Yusuf Arakkal's early paintings were studies in abstract of the lives of the city dwellers. He used a profusion of bright colours to depict their situation. Later, his growing concern with social issues began to be reflected in his paintings. Arakkal, through his art, depicts the everyday life of the dispossessed, in urban areas - their poverty, helplessness, dismal living conditions and their stoicism in the face of tragedy.
In keeping with his partiality for somber shades, Arakkal employs earthy shades with an occasional dab of yellow or crimson. He concentrates on the texture of his canvases and gives them a grainy, rough surface, reminiscent of timeworn, peeling, cracked walls. Several of Arakkal's canvases focus on a solitary human in various poses. "The face, whether it is of a man or a woman, is mine, an observer, and alone. I have been painting this character for 20 years. I'm not bald, I'm not a woman, but I'm sure it's me"