Would you like to illustrate your own children’s book?
If you already have some skill at drawing, you have an advantage.
If not, this skill is definitely in the realm of the learnable.
So, before you dive into every resource you find on how to get a children’s book illustrated by a paid professional, let’s look at how you might do this yourself — if you’re even a little inclined to try.
The advantages of learning this could go far beyond your current project.
- How to Illustrate a Children’s Book: 10 Steps to Illustrating Your Story
- 1. Create a Mock-Up.
- 2. Add Text to Your Mock-Up.
- 3. Sketch Drawings for Each Page
- 4. Turn Your Sketches into Illustrations
- 5. Or Find an Illustrator
- 6. Create a Digital Copy of Your Physical Mock-Up
- 7. Get Feedback on Your Book
- 8. Revise, Polish, and Upload Your Book
- 9. Publish and Get Ready for Launch Day
- 10. Give Credit Where It’s Due
- Common Questions About Illustrating Children’s Books
How to Illustrate a Children’s Book: 10 Steps to Illustrating Your Story
We’ve broken down the process of illustrating a children’s book into nine steps. The timeline is up to you, but we suggest finishing each step to your satisfaction before moving on to the next.
The fourth step is broken into two parts, depending on whether you create your own illustrations or pay a professional artist to create them.
1. Create a Mock-Up.
For starters, let’s create something tangible you can flip through and even show to others, including children in your target age group.
Start by taking a short stack of paper — half as many as your book’s pages, plus extras for the cover and front and back matter pages. Depending on the trim size you’re thinking of for your book, you can use printer paper, construction paper, or something larger.
The closer your mock-up is to your finished book in size and dimensions, the more real and satisfying the result.
2. Add Text to Your Mock-Up.
Next, you’ll print out your book. With scissors, cut it up into blocks of text, and add each block to a page in your book.
Position each text block in areas where the background won’t compromise its readability.
If your illustrations extend to the edges of each page, make sure your text has a plain background. Try a few different arrangements to see which one you like best.
The words don’t always have to be at the bottom of the page or at the top. Vary their placement to give the impression of movement and dynamism.
Just make sure every bit of text is easy to spot and read (15 to 20 pt font).
3. Sketch Drawings for Each Page
Once you’ve got the text in place, use a pencil to sketch out some basic illustrations for each page. You can start in a sketchbook, if you prefer, and copy the drawings you like.
If you want some tips on how to draw children’s book illustrations, look up some tutorials on YouTube, Udemy, or Skillshare. Your sketches don’t have to be works of art. They just have to give an idea of what you’re going for.
Leave enough white space around the text to draw the reader’s attention to it and to avoid a crowded feeling.
4. Turn Your Sketches into Illustrations
Rough sketches are fine for your mock-up. But once you know what you want for your finished book, use those sketches to create more detailed drawings or paintings.
Then scan or photograph them to make both physical and digital copies.
You can also, if you prefer, use your sketches as the blueprints for digital art you create on Adobe Photoshop or InDesign — or another digital illustration tool.
If the tool you’re using allows you to add text in the right font and font size, position it where it belongs on each page.
Download each of the finished digital images with a transparent background.
5. Or Find an Illustrator
If you’d rather pay someone to create professional illustrations for your children’s book, you can find a skilled illustrator on one of the following outsourcing sites:
If you’re active in any online groups for authors of children’s books, ask if anyone can recommend an illustrator. Or, if you see a fellow author’s illustrations and think, “That’s what I want for my book!” reach out to them with some questions.
- Who’s your illustrator, and how did you find them?
- What was it like to work with them, and would you work with them again?
- What are their rates, and what’s included?
- Would you recommend them to fellow authors?
More Related Articles
6. Create a Digital Copy of Your Physical Mock-Up
Add digital copies of your illustrations to a Google or Word doc. If it’s not included in your illustration files, add the text using your mock-up to guide placement.
Create a document that will resemble your book when you download it in PDF format.
Set the page size to match your book’s trim size and orientation, and add margins. Leave the first few pages for your book’s cover and front matter pages:
And don’t forget the back matter pages:
- About the Author
- Glossary and/or Index
7. Get Feedback on Your Book
Find some beta readers in Facebook groups for children’s book authors.
Let them know you welcome constructive feedback on both the text and the illustrations for your children’s book — especially if you’re the illustrator and would like to know what people think of your work.
To make it easier for them, create a list of questions you’d like them to answer.
It’s also helpful to get feedback from children who belong to your target audience, though you don’t have to limit yourself to children in a narrow age bracket.
If your book appeals to older readers, too, so much the better.
8. Revise, Polish, and Upload Your Book
When you have enough feedback from your fellow creatives and young readers in your target audience, edit and revise your book until it reads and looks just the way you want it to.
It may not be exactly how you imagined it, but if your target audience is pleased with it, and you can’t think of a good reason to postpone publication, don’t let perfectionism slow you down.
You have a book to publish.
9. Publish and Get Ready for Launch Day
Once your manuscript’s eBook, paperback, and book cover files are ready to upload to KDP, it’s time to get your book ready for publication.
Go through the steps for both ebook and paperback setup (if you’re creating both) and set a date for your book’s release on Amazon. Then get to work lining up promotions for launch day.
Use any or all of the following to spread the word about your book:
- Your email list
- Your book’s launch team/beta readers
- Facebook / social media ads
- Promotional services (FreeBooksy, The Fussy Librarian, etc.)
- Blogging or guest blogging
- Podcast interviews
- KD ROI
10. Give Credit Where It’s Due
As you’re preparing promotions for your own book, if you’ve hired an illustrator, you found with the help of a fellow author, find ways to thank that author by helping promote their book.
You can also help the illustrator by sharing links to their website and a brief but glowing testimonial.
If you blog, write about your experience creating this book and credit the author and illustrator for the essential roles in your book’s completion.
You can also offer the author and/or illustrator free copies of your book.
Common Questions About Illustrating Children’s Books
Children’s book authors like you have questions (as well you should), and you deserve answers.
Here are a few of the biggest ones we’ve heard so far.
How much money can you make illustrating a children’s book?
That depends on whether you stick with big-ticket projects ($1,000 to $10,000) and do a few of those each year or take on a steady influx of low-paying gigs and earn just enough to make it worthwhile.
On the plus side, book illustrators can make extra money in several other ways:
- Private commissions
- Selling prints on an online marketplace (Etsy, etc.)
- Art licensing
- Selling prints or other products on their website
- Teaching classes
- Selling digital products
How can I illustrate a children’s book for free?
The best way to illustrate a children’s book without spending a dime is to do it yourself. But that’s not the only way.
You can also trade editing or other services with a skilled illustrator.
You may know someone who’s brilliant at illustrating children’s books, but you have a bigger following on social media and can help them by promoting their book or services throughout launch day and for the first 30, 60, or 90 days.
Think of services you could offer in exchange for a gorgeous set of illustrations.
How do you layout a children’s book?
You have two options for choosing your book’s layout:
- Create one based on one of the most common layouts for children’s books;
- Or buy and download a ready-made template from someone else;
Once you have your book’s template, keep it handy when creating a physical mock-up of your book.
Choose a clear and readable font in 15 to 20 pt. Try different sizes with your mock-up.
For younger readers, make sure your font’s lowercase “a” and “g” resemble the forms they’re most familiar with.
Use font colors that coordinate with your images and stand out well against the background.
Once you’ve worked through all the steps described in this post, you’ll have a real children’s book to publish and launch with the best of them. We have no doubt you’ll put your heart and soul into this, and we’re here to help and support you!
May you find joy in it at every step.