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So You Want To Illustrate A Children’s Book?

I’m happy to link up with Stasha at for her wonderful Monday Listicles! Please go check out her site. There’s some great reading – and, bloggers, you may even want to join in!

Since I was a kid, I wanted to make books for children. My dream came true!  This summer I finished the illustrations for my twenty-second picture book. Illustrating children’s books is thoroughly enjoyable, exciting and fulfilling. It’s also hard work that involves planning, research, organization, decision-making and plenty of re-working. I do not work digitally. All my art is done in pencil followed by watercolor, with a bit of colored pencil and ink for details and contrast. Below are some tips I have compiled based on my experience:

Tips for New Illustrators:

 1-  Read! – Read lots of picture books and pay special attention to the illustrations. Examine how the art and words work together.

2- Plan- Do rough, thumbnail sketches laying out the text and pictures on a storyboard (a blueprint for the book where all the pages are drawn on one large sheet of paper). Then do a more detailed dummy (a full-size mock-up of the book with pencil sketches). This is all described in detail in Uri Shulevitz’s book listed at the bottom of this page. (details below)

3-  Communicate- The purpose of pictures is to clarify and enhance the text.  Be clear about what you are saying with your pictures. Stay focused and don’t add more than the text calls for.

4- Composition- Have a variety of single and double page spreads and spots (vignettes). Follow distant scenes with close-ups, quiet scenes with lively ones and vice-versa.  Vary perspectives.  Keep in mind that he text is part of the overall design and also make sure there is enough room for it. Maintain a good composition despite the problematic gutter (where the pages join in the center).  Make sure you don’t put anything too important near it. Each page relates to the others so consider the book as a whole. The storyboard is where you work this all out.

5- Characters- The story will suggest the characters, whether they be people or animals and if animals, whether they should be natural or anthropomorphized (with human characteristics, wearing clothes). If you do choose to humanize the animals make sure it’s an appropriate choice. In a story with wild or farm animals you would probably not want to dress them, but if the characters are to represent children then, of course, put them in outfits.

6-  Perspective- Dramatic perspective and foreshortening can be visually exciting but use them appropriately- when the scene calls for it.

7- Consistency- Make sure your characters and scenery are consistent from page to page.  Maintain a likeness in the characters as they appear in the different scenes. Plenty of preliminary sketching of the characters in various poses will help with that. Also pay attention to the scenery as viewpoints change.  If a front view of a house shows a tree on its right, a back view would show the tree on the left.  This is a very simple example. In complicated scenes it can be tricky.

8- Details- Details enrich the illustrations but too many can be distracting. Use them wisely, keeping the focus on the main action and character(s) in the scenes.

9- Foreshadowing- This adds to the continuity of a book. An example might be a mouse hole as a clue that a mouse will be appearing on a following page. It’s also a good way to set the stage for the book when used on the title, copyright and dedication pages.

10- Style- The style and media are your choice, but remember that your main purpose is to communicate the story and to engage the reader. Have fun and good luck!

On the process: (To see some images of my work go to: Book Art in Progress)

Storyboard- This is the blueprint for the book and the first step in designing it. On a large sheet of paper you will lay out all the pages of the book.  Keeping in mind that most picture books are 32 pages, draw 17 small rectangles. Then draw a line down the middle of each rectangle. Put a large X on the left side of the 1st rectangle. That will represent the end sheet of the book, which has no print on it and is usually a solid color or white.  The right side will be page 1. Continue numbering the pages until you reach page 32 which will be on the left side of the last rectangle.  Put a large X on the right side to represent the other end sheet.

The first 3 to 5 pages of the book are for the front matter: Traditionally, page 1 is the half title page (shows just title of book). Page 2 is the copyright page. Page 3 is the dedication page. Pages 4 and 5 are the full title pages (listing title of book, author/illustrator and publisher).  The story will begin on page 6 or 7. Alternately, the half title page can be omitted and replaced with the full title page, in which case the story will begin on page 4 or 5. There are other formats as well, but this is a common one.

Now begin the design process:  Indicate what text will be on each page and draw some quick, thumbnail sketches to accompany it.  Keep it simple and rough. The goal here is to determine the flow and pattern of the book.  Seeing all the pages at once makes this easier. Strive for a variety of spots (vignettes), single and double page spreads.

Dummy-Now that you have a rough layout in the storyboard the next step is the dummy- a mock-up of the book.  Take 10 sheets of drawing paper and fold them in half.  Cut these folded sheets to whatever the trim size of the intended book will be (such as 8×10). Unfold and neatly place all the sheets together, then fold again and staple along the length of the folded edge. A heavy-duty stapler works best for this. Number the pages then begin drawing more detailed sketches based on the storyboard plan. You will also cut and paste the text onto the pages. Vary the placement of the text as well as the scenes to keep the book visually exciting.  Follow close up scenes with distant ones, quiet scenes with lively ones.  Vary perspectives and use them appropriately.  For example, the scenery would be much different from a mouse’s point of view than from a horse’s.  You may want to do some of the more difficult sketches on a separate piece of paper then transfer them to the dummy once you’ve worked it all out.  In any case, plan to resketch until you are satisfied with the results. Then be prepared to revise again after the dummy has been reviewed by the art director and editor.

Finals- When all the revisions have been approved you can proceed to the final art.  The medium is your choice.  Illustrators use various media from watercolor to oil, pastel, acrylic, colored pencil, ink, collage, printmaking, photography and computer art among others. I work in watercolor along with ink and colored pencil.  Using a lightbox I trace my approved dummy sketches onto sheets of watercolor paper that have been cut to size (with an inch or two extra all around). I keep the tracing light as I may make minor changes along the way and will ultimately want to erase the pencil marks.

Redo art that you are not satisfied with but also know when to stop. We artists are often our own worst critics. That is what keeps us striving for improvement, but there comes a point where doing something over does not necessarily make it better. As soon as I finish a painting I see things that I might have done differently. I have to recognize when to re-paint it and when to let it go.  The most important thing is to know that I’ve done my best at the time. Good luck!

Suggested reading-  (in addition to lots of picture books! Crucial)

Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books by Uri Shulevitz

Bookmaking: Editing, Design, Production, Third Edition  by Marshall Lee

Children’s Book Illustration: Step by Step Techniques: A Unique Guide from the Masters by Jill Bossert

You might also check out: So You Want To Write A Children’s Book

Artists, is there anything you’d like to share? Aspiring illustrators, is there anything you’d like to ask? I’m here. Talk to me!

About the author

Iza Trapani I am a children's book author and illustrator, fan of Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss, lover of big dogs, aspiring yodeler. When not in my studio, I spend time outdoors and have climbed over many a mountain to see what I could see.

121 Responses to So You Want To Illustrate A Children’s Book?

  1. ania says:

    I feel a bit anthrpomorphorized this morning…..grrr…

  2. Stasha says:

    You are so kind, always sharing your wisdom, tips and humor. Thank you Iza!

  3. Michelle says:

    that was very useful, thank you!

    I’m interested in how you got your book published, i’ve just completed my own childrens book and want to get it out there but have no idea how! could you tell me your experience please?

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Thanks. Michelle. I’m glad it was useful! I will send you an e-mail.

      • Trista says:

        Iza this has been extremely helpful. Could you also send me the same information. Been working on a series and would like to copyright it before anything but so unaware of the whole process and steps to take, do not want to make an amateur mistake.

  4. brenda says:

    This was sooo helpful. I’m new at illustrating and feel so small. Thank you for your helpful information. Question: I use color pencil & ink for my drawings. Why are the illustrations in books so much brighter than my drawings? Are they computer enhanced?

    • Iza Trapani says:

      I’m glad to be of help. Thanks for stopping by! It’s hard to say. Many illustrations are done digitally with color enhancement, but there have also been Caldecott winning books that were done in pencil- Kevin Henke’s book, Kitten’s Full Moon, for one. I assume it was done in pencil (looks like it).In any case it’s black and white. Good art that enhances a story does not need to be colorful and flashy. If you want more vibrancy, then perhaps a heavier hand on the colored pencils will do the trick. What’s most important, I feel, is a good composition and good drawing. Please let me know if I can answer any other questions. Good luck to you!

  5. Carlos says:

    Thanks for the info. I’m an amateur artist who has been drawing most of my life. After 12 years of active duty in the Navy, I’ve found a well paying job as a Health Physicist, but I’ve decided to use my college benefits and go back to school and follow some of my dreams. Hopefully, I’ll be able to attend the Academy of Art online.

    Just so happens an aquaintence of mine wants to try and publish a children’s book and would like for me to illustrate it. I’ve never illustrated a book before, so you’re blog is extremely helpful. This I can do!

    Thanks for the recommended reading. I’m going to hit these books up soon and learn as much as I can during the process!

  6. Arianne Fredenburg says:

    Hello Iza,

    I just stumbled across your blog in the pursuit of the answer to my question. This is my question, I want to illustrate the The Velveteen Rabbit, (this story has greatly influenced) do you know anything about the process of illustrating previous published story? And about publishing the story?

    Any Information you might have would be extremely helpful.

    Thank you

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hi Ariane, As far as I know the story is now in public domain (written in 1922)- but I would research to make sure there is no copyright on it. If it is in public domain you are free to illustrate it. As for publishing, I have always worked with traditional publishers and know nothing of self publishing. The reference books I mentioned in this post will offer lots of useful info. Good luck!

  7. Hi Iza,
    I love your work.
    Can you tell me how to get started with contacts for Illustration?
    I did a book for a friend and really enjoyed doing so.
    I am a muralist right now but very interested in Illustrating books.
    Thank You!

  8. Chelsea says:

    Hi Iza,

    Thanks for the detailed outline! I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book, and as my plans to go back to college this year got pushed back and I find myself living in a small studio in the Latin Quarter of Paris (lots of creative energy here) with plenty of free time on my hands, I’m thinking now would be a good time to dive in and try to accomplish one of my dreams!

    The thing that has me hesitating, however, is that I’ve never had any formal art training, and I’m not the kind of artist who can sketch or paint a photorealistic squirrel in 10 minutes. My drawings are kind of quirky and a bit minimalist. But I’m set on illustrating my own book! Do you think only very skilled artists with amazing technique can be successful in this business?

    Also, I like to work with oil pastel. As oil pastel never really dries, does this pose a problem for publishing? What do you think about doing a book that alternates between media, between water color and oil pastel for example?

    Thanks so much!


    • Iza Trapani says:

      You live in Paris, Chelsea? Oh I feel so sorry for you 🙂
      There are wonderful self-taught illustrators out there, so I wouldn’t worry about the formal training. However, the work does need good design, consistency and visual appeal. No problem with mixed media. It’s used all the time. And as for oil pastels, the only problem may be scanning but I don’t really know, as I am not involved in the printing process. Have a look online and I’ll do the same. I’m curious to know.

  9. Chelsea says:

    Wow, Iza, sorry but I have to write you another comment! I just looked around your website and saw that you wrote and illustrated Twinkle Twinkle Little Star! My dad gave me that book when I was 7 and it was one of my favorites! I’m now twenty five, and about three years ago I even did my own watercolor interpretation of how I remembered the story. You may very well be the reason that I wanted to make children’s books! How serendipitous.

  10. Hsgroves says:

    Hello. Thank you for this information. I have a degree in Fine Art painting- in oil. Since I have had my first child Ive been so inspired to do this but I didn’t know where to start. 🙂

  11. Leigh says:

    This is so wonderful to see. We have so many of your books around our house.

    When working with someone else’s narrative what are good questions to ask the author to get a better idea of what the illustration needs to get across?

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hi Leigh!As for illustrating someone else’s story, I would go with your own vision, unless you need explanation on factual details, or if the author asks you for something specific (as for example, making the main character a girl with curly, red hair- as an author asked me to do once (The book was about her daughter.) Generally, authors and illustrators do not confer on the artwork- so that the artists’ vision is not compromised. Happy Holidays!

  12. melissa says:

    I am just starting out as a children’s book writer. I am pondering the thought of whether or not to illustrate my own. I use to draw a bit as a kid. But is it good enough. Any pros and cons to doing it yourself ?

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hi Melissa! If you have only drawn a bit as a kid, I will assume that your artwork is not strong enough to illustrate your book. You can’t just take a crash course. Most illustrators have spent their lives perfecting their craft. Book illustration is difficult and demanding and the artwork must shine. I would send the manuscript in alone. If it gets accepted you may show the publisher some samples of your art. But you stand a better chance just submitting your story.Good luck!

  13. svarichak says:


    I really like to watercolor and I’ve always thought that it would be awesome to illustrate for books (any kind) because when I was little I’d always look at the illustrations in my books before reading. So,my question is how does one go about illustrating for books?

    • Iza Trapani says:

      That’s a very general question! To start, become really familiar with children’s books- study how the words and pictures go together. Practice a lot and paint scenes showing a progression of pages, making sure the character/scenery looks the same throughout. I suggested some books to read. They will give you lots of info. There are many reference books on the subject of writing and illustrating for children available the market. if you have a specific question/questions don’t hesitate to ask!

  14. kay says:

    I’ve always made up stories for my children. They’d think of an animal, a creature, or a situation and I’d tell them a story based on their character. Now my kids are grown and on a whim, I decided to try it again. I chose a ghome, a mouse and a squirrel and over a couple of weeks, wrote three individual children’s stories. If I do say so myself, they’re wonderful. They have heart, humor and quality. I really love them and my little characters jump out of the pages and come to life. I know a good story when I read it and I know I have something here. My problem is although I see these characters in all their glory, I need an illustrator and I have no idea where to go from here. There are workshops but they cost upwards of $200 and I’m not in a position to pay that just yet. Help.

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hi Kay, You should just submit your stories and a publisher will find you an illustrator. They much prefer to choose their own illustrators and not take a double risk with a first-time author and first -time illustrator.

  15. Hello Iza Trapani

    my name is rebecca and I am an artist and would love to get into illustrating children’s books I dont know how to go about finding a publisher who might be interested in my drawings or if they are even what they might be looking for to put into a childrens book thank you so much for all your wonderful help in this matter…..

  16. Michelle says:

    At what point do you recommend submitting work to agents? After having full size sketches of all the pages, or at the thumbnail stage? My thanks for having a good website.

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hi Michelle! Is this a literary agent you are speaking of, and did you write the story as well? If you are only illustrating, then you can submit on your own or get an art representative. I would include a few thumbnails- or better yet a whole storyboard- a few full size sketches and at least one final image in whatever media you choose. Most PBs are 32 pages and the text starts on p. 5 or 7. I hope this helps and good luck!

      • Michelle says:

        Yes, I did write the story as well. I had been under the impression previously from my research that I would need to have the entire thing done in full size sketches before submitting it, so thank you very much!

  17. Chris Ennis says:

    Hello, Iza!

    I’ve just come across your page and I’m pleased to find the wealth of information you’ve provided. Thank you!

    I’ve illustrated on and off since I was about 7 or 8 (34 now). I feel pretty confident in my own work but I’ve never thought about illustrating a children’s book until quite recently. Since I’m technically a first-time illustrator (and writer), would you find that it would be better if I did not send the illustrations over? I guess I’m asking that because you said that they normally look for illustrators. I’m proud of my work so far, but would it hurt my chances if I decided to send the illustrations along with my work and having it declined? I guess you just try again, huh. 🙂

    • Chris Ennis says:

      I had another site up (for Dummies) and mistyped when I said that you said something. You did not say that something. Hehe!

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hi Chris! I am glad you are finding my info useful. When you say your work, do you mean a story you have written? If that is the case, then , if you feel confident in your art, then by all means send a few samples of the illustrations along with the typed manuscript. Publishers are very open to author/illustrators (assuming the work is good.) What they don’t want to see is a first time author getting their friend or cousin, etc.. (who has little or no experience) to illustrate their book. I recommend that first time authors stand a better chance of just sending in a polished manuscript rather than trying to get someone to illustrate it for them. But if you can do both and have a strong vision and can execute it, then I would say go for it. But do be open to the idea that they may want to use another illustrator if they like your story but feel the art is not adequate. Good luck and feel free to ask me any other questions!

  18. prairienymph says:

    I’ve been working on illustrations for one of my books and somehow onlyjust realized that I don’t have to make a painting the same size as the potential book. What size of paper do you usually work on?

    • Iza Trapani says:

      The art director and I agree on a book size that is appropriate. Some books are wider than taller or vice versa. They are usually no less than 8 inches and no more than 12 inches.You can work full size or larger- but keep it proportionate. Do not work smaller.

  19. Hi!
    thank you for this advise, its extremely useful! But i have one more doubt. How did you start? How did you get your first book account to illustrate? It´s my dream to illustrate a childrens book, but dont even know where to start to grab attention.

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hi Ashley,

      There is lots of useful information available these days- much more than when I started out 25 or so years ago. I would recommend joining The society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators THey offer lots of helpful info and have great conferences. When I started out, I brought samples of my art to publishers, and then eventually got an agent to represent me when I started writing stories.

  20. Alida says:

    Hi Iza,

    I came across your blog, and loved it for its simplicity and being to the point and giving me the tips I am looking for.

    I have a question – I want to start illustrating children’s book. In general I CAN draw, but I have never tried to give emotions and expressions to my characters. I basically never dealt with it as a career, now that I am writing children’s book I want to illustrate them myself! Do you think I can LEARN how to illustrate children’s book. I am scared I might not be as good as my illustrator OR I will lack creativity OR I might not like what I drew.

    Please advice… I appreciate your answer.

    Thanks in advance,


    • Iza Trapani says:

      These are hard questions for me to answer, Alida. It’s really up to you. Do you feel like you have done the homework? Have you really studied children’s book illustrations, taken workshops or classes, read books on the craft of illustrating? Illustrating is very specialized and if you are having doubts then I suspect you may need a bit more preparation. Knowing how to draw is a prerequisite, but there is much more to it: layout and design, yes, expressions and emotions on the characters, making the characters look the same as sizes and viewpoints change, varying perspectives etc…If you feel your art is not up to snuff, you may have a better chance of getting your book published by submitting just the manuscript- but, of course, that needs to be very well written and polished. Please feel free to ask me any specific questions! And thanks for stopping by!

  21. Jasmine Tietjens says:

    Hi Iza

    My 8 year old daughter has written and illustrated a picture book (in pencil colour and pens), and is keen to get it published in print form. I want to support her by helping her with her project, and funding the self-publication of her book.

    I don’t really know where to start. Are there any readings that you could suggest, or tips you would suggest?

    We want to publish the book in the traditional way – print. And it’s not for profit, really just want to help my daughter in her journey to be a illustrator and writer.

    I have simple questions like:
    (a) For printing from the master, does my daughter have to illustrate each page on A4 paper (separate from the text that we will also provide to the printer)? Or can we print the pages with text, and get her to illustrate on it pages (as she already has now) and the printer will know what to do from there?

    Would you mind taking a look at her work, and commenting on how she can improve it?

    Thanks very much Iza.

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hi Jasmine,

      How nice of you to do that for your daughter. She must be quite the little author and illustrator! The questions you are asking me are really out of my realm of expertise. I am not involved in the printing process. I send my original watercolors to the art director and he/she lays out the pages, adds the text and sends our for high res scans. Then it goes overseas to be printed. There is lots of info on self-publishing print books online. Here’s a link I found by googling “how to self publish a print book.” You can send a file with your daughter’s text and art and I’ll be glad to have a look at it. My e-mail is

  22. Michelle says:

    Hello again,

    Something that’s been bothering me is that, since I am still a student, I have other commitments to attend to and even if I get accepted by an agent, I’m not exactly sure what happens next. Will there likely be deadlines I might not be able to make since I am doing other work not related to it? Would they be flexible with that or is it something I should only be submitting when I *know* I will have lots and lots of time to work on it?

    Thanks again,

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hi again Michelle. Generally, things don’t happen as fast as we hope, so it may take a while to get an agent and then it may take a while to find a publisher. On the other hand, if your work is stellar, you may get snatched up right away. There is some flexibility in the contracts, but book illustration is time consuming and requires a lot of focus. However, getting a contract is very exciting, because you feel the outside world is in some way supporting you- and that feeds your energy. So you just might have the ability to do it all!

  23. Jacomi says:

    Hi, Iza! Hope you are well! I’ve come across your blog while searching for info on children’s book writing and illustration. And it feels really good to meet someone like you who has been there, has done it all, and has delivered the goods. Wow, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and in such a helpful and friendly way. I am from South Africa and as I am a qualified Graphic Designer, would love to illustrate my own children’s book in the near future – not too bad in writing either, so I am hoping for the best! Hehe! Please wish me luck – this has been a life-long dream. Nearing 50 at the end of the year – ouch! I am finding your blog really helpful – thanks! Keep well and kind regards!

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Dear Jaconi,

      How nice to hear from you, and I absolutely wish you the very best of luck in pursuing your dream! It’s never too late. Besides, 50 is the new 30 :-)- and this I know as I approach the END of my 50th year! Please let me know if you have any specific questions. I would be delighted to answer them in a blog post or posts to help other readers as well as you! My gratitude and warmest wishes to you!

  24. Hi Iza,
    Wow, oodles and oodles of outstanding information!
    My “Iza’s Inspiring Illustrating Ideas” folder continues to expand. 🙂

  25. Pingback: Poetry Friday: Storytime with Iza Trapani and Little Miss Muffet

  26. Deb Roberts says:

    This is soooo helpful, Iza!! Thank you for sharing! A gentleman saw my paintings purchased by a friend of his and loved the style and vibrancy of of them. He has written a children’s book that his friends have been encouraging him to publish. He has decided to publish it himself via e-publishing. He contacted me to ask if I would be interested in illustrating it. ….and I’m so excited about the possibility of it! I’ve never done anything like this however so your blog is extremely helpful! My questions…..are there many differences in illustrating for a paper book verses an e-published book? He has suggested the 32 page layout ,so that would be the same. So would I produce the illustrations just like I would otherwise? And a tough question to probably answer…..since you’re a pro…..but what should I charge him for my work? Is it a determined price per picture….per project…..would I get part of the royalties? Again, I have no clue! But I am excited about the potential opportunity. Thanks for your advice! – Deb.

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hi Deb! thanks for stopping by! Your questions are tough to answer, as I don’t really have experience in this. I don’t think there’s any difference in the art that has to be created whether for an e-book or a tradition book. In either case, the art will have to be created and scanned. Some questions for you: Do you think the story is really good and will sell many copies? You can not believe what friends say, as they are biased. Has he had a professional editor look at the story? Has he submitted it, gotten rejected and is using self publishing as a last resort (not to say that it’s always a last resort, as self-publishing is a respected and viable option for many authors.) Consider that you will put a lot of time and effort into doing the illustrations. If you objectively think the story has marvelous potential, the best bet would be to ask for an advance and royalties rather than a flat fee. Here are some links that may help.
      Let me know if you have more questions!

  27. Darlene says:

    I’ve just been commissioned to illustrate a children’s book and am so excited, but nervous. I usually rough sketch, then water color, erase the pencil and then detail with ink. Will that work for a children’s book? Or should I leave the ink off?

    If you are on Facebook you can see my sketches:

    Thanks for you input!!!

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hi Darlene! How exciting! Whether you use ink or not is your choice. Either way is fine! It all depends on the look you want for this particular book. Have fun and good luck and please feel free to ask me other questions!

  28. Tatiana says:

    Hello Iza,
    I am so happy that I came across your blog

    I have always had a passion for illustrating, ever since I was a little girl I use to spend all my free time drawing and writing stories.
    Well years have passed and now I have been giving an opportunity to illustrate a children’s book, I finish it about 6months ago and now it’s finally ready to be printed!
    How did you go about getting an agent?

    So with all that said, I really enjoy doing this! I wanted to know how about getting

  29. Cara Bevan says:

    Your post is so informative and enlightening, thank you for sharing your insight! I have a question about getting your name out about being a ‘freelance’ kids’ book illustrator. I’ve been painting fine art animals in acrylics since 2007 but when I was approached to illustrate a book I fell in love with the process! I would love to be signed and associated with a publisher to illistrate for but I have no idea how to go about presenting yourself…could you share some more advice?

    Thank you!

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hi Cara! I am not too familiar with sending samples to publishers, as I started out 25 years ago, am both writer/illustrator, and have worked mostly with one publisher. However, I do recommend joining the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators They have lots of regional and national conferences and you can arrange for a portfolio review and make some connections with people in the industry. They also have an informative newsletter. I also recommend visiting bookstores or libraries and finding books with an illustration style somewhat similar to yours, then jot down the names of the publishers of these books. I would submit the samples to them. Some publishers like classic styles, others like more edgy work, so see where yours fits in. I did a google search and found these two sites that have good info: and Best of luck to you!

  30. Leona Palski says:

    I just found this by searching the net. Last December I self-published/illustrated my first children’s book “Dimples the Snowman” and wow, did I learn a lot….but still have so much more! I am currently preparing to publish my second, “Dimples the Snowman and Friends”. My questions have to do with uploading or scanning my artwork for the book. In my first book, my pages came out extremely bright…so bright, that the straw in my barn illustration looked like it was on fire. When I mention about one page in particular to those who got the book, they say…oh no, don’t change it, the kids love the color. We photographed the pics then uploaded them. Would scanning them instead, tone down the colors. The originals are not that bright, at all. (I published through Createspace and they did not offer any printing solutions.) Thanks!

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hi Leona,

      Congrats on your books! Are you scanning in at least 300 Dpi? That might help. You might also be able to change the settings onyour scanner for lower intensity. Also, if you don’t have a great scanner, a copy shop can do high resolution scans for you at a reasonable cost. I haven’t had great luck in photographing images. I find there are shadows, distortion and loss of contrast. I hope this helps! Good luck!

  31. Leona Palski says:

    Thank you for your reply! Yes, we learned about the 300 dpi. I thought about going to a photo shop, but wasn’t sure if it would be too expensive. If I get my first hardcopy/proof this week and it looks too intense, I might have to resort to having them scanned. The intensity also messes up the details of the characters. Another question, if I may. I paint my scenes on “9×12” watercolor paper. If I paint my scenes on larger paper and have to decrease them to the size I need, will that affect the way they look? This second book had a lot of repeat characters, and being new, it was a challenge to paint them in each frame and try to make them look the same. Especially since I did each page over the course of the past year. I knew enough to sketch them doing different things, but a larger painting would have made the details of the scene easier to paint.

    • Iza Trapani says:

      It’s ok to paint larger, and reducing will not affect the way they look. But if you do work larger, it’s best to do all the pages in the large size. As my art director pointed out, the lines in the painting could look different when they are reduced. This is especially true for art that has a bold outline. But if you don’t have bold outlines, it may be ok to just work larger on the very detailed scenes. I have done a page or two larger and the lines did not look different (but my work doesn’t usually have bold outlines.)

  32. Pingback: Making Faces | Chez Hildegard

  33. Artgo says:

    Hi! I have been given a chance to illustrate a storybook for the first time which is my biggest break as an artist. I work as a graphic designer and just draw from time to time so I am not very experienced in this field. I am beginning my research and I saw your website. Thank you for sharing this!

    They liked my watercolor sketches so I am sticking to that style/texture but I’m still thinking if I do it traditional or digital? I am not very skilled in watercolor so I wonder if I can do something to enhance it. Is it possible to do both, like scanning > editing? Hopeful for your advice. In the meantime, I’ll look around more. ^^

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hi! Yes, you can mix traditional and digital media. People do it all the time. If you feel you are not very skilled in watercolor, then I would say stick with what you do best. Picture book illustration is a highly competitive field, so you want to put your best work out there. Good luck!

  34. Melissa says:

    Hi Iza,

    I have taken private painting lessons for years and have quite a lot of skill in painting interesting paintings (acrylic) of a variety of subjects. I have not illustrated a children’s book, but would like to. What is the best way I can start tailoring my paintings toward children’s books? Does every publisher use a particular style and should I mold my paintings toward that style? Or should I just develop my own style and send in my samples? In other words, what is the best way to start targeting publishers with my samples? And finally, do illustrators try to create a complete a complete dummy and send that in, as opposed to samples? Your advice will be greatly appreciated.

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Dear Melissa, I am so sorry I missed your comment…I think you should definitely develop your own style. And you should also look through children’s books and find books with art somewhat similar to your style. Check out the publishers of these books.As for sending samples- the one thing I know is to never send originals. Other than that, I don’t know what the current protocol of sending samples is. Back in my day, we used to drop off portfolios at publishing houses and pick them up at the end of the day! I don’t think you will need to send in a complete dummy- but it wouldn’t be bad practice to put one together. Then when you find a publisher who is interested in your style, you could show the dummy at that point. Are you a member of (society of children’s book authors and illustrators) If not, they are a great resource. They have regional and national conferences and you can sign up for portfolio reviews with agents or editors. Good luck!

  35. Camille Gittens says:

    good evening everyone,
    My name is Camille, I just came across your blog and really like your illustrations, I have written a few children books, I am also new to this whole arena, I would like to self publish one of my books and am looking for someone to do simple illustrations for the book, the book has 18 pages and not a lot of pictures I think, I also would like someone that is inexpensive or just starting out and want to get the experience, I would really appreciate a reply and some help.

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hi Camille, Do you have any artistic friends or family members who might like to do the simple illustrations for you? That may be your best bet. Good luck!

  36. Amy Swart says:

    Hi Iza!

    Thanks for creating this website! I have been asked by a dear friend to illustrate her children’s book, I agreed feeling honored she asked me, but then realized I have no idea what I’m getting into! So far I have decided on gouache and acrylics, and plan to check out some illustrations soon at a local bookstore. I just realized it might be important to keep all the illustrations in one direction, either width-wise or length-wise…is this true? Do you always have your illustrations width wise or length-wise, or are there times when you switch it up? I bought 11 x 15 in watercolor paper to start. Do you think this is a good size?

    Many thanks (!!) and well wishes to you,

    • Iza Trapani says:

      I’m not sure I totally understand your question, Amy. Is your friend planning to self publish and does she have a book size in mind? The illustrations need to fit into whatever size the book will be. The format can be wider than taller or vice versa, or it can be square. Some stock sizes for books are: 8×10, 8X11, 10×8, 11×9, and 9×9. 11×15 is too large for a book. I buy my paper in 22×30 sheets and cut it to the sizes I need. Definitely go check out some picture books at a store or library. Picture book illustration is not easy. The art has to clarify and extend the text. Characters and setting need to be consistent from page to page. The scenery needs to be interesting and varied to keep a child’s attention. Most picture books have 32 pages. Hope this helps and good luck!

      • Amy Swart says:

        Hi Iza,

        Thanks for your reply, very helpful! Yes my friend is going to self-publish; she hasn’t decided on a size yet so maybe that’s the first step. I thought that since the original art pieces would not be used in the book of course, they could be photographed and fit to any size . Is it more custom in the illustration world to create a piece that is a 9×11, for example, and then it is photographed and used in the book as a 9×11, too? My question about the angle is about if you every make a piece that is 9×11 horizontally and then another on a 9×11 that vertical, or do you think it’s best to have continuity in the angle of the paper? Thanks again! Amy

        • Iza Trapani says:

          Hi Amy,
          Yes, determining a size should be the first step before you get down to serious sketching. You need to work in the proportions that the book will be otherwise when you resize in Photoshop, parts of the image will be cropped. You can work larger and reduce, but the aspect ratio (height x width) needs to be consistent throughout. If the book is 9×11- every single page is 9×11 and a double page spread is 18×11 and you need to maintain that orientation.
          Also, scanning is superior to photographing if you’re planning to do this yourself. Photographs can have shadows and distortion. You’ll need a larger scanner to do this as standard scanners are 8.5×11. Copy shops can scan larger images (to e-mail) and the cost is reasonable.

  37. taneisha says:

    Hello I’m working on drawings for a clients childs book. I have a degree in art but this is my first time actually doing illustrations for a book. I have been paid already too. My question is do you have a contract that is easy to read that I can give to my client? Im really lost on how all this works and so is she. Her book will be online only selling on amazon. So I need something about royalties and copyrights. Your help would be great!!! by the way I love your work!! oh also is it ok that I color all the drawings in color pencil? Instead of a computer?

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hi Taneisha. It’s fine to do the art in colored pencil. As far as the contract, well, you may have gotten ahead of yourself in agreeing to do the work and accepting payment without any kind of written agreement. You should have a publishing lawyer advise you and draw up a contract. Also, you should get a copy of Harold Underdown’s Complete Idiot’s Guide to Children’s Book Publishing.It has a lot of useful info. Good luck!

  38. Natalie says:

    I am just a simple mom, but I am wanting to write my ideas. It would be mainly for children maybe moms, but only a few words per page. My father is fantastic with drawing and is going to pair with me for an idea on a series I had.
    I know children books are a hard market to get in, but even if not published I want to have these books made for my daughter, as these were inspirations I got from her and I want to be able to share how much she means to me while she is growing up through this series. I know I may be living on a dream and a wild side, but she has inspired me even as small as she is, and I have to make some memories/inspirations to hopefully share with others, but like I said even if not worldwide, I would like to have them at least made.
    Would you happen to know a good way to attempt to have our ideas published and then if not, are there any companies that would make what I wanted and copyright them for me?
    Im a nurse my trade but had this inspiration and have no clue where to go.

    Thank you!

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hello Natalie! First of all, there is nothing simple about being a mom:-)! As for publishing, if you want to go the traditional route, I would recommend finding an agent. It’s very tough right now and many publishers only accept manuscripts from agents.Also, while your daughter may inspire you (and I am sure she is wonderful and does the cutest things) do keep in mind that writing for children is very hard. Turning ideas and fond moments into winning stories is a challenge.I don’t want to discourage you, but if you do want to publish traditionally, please be sure you’ve studied many children’s books. And, your Dad may be a fantastic drawer, but is he familiar with picture book illustration? It’s very specialized. If you want to self publish, I can’t really advise you, as I have no experience. But a google search should offer a lot of information. At a minimum, preserving your daughter’s childhood and creating something for you and your family would be a wonderful thing! Good luck!

  39. Kathy says:

    Hi Iza,
    I really appreciate your generous sharing of info and expertise! It s very kind of you. I am in my middle years (ahem…) and working on improving my art skills enough to one day become a children’s illustrator. Do you have any advise on what to focus my self-studies on? I feel like I’m just floundering around, dabbling in this and that. For example, should I work on anatomy and figure drawing like a fine artist would do? My style leans more towards silly, cute and cartoony rather than realistic, so I didn’t know if this would be terribly useful. Any direction or advise you have to offer regarding subjects a self-taught artist should learn is greatly appreciated! Thank you!

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hi Kathy. Nice to hear from you! The industry has both college educated and self-taught illustrators.A passion for art and drawing on a regular basis are important criteria for becoming a professional illustrator. Figure drawing is always a great foundation. But it’s also important to have an understanding (innate or taught) of perspective, space, shape, color… Cartoony illustrations are fine, but they still need to read as real figures in a three dimensional world and the characters need to be consistent from page to page- as viewpoints and perspectives change. Do you feel you have this foundation? If not, I would suggest taking some art classes, really studying lots of children’s books, reading books on the craft of illustration, and drawing, drawing, drawing… to improve your skills. Hope this helps and good luck!

  40. Hello, I am new to becoming an illustrator. Where do you go to get commissioned or where do you look to get a job to illustrate a children’s book?

    I submit my examples of my own work to art agencies but I feel like its just pointless and not getting any closer to getting hired.

    Perhaps you can tell me where in the world or internet I can look to get hired and show my portfolio.

    Thank you for taking the time for reading my question.

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hi Thomas. I am so sorry for the delayed response. I would suggest joining It’s a great organization that helps many aspiring children’s book authors and illustrators. There are opportunities for showing your portfolio to agents. It’s also a great way to meet and connect with the kidlit industry-and to learn. Other than that, I am not sure how to advise you as I am both author and illustrator and have a literary agent to represent me. But, do study lots of children’s books, and get Uri Shulevitz’s book, Writing with Pictures. If your work is strong and you are persistent in your submissions, you should get recognized. I know it’s not easy, but you just have to keep trying. We’ve all been there…Best of luck!

  41. Bhavna says:

    I am so glad to be following your article since 60 days and today I completed my children’s illustration book writing and the illustration part as well. I am a landscape architect and also an illustrator. So, my book is about a character and her grandfather who talk about city, landscape and agriculture. I want to move further for approaching the right publishing company and I need your advice.
    With Regards

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Bhavna, these days it really helps to find an literary agent, who will find the right publisher for you. You can do an online search for agents and follow their submission guidelines. Good luck!

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  43. B.K.Kopman says:

    Thanks for posting such an informative post! Have always been a writer and an artist, but just recently started kicking around the idea of combining the two, as I see more and more literary agents are looking for that author/illustrator package instead of having in-house illustrators for their clients.

  44. Ayo says:

    Hi Iza, I really luv your blog. i’m in Nigeria and will like to know the criteria for joining the SCBWI as i’m new to the business. i’ll also need more explanation on making and submission of portfolio that can land a project.

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hello Ayo. Here’s a link to SCBWI: A passion for children’s literature is their number one criterion. They offer lots of great info and support for writers nod illustrators. AS for submitting art, I would suggest you do 2 or 3 consecutive illustrations, to show your illustrative skills such as: maintaining consistency in the characters and setting, your style and technique, compositions, etc. Never send original art- only high resolution scans of your work. Good luck!

  45. Charlotte says:

    Hi Iza,

    Your blog is excellent! Thank you for sharing your experience and your process. It is so interesting 🙂

    I was particularly interested in the section about consistency in drawing the characters and I was wondering about colour consistency. How to make sure you are using the exact same colours from one illustration to the other? I am using acrylic gouache (I see you are using watercolour yourself – they are very different but you do need to mix colours too, so on the principle it is the same) . So let’s say I am making a green jumper by mixing yellow and blue; how do I make sure the jumper is the same green the whole way through the book?

    I apologize if it is a silly question, I am only starting on painted illustrations.

    Kind regards,

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hello Charlotte!
      SO nice to shear from you! Not a silly question at all. It’s a very important question. First of all, I think with practice you will develop the visual acuity to be able to match colors just by looking at them. But to be really accurate, something you can do, as I still often do, is jot down the colors you use when you first start painting. My notes would be something like this: Old king Cole’s robe: light wash of bright violet. when dry, add second light wash of bright violet. Dry, then add cobalt blue violet for shadows. Btw, I love acrylic gouache. The colors are so vibrant and it’s a lovely, silky consistency. A fellow illustrator turned me on to it, and it’s wonderful. I use it along with watercolor. Good luck to you. Happy painting!

      • Charlotte says:

        Thank you so much for your detailed response, Iza.

        I like your process of writing down the colours you used. Having studied computer science, I had thought it might be an option but I thought it was maybe a bit “geeky”. Haha! But it works!

        I guess it gets more tricky is when you mix colours; it might be hard to get the proportions exactly right, but by writing it down, I guess you still get a close enough colour…

        Anyway, I need to practice 🙂

        • Iza Trapani says:

          Charlotte, obviously it’s not an exact science, but in mixing colors I will jot down something like: equal parts phat love green and lemon yellow, or cobalt blue with a touch of alizarin crimson. I generally don’t mix more than two colors, but rely on washes to layer and enrich the colors. I’ve found that too many mixed colors can make one muddy color. Also, I buy a large selection of already mixed colors. I used to think that painting “right out of the tube” was amateurish, but don’t feel that way anymore. There are so many delicious colors to choose from, and with a little mixing and layering you can achieve the desired effect. Have fun!

  46. Charlotte says:

    Thank you for the explanation, Iza. I also tend to buy a large selection of colours – I don’t care if it’s seen as amateurish as long as it looks good 😉
    Have fun too! Charlotte.

  47. Hello Iza,
    I am Garima from India.
    I have a long story written by me with paintings done by me related to every chapter (i am not sure if they fall in the category of illustration by pro levels.), but they are very detailed acrylic paintings.
    I want to turn it to a book but i feel lost as to what kind of book can i make of it.
    Its way longer than a 32 page book.
    I have the story divided in chapters and each chapter is 1-2 pages long.
    Could you please suggest me a good idea of approach in this?

    Best regards,

    P.S I love your Dog! 🙂

  48. Kanupriya says:

    Hi Iza,
    Any chance you would have time to speak with an aspiring illustrator? I am from Delhi, India and I work as a Designer for Kidswear (Infants and Toddlers) My work involves a lot of graphic design and I do most of mine by hand. I can do justice to a story or maybe I can come up with my own. I do not know heads or tails about this business. Perhaps if we could engage in a series of very insightful emails (for me!) … This would mean a lot to me!

  49. Shannon Jin says:

    Hi Ms. Trapani!

    Thanks for the awesome and insightful post. I have a question that is more about publishing than the actual composition, but I’d really love to hear your opinion on this, and I think others will find it very insightful as well.

    I’ve noticed many literary agents accept manuscripts but do not say anything about illustrations. As someone who wants to illustrate their own manuscript, would it help or hurt my chances of getting representation if I included 1-2 illustrations and a story board?

    Thanks again,

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hi Shannon! By all means, submit your art to agents. And if you know how to storyboard, that will make a big impression. Even though I work with one publisher and editor and they know my track record, my agent will still often aske me for a sketch or two when I submit a new manuscript, as she feels it may sweeten the deal. Just be sure that the art you send is your best effort. Good luck!!

  50. Chelsea Stamer says:

    Hi, Iza!

    Your posts about writing and illustrating children’s books have been very helpful. Thank you for taking the time to write such detailed information!

    I noticed someone asked you about what she needs to do in order to seek publishers and what the process looks like. I have a pretty good idea on what I need to do to finish the final, original draft of my children’s book to send to publishers, but I have no idea how to go about that or how much it costs to work with a publisher.

    I know you’re super busy, but I would be thankful for any wisdom you have.


    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hi Chelsea! It does not cost to work with a publisher, but these days it is advisable to get an agent- and they charge a percentage (usually 15%) of your earnings. It is hard to get a publisher without an agent as the market is very saturated, publishers are swamped, and agents serve to screen/make editorial suggestions for the manuscripts. Joining would be a great first step. They have loads of useful info and you’ll have opportunities to meet agents and editors. I hope this helps!Good luck!

  51. Lakisha Ward says:

    Hello Mrs. Iza Trapani,

    I have a son who is 15 years old. His name is Tyler and he’s an amazing artist. He hasn’t taken any classes to learn his craft. He has drawn pictures of himself, me (his mother) a church member, and many free style drawings. I really would like him to meet people and talk to people like yourself to help him and add to his amazing talent. Tyler just mentioned to me yesterday he would like to draw pictures for comic books and Illustrations for other books. I really want my son to be successful in fulfilling his desire to draw. If you would do me the honors of contacting me and maybe we can set up a date to meet and you can see his work. I would also like to know if you can suggest other artist who would be willing to help my son on his journey?

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hello Lakisha. It sounds like you’re son has a passion for art, and it’s wonderful that you are supporting and encouraging him. Meeting in person might not be feasible. Where do you live? If your son has questions, you can send them to me at: iza at izatrapani dot com. And I’ll be glad to answer them. Best wishes!

  52. Amy says:

    Hi Iza! I wrote you a while ago about illustrating a children’s book and we finally self-published it! It’s a book on grieving the loss of a parent:

    Thanks to you and the support of this group!

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hi Amy, Congratulations! It must feel great to have put it out into the world. Good work! It looks lovely and I hope it does well for you!

  53. Catherine Oliphant says:

    Hi Iza! Thank you so much, for all your ideas,; they are very helpful. I have been writing different types of children’s books for years and sent them off, but couldn’t find an interested party. So, I took three years of writing lessons which helped me with plotting. Now, I’m going back to what I love writing picture books. I am going to work at illustrating. I’m ordering the books you recommended. I’m also looking at getting an MFA in writing, it couldn’t hurt. Maybe, I’ll take art classes online, as well.

    One question I have for you is this: do publishers buy much rhyming stories, in today’s market. One of my mentor’s was Dr. Seuss and that is the style I love writing in. Even if no one buys it, I love doing it.

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hi Catherine, So sorry for the late reply. I’ve had computer issues and wasn’t notified of my comments…Publishers have nothing against rhyming text. In fact, most love it (and so do children) What they hate is bad rhyme. So make sure your meter is perfect and your rhymes original, with fun, witty and/or beautiful sounds and evoking great imagery. Happy rhyming!

  54. Sarah Lalonde says:

    Loved this article!
    I am currently writing a children’s picture book. My niece, a student at RIT, is illustrating it for me. We are thinking of self-publishing through IngramSparks. We are planning on choosing the 8 1/2 x 11 trim size. We have to send in everything as a PDF. Can the illustrations go all the way to the edges of the paper or should there be a certain border empty border around the edges for the binding etc.
    Thank you for any input you can give us about this venture!

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Hi Sarah, I am so sorry for the late reply. I’ve had computer issues and wasn’t notified of my comments..I don’t know much about the production part, but my art director expects a bleed of 1/4 inch all around. And on the cover it is 3/4 inch all around to wrap around the binding. Good luck in your venture!

  55. Thanks so much, Iza,

    This is very generous and helpful! For years I have been yearning to write a children’s book. I am a professional artist and educator, but I have also carried a tact for writing that I haven’t explored outside of my own journaling, prose, and graduate papers. I am a mother of three, and I have a business… but now I finally have an idea for a book. I am drawing from photographs of my daughter and her closest friend, so I will be merging oils (photo-realism) and watercolor collage techniques. Your insight into the formatting of the sketches/illustrations to scan and send to publishers is what I was needing most to know. I have noticed folks asking for ideas about reaching out to publishers and contacts, and I too would love feedback and ideas about that process. For one thing, what exactly must I have before I eve reach out to them, and how do I go about finding the appropriate publisher.

    Thank you again, and in advance,


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