Creative Ideas for Using Illustrations in Your Cookbook

Are you a beginner in the world of illustration? Or looking to get some illustration work, but don’t know what you want? This list of the most vital styles of illustration is a good place to start.

March 1, 2024

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If you’ve got a recipe book ready to share with the world, we suggest you include illustrations in your cookbook design. Here are some great ideas on how to do it.

Cookbook illustrations are a great way to draw readers in, evoke tastes, and easily list all the necessary ingredients and kitchenware needed to make magic in the kitchen.

Illustrated cookbook cover examples

Using illustrations on a cookbook cover can make it visually appealing, capturing the essence of the recipes inside and enticing potential readers. 

Well-designed cooking illustrations can convey the style of the cuisine, showcase key ingredients, and create a strong visual connection, ultimately attracting more attention and interest from potential buyers.

Appetites: amazing cover art

Illustrations are certainly a big favorite with cookbook covers, but this cookbook artwork example takes it to a whole new level.

Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain was known for his very cool and edgy style and this cover art perfectly conveys that. It looks almost like the cover of a trendy magazine like The New Yorker. 

Although this dramatic cover art matches the legendary “bad boy” of the cooking world, it also pairs well with the eclectic collection of recipes found in the book. It combines Anthony’s 40-year experience as a professional chef and globe trotter, together with some family favorites. 

When It’s Done: illustration of the author

Using a custom illustration, as seen in Gretchen Hanson's illustrated cookbook cover, can uniquely brand and personalize their work. 

The cover resembles an action movie poster and aligns with Gretchen's culinary background. Whether it's global fusion or elegant garden parties, it’s important to pick cover illustrations that match your personal brand

Whole Food Cooking Every Day: add a retro vibe

Amy Chaplin’s Whole Food Cooking Every Day is a cookbook for those who are looking for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and sugar-free recipes. If you want to know how to illustrate a cookbook by yourself, this is a perfect example.

The light and colorful illustrations of herbs and vegetables add a unique and retro vibe to this illustrated recipe book.

My Abuela's Table: An Illustrated Journey into Mexican Cooking

The author celebrates her grandma’s home cooking and her heritage, and the sweet illustrations with Mexican motifs and common cooking ingredients seem like the perfect recipe for that.

Culture-related illustrations will always look good on a book cover as people can instantly connect with the symbols of their cultural heritage.

Plenty More: illustrated cooking utensils to stand out

Yotam Ottolenghi surely knows publishing and design as well as cooking. This minimal illustration of dishes piled up with a basic color scheme is definitely an out-of-the-box way of a recipe book illustration.

Ideas for cookbook illustrations

Cookbook illustrations engage readers by adding a personal touch and unique style. They convey your culinary identity, making the content more relatable and visually distinct. Unlike generic stock photos, custom illustrations capture the essence of your recipes and make reading more fun.

Easy Peasy Cookbook: simple illustrations that accompany the text

Simple line drawings give your illustrated recipe book a more modern feel and a look that will stay relevant for a longer time.

This recipe book concept shows how this type of illustration can be used in a variety of ways, either to give a quick breakdown of the main ingredients or simply to give any page more visual interest.

If you don’t want to use stock photography or have novice photographer skills, these cookbook drawings can help you drive home the message that your recipes are beginner-friendly! 

By Lydia Hill

La Pignatta: breaking down the cooking process

Probably the most famous examples of cookbooks using this technique are Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Cookbook and Julia Child’s iconic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. While the complicated cooking techniques of these culinary bibles often warrant a simpler visual representation, it’s a great method to use even in much simpler recipes.

Simple cookbook illustrations can even be made with AI generators. They’re a great option for a first cookbook, for example for children, as most people respond better to visual learning.

By Marta Vianello

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: an illustrated cookbook

Samin Nosrat’s celebrated guide to “mastering the elements of good cooking” is probably the most successful example of using cookbook illustrations. This fun, colorful guide relies solely on illustrations to help beginners grapple with the four basics of cooking.

The illustrations done by Wendy MacNaughton are paired with straightforward text that helps inexperienced cooks take on their favorite recipes. And for those with a  little more experience, this style makes a fun (and funny) read and a useful reminder of the basics.

American Fashion Cookbook: subverting expectations

This unique cookbook, endorsed by Martha Stewart, features world-renowned fashion designers and indulgent recipes. Playful yet beautiful food illustrations contribute to its approachable vibe, subverting traditional expectations of both chefs and fashion designers.

You can easily hire a freelance illustrator to get these recipe book illustrations.

Japanese Cuisine: an illustrated guide

This illustrated cookbook by Laure Kie focuses on Japanese food and culture. The recipe book illustrations are done by Haruna Kishi and perfectly capture the essence of Japanese cuisine.

The step-by-step instructions accompanied by simple, colorful illustrations make it really easy for the reader to follow the recipe.

The best places to get cookbook illustrations and icon packs

If you try making editorial illustrations on your own on Adobe Illustrator there are high chances that you will struggle a lot. So, the best thing is to find some pre-made illustrations that you can just insert into your cookbook.

Here's a list of websites where you can find illustrations for your cookbook:

1. ManyPixels (Free): You can get free cookbook clip art at ManyPixels in various illustration styles, such as outline, flatline, isometric, two-color, and monochromatic.

2. Unsplash (Free): Offers a vast collection of high-quality, royalty-free photos and illustrations. You can download and use them for free, even for commercial purposes.

3. Pixabay (Free): A user-friendly platform providing free images and illustrations. It also offers vectors and illustrations that can be downloaded and used without any attribution.

4. Freepik (Free/Paid): Offers a variety of free and premium illustrations, vectors, and photos. While many resources are free, premium content is available with a subscription.

5. Shutterstock (Paid): A popular stock photo website with a vast collection of illustrations, photos, and vectors. Access to high-resolution images typically requires a paid subscription.

6. Adobe Stock (Paid): Adobe's stock platform provides a wide range of illustrations, vectors, and photos. It's integrated with Adobe Creative Cloud applications, making it convenient for designers.

7. iStock (Paid): A part of the Getty Images family, iStock offers a variety of illustrations, photos, and videos for purchase. It has a credit-based system or subscription options.

On a side note, always review the licensing terms on these platforms to ensure compliance with your intended use, especially for commercial projects like a cookbook.

Want custom recipe book illustrations?

You won’t always find free cookbook illustrations that suit the theme of your cookbook. Also you might have to pay a subscription fee for illustrations, and on top of that, revision fees each time you ask for some changes in your cookbook drawings.

But what if you can get custom recipe book illustrations within 48 hours, with unlimited revisions too?

Here comes ManyPixels, your secret ingredient for delectable cookbook illustrations! 

Just like a well-stocked pantry, ManyPixels offers unlimited illustrations at a flat monthly fee.

Learn more about it here, or get in touch to ask us any questions!

Having lived and studied in London and Berlin, I'm back in native Serbia, working remotely and writing short stories and plays in my free time. With previous experience in the nonprofit sector, I'm currently writing about the universal language of good graphic design. I make mix CDs and my playlists are almost exclusively 1960s.

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