How To Illustrate A Children’s Book

Steps to take and mistakes to avoid

The first book I illustrated was published this week and is available on Amazon. Completing this task was an exciting and sometimes difficult journey and I am so glad I did it. It feels good. I learned a lot and in this blogpost I am going to share some nuggets of advice I wish someone had given me before I started.

Step 1 – Read the book. And then read it again. And again.

‘Read the book’ may sound like obvious advice but reading it once or twice really isn’t enough. Read the text as many times as you can without driving yourself insane. The reason for this is that each time you read the text you will:

  • Better understand the characters
  • Better understand the author
  • Think of a new way to illustrate the writing

Step 2 – Sketch as you read

Each time you pick up the text to read, ensure you have something close by on which to record your ideas. I used a pencil and paper, but it could be on an ipad or tablet. This will ensure:

  • You have a record of how your ideas developed
  • You can try different styles to see which fits the narrative best
  • Sometimes the earlier ideas are the best
  • It’s always good to practise drawing

Step 3 – Don’t throw anything away! Keep every drawing/sketch/idea

However small or rough your sketch is – keep it. There will be times you want to reconsider an idea you initially discarded. It is very frustrating when you want to go back to an idea you have explored and discarded. Re-starting from scratch is time consuming and frustrating.

Step 4 – Consider your audience

The book I illustrated is aimed at younger children. With this in mind I wanted the images to be playful and fun, to match the content. This may sound simple but I changed my drawing style several times during my journey.

Step 5 – Black & White images are best if it’s your first book

There is so much to think about when it’s your first book; the characters, style, position. I decided to simplify my task and stick to black and white images. The world of colour is a complicated topic and needs a separate blog post. The colours on the cover of the completed book (see above) are not exactly the same as the colours I selected. The printing methods differ depending on the type of printer used. I now know where I went wrong but as I mentioned, that’s another blog post.

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