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.
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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 a reality that helps 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.
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 include 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 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.
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.
I really like the above Steampunk poster design created by the-sastra. It shows how illustration work can tie over to digital design work, and eventually make its way into the world of print design.
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 checking is the steampunk tag on Vecteezy. This design resource gallery includes plenty of vectors, illustrations, patterns, textures, and custom icons. You can also find some steampunk photos.
Vecteezy is a great site to find any digital design resource with a steampunk feel. Many of them are also free to download and use in commercial projects.
We’re also big fans of Envato Elements and Creative Market. You can find fonts, graphics, and all kinds of amazing resources at these sites. Envato Elements offers unlimited downloads for one low price.
You can find some free steampunk fonts at Font Squirrel. You’ll also find a bigger selection at Envato Elements and Creative Market, although they are not free.
And while tutorials are somewhat rare you can still find steampunk design tuts with a Google search.
There’s a very active Reddit community called /r/Steampunk with over 80k 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.
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 in your design projects