How to Become a Children’s Book Illustrator

Isn’t it an ideal job for some of you who love drawing and storytelling? Indeed, it sounds super fun but it’s not that easy. It does require certain skills to become a good children’s book illustrator. 

I worked on a couple of projects for children’s book illustrations when I was taking a creative illustration class in Barcelona. I’ve noted down some key points the professor taught and what I’ve learned from during the projects. 

In this article, I’m going to share with you some tips and guides to becoming a children’s book illustrator. 

First of all, make sure you understand what you’re getting into. 

What is a Children’s Book Illustrator?

It literally means drawing for kids’ books. Sounds simple, right? 

Well, you can understand it that way, but it’s more than just drawing based on your own ideas. Because you’ll need to communicate and work together with the author to convert text into visuals.  

In short, a children’s book illustrator is someone who works together with authors to create imagery for children’s books. And the imagery/illustrations should help kids understand the book easily. 

So, is being a children’s book illustrator different from being an illustrator? 

Rather than saying they are different, I would say that children’s book illustrator is one of the job options for illustrators

How to Become a Children’s Book Illustrator (4 Steps)

If you’re considering becoming a children’s book illustrator, check out some important steps you should follow that’ll help you grow in this field. 

Step 1: Practice drawing 

Before becoming a good children’s book illustrator, you should be a good illustrator first. Practicing your drawing skill is a must for becoming any type of illustrator. 

You can’t create an illustration without an idea, and a lot of times inspiration comes from random drawings. So improving your drawing skill is the first step to exploring your creativity. 

In the early stage, you can practice your drawing skill by sketching what you see, such as objects, scenery, portrait, etc. Then, you can try to use your imagination and draw. 

For example, you’re creating an illustration for a page telling the story of a boy lost in the forest. Drawing a boy in the forest sounds easy, but how would you interpret “lost” in your drawing? 

Imagine! 

Step 2: Find your style

We can be drawing for the same story but the results can be totally different. 

Because everyone should have a unique style and that’s what many publishers are looking for. Easy to understand, “if you’re the same as the others, why would I choose you?” 

Illustrations for kids are usually more colorful, bright, lively, and fun. Many of them are exaggerated imageries with lots of imagination. 

For example, pastel style, color pencil drawings are quite popular for children’s books. You can explore your drawing style using these tools.  

Step 3: Make a good portfolio

Just saying how great you are isn’t going to get you a job in this field. You must show your work! 

A good portfolio should show your storytelling skills through illustrations and your original drawing style. 

It’s also important to include different projects like different characters, animals, nature, etc. Or you can show how you illustrate with brushes, color pencils, digital work, etc.  

This will show that you’re flexible and can adapt to different mediums so that the publishers wouldn’t think you’re limited to only creating certain illustrations. 

Important note! A good-looking illustration that doesn’t tell a story doesn’t work here because you need to show your ability to convey context to visuals (imagery). 

Step 4: Networking

Connecting with the professionals in the industry is super important, especially for newcomers, because it’s quite difficult to find an opportunity on your own. 

To begin with, make yourself present on social media. Post some of your work online, connect with book authors, publishers, children’s book agencies, and even other children’s book illustrators. 

You can learn about events that you can attend, job postings, or get some tips from pro children’s book illustrators which can help you get a job opportunity. If you can meet authors face to face, that would be ideal.  

Bonus Tips

Besides the steps that everyone should take to become a children’s book illustrator, I’d like to share with you some tips based on my personal experiences. Hopefully, they can help you succeed in your illustrator career. 

Tip #1: Use storyboards when you illustrate. 

You can break down the story scenes on different storyboards, similar to comic books. I think it really helps because as you draw, it “organizes” your thinking and makes the drawing flow with the context. 

Another advantage is that you can go back to the storyboards can choose the scene that fits most on that page. As I mentioned in Step 1 above, random sketches get you ideas. You can even combine different elements you sketch in different scenes. 

By the way, don’t worry about making the storyboard look perfect, it’s just a quick sketch to note down your ideas.   

Tip #2: Think like a kid.

Okay, you probably don’t have the books you read in your childhood anymore, but you should have an idea of what types of books you liked, right? 

As a children’s book illustrator, it’s important to think about what do kids like and what kind of imagery will catch their attention. A little bit of research can help. Check what are the popular children’s books today. 

Although the trends are different now, there are similarities. Characters can change, but the stories stay 😉   

Tip #3: Promote yourself.

I already mentioned networking earlier, but I’m stressing it again because it’s so useful. Post your work online! Instagram is a great way to promote and connect. Don’t forget to use hashtags too!

It can take a while to reach the people you want to reach, but you will. Don’t miss any chance to expose your work. There’s nothing better than showing your talent and what you can do. Someone will see it and pass it around. 

FAQs  

You might also be interested in the questions below that are related to becoming a children’s book illustrator. 

How much will I earn as a children’s book illustrator?

Depending on the publisher you work with, some prefer to pay a fixed price, for example, paying for each page/illustration, roughly $100 – $600. Others work on a royalty model, meaning you get paid a certain percentage of the book sold, usually around 10%. 

What software do book illustrators use?

Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop are popular among book illustrators for digitalizing illustrations. Some illustrators use Procreate or other digital drawing apps to create digital drawings directly. 

How do I become an illustrator without a degree?

The good news is, you don’t need a college degree to become an illustrator, because your skill is much more important than any degree. If you want to learn some basics, you can take some online courses, or even learn from YouTube channels. 

However, the key is to practice drawing and be good at communicating with your clients. 

How long does it take to illustrate a children’s book?

Simple math, the more time you spend, the faster it goes. Depending on the context and time you put into the project, it can take up to 6 months to illustrate a children’s book. 

Also, there are children’s books for different ages. For example, illustrations for kids’ from age 2 to 5 can be easier, so it’ll take you less time to illustrate. 

What makes a good children’s book illustration?

A good book illustration goes well with the context. Readers should be able to understand what the reading is about seeing the image. Children’s book illustrations should be lively, meaningful, and interesting, so imaginative illustrations are ideal for children’s books. 

Final Words

It can seem pretty easy to become a children’s book illustrator, the fact is, it takes a lot of effort for beginners. If you’re an illustrator but have never illustrated for a children’s book, then it’s a different story. In this case, you’re already halfway through. 

Keep in mind that a good children’s book illustrator creates illustrations that work with context to help readers understand the reading.

About June Escalada
Graduated from Creative Advertising major, worked more than eight years as a graphic designer focusing in branding and Illustration. Yes, Adobe Illustrator is my best friend and I’m passionate about art and design.

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  • Nadirah Andrews

    My name is Nabeweya Andrews. I am writing this message on behalf of my daughter Nadirah.

    Hi there. My name is Nadirah Andrews. I am 17 years old living in Norhtlcliff, Johannesburg. I simply love art. I would like to get involved part time in illustrations for children’s books. I holiday job this coming June 2022 would be perfect.
    How do I get going?

    Reply
    • June Escalada

      Hi Nadirah,

      I’d say creating a portfolio would be the first step. You can include 4-8 illustrations of different projects on the portfolio.

      Reply