Follow TV Tropes


Unreliable Illustrator

Go To

Sometimes, in a story, the text and the illustrations don't line up. For example, a character may be described a certain, very specific way, and the illustration doesn't match the description. In other times, the illustration doesn't match the way the action is described. Sometimes a character will be seen wearing two different outfits in two subsequent illustrations, despite both illustrations taking place only ten minutes apart.

Often it's because the illustrator didn't read the text for the scene thoroughly or forgot exactly what it had said, and drew based on what they remembered the text as saying, and as a result, a little discrepancy shows up. When larger discrepancies show up, who knows.

Expect even more discrepancies for the cover.

No actual relation to Unreliable Voiceover or Unreliable Narrator, despite the title; those are intentional. Nor it is about the lack of reliability of using a certain vector graphics software.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • The music video for the song "Pokerap" from the original anime showed Poliwag when the song mentioned Poliwrath, and Geodude when it mentioned Graveler.
    • The anime episode guide in the official Pokémon website had some of the screenshots shown in the wrong episodes!
    • The novelization of "The Battle for the Badge" represents the fight between Ash's Pidgeotto and a Rhydon as a fight between a Pidgeot and a Nidoking.
  • In Mistress Fortune, protagonist Kisaki Tachikawa is regularly described as being well endowed, specifically sporting G-cup boobs, yet her breast size is never depicted as more than a B or C-cup in the illustrations themselves.
  • The tankoubon covers for Ranma ½ can't keep the colour of anyone's hair consistent. Especially noticeable with female-form Ranma, who has sported at least half a dozen different hair colours on different covers.

    Comic Books 
  • Read the The Avengers / Transformers crossover and see how many times the illustrations don't match the text. The worst is when they can't correctly label the characters. Second-worst is when Cap doesn't know what an F-15 looks like.
  • In The Mighty Thor #499 Thor is in Asgard with three characters named Kim, Annie, and Sylvia. Then Sylvia goes missing... or at least they talk about her going missing but the artist kept drawing her into the panel! Kim's hair and outfit change from panel to panel as well.
  • In British weekly girls' comic Tammy for several years the cover art featured two girls. They are clearly the same two girls on every cover but colour of each one's hair varied randomly from issue to issue. And this was before temporary hair dyes that would wash out reliably were really a thing, so that doesn't work as a Hand Wave.
  • The Sandman (1989): In the introduction to the trade paperback edition of Season of Mists, Harlan Ellison actually lampshades this by pointing out that in one scene, despite Neil Gaiman having written that the character Destiny casts no shadow at all, ever, artist Mike Dringenberg had "dirtied the pages up" giving Destiny a shadow. He then commented that the writing was so superb the astute reader would let such a niggling concern go.
  • In Supergirl one-shot Supergirl Special, Kara's narration tells us how "[she] left [her] planet as it was turning to dust" while the art clearly shows her being rocketed from Argo City, a floating space city which got destroyed some time after Krypton's demise.
  • The final BIONICLE graphic novel, Legends of Bara Magna, had a couple of noticeable goof-ups:
    • In the story Fall and Rise of the Skrall, the two Rock Tribe Agori manning a wood-carrying cart are actually the promotional toy images of Raanu and a Zesk, lazily pasted into the scene. Neither have anything to do with the Rock Tribe, nor the story.
    • More famously, the comic All Our Sins Remembered depicted the Mata Nui robot and the character Kyry using the wrong models, however the artist admitted that he didn't receive the correct ones in time, so he accidentally modeled Mata Nui after his toy (which represented a totally different body than his original) and simply made one up for Kyry. Then again, images of Mata Nui were readily available on the 'net.
    • The Exile's Tale has a couple of odd panels which show the exiled Malum wielding a gatling gun, even though the caption says he didn't need anything from his former people, and he throws it away a panel later. Not necessarily an error, but it's strange that the artist would include it.
  • Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter: While the narration describes a number of horrible bloody injuries they're not depicted, for instance when Jane was dying after supposedly being cut nearly in two she just looks like she decided to lay down with no injuries or clothing damage depicted whatsoever.
  • Norby:
    • In the adaptation of Norby, the Mixed-Up Robot, the titular character is drawn with a bright red body, only two eyes, and a mouth. Jeff is drawn to be shorter than most adults. However, the books are clear that Norby is actually silver in colour, has two eyes both forward and back, and has no mouth, while Jeff is over six feet and therefore taller than most adults.
    • In the original book, when Jeff says "Bombs away!", he refers to himself and Norby physically falling onto Ing's henchmen. In this comic, Norby is able to release a Macross Missile Massacre against them.
  • Wild's End is inspired by The War of the Worlds, and thus the alien attackers use a signature Death Ray of heat. The thing is that every time it's shown, it's represented as a burst of flames, but the characters react as if it were the invisible ray from Wells's book. For that matter, it's repeatedly stated to be different than fire and a key plot point relies on it being invisible, indistinguishable from a torpedo hit. Presumably this is for censorship purposes - it would be even less pleasant to see if fire wasn't used.

    Fan Works 
  • Tales of the Emperasque: The Emperor is always drawn in gigantic version of his golden power armor, even though, being now a giant space lizard, he goes around undressed and unarmed.

    Film — Animation 
  • One storybook based on Atlantis: The Lost Empire still calls Kida a princess on the last page, even though she is already a Queen at the end of the movie.
  • Cars:
    • The toy version of DJ has blue stripes on his body unlike the green ones he had in the movie (due to the stripes not being painted on). Adding to this was the fact that his official artwork (which was extremely film-accurate) is actually shown on the toy's blister package. Later versions of the toy show him in his correct colors, but unfortunately, those were actually variants (Impounded DJ, lenticular eyes DJ, and metallic DJ). It wasn't until the release of a Toys "R" Us-exclusive toy set, as well as a Walmart-exclusive 4-pack in which "classic eyes" DJ was actually shown in his correct colors.
    • This happens in a different way with the "Drift Party Mater" (based on Mater's final form at the end of Tokyo Mater) toy from the ''Cars Toons'' toyline, where the toy version of said character was correct, but the artwork showed Mater before the drift race began. Another infamous example would be the toy of a DJ-lookalike, which showed Mater's picture instead.
    • Cars 2: The tie-in storybook has Holly Shiftwell actually smashing apart an entire clock face while attempting to fly out of Big Bentley during the climax (in the actual movie, she only smashed apart the "5" during her escape), while Professor Z was still wearing his monocle after being captured and arrested by Finn McMissile (in the actual movie, Z actually lost his monocle while attempting to escape from McMissile, and said monocle was presumably destroyed when McMissile blew up Z's battleship, Tony Trihull).


By author:

  • Often present in the works of the Italian writer Chiara Rapaccini, who is also the illustrator of her own books. For example, in one of her books a character is described wearing a green apron and bunny-shaped slippers. The illustration shows that character without any apron and with black boots. Another character is said wearing a shirt with a snake drawn on it... cue the illustration showing instead a skull with crossbones.

By work:

  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: Kriss Sison's animesque version of the books has a few examples. For example, the text says that Alice is 7 1/2 but the illustrations make her look 10 at youngest. In one illustration, Tweedledee has his entire upper torso shoved into an umbrella with his legs hanging out, but the text states his lower torso was shoved into an umbrella and his head was the only part hanging out.
  • The covers of Animorphs:
    • They usually pictured Tobias with brown hair, even though he was described as blond for the longest time and was only corrected within the last five or so books. His appearance in the short-lived live-action TV series was obviously based on these covers, too, rather than his descriptions in the text.
    • Each cover showed a smooth morph transition, the character going into their morph one-fifth at a time. However, the books always have rough, piece by piece transformations; there faces may be the first part to morph, or their change in size, or their limbs, etc.
  • The cover illustrations for The Babysitters Club always depict Mallory's hair as red, even though the actual text describes it as chestnut brown. This probably explains why the screen adaptations always cast her as a redhead too.
  • BIONICLE books were full of these, though most of the time, it was due to the editors not being familiar with the story, and not knowing which already rendered promotional image goes where. The most common error was depicting the wrong mask, or using movie stills that didn't match the captions, but the most infamous and baffling mistake has to be the cover art of the book titled Dark Hunters, featuring characters who had nothing to do with the titular organization. These can be classified as printing errors, though, being the mistakes of unreliable editors. The BIONICLE: World book, on the other hand, was illustrated with brand-new images, some of which did suffer from unreliable illustrators. For example, the being Karzahni, described as a black and gold colored, dark and empty-eyed freak, turned into a blue and green monstrosity, with brightly glowing yellow eyes.
  • Medieval Bestiaries often reused information from ancient Greek and Roman authors while illustrating them with contemporary depictions of said animals. This lead to instances of dragons being described as giant snakes without legs, as they were seen in antiquity, while the illustrations show dog-headed, winged creatures with legs.
  • In Thomas M. Disch's 1986 novella The Brave Little Toaster (Best known for its film adaptation), the AM-Only Clock Radio is described as being off-white in the text but is depicted as brown on the cover.
  • Antonio Caparo, the original illustrator for The Camp Half-Blood Series, is by most accounts a very skilled artist, but he has trouble drawing the child-aged characters of the series. Jason Grace from The Heroes of Olympus looks like he's about twelve when he's meant to be about fifteen, while Luke Castellan, who has always been described with a scar under his right eye, inexplicably has it under his left.
  • The first UK edition cover for The Catcher in the Rye (as seen on the book's page) depicts Phoebe as a dirty blonde. She's described in the text as a redhead.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia:
    • Just about any illustrated version of The Chronicles of Narnia will depict Lucy with dark hair, even though she's described as "always gay and golden-haired" in the last chapter of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The fact that live-action adaptations also tend to give her dark hair may be related to this.
    • Occasionally, it seems that the illustrator didn't even bother turning the page! One well known case is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where the page ended with a line similar to "On the window was a blue bottle" with an illustration showing that and the next page beginning with "fly."
    • In The Magician's Nephew, Jadis grabs both children's hands when leading them out of her collapsing palace. When she disintegrates the door out, she lets go of Digory but the text doesn't mention her releasing Polly. The illustration shows her free-handed. This is particularly problematic since it was Jadis' grip that was stopping Polly from getting at her yellow ring and escaping.
    • A subtle one from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: An early illustration of a cabin in the Dawn Treader shows a globe as part of the furniture. The Narnian world is subsequently established to be flat, meaning there would be no need for maps to be put on globes.
  • The Cold Moons:
    • It's stated that Tendril is deformed due to an encounter with dogs. She's missing larges patches of fur, has a very twisted hindleg, and all that's left of one of her eyes is a "scarred hollow". The illustrations depict a normal badger with a few patches of fur missing.
    • While on the journey, Beaufort comes across a murdered fox. The description describes that she's had patches of fur torn out, has multiple bite wounds, has a gaping wound in her throat, and is soaked in blood. The illustration shows a cleanly dead fox that looks as if she could be sleeping.
  • In Le Crime du Pauvre Cornichon by Joseph Périgot, a little girl called Morgane is described as running away barefoot and cutting herself on rocks, leaving some blood behind. The illustrations show her wearing socks.
  • On the original cover of The Crystal Shard, it's possible that the artist wasn't briefed on what exactly a drow "dark elf" exactly looked like, simply told they have "black skin". Going on that, Drizzt Do'Urden is depicted more like a human of African descent rather than the unnaturally black skin of the drow. This is corrected on the subsequent two books.
  • The Discworld covers by Josh Kirby tend to be somewhat contradictory to the stories involved, or reveal spoilers. For example, on the cover of Feet of Clay, Cheery is shown wearing heels. The Colour of Magic shows Twoflower as a four-eyed monster (he's called four-eyed in the book, because glasses haven't caught on in Ankh-Morpork at that point) and Rincewind as a standardly old wizard.
    • According to Terry Pratchett, the reason Kirby always draws female warriors in stripperiffic outfits whether they're described that way or not and usually chops down everyone's age is "because it's Traditional".
    • Averted by Paul Kidby's covers for the same series. According to The Art of Discworld, Kidby often remembers details Pratchett forgot!
    • Both Soul Music and Hogfather state that Hogswatchnight, the Disc's You Mean "Xmas" festival, is celebrated with an oak tree in a pot. Nearly all official merch that features a picture of a Hogswatch tree (for instance, the stamps) has a pine tree, because otherwise it doesn't look Christmassy.
    • The Colour of Magic describes Marchessa of Krull as " Her skin was black. Not the dark brown of Urabewe, or the polished blue-black of monsoon-haunted Klatch, but the deep black of midnight at the bottom of a cave." Since the franchise developed in such a way that humans with unusual skin tones don't feel very Discworldly, Kidby draws her (and other Krullians, such as the Arch-Astronomer) as having what is normally meant by black skin.
    • The Tiffany Aching novels frequently mention the intricate Celtic tattoos worn by the Nac Mac Feegle. Paul Kidby's covers show them as solid blue. This is Lampshaded in Tiffany Aching's Guide to Being a Witch, which claims that the Feegles sent to pose for Mr Kidby made such a mess of the studio that he just gave up.
  • In the 1960s and 1970s, the Doctor Who Novelisations were published with illustrations — which, although they didn't contradict the text, had clearly been made by somebody who'd never seen the television versions. (In some cases, not only were the details of the scene different, so were the faces of the characters.) This wasn't all bad, though; some of the monsters are much more convincing in illustrated form than they were on the TV.
  • Justified with the Doctor Who New Adventures novel, Original Sin, which introduces the companions Chris and Roz, and has internal illustrations so readers get an idea of what they look like. For much of the book, Chris — from a future where eccentric body modification is the norm — looks like a giant teddy bear, but actually drawing him like that would run counter to the point, so he's shown in his unbeppled human form.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Harry Dresden is always shown on the covers of his books with his three trademark items: his leather duster, his rune carved staff, and his fedora. Problem is, Harry doesn't wear a hat. Word of God says that this has become something of an in-joke between the author and illustrator, with the hat on the cover becoming more prominent and detailed with each book, while inside the pages of said book Harry finds new and interesting ways to stress that he hates hats and would never wear one.
    • Harry is also almost always depicted with long hair, even though he's only stated to grow his hair out at one point in the books (in depression) and he's told it looks horrible and not exactly like a rock star.
  • In The Elfstones of Shannara, the Dagda Mor is a demon that's described in the book as being a vaguely ape-like creature, but in the interior illustration depicting the final battle, he's shown as a typical Black Cloak-and-horns-and-pitchfork devil.
  • In the Haruhi Suzumiya light novels, this happens on occasion. Two examples are:
    • In the first book when The SOS Brigade meets up to look for supernatural beings, Mikuru is described as wearing a blue dress. However, she is shown wearing her school uniform in the same chapter during the search.
    • In the final chapter of the first book, when Kyon kisses Haruhi, his hands are described as being on her shoulders the whole time. They are shown as being somewhere around her waist.
  • The illustrator of the Harry Potter books draws Snape with a goatee. While he's never explicitly stated not to have facial hair, you'd think it would warrant a mention if it was present. They also tend to depict him as bald, despite constant references to his black greasy hair.
  • Honor Harrington: Honor Harrington did not appear on the cover of one of her novels with correct rank insignia until In Enemy Hands, the seventh book of the series. Various covers also have problems with the depictions of the ships, Nimitz, and Honor's appearance.
  • All four books of the Hyperion Cantos depict the monster known as the Shrike on their covers. Only the fourth book depicts it with the correct number of arms.
  • Land of Oz:
    • John R. Neill depicts Dorothy as a fashion savvy child with multiple dresses. Dorothy was only supposed to have two dresses according to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – her iconic blue and white gingham dress and another one that the original illustrations portrayed as red – though it's possible that she gained a larger wardrobe as the books went on.
    • John R. Neil codified Ozma as a teenager with long, brown curls, which has been her design in almost every media since (including a film that Baum himself was involved with). However Ozma is described with reddish blonde hair in her introduction in The Marvelous Land of Oz. Neil drew Ozma with blonde hair but changed her to a brunette in the next book Ozma of Oz. According to The Tin Woodsman of Oz, Ozma looks fourteen-to-fifteen and Baum himself has stated she should look no older than sixteen. John R. Neil drew most of Ozma's iconic official art but he was very inconsistent on her age, which fluctuates between being Dorothy's age to resembling a 20-something year old. Oftentimes within the same book she changes from a teenager to a little girl.
  • Special cartographic edition: Christopher Tolkien's beautiful but hastily created maps of the Shire and of Middle Earth, made for the first publication of The Lord of the Rings, contradicted the original text in certain details. Because of the potency of illustrations in the imagination, J.R.R. Tolkien made a conscious decision in such cases to allow the maps to be canon wherever possible, and toward this end made a number of small changes to the text to bring it closer to the maps as part of his revisions for the trilogy's second edition.
  • The newer cover illustration of Me And My Little Brain is of Frankie smashing J.D.'s toys with a hammer. Not only does this not happen in the book, one of the toys is an airplane. The story takes place in 1897.
  • N.E.R.D.S.: Jackson's braces are consistently described as one of the most horrible sets of braces in existence, headgear and all, yet are relatively normal-looking and lack any sort of headgear on both the cover and on-page illustrations. This is noticeable because it's a plot point in the first book that Jackson's headgear prevents him from wearing a football helmet and rejoining the team. Of course, eventually the text also stops mentioning Jackson's headgear.
  • In E. T. A. Hoffmann's The Nutcracker, the Nutcracker is described as wearing a lavender suit. Nearly all illustrations, and most productions of the ballet adaptation, show him wearing red.
  • Happens a lot of times with Le Petit Nicolas, illustrated by Sempé. For example, Alceste is described as looking at a "small painting" but the illustration shows the painting to be about ten times his size! And a particularly egregious example is when Nicolas is at a hotel with boys and they are being annoyed by three girls; one of them is described as being fat, but the illustrations show both of them being thin. Later, that "fat" girl is depicted twice with another girl's appearance (as seen by their different hairstyles). But then, Sempé realized she is supposed to have pigtails (as the text reveals) but draws two pigtailed girls in the same illustration.
  • The Railway Series: the main original illustrator, Reginald Dalby, really didn't care about a kids' book that would be forgotten in ten years. He annoyed worldbuilding author Reverend Awdry with inaccurate settings, oddly proportioned characters, and Henry being drawn interchangeably with Edward and Gordon. Dalby quit after a note from Awdry telling him not to make Percy look like a "green caterpillar with red stripes", a criticism which would be directly incorporated into a later story ("Woolly Bear").
  • In the reissues of the Ramona Quimby books, which feature new illustrations, characters are shown not doing exactly what the text says, or dressed differently from the text.
    • For example, Ramona is said to angrily stomp her bare foot on the floor, but she's shown wearing socks. Another time, she's said to cry and have her tears land on her skirt, but she's shown wearing shorts (perhaps done to accommodate the "modernization" of the books and the changing times).
    • In an example of added detail unrelated to the text, when Ramona is scooping out pumpkin seeds, Beezus is seen looking grossed out. The text makes no mention of Beezus's reaction either way.
    • Also, Ramona's outfit changes from picture to picture in the span of only 10 minutes' worth of story time in Ramona the Pest at one point.
    • Roller skates are mentioned, but roller blades are actually shown (though that's likely modernization).
    • In Tracy Dockray's illustration for the scene in Ramona Quimby, Age 8 where Ramona cracks a raw egg on her head (thinking it was hard-boiled), Ramona is smiling goofily, as if she thinks the whole thing is funny, when she's mortified in the actual text. Although the picture might be capturing the exact moment that the egg breaks, before Ramona realizes what just happened.
    • Finally, in one of the funnier blatant discrepancies, Ramona is said to "not bother putting on her slippers" late at night, and is shown in the illustration wearing... slippers!
  • The Runesword series had cover art painted by Larry Elmore, quite popular with the fantasy crowd. While depicting the main characters, he did the elf Endril as your standard long-blond-hair smooth-faced pretty-boy. Problem: the book text mentioned on more than one occasion that Endril had a beard. Him dyeing it was even a plot point once. Of course, it was a cheap series written quickly by an assortment of different authors who couldn't agree on basic characterisation between books, so...
  • Protagonist Vera Vixen of the Shady Hollow series is (you guessed it) a fox, and as such the first book referred to her forest home as a "den", with the implication that it was an underground residence beneath some trees not unlike Fantastic Mr. Fox. The town map, however, depicts it as a cozy cottage simply among the trees, and after some vacillation in the second book, the third's text changes it to a "den-like cottage".
  • The covers for the first Russian translation of A Song of Ice and Fire shows black-haired Jon Snow with blond hair. The same cover artist A. Dubovik is also responsible for the blond Cordelia Naismith.
  • The book The Space Race apparently described one alien racer's spaceship as being colored red, but the illustrations colored it green. Maybe the readers are colorblind?
  • The cover art for Stray depicts Pufftail with brown/gold eyes, despite the fact he mentions having green eyes.
  • A tie-in storybook, A Tale of Two Brothers, based on Disney's The Lion King (1994) focusing on Mufasa's childhood described his father Ahadi as having brown fur, a black mane, and green eyes (just like Scar, the series' would-be Big Bad), but the illustrations show him with gold fur, a brown mane, and brown eyes, like Mufasa.
  • In the book adaptation of Walking with Dinosaurs, second chapter, the Allosaurus pair are shown attacking and killing baby Diplodocus, even though by this point in the story, the Diplodocus are already sub-adults. This is because the images were based on the events from the TV series (some are actual stills), where the scene took place while they were younger. However in the book, the scene was separated into two parts, happening years apart from each other.
  • Warwick Goble's infamously dreadful drawings of the Fighting-Machines in H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. They were so bad that Wells stopped his own story dead in its tracks just to vent!
  • Warrior Cats: The series is terrible with colouring the cats. Different artwork depicts them with different colours. Often times this goes against the text, such as Firestar being depicted with gold eyes instead of green eyes.
  • White Fang: In the illustrated version of the book, when the bulldog is giving White Fang a Curb Stomp Battle, the accompanying illustrations show the bulldog burying his jaws in White Fang's neck, then standing a foot away, then standing a few yards away, then back to gnawing on the protagonist's throat. All the while the accompanying text has White Fang constantly in the bulldog's jaws with Scott and Matt barely struggling to get the dog's mouth open. Also, while a lot of blood and gore is described in-text, none of it is shown.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech has suffered from this multiple times through the years. One of the most major examples was the BNC-5S Banshee in the original Technical Readout 3050: the mech is listed as mounting two Extended Range Particle Projection Cannons in its right torso, a Gauss Rifle in its left torso, and a Short-Range Missile pod in its right arm. The picture instead showed a single cannon barrel in each torso, with the SRM pod mounted next to the head and the right arm ending in another cannon instead of a hand. This matched the weapon arrangement of the BNC-3S Banshee, a variant that had appeared in an earlier book.
  • The Dresden Files: In the roleplaying game, nobody told the artist that Harry's "Blue Beetle" is actually multicoloured (as it got repaired using off-colour parts), so he drew an actually blue Beetle. This is explained in scribbled comments in the margin, since the rulebook is presented as a draft written by one of the characters.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The first edition of Dungeons And Dragons described orcs as ugly humanoids, but the accompanying illustration depicted them as full blown PigMen! According to Gary Gygax, this was due to the illustrator misunderstanding his wording about making the orcs look Pig headed.
    • The 3E Monster Manual features some monsters whose illustrations don't exactly fit their descriptions:
      • The allip (a spectral undead) is described as looking just like when it was alive, but with an insane grimace on its face, eyes burning with fear and the lower part of the body blurring into nothingness. The illustration, however, depicts something that look like a vaguely humanoid, tattered black rag without eyes or a face. The 3.5 MM updates the description to match the image, though.
      • The undead bodak is also described as just in life, but with fear on his face, hairless gray skin and empty white eyes. But the illustration goes a little further, turning its skull into something from an X-Files gray alien, or like a Scream mask that doesn't look scared. Like the Allip, this was fixed in 3.5 by updating the description.
      • The undead mohrg. In the text, it's a skinny corpse with a barbed tongue as the only unusual part. The illustration depicts instead a clean skeleton filled with a fleshy worm-like thing vaguely resembling an autopsy picture from X-COM. Also fixed for 3.5.
      • Mudmaws are described as having rubbery green tentacles on either side of their mouth. The accompanying illustration depicts them with rubbery orange tentacles on either side of their mouth.
      • And a minor example: the stone giant is described as having black eyes, but in the illustration they are pearly white.
      • The orc is described as being a grey-skinned humanoid, but is depicted green. Unlike the Allip, Bodak, and Mohrg, this was not updated for the 3.5 Monster Manual. Similarly, in the 4e MM (as well as in later books and even miniatures!) goblins are green-skinned, despite the description indicating that is should have "skin of yellow, orange, red, often shading to brown"; while this is true for bugbears and hobgoblins, all species are also depicted with beady white eyes, which are described as similar in color to their skin. Thankfully, 5e reverts to the previous editions' canon colors.
    • The Epic Level Handbook describes sirrushes as resembling giant, armor-plated panthers. The accompanying illustrations depict them as looking a lot of more like giant hounds.
    • Androsphinxes and gynosphinxes are described as resembling winged lions with the heads of humanoids, but their artwork from 3rd Edition onwards invariably depicts them with fully leonine heads.
    • Cranium rats are typically described as being completely identical to normal rats, only with powerful psionic abilities. Nearly every illustration of them depicts them with exposed brains.
    • Demogorgon is a powerful demon with two mandrill heads, but one illustration shows him with hyena heads instead.
  • In Nomine: In his full write-up, it's stated that David, the Archangel of Stone, primarily manifests as a black man, having kept the same vessel since humanity's origins in Africa. In illustrations, he's usually depicted as white and blonde. This can be handwaved as he does temporarily alter his vessel's race based on the environment but still, it's a bit odd.
  • Ironclaw has a technology level placing the most advanced areas and cultures roughly in the 17th century, with the most common gunpowder weapons being primitive blunderbusses and black powder grenades. Yet, some of the art in the second edition, particularly those in the species description section, clearly depicts characters in an 18th or 19th century setting, sometimes with nods to Impressionist art or the sketches of Jean-Jacques Grandville. That said, they look dramatic and thematic, so Rule of Cool certainly applies.
  • Magic: The Gathering: Inverted. The Rivals of Ixalan written story diverged significantly from the cards, with several cards depicting events that couldn't have possibly happened in the story. In this case, the cards were actually designed first and the story written later (after art was already commissioned). The story later retconned a couple of these cards as depicting the false memories that Jace implanted in Vraska.
  • Pathfinder suffers this problem, particularly with items. For instance, in the Ultimate Equipment book, the text for the Mask of the Grappler is clearly intended to refer to a luchador mask, but it's illustrated as some sort of Polynesian carved wooden mask instead.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age: Origins: Character appearances and scenes do not always match the dialogue, whether due to restrictions or changes during development. For example, in a dialogue between Morrigan and Leliana, the latter wants to tie up the former’s hair “to show off that lovely neck”, even though Morrigan’s hair is always tied up. She is also described as a “dark-eyed temptress” at one point, which doesn’t match her Supernatural Gold Eyes.
  • Fallout: Recruitable companion Tycho is described as wearing a Gas Mask, Longcoat, but his in-game model just looks like a typical male NPC without any special gear.

  • Final Fantasy: Nearly half of the character illustrations for Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and A2 show members of a class with equipment they can't equip without a special ability obtained as another class, if at all. They're probably concept art pieces made before the game mechanics were finalized, so there are a lot of inconsistencies with the final builds of each game. The most blatant (visible in the head closeup, which is what 90% of in-game character portraits are) is the Fighter portrait wearing a metal helm, even though they cannot equip heavy armor.
  • In Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, Horace, who is exclusive to the DS remakes, is depicted with an illustration wielding a poleaxe or a halberd... which would be fine in the previous games, but generals in Shadow Dragon don't use axes. They uses lances and bows in-game. They only way Horace can use axes is through reclassing, but he doesn't have any axe rank bonuses.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon X and Y: A Snorlax is sleeping in the middle of a route as an homage to the Broken Bridge from the original games. Just like before, the player can use the Poké Flute to wake the Snorlax up and fight it. Unfortunately, the game insists that the Snorlax "opens its eyes wide" when this happens, despite its eyes clearly remaining closed.
    • Pokémon Sword and Shield: There are several moments in the game where text describes something happening, but then the in-game animations depict something else such as a crowd of people being described as all clapping while the crowd in-game is rooting and cheering or an NPC requesting a handshake from the player character only for the game to depict them using a "Handing off items to each other" animation.
  • The Simpsons Hit & Run: In Marge's level, she gives Grampa his medication, and he falls asleep... at least, according to the game's dialogue. His model remains with its eyes open and moving normally, even through the next mission, which is about getting caffeine pills to wake him up.
  • Stinkoman 20X6: Parodied with Harvax XVII, a boss that is described in the Stinkomanual as a "small but speedy octopus", but actually resembles a large gangster robot in-game. The manual even quotes him as saying "This description is ALL WRONG!" in response to the error. The description does fit an actual enemy encountered in the same level as Harvax (an octopus robot that was not covered in the Stinkomanual), and the rest of the enemies consist mostly of Flying Seafood Special species like prawns, suggesting it's the gangster design that was the misinterpretation, which the credits confirm by showing the actual octopus that was supposed to be in his place.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Super Mario Bros. 2: The instructions manual and game's end credits show Birdo's description with Ostro's picture (and vice versa).
    • Super Mario 64: Each time you unlock a door, the game will say that "The door slowly opens", which only applies to the big double width doors. Mario himself opens the rest of the doors, at normal speed.
    • Super Mario 3D Land: On the official website, Bowser's illustration shows him with a tanuki tail. In the actual game, it's the fake Bowsers that have the tanuki tail: the real Bowser's tail is normal.
    • Super Mario Galaxy 2: A strategy guide, when describing how to defeat Bugaboom in Puzzle Plank Galaxy, actually shows King Lakitu's screenshot instead!
  • Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker: Paz complains at one point about how she doesn't have to worry about sunburn, not like 'pale-skinned Anglo-Saxons'. Her character is depicted in game with much lighter skin than anyone else, blonde hair and blue eyes.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The ghostly Ghina are depicted with two eyes in the manual, when the ingame Ghina have only one eye.
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link:
    • The Arurodas' artwork depicts them with claws, which their in-game sprites lack.
    • The Basilisks' sprites move on all fours. Their official artwork depicts them as bipeds instead.
    • The Maus' in-game sprites are of flying dragon heads. Their artwork includes depictions both as that and as wolf heads instead.
    • The Octoroks' sprite shows them as a Funnel-Mouthed Cephalopod with a large "mouth" from which they spit rocks. Their artwork, however, depicts them as mouthless and throwing rocks with their tentacles.
  • Warcraft: Orcs and Humans: The manual's illustration of the Fire Elemental unit, depicts the enemy as a skinny feminine figure. The actual ingame Fire Elemental has a masculine appearance with a muscular figure.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Original 
  • The Comics Curmudgeon occasionally points this out when comic panels are inappropriately colored or illustrated.

    Western Animation 
  • Dinosaur Train: The official website describes Deinonychus as having feathers on his body, but the show's artwork doesn't show any feathers on his body at all.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) has an unreliable colourer. Since the turtles look pretty much identical, save their identifying colours, it isn't uncommon to see one turtle or another being swapped out for his brother with a mask colour change. This gets particularly jarring when said turtle has to speak and inevitably does so with the wrong voice. Or like in one episode, Michelangelo has been captured but it doesn't stop two of the turtles from wearing orange in two different shots.
  • The Transformers: The goes to great lengths to point out every single instance of this, and for certain episodes, the list of errors can be far longer than the episode summary itself. Not only do we have blatant and often baffling miscolorings, but dead characters showing up alive, Autobots and Decepticons randomly switching sides, multiples of the same character appearing alongside each other, or objects and characters radically changing their appearance between shots, fairly often directly contradicting what's being said in the dialogue.

Alternative Title(s): Illustration Dissonance