This isn’t a comprehensive list, by any means. You could break this down a lot further, and there are probably also dozens of niche styles out there that aren’t part of any of these, and exist as their own, strange genre of digital art. But these are what I see as the main styles.
Realism Digital Art Style
Realism tries to realistically depict forms, textures, light, perspective, and detail. Because of this, it can take weeks or months to complete a piece, depending on how much graphic fidelity the artist wants to achieve.
Often artists learning how to paint digitally will do many photo and life studies in a realist style, in order to try to learn the art fundamentals.
Realism is also widely employed in digital portraiture, architectural visualization to create realistic renderings of buildings and interiors, in product design and advertising, and medical illustration to create accurate representations of anatomy for educational materials and publications.
Semi-Realism Digital Art Style
Very popular in fantasy and sci-fi circles, semi-realism blends realistic and stylized elements, aiming for a close-to-life look with some degree of artistic interpretation. I’d say my own art falls under this umbrella.
Visually, semi-realism focuses on capturing details while retaining some level of abstraction, interpretation or exaggeration. It often balances realism in lighting, textures, and proportions with stylized features, such as impossibly vibrant colors or idealized forms.
The video and board games industries often use semi-realism due to its ability to create appealing and relatable characters while leaving room to give the game some of its own identity. It's found on and inside book covers, advertisements, digital illustrations, and especially in game art and games marketing.
Anime Digital Art Style
Originating in Japan, and based on Japanese manga comic books, Anime digital art is characterized by its exaggerated facial expressions, large and expressive eyes, colorful hair, and distinctive (and often overwhelmingly detailed) character designs.
The style usually uses bold linework, vibrant color palettes, and stylized proportions to achieve its distinctive look.
It doesn’t really need to be said, but the Anime style is a massive part of the animation, film and comics industry, especially in the East.
Many video games have been influenced by the style and have adopted it, especially visual novels. And of course, this all means a booming market for merchandise, including figures, clothing, and accessories inspired by Anime.
Concept Art Digital Style
Concept art emphasises exploration, experimentation, and ideation.
It involves sketching, 3D, matte painting and digital painting to convey an idea visually, for characters, environments, vehicles, or any other creative element. Detailing, lighting, and mood play significant roles in establishing the visuals.
Concept art can be in a range of different styles, but the modern trend for AAA films and games is a matte-painted, time-efficient imitation of photo-realism.
Concept Art is integral to the film, animation, TV and games industries for visualizing characters, environments, and key scenes before production begins.
It’s also used by product designers, from automobiles to consumer electronics, in the planning and design of theme park attractions and similar projects, and marketing agencies utilize concept art to plan their commercials.
Line Art Digital Style
The line art style is typically black and white with little or no shading or colour filling, designed to imitate pencil drawing or comic book inking.
Line Art is often artists first step in producing a piece of art, and they build upon it as a foundation, but for many line art is the final result.
Using precise lines, digital line art emphasizes the outline of shapes, forms, and subjects. The style is flexible, ranging from intricate, detailed realism to bold and expressive impressionism.
Line art is commonly used in creating illustrations, art prints, and posters, as well as tattoo design.
It’s also a necessarily large part of logos and branding,and is widely used for digital icons and symbols.
Fantasy Digital Art Style
Aah, I’m kind of cheating with this one as it’s a genre rather than a style, but what the heck, I’m including it anyway!
Often it has a blend of what we would call ‘painterly’ and yet realistic. I’d say it really falls within semi-realism, but I have a soft spot for it so it’s getting its own place!
Fantasy art is widely used in book covers and illustrations for fantasy novels, providing a visual gateway into the magical worlds described in the literature. It’s also a mainstay in videogames, boardgames and movies, for character, creature and environment design.
Caricature Digital Art Style
Caricature digital art is the deliberate exaggeration of facial features and the rest of the subjects physical form in order to elicit a stronger response. Usually the desired response is humour, but it can just as often be a insult (often aimed at politicians - that’s just the world we live in!)
Capturing likeness is important, but more than that it’s about trying to show the truth. Bold lines, vibrant colors, and a sense of playfulness are also large parts of the style.
As I mentioned already, caricatures of politicians, and other public figures like celebrities, are popular. You’ll often find them in newspapers and similar editorials, as a comment on current events.
Caricature art is also popular with personalized gifts, such as custom portraits and mugs.
Cartoon Digital Art Style
Cartoon digital art marries a simple line art style with exaggerated proportions, bold outlines, vibrant colors, and expressive faces. Under this umbrella you can fit a broad range of aesthetics, from the classic Disney animations to more contemporary, minimalist designs.
Cartoons are, of course, the backbone of the animation industry, as well as comics and graphic novels.
It’s also a very popular style of art in educational materials, and of course on children’s merchandise, including clothing, toys, and accessories.
Children’s Book Illustration Digital Art Style
Children's Book Illustration uses bold, expressive lines, bright and cheerful color palettes, and characters with exaggerated but endearing features. The goal is to create visuals that capture the attention of young readers and complement the narrative, helping to reinforce the concepts that the book is trying to teach.
This style, quite obviously, is dominant in children's books, but also in learning apps and educational games, as well as toys, clothing, and accessories.
Comics Digital Art Style
Another style that could fit within line art but I think deserves it’s own mention, the Comics Digital Art style is line art coupled with bold vibrant colours, typically dynamic action and camera angles, and distinctive character design.
The primary and traditional application of the comics digital art style is in the creation of comic books, graphic novels and webcomics, spanning genres from superhero adventures to slice-of-life dramas.
As we all know in today’s day and age, with the popularity of superheroes, characters from popular comics are frequently featured on merchandise and clothes.
Commercial Digital Art Style
A modern and yet very recognizable and distinct style, I would call this the ‘Commercial Digital Art’ style. It aims to communicate a sense of professionalism and reliability.
Minimalistic design, block shapes of colour, and clarity are important. It often employs a balanced color palette, precise typography, and charming character design, though typically lacks individuality.
This style has become extremely common in the last 5 years, and is all over modern business websites, and used in advertising, logos, branding materials, brochures, business cards and other branded materials Put out by businesses.
Fashion Digital Art Style
This digital art is used in the fashion industry, to preview and iterate on ideas, in much the same way a concept artist does the same for games and films.
Sleek lines, sophisticated color palettes, and attention to textures, the Fashion digital art style mirrors and perhaps even front-runs the elegance and vibrancy of the fashion world.
It often features stylized models, avant-garde clothing designs, and a sense of fluidity and movement. Digital tools allow for intricate detailing, creative experimentation, and the exploration of futuristic or surreal elements.
I don’t think this one needs to be explained much, but I’ve explained some of the other obvious ones so here goes; Fashion digital art is used in the fashion industry, to design clothes. It is also common in other areas of the fashion world though, as a decorative flair, such as in editorial spreads, covers, and magazines, and further in marketing materials, social media and advertisements.
Fine Art Digital Style
Fine Art is meant to primarily be for self-expression (though honestly, that is debatable), and digital fine art is no different.
Just like in traditional fine art, the digital version may not have broad appeal or traditional beauty, but instead aim to evoke specific ideas or emotions.
Digital Fine Art encompasses a wide range of styles and techniques, including digital painting, mixed media, and 3D. Some artists use digital tools to emulate traditional mediums, and others dive straight in to extremely digital aesthetics.
Fine art digital pieces are often reproduced as limited edition prints, to be hung in galleries, and also with the advent of the non-fungible token (NFT) some artists mint their pieces on a blockchain and display them in online galleries, emulating the traditional model.
Retro Digital Art Style
The Retro digital art style is actually a group of styles that come from the recent past, typically from the 1940s to the 1990s. It has an old-fashioned look and feel, often imitating the design trends from different historical periods, as well as the pixelated graphics reminiscent of early computer graphics and games.
Retro digital art often features bold and vibrant color schemes, and things like grainy textures, low-fi effects, and ‘outdated’ typography.
Retro digital art is widely utilized in video games, especially pixel art paying homage to 8, 16 and 32 bit graphics.
It’s also used on various products that try to capture the feeling of a specific times, such as album covers, as well as in quippy t-shirt designs, and of course, let’s not forget the Fallout series of video games!
And there’s the list! Hopefully this gives you some ideas.
Hey, I’m Christopher
I started making digital art in 2009, became a full-time freelance artist in 2016, and now I’m able to work on my own schedule from anywhere in the world.
I created this blog to help other artists make the same journey.