Creative steampunk enthusiasts glorify the concept of steam engines and classic 20th century machinery over futuristic ideals. Modern designers still incorporate steampunk art into their design principles for all mediums of digital graphics, websites, and print work.
While steampunk is a small niche it provides a unique way of looking at retro-futurism. I’d like to examine how artists and designers incorporate steampunk styles into digital design work.
Whether you’re a graphic designer or illustrator it’s always possible to expand your skillset digitally. And if you’re a huge fan of the steampunk movement then you’ll love these examples as both works of art and methods of reproduction in other design projects that will boost your creativity in many ways.
Graphic Design Projects
Digital graphic design is the first step that most people take for steampunk work because it’s so broad. This can include custom icons or photo mashups. Graphic designers work to bring concepts into reality that help sell a brand or idea to consumers.
A fun place to start is the steampunk tag on DeviantArt. Lots of artists post their work on DA because it’s a free playground with varying levels of talent. Steampunk is still somewhat niche but growing quickly.
DeviantArt has a lot of personal work including icons and forum signatures. This type of work isn’t really commercially viable, but it’s a great way to practice your graphic design skills and learn from the experience.
It’s also worth checking out steampunk work on Dribbble to see what’s on there. The search feature ranks posts by popularity while the steampunk tag ranks work by recently published to give you a mix of quality.
The best steampunk design work you’ll find on Dribbble is by a Czech artist operating under the name Creative Mints. All his stuff is out of this world, and he posts a lot of classic steampunk-inspired artwork for graphic design projects.
And if you’re looking for usable graphics check out this dock theme made by LightQuick. It’s a retro steampunk dock iconset that’s free to download and use with any number of dock programs like Rocketdock, MobyDock, and others.
Since graphic design spans a variety of projects you’ll find steampunk influence all over the map. It also allows graphic designers to create almost anything they please, because steampunk is only limited by your own imagination.
I’ll admit there are fewer steampunk websites online than general retro sites. But it’s a popular niche amongst UI designers just as much as other types of designers.
Take for example The Steam Emporium which relies heavily on a multitude of steampunk graphics. Common themes includes gears, lights, pulleys, and other mechanical facets that are primary to the steampunk movement.
But the site also relies on dark textures to place focus on the main page. The dark background lends itself to the natural contrast against the main page content.
You’ll find something very similar on the Dr. Grordbort’s website. This is even more classic of the steampunk style because it uses a combination of retro colors & textures along with steampunk graphics.
The most noticeable thing for me is the aviator character positioned in the top-right corner. He helps to brand the website and bring life to the design.
But other smaller page elements include retro-styled text for the logo and page titles. Buttons have been designed to follow a classic retro feel that’s almost reminiscent of old ‘90s web design.
Retro design when done correctly can bring life to a layout, rather than drag it down and appear old-fashioned.
This is the goal of a great steampunk website: to utilize old-school concepts in a new way while keeping modern user experience methodologies in mind.
If you’re searching for more steampunk website examples take a peek at these design galleries.
- 20 Steampunk Styled Websites
- Beautiful Examples of Steampunk in Web Design
- Showcase of Unique Steampunk Web Design & Resources
Print Work & Posters
Print design is the most traditional medium and has years of professional work in the archive. Steampunk has always influenced print work, but it’s harder to find examples online because print projects are ephemeral in nature.
One of the best sites I like for inspiration is Behance. You’ll find lots of fun steampunk work in a heartbeat if you know what to search.
I really like the above Steampunk poster design created by Orange Cup Studio. It shows how illustration work can tie over to digital design work, and eventually make its way into the world of print design.
I found dozens more examples of steampunk posters in this design gallery if you’re looking for some quality inspiration.
And if you’re looking to buy(or sell) steampunk posters there’s no better site than Etsy.
You can actually search the marketplace for custom steampunk items like magnets, posters, jewelry, and other handmade crafts.
Artists on Etsy take steampunk design seriously and consider it a lively niche in the ever-expanding world of creative art & digital design.
Free Steampunk Design Resources
The first place I’d recommend to check is the steampunk tag on Brusheezy. This design resource gallery includes more than just brushes with links to PSDs, patterns, textures, and custom icons.
Brusheezy is a great site to find any digital design resource with a steampunk feel. Most of them are also free to download and use in commercial projects without attribution.
Fonts are also easy to find with custom steampunk fonts in FontSpace and Font Squirrel. All of these fonts are free to download, but you’ll want to check individual licenses to see which ones can be used commercially.
And while tutorials are somewhat rare you can still find steampunk design tuts in Google.
There’s a very active Reddit community called /r/Steampunk with over 30k subscribers and lots of content. If you want to share your own work, ask some questions, or check out other work, I highly recommend you subscribe. Reddit is a dedicated community and the Steampunk readers seriously love the artistic style.
Also be sure to check out this list of alternate steampunk resources.
- Steampunk Resources: 40+ Tutorials, Fonts & Photoshop Brushes
- Steampunk on DeviantArt
- How to Create a Steampunk Style Illustration in Photoshop
The steampunk movement isn’t slowing down and continues to draw attention from new enthusiasts. If you’re big into the retro-futurism of steampunk designs then you should check out these resources and strive to include similar ideas into your design projects.
And if you’re looking for more eccentric design work then check out these related posts: