When I meet other children’s book illustrators, I always like to compare notes and see what they think makes a great kids book artist. In my past 16 years of meeting children’s book Illustrators at creative writing meet ups and children’s book conventions, I have gathered a wide variety of techniques and ideas from hundreds of children’s book illustrators from around the world.

There are several factors that I think are very important in creating amazing storybooks and most of them have to do with understanding how the whole book fits together.

First and foremost is a thorough understanding of the story that the children’s book illustrator is going to bring to life. What is the plot line, who are the characters, where do they go and what do they do? If you know the whole story before you begin, you are more able to foreshadow elements of the story and give the story more depth that is engaging to the reader.

Many children’s book illustrators and I start with sketches. I often start by sketching the whole book at once. I create a large storyboard with all the pages laid out as white squares and create a rough sketch of the whole story.

If you do this, you can see how the story fits together before you commit to any of the details. This is a good place to stop and think about how each page relates to the other and the story. Some children’s book illustrators also predicate the sketches with a thumbnail version. A thumbnail version is an intentionally very small storyboard that allows you to focus on only the main elements of each scene.

I don’t know why, but I often stop after the rough sketch and wait until the next day to create the more refined sketches and again between the sketches and the illustrations. This may not be true for every children’s book Illustrator but for some reason sleeping subconsciously I work out problems and come up with new ideas every time I have the work in my head before I go to sleep.

I would recommend that every children’s book illustrator develop their storyboard before getting into any details. Once that is done, you can go back and create all of the details about the story and once again tie them all together. After the detailed sketches are done and approved by the author, I recommend every children’s book illustrator take the final revised detailed sketches and set up everything in once place. It could be on a table or in my case a large file of art boards. then create the final color illustrations over the sketches. This way all of the colors, characters, and storyline match and flow from one frame to the next fluidly.

If every children’s book illustrator created the entire story from rough to final as a flowing art piece, I believe we would have many great  stories that would make the author, artist and most importantly the young reader engaged in the story and very happy!


One Response

  1. Jim Liston

    Your tip for developing a storyboard makes a lot of sense. I’m not an illustrator but as a web designer I’ve found that laying out the website in advance can save a lot of time. I design each page and lay it out as a storyboard. Then I decide how each page links together so that I have a better chance of finding any problems that may be hidden. I’ve done many websites this way and I’m sure it has saved me countless hours of wasted time. Thanks for the great article!


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