children's book illustator

Children’s Book Illustrator: Where to Find an Outstanding One

Ann O'Brien

Ann O'Brien

February 2, 2023

Looking for a children’s book illustrator? Illustrations are essential to a successful children’s book. If you have the talent, you can create the artwork yourself. In most cases, however, you need to find a children’s book illustrator who can bring your imagined world to life. These illustrators know how to create images that children will love.

Where to Find a Freelance Children’s Book Illustrator

If you don’t know where to start, begin by visiting websites dedicated to freelancers and freelance illustrators. You can find a professional children’s book illustrator working at all price levels at these sites. Here are some places to start:

  • Advocate Art
  • Children’s Illustrators
  • Design Pickle
  • Directory of Illustration
  • Etsy
  • Fiverr
  • Hire an Illustrator
  • IllustrationX
  • Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

Start by Choosing a Style of Children’s Book Illustrator

There are countless illustration styles, and many of them work for children’s books. You can see children’s books that use stick figures, photos, intricate line drawings, and full-color paintings. The pictures may be realistic, cartoon-like, or richly imaginative.

When you wrote your book, you had a clear idea in your mind of what the characters and world of your book looked like. What artistic style will best reflect that? There are many gorgeously illustrated children’s books out there. Which ones speak to you?

It’s important to know what style you want so you can start narrowing down your choice of a children’s book illustrator. Your children’s book illustrator should share your vision for your book.

Get In the Mood

Many children’s book writers create mood boards where they can pin ideas that they come across for the kind of pictures they’d like in their books. You can create an online mood board or pin printed pictures to a bulletin board. Pin pictures that inspire you from photos, paintings, and other children’s books. Make sure you choose favorite color combinations, too.

Your mood board will help you narrow down the type of children’s book illustrator you want to work with. It will also help your children’s book illustrator understand what type of art you like.

Get a Contract for Your Children’s Book Illustrator

You must have a signed contract with your artist. Some professional children’s book illustrators have standard contracts they use for most clients. If you’re working with an experienced professional children’s book illustrator, this step will be straightforward.

Your contract should cover the scope of the children’s book illustrator’s work, which is typically the inside illustrations and the cover. You should also decide if you want the children’s book illustrator to:

  • Handle the design and layout
  • Letter the text
  • Create a new cover image
  • Design your marketing materials

You should both understand what the scope of the work will involve. With a signed contract, you will both be protected.

How Many Illustrations Will You Need?

A typical children’s book has 32 pages. Some can be other sizes, but that’s the industry standard. It’s the one that most children’s book illustrators are used to working with. Always use a multiple of 8 because you’re working with folded paper sheets. Consider that 16 sheets of paper fold into 32 pages, which is the perfect size for binding. In a children’s book, you will need artwork on every page, and you may need some double-page spreads.

10 Steps to Working with a Children’s Book Illustrator

You’ve found a children’s book illustrator, and you think they’re perfect for the job. Once you have both signed the contract, what comes next? There is a lengthy process ahead, so it’s a good idea to get your children’s book illustrator at least six months before your expected publication date.

On her blog, award-winning children’s book illustrator Alana McCarthy describes the process she goes through to work with an author. You should be prepared to go through the same process with the children’s book illustrator you choose.

1 Give the children’s book illustrator a final copy of your book. You should be certain that you’re not planning to make major changes to the book at this point. Make sure you’ve considered the standard 32-page format for a children’s book. Also, decide if you want a title page, dedication page, and end papers.

2 Give the children’s book illustrator a list of characters. The list should include detailed character descriptions and your ideas of how they should look. You should also send a mood board or other reference materials to let the illustrator know what you like.

3 Let the artist know whether your book will be softcover, hardcover, or board book style.

4 With this information, the artist creates a layout and puts it into a PDF. The PDF will show your book’s text on the pages in the PDF pages.

5 The children’s book illustrator will develop preliminary sketches for you to consider. At this point, changes may go back and forth between you and the illustrator a few times. The more changes you make, the more costly it will be, which is why having a clear vision of what you want is important.

6 McCarthy also does a “character lineup” to show how the characters relate to each other in size.

7 You approve the initial sketches. At this point, the artist develops thumbnail sketches. These are rough ideas of what each page will have on it. Again, there may be a few changes back and forth of these thumbnails.

8 Once the layout and sketches have been approved by you, the children’s book illustrator creates line drawings based on them.

9 The final step is painting the final line drawings. This is when your book comes to life.

10 Your children’s book illustrator will also design and create the cover for your book. Your book is now ready for the printer.

This process takes about three months to complete. It includes the illustrations and cover of your book. As you can see, it is a lot of work, which is why the cost for a children’s book illustrator can be high.

How Much Will It Cost to Hire a Children’s Book Illustrator?

There is no hard and fast answer to that question because it depends on several factors, including the skill and experience of the artist, the amount of work involved, and whether you also want the children’s book illustrator to handle the layout, promotional images, and other work.

In general, however, you should expect to pay at least $2,500 to $5,000 as a starting point. McCarthy, the illustrator in the example above, charges from $6,000 to $20,000 to illustrate a self-published book.

Are There Lower Cost Options?

If your budget is tight, should you give up the dream of working with an illustrator? No, but it means you need to take a creative approach to finding an artist. You may not be working with a famous children’s book illustrator, but you can find someone who will create beautiful artwork for your book. It will just take a little work. Here are some suggestions:

  • Ask around. Contact your friends and family members. Ask them if they know any artists or illustrators who are just starting out. These artists may be interested in having something to put in their portfolio, and they may want the experience of working on a book. They may be willing to work for a lower fee in exchange for the experience.
  • Consider a partnership. If you know someone who’s a children’s book illustrator, offer to form a partnership where you share the costs of producing the book and the profits from the published book.
  • Check local art schools. An art school or a college art department may have students looking for experience. They may be willing to work with you as a way to break into the profession.

Get Expert Printing of Your Children’s Book

At Publishing Xpress, we work with many first-time children’s book authors. When you print with us, you can expect a beautifully printed book that shows your text and illustrations in all their glory.

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