Are you the next best seller? How to illustrate a children's book

If you're like me, you've never quite grown up.

Yes I'm an adult and I do adult things like filling out tax forms, washing the car and buying potatoes. But really? I'm a child at heart. I love anything sweet, exciting or colourful. I'd rather be jumping in puddles than huddling under an umbrella and I'd always choose a big bag of pick and mix over a glass of wine as a cinema treat.

I love that mentality. Always looking for the fun in things so life is as creative and as exciting as possible. And if you think like me, you've probably too at some point considered writing a children's book. Nothing long and dreary.

Children's books are about capturing a lovable idea that says the most in the fewest words, captures the imagination, is endearing and a story you'll remember forever. Writing a story is one thing.

However, when pictures in children's books are so important, getting the illustrations just right is key.

So where to start? With children's books at the forefront of my mind right now, I've put together a little list of the top five things to consider when illustrating children's books. So crack out your drawing board and get ready to start creating!

Top five tips for illustrating children's books

1) Pick out your side characters

Naturally when you write a story about a certain character, you’ll want to pick out that main character in the images. This is important for telling the story. But you have the opportunity to say so much more with images. Who are the side characters? What’s going on in the background? Create interesting scenarios and details so there is always something to discover in your drawings.

2) Capture an emotion

Drawing a picture isn’t just about depicting what the characters are doing or where they are. Children learn from the images. Things like how the characters might be feeling, what do their expressions look like? And not just in their faces but you can install movement into your images. Maybe you want to give the impression of haste, warmth or stillness. Happy emotions are usually depicted on sunny days so watch out for how weather ties in with presenting an overall image. Essentially what you’re doing is capturing the essential spikes of emotion that run throughout the story.

3) Choose your style and colour palette


It’s really important that your overall drawing style and colour palette are a) consistent and b) appropriate for the age you are writing for. Very young children will want to see bright colours, bold lines and clear expressions to make it easier for them to understand what’s going on. Slightly older children will want something more interesting. Colour palettes also reflect the style of book so choose something interesting that suits the subject matter.

4) Sketch it first and get feedback

Drawings take time and effort, so you’ll want to have a precise idea as to what you’re going to draw before you invest your energy. Make sure you sketch all your drawings before you do the final version. Make notes as to what each character will be doing, how they’ll be feeling as well as how they’re interacting with each other.

Just like if you were observing a scene in real life, there will always be multiple things going on. You can also tell a lot about what’s going and pretty quickly too from getting just a glimpse. So, make sure your images carry as much impact as they can. Add to your story and bring it to life. This will really help children who are still learning to read absorb what’s going on.

5) Do different


A lot of people will start to draw what they think should be drawn. Perhaps something they remember from their own childhood or they just pick a style they think children’s illustrations should be done in. The thing is, there is a massive range of children’s stories out there now. From the plain and colourful to the weird and wonderful. So there are no strict rules in how you should approach your illustrations. Make them fun, inventive and make them yours.

I’ve yet to write my masterpiece but I’m certainly working on it and until then I love doodling and trying out new ideas; playing with different character ideas and depicting stories and funny scenarios, as well as injecting as much flavour and emotion into them as possible. Bring your stories to life with your own images – why not try it out today?

And when you do, send us your pictures on Instagram and Facebook @HartleysDirect.