“Picture Books – The Illustrator’s Process”

“Picture Books – The Illustrator’s Process”

Since I began promoting myself in the area of Children’s Book Illustration, I have had a number of people inquire about providing illustrations for their “book that they have written and always wanted to publish”.  I decided to put together some resource information for this month’s topic to shed some light on the process a picture book illustrator may go through. 

book_mockup1 book_mockup2

I hope to also dispell the myth that as a writer you need to hire an artist and have the illustrations completed to submit along with your written manuscript.  Here’s what I tell people that ask me about illustrating a book they are interested in getting published… “Send the manuscript to the publisher, without illustrations.  It will be judged on it’s own merit and if the publisher is interested, they will find an illustrator that fits the project, …that’s just how it’s done”.

Instead of going into any more detail, there is a great article on that subject here at Harold Underdown’s site, The Purple Crayon 

Since publishers are looking to match-up illustrators with manuscripts that they like, an illustration project for a picture book will most-likely come directly from an editor or art director at a publishing house.  The publisher may send a manuscript to several illustrators at the same time and ask for a sample page or two in order to select the exact style they are looking for.  At that point they will narrow their selection down to one illustrator.

From the Illustrator’s side…

Once they decide on an illustrator, a contract is drawn up between the illustrator and publisher containing details of due dates, royalties, etc.  If you don’t have an agent working with you on this it is a good idea to have an IP, (intelectual property) attorney take a look at it for you.  Once all the legal stuff is out of the way the illustrator starts sketching and preparing a sketch “dummy” of the book.  It’s a rough mini-version of the book page layout.  This helps to see how the book flows from page to page and helps in laying out color and text position.  Make sure to check with the publisher for specifics on the book size dimensions and how many pages, etc.  Typically that is around 28-32 pages with between 500-800 words for a picture book, (max is 1000).  Rough sketches of the page spreads are submitted to the publisher first before any color work is started.  Once you get the go-ahead on the sketches, it’s time to add the color.  Here is a bit more information and sample layout of the pages for a picture book from Kathy Temean’s blog.

Dey_Sketch1  Dey_Duncan  

From “A Sweater for Duncan” – To be published by Raven Tree Press .


Personally, I like to add one more step in there and do a “color” rough that shows the publisher what you have in mind.  The color mock up shown at the beginning of this article was put together using print-outs of the color roughs that were sent to the publisher.  I use this mock up, (complete with numbered pages) throughout the entire time I am working on the final illustrations in order to keep everything organized.  Once the illustrations are finalized and sent to the publisher, you can be sure there will be some changes, (much easier to do if you are working digitally).  The publisher then produces the book, usually within about 6 months to a year.  You can be sure I will post the announcement here when “A Sweater for Duncan” is released next Fall.  🙂

See all current news and release date info. for “A Sweater for Duncan”  

Lorraine Dey
illustrator – Deystudio, LLC (www.deystudio.com)
(click on the “about” tab above to see more about Deystudio, LLC)

FREE Vector of the month from Deystudio, LLC:


click on image above to get a PDF file.


This month’s featured website or blog…”illustrator Sahin Ersoz”

I came across Sahin Ersoz website several years ago and find myself still going back for a visit every so often.  I love his style of characters and animation.  He has done several Disney projects. Enjoy… be sure to check out the sketches!


Featured image for this month…(from my RF stock portfolio)


3 thoughts on ““Picture Books – The Illustrator’s Process”

  1. Lorraine,

    Love your artwork. I wonder if you would like to be a guest blog. I bet our illustrators would be interested in hearing about process of making illustrations specifically with the idea of submitting them to places like istock. Any interest?


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