend you to check out the latest design trends in terms of colors and to use recommended palettes. There are many color palette tools out there. Some tools for colors that we find useful are Coolors, Colorhunt, Colormind, Picular, and Huesnap.

Example of illustrations with vivid colors that work well together

Make the colors easy to edit

Most customers prefer customising an illustration to their needs before buying it. It is, of course, impossible to please every customer with the color palette that you choose. There are a few things you can do, however, to make it easy for anyone to adjust the colors.

Generally, we recommend to choose fewer colors. As an example, the two illustrations below are very beautifully drawn, but hard to customise. This is because they are using many colors. It is quite difficult to change their colors and get them to still look good.

Examples of ilustrations that are beautiful but difficult to customise

On the other hand, the illustration below has only two colors. This makes it easy for any customer to change these in order to fit their brand or any other color theme they are working with.

Example of the same illustration in different colors

Fit the illustration to its artboard

We recommend not leaving empty space around the illustration when you are placing it on its artboard.

The illustration on the left has a lot of space left around it on the artboard. This results in small previews. The one on the right fits its artboard and will have a large enough preview image so that all its details can be appreciated.

Example on how to fit an illustration to its artboard

Read more about artboards.

Make illustrations diverse and inclusive

Illustrations are primarily about people. Our recommendation is to stay open-minded about the type of people you include in your designs.

We recommend including people with different skin colors, genders, ages, sexual orientations, religions, ethnicities, cultural groups, disabilities and impairments, etc. Free your mind from stereotypes and portray all these kinds of people performing different types of activities and jobs.

On the skin color topic, there are three approaches that you can pick.

Approach 1. Not using skin colors at all

If you are not using any skin colors in particular, the illustrations can be easily adopted and many different kinds of people can feel identified with them.

Examples of illustrations with no skin colors

Approach 2. Using non-realistic skin colors

Blue, red, green, purple — there are many possibilities for skin colors that can represent many people.

Examples of illustrations with non-realistic skin colors

Approach 3. Using realistic skin colors

This approach is great for those customers who prefer an illustration that is more specific and relatable.

Examples of illustrations with realistic skin colors

Skin colors can be easily edited with our Color editor, so the exact shades you pick are not as important.

Expand one set into a family

Families are larger groups of illustration sets that share the same visual style. In a family, all illustrations match each other.

Example of an illustration family called Tuesday

Families are great. That’s because customers have a bigger chance to find what they are looking for within a comprehensive group of consistent illustrations. For example, it is easier to find any three illustrations (let’s say a 404 error, a business meeting, and a birthday party) in a family of 100 illustrations than in a family of 10.

To compete in the illustration market, we recommend to focus on a few styles only and expand them into families where you cover most topics: from work, to tech, to education, to hobbies, to sports, and so on.

Example of an illustration family called Milano

Some examples of illustration families with great commercial value are Brooklyn, with 1042 matching illustrations, Milano, with 929 matching illustrations, and Barcelona, with 815 matching illustrations.

Read more about families.

To sum it up

You now have a few new strategies in your pocket that you can apply to create illustrations that can compete and sell well. These are:

  • Choosing good colors.
  • Making the colors easy to edit.
  • Fitting the illustration to its artboard.
  • Making illustrations diverse and inclusive.
  • Expanding one set into a whole family.

You are now ready to go and create some great designs!

If you have questions, we will gladly answer them at



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Monica Matei

Monica Matei

Community Strategist at Iconfinder