Creating Marijuana Illustrations for a New Cannabis Culture

Creating Marijuana Illustrations for a New Cannabis Culture

The nature of cannabis illustrations is changing in our modern world. See how today’s trends evolved and discover where these trends are going.

It’s a new, wonderful world for cannabis. When it comes to cannabis media, gone are the days of stoner-bro culture. Thanks to increased legalization and normalization of marijuana, artists are elevating cannabis illustrations to new highs. 

Illustrators, designers, photographers, and musicians have long used marijuana as a vehicle for artistic expression. But with the green rush—a trend we’re calling Cannabiz, and one that we predict will only continue to bloom in 2020—cannabis creativity has gone from counterculture to mainstream. From wellness and beauty to interior design and home decor to food and cocktails, cannabis is influencing and permeating all types of industries. 

Creating Marijuana Illustrations for a New Cannabis Culture — Retro RootsModern trends are growing from their retro roots. Image by Idea Trader

In the U.S., there are currently eleven states where cannabis is legal, and in 2018, Canada became the second country in the world to legalize it. As more states and countries legalize recreational marijuana and CBD, a new aesthetic has emerged. Good art and good design are defining this new frontier of cannabis culture. Brands and consumers are looking for illustrations that reflect the range and diversity of experience cannabis can offer.

Here we’ll look at the rise in marijuana throughout the decades, current trends in cannabis illustration, and how Shutterstock contributors can meet the demand for cannabis content.

From Woodstock to Dazed and Confused: Marijuana Through the Decades

In this new era of cannabis, we’re seeing a heightened awareness of the advantage this plant offers. Science has helped to debunk cannabis myths while proselytizing its wellness- and lifestyle-related benefits. With more interest in and acceptance of marijuana than ever, artists are turning cannabis culture into visual eye candy. This allows illustrators to show off their talent and skill without being hemmed in by stereotypes.

But cannabis as a form of visual language isn’t new. During the ’60s and ’70s, marijuana intersected with—and helped to reflect via art—the hippie counterculture movement. People who partook in cannabis were seen as transforming the social and political landscape through activism and their rejection of social, economic, and cultural norms. It also, however, cemented the idea of the lazy stoner, the dirty hippie, the social leech. But whatever negative stereotypes surrounded the cannabis world then, its visual language was born of, and influenced by, the Woodstock era.

Creating Marijuana Illustrations for a New Cannabis Culture — Psychedelic Vibes’60s pop art cannabis. Image by Michele Paccione

By the ’90s a new type of marijuana lover emerged: the stoner bro. Moves like Dazed and Confused, The Big Lebowski, and later on, Pineapple Express and even the Simpsons, celebrated this hazy, dumbed-down, male-centric group. Most of the creative surrounding this era relied on gendered tropes and questionable graphics.

Creating Marijuana Illustrations for a New Cannabis Culture — Updating Stoner-Bro CultureStoner-bro culture favorites. Image by Parrot Ivan

Today, as the public’s perception of marijuana evolves, a new aesthetic has emerged. An aesthetic that embraces inclusivity and diversity, and a decidedly more feminine approach.

But it doesn’t follow a set of rules, either. Like marijuana itself, illustrators know no boundaries when it comes to playfully translating cannabis culture into art.

Creating Marijuana Illustrations for a New Cannabis Culture — A Sheen of RespectabilityGold cannabis on the rise. Image by Tanya Sid

Where are Cannabis Illustrations Being Used?

In short: nearly everywhere. Illustrations are appearing on apparel stocked by design-forward smoke shops and splashed across the pages of independent magazines like Broccoli and Gossamer. These illustrations are selling products to wellness-seeking Millennial and Gen X consumers.

Creating Marijuana Illustrations for a New Cannabis Culture — Cannabis' Connection to Wellbeing and HealthMedical marijuana and wellbeing. Image by svetabelaya

For Shutterstock contributors, this means plenty of opportunity. Customers will be looking for illustrations that show off marijuana’s versatility. Your illustrations could become album artwork for a chillwave “Sunday Smoke” playlist. Or they could appear on a poster for a cannabis-related community-building event. Maybe it’s a breakdown of the best CBD food infusions — or, perhaps, a step-by-step guide on how to safely and ethically partake in cannabis and CBD. Into the science behind marijuana? Nonprofits, like California-based Project CBD, often use artwork to illustrate the medical uses of cannabidiol. 

Creating Marijuana Illustrations for a New Cannabis Culture — Cannabis Art Can End up AnywhereWhere psychedelic is completely appropriate. Image by Yeroma

The fluid nature of cannabis means you can—and should— have fun with illustration. So what trends should you look for when it comes to creating illustrations that reflect modern cannabis culture?

Rising Trend: Canna-Inclusivity

One of the defining features in today’s cannabis world is about who’s smoking it. Namely women, LBGTQA+ individuals, and people of color. These aren’t new consumers, but they’re more visible than ever.

This is due, in part, to the shift toward marijuana and CBD as lifestyle products. It’s been shown to ease the symptoms of PMS, as an essential part of skincare, and a way to heighten female pleasure. When it comes to crafting cannabis graphics, create illustrations that are diverse, inclusive, and representative of all users who are shaping today’s cannabis community.

Creating Marijuana Illustrations for a New Cannabis Culture — Portray the Cannabis-Using Community AccuratelyCreating illustrations representative of all demographics. Image by Idea Trader

Rising Trend: Marijuana Is Nothing More than a Flower in Disguise

James Russell Lowell was ahead of his time when he made this remark. Perhaps it’s because you can only get psychoactive elements of marijuana from a female plant, or that the modern cannabis culture is—according to some—largely female-led. But, people are embracing cannabis for what it really is: a flower.

Visually speaking, this has been translated into Ikebana (the Japanese art of floral arrangement). Hemp is altered into stunning, delicate bouquets that incorporate flowers, fruit, and even soil.

There’s also the use of flowers in cannabis-infused cocktails and ceramic pipes that blur the line between function and floral form. Since we’re seeing floral arrangements as another trend to watch for in 2020, hemp is just one more flower to work with. Whether you’re holding a flower pipe in your hand or seeing an illustration on the page, all of these examples show how marijuana acts as both muse and mold. 

Creating Marijuana Illustrations for a New Cannabis Culture — Incorporate Hemp into Floral TrendsMarijuana can be beautiful too. Image by Liliya Sudakova

Rising Trend: Good Design, Good Art

Cannabis brands are using design-forward packaging and innovative branding to market their products to a more discerning and aesthetically motivated consumer.

So, what does this look like? As we predicted in our Cannabiz trend report, this is taking shape with the rise of luxury branding; minimalist packaging; a return to seventies-style aesthetics; and an illustrative approach that feels fresh, approachable, and non-threatening. Keep your eyes on brands that are using illustrations in interesting ways. If they’re successful, there will be more demand for them. 

Creating Marijuana Illustrations for a New Cannabis Culture — Look for Brands that are Trying New ThingsInnovative design and text featuring CBD. Image by Sundry Studio.

Whether you follow the latest design trends in cannabis or create a style that’s entirely your own, it’s safe to say that modern marijuana culture is emerging from a hazy past defined by stereotypes to claim an artistically-inspired and design-forward future. Find inspiration for your next project by checking out our curated cannabis collection.

Featured Image by Sundry Studio

Get inspired to create great content:

Cannabiz Trend Report: The Evolution in Marijuana Branding in 2020A Guide to Photographing Marijuana and CBD for StockBreaking Gender Stereotypes Through Innovative IllustrationDesigning for Change: Protest Art Trend ReportUsing Shutterstock’s Color Trends to Make Your Illustrations Pop

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