Molten and mesmerizing, colorful inkscapes are set to steal marble’s crown. Let’s explore why this new trend is taking hold in 2021.
Riding on the wave of a 70s-infused resurgence in graphic design, inkscapes look fabulous teamed with curvy serif type, luxurious metallics, and acid-bright colors.
A trend with deep historical roots, inkscapes are inspired by traditional paper marbling, a technique that originated in East Asia as early as the 10th century. Today, these elegant designs are just as captivating, and bring texture and interest to a wide range of designs from packaging to landing pages.
After 2020, we could all do with more fun and color in our lives, and inkscapes are here to ensure the new Roaring Twenties starts off on the right foot. Read on to discover more about the inkscape trend and pick up inspirational tips for how to make the most of these colorful backgrounds in your design projects.
Image by graphic designer Sumi Shin.
Marbled inkscape packaging for a range of scented candles by graphic designer Sumi Shin.
Explore the Inkscapes Curated Collection:
First up, a Short History Lesson
2021’s inkscape trend is a contemporary spin on an incredibly ancient practice—paper marbling.
Believed to have originated in China as early as the 10th century, a more formalized version of the practice was widely used in Japan in the early 12th century. These early forms of paper marbling were referred to as Suminagashi, which means “ink floating.” Inks of different colors were dropped and swirled into a tray of water before the paper was submerged into the tray. The result was the appearance of beautifully delicate, smoke-like patterns across the paper’s surface.
An example of traditional black and white Suminagashi paper marbling. Image by contributor CARACOLLA.
A different form of paper marbling was also practiced in 15th century Turkey and Persia. Called Ebru, or “cloud art,” this version used heavier oil and gouache paints to produce a similar marbled effect.
Turkish Ebru marbled paper, with the broader repetitive brush strokes common with this method of marbling. Image by contributor sezer66.
The practice of marbling soon spread to Europe, where it was immediately and widely successful. In Italy, marble guilds were introduced to protect the trade, under which Master marblers would train apprentices in their particular, and often highly secretive, techniques. Marbled paper became popularly used in book binding, resulting in ornate endpapers that delighted the reader on opening a front cover.
19th century marbled paper in typical dark and moody Victorian colors. Image by contributor Robert Brown Stock.
With the invention of digital printing, the tradition of using marbled inks in paper and book production started to fall out of fashion. However, in recent years, the resurgence in popularity of hardcovers and traditional book design has allowed marbled paper to find a new fanbase.
While marbled papers are a traditional form of inkscape, 2021’s inkscape trend has a broader catchment than these bookishly charming images alone.
So, What Are Inkscapes?
Remember how anything and everything had a marble background circa 2019? Sure, marble textures are beautiful and luxurious, but they’re starting to feel a little overused . . . and a little (gasp) nouveau.
In place of cool and clinical marble, why not try something a little more fun, but equally glamorous? Enter inkscapes. A blend of lava lamp psychedelia, 3D liquid texture, and mesmerizing color, inkscapes can be soothing or eye-popping, but never dull.
The natural next step in the marble evolution, inkscapes provide more visual interest than their stone siblings, and are an instant way of bringing your designs for print and web up-to-date.
Each inkscape is unique, ranging from artful and painterly to liquid and psychedelic. Image by contributor djero.adlibeshe yahoo.com.
Sounds Fun! How Do I Use Them?
Inkscapes come in a huge variety of styles and colors, leaving designers spoiled for choice.
More traditional marbled paper backgrounds have a bookish, historic quality that can make designs feel older and more unique. Because each image is different, marbled papers are a nice way of bringing individualism to a related group of designs, such as a series of books or a set of business cards.
Image via Bēhance.
Brand identity for Botanical Coffee Co. by GC Studio. Image via Bēhance.
Image by contributor Orhan Cam.
Image by contributor Julia Dreams.
Image by contributor Swedish Marble.
In the 1970s, designers and artists revisited marbled imagery to foster a mind-bending psychedelic style for posters and magazines. With 70s-style continuing to enjoy a revival across fashion, interiors, and brand design, psychedelia-inspired inkscapes can help your designs feel a little groovier.
Look for acid-bright color schemes, or earthy tones of mustard, brown, and ochre to channel a cool 70s vibe. When teamed with curvy serif type, these psychedelic inkscapes lend an earthy friendliness and welcome party spirit to designs. Use in moderation on website and print layouts to avoid eye strain!
Image by contributor Galina Timofeeva.
Image by contributor djero.adlibeshe yahoo.com.
Image by contributor Igor Vitkovskiy.
Inkscapes can be vibrant and psychedelic or moody and mellow. For high-end packaging, hotel, and restaurant identities or luxury branding, opt for moody, inky blues, soft grays, and metallic accents for soothing sophistication.
A shortcut to luxurious, tactile packaging you can’t wait to pick up and hold, molten marbled backgrounds in a grown-up palette mimic the undulating patterns of silk scarves and expensive worktops. Drop these backgrounds into stationery designs and website backgrounds and see your layouts instantly elevated. Bonus points for metallic accents of gold, silver, or copper.
Image by contributor korkeng.
Image by contributor blackboard1965.
Image by contributor Djjeep_Design.
If you’re looking for an of-the-moment inkscape style to use on apps or websites, look for liquid marble textures with plenty of shine and movement. Molten and dynamic, with a 3D appearance, these oozing inkscapes are a perfect fit for tech-themed branding, bringing to mind molten metal, or try for cosmetics and beauty branding to give a tactility to packaging.
The website for House of Maserati, which uses liquid marbled textures to communicate a sense of luxury and tech-forward innovation.
When animated, these languid inkscapes provide hypnotic backgrounds for apps and sites, encouraging visitors to stay a little longer.
Image by contributor graphics factory.
Image by contributor graphics factory.
Footage by contributor Puzurin Mihail.
Footage by contributor OSSYFFER.
A Trend Is More Than a Passing Fad
Each year, we compile our Creative Trends report based on what millions of Shutterstock users are searching for right now. Driven by the data, our annual trend report helps designers and marketers stay ahead of the curve and anticipate the styles and images that are set to define creativity in the coming months.
Intrigued? Don’t miss our 2021 Creative Trends report and discover why Surreal Faces and Tie-Dye are two of the design trends you won’t want to overlook in the year ahead.
Cover image by contributor Puzurin Mihail.
Discover even more creative and inspiring graphic designs with these articles:
The Most Anticipated Graphic Design Styles for 2021Discover the 2021 Color Trends: Tidewater GreenMinimalism vs. Maximalism in the Graphic Design WorldCapturing and Editing Dark and Moody PhotographyWhat Does Vintage Really Mean in Pop Culture and Design?
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