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One of the particular challenges (and joys) of writing children’s books is that, for certain age groups, illustrations are a necessity.

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How to Illustrate a Children’s Book

If you’re self-publishing a children’s book, you’ll either want to hire a professional illustrator or do the illustrations yourself. If hiring a children’s book illustrator is not in your budget, keep in mind that it takes a lot of time to illustrate a children’s book. Whether you’re working on your own book or someone else’s, here’s how to illustrate your first picture book:

  1. Seek out stylistic inspiration. If this is your first time illustrating a children’s book, a good starting point is to get inspiration from your favorite artists and award-winning picture books. Look at new books, too, so that you’re aware of current trends. Play to your strengths, whether you’re skilled at watercolors, graphic design, line-drawings, or stick figures. When brainstorming, keep reading level and age range in mind.
  2. Focus on character development. Most children’s books have a main character who will feature in every illustration. Practice drawing this character with different expressions and in different situations, remembering that continuity is especially important for young readers. Learn more about character development in our guide here.
  3. Begin with a storyboard. If you’re working with a publishing house, you may receive a brief from an editor, art director, or the book’s author. This brief outlines what each illustration should portray. Since kid’s books have less text, illustrations can be really crucial to telling the story. Go through the whole book and take notes or make sketches as you go. Once you have an idea of how to best illustrate the story, make thumbnail sketches for each page or scene of the book, along with a few more detailed illustrations and a color sample that shows how the final product will look.
  4. Seek feedback. Whether you’re getting feedback from an editor, author, art director, your friends and family, or fellow children’s illustrators, give yourself enough time to redraw illustrations based on critique. If you’re illustrating your own book, you’ll have more flexibility, but if you’re illustrating for someone else, you may need to go through several rounds of edits.
  5. Arrange the final artwork and text. Once the artwork is approved, you’ll need to lay it out with the text. If you’re working with a publishing company, they may have a book designer who will combine the text with your illustrations. If you’re working on your own, you’ll have to do your own image editing, including layout, resizing, and book cover design.

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