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Illustration is an eye-catching medium that tells a story in a way that photography and icons cannot. We use illustration to tell conceptual, open stories and describe nuanced ideas in an authentic way.

Types of illustration

Minispot illustrations
Minispot illustrations convey a singular concept. This type of illustration uses simple shapes and textures, is almost always in red, and uses our Red Hat® standard icons as a reference.

Spot illustrations
Spot illustrations convey an idea or story at a small scale and are used with supporting copy. They are more complex than minispot illustrations but less complex than feature illustrations. They can use more complex shapes and incorporate more depth but still use textures.

Feature illustrations
Feature illustrations tell a story or explain a concept at a large scale. Because they include more detail and nuance than spot illustrations, use feature illustrations as website hero graphics or to bring your audience’s attention to the main content.

When to use illustration

Use illustrations when a subject is too complicated or abstract to be understood another way and when icons or diagrams are too technical. While diagrams and charts are useful when presenting data, illustrations build a narrative structure or demonstrate a concept. Illustrations also work well for animation and motion graphics, which use the same visual style.

When we create an illustration, we make sure our design is: 

Active, not passive.
Illustration should imply movement and activity. When depicting people, it should be dynamic, not stiff or static.

Professional, not whimsical.
Our style is refined and fits with the complex nature of our products. We are not overly cute, cartoonish, or childlike.

Informative, not decorative.
Our illustrations should engage a business audience with an understanding of enterprise-level software. Our goal goes beyond engaging the attention of a general audience.

Open, not closed.
With diverse people and diverse thoughts, the best ideas come from everywhere. We avoid homogeneous representation and depictions of the traditional enterprise.

Using color in illustrations

We use a limited color palette for our illustrations instead of a realistic one. Choose colors from our brand color palette to create the tone of your message. Illustration color palettes range from simple (1–2 colors) to complex (5 or more colors).

One-color palettes are ideal for simple illustrations. Use texture to add depth and dimension.

Minimal color palettes are ideal for most brand illustrations. Choose colors with strong contrast, and use texture to add depth and dimension.

Rich color palettes are ideal for bold illustrations that draw attention. Choose color harmonies with purpose, and do not use textures.

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Choose a limited set of colors from our brand palette.

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Do not force a color into an illustration just to make it look realistic.

Light and shadow

Every illustration scene should have a clear light source. Use consistent tints and shades to create light and shadow.

 

Light is coming from the upper left, so shadows are cast on the right. Shadows should fall on objects in a natural, organic way.

 

Light is casting a shadow back onto the wall and to the right.

 

Hide unnecessary details by using light and shadow or a lighter color.

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Locate and use a single light source.

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Do not mix light sources.

Contrast
Use colors that offer strong contrast. Bright colors draw attention, and less saturated colors add depth. Use this contrast to separate the focal object from the background.

 

Texture
Our illustration style features 3 texture patterns. Use textures as accents in 1-color or minimal-color illustrations. To keep illustrations open and uncluttered, textures should not be used as background fills or to fill large areas.

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Use texture as an accent in illustrations with limited color.

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Do not use texture as a background fill or to cover large areas.

Diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion is a significant part of our process for creating illustrations. We make sure our illustrations are reviewed by others—designers, peers, and Red Hat Diversity and Inclusion communities. To be intentional and thoughtful, we allow time to research, listen, and adjust. With our illustrations, we aim to uplift those who have been marginalized for their appearance, ability, or identity. 

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Design using inspiration from real people, and use photos as a reference.

Our illustrations show that every human being is different and that these differences are welcome. We use photos of real people as a source for our illustrations—not our own ideas of people–in order to prevent unintentional biases and stereotypes. There is no room for error. If we do not have enough time for the previous steps, we choose an alternate solution without illustrations of people. Our illustrations depict a diverse community by reflecting the world as it truly exists.

Skin tones
Skin tones should be consistent within an illustration (or set of illustrations) and be inclusive of our diverse audience. Use tints and shades of red and orange for skin tones, but not the most saturated shade of red or orange. The color you use for skin tones should match the rest of the illustration. For example, use red-based skin tones in an illustration with red accents.

Red-based skin tones

Orange-based skin tones

When illustrating in 1 color, use the background color for all skin tones rather than a fill or texture. Do not use unrealistic colors, like blue or purple, for skin tones. The only exception is for monochromatic illustrations, where the entire scene should use the same color. In this instance, the color might be blue, and it would be fine to use shades of that color for skin tones even if it is not realistic.

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For 1-color illustrations, use the background color for all skin tones.

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Do not fill or use a texture for skin tones in 1-color illustrations.