picture story telling

Picture Story Telling: How to Tell a Great Story with Pictures

Salmaan Ahmad

Salmaan Ahmad

March 13, 2024

What are the basics of picture story telling? Illustrations are the heart of any children’s book. If your dream is to write and publish a children’s book, you know how powerful a single image can be. When you create a book that relies on picture story telling, you create a book that’s the perfect balance of pictures and words. Whether you’re doing your own illustrations or hiring an illustrator, you can create a book that will enchant children.

Picture Story Telling: What It Is

Picture story telling uses images to convey emotions, actions, and plot points. With a well-placed picture, you can tell a story that is just as vivid as one conveyed by words.

Graphic novelists know how to tell a story that packs a punch with the perfect combination of art and text. Without descriptive words, the picture story telling relies on dialogue and pictures. You can make the same impact when you tell your story.

Picture Story Telling in Children’s Books

Children’s books are special. You’ve seen those wonderful picture story telling books that children reach for over and over. You might remember certain favorite books from your childhood. What makes these picture story telling books stand out?

One of the main things is the illustrations. These books feature beautiful artwork, with images that often take up a full double spread of pages. The authors use these pictures to tell stories that children respond to visually and emotionally. The text is important, too, but it is a smaller part of the book. In some picture story telling books for young readers, there may be almost no text.

Are you ready to tell stories that children want to hear and see? First, decide what type of illustrations you want, how to use them most effectively, and how to tell you story.

Designing a Picture Story Telling Book

Most children’s book authors work with a book designer. A book designer can make sure your book uses the size and format that are expected in the book industry. If your budget doesn’t run to hiring a book designer, don’t worry. You can still create an attractively designed book by using a free template.

You can get these templates from:

  • Microsoft Word
  • InDesign
  • Template.net
  • Journeytokidlit.com
  • Canva

Pay attention to the standard book elements, including the end sheets, front matter, back matter, and copyright information.

Choose an Illustration Style

What type of pictures will you use to tell stories? There are hundreds of picture story telling books published every year, and each has its own distinct style. That said, you can narrow down your style options by looking at the picture story telling books that most appeal to you.

Ask yourself: What style of illustrations do these books have? Is it a minutely detailed stylet that makes every page look like a full-color painting? Is it a soft, suggestive watercolor? Does it have bold, blocky elements and bright colors? Is it modern and abstract, classic, or old-fashioned? Any of these choices will work for picture story telling.

When you look for an illustrator, look for someone who works in a similar style. You don’t want to work with an artist whose vision is totally different from yours. Also, this seems obvious, but if you want line drawings, don’t hire an artist who works primarily in acrylic paints. You want an artist who’s comfortable with the medium you’ve chosen.

Choose Your Elements for Picture Story Telling

When you design a picture book, remember to follow these industry guidelines for each of the book’s key parts.

Text length: Most children’s picture books have small word counts. The average picture story telling book has around 250 words. Books for more advanced readers may go to 500 words or more.

Page Count: The industry standard is 32 pages. You must also choose whether you want your book in landscape or portrait formatting. Both are acceptable, and each will affect how your pictures look.

Trim Size: In children’s book publishing, the standard trim sizes are:

  • 8 x 8 square
  • 8 x 10 portrait or landscape
  • 5 x 5 to 10 x 10 square for a board book

Binding: Most self-published children’s authors use hardcover or perfect binding for their children’s books. Since the book have a low page count, it’s a good idea to use a heavier paper weight to avoid giving the books a “floppy” appearance.

How Many Pictures Will You Need?

A picture story telling book has 32 pages, and that means 32 illustrations. You need one for each page, plus a front cover and back cover. Remember that some of your pictures will be double-page spreads.

Use a Storyboard to Tell Stories

A storyboard is one of the best tools you can use when creating a picture book. It’s also useful for people who want to write graphic novels.

A storyboard is an outline of your book that you put on paper so you can see roughly what it will look like when it’s finished. While you can buy blank storyboards, you don’t need anything fancy at this stage. Just take some paper that’s roughly the size you want your book to be. Staple or clip the pages together, sharpen your pencils, and get to work.

Keep your focus on the pictures

Go through each page one at a time, and jot down what type of illustration you want on each one. At the same time, decide where you want the words to go. You don’t have to do the actual sketching at this point, just jot down what you want the picture to be.

Do this in pencil—you’ll probably have lots of things you decide to change around at this stage.

You probably won’t get the pictures and texts perfectly organized on the first go. Don’t give up. It may take you several attempts to get the storyboard to line up correctly and match the vision you have in your head. You may even find that your idea changes as you’re working on it.

It may seem like a lot of work, but a storyboard is the best starting point for any highly visual project. It keeps you on track and helps you visualize what the final book will look like. It’s also a helpful tool to use when you hire an illustrator.

Use Photographs to Tell Stories

Is your children’s book destined for publication to the world, or is it a private project? Some self-published writers aren’t interested in conquering the world of publishing. They want to create family books that celebrate their own lives and histories.

Why not create a photo book to tell your story? A photo book filled with pictures from their earliest days to the current is a wonderful family memento that goes beyond a scrapbook or digital file. It’s a great gift for loved ones and family members.

Get them together in a beautiful book

You probably have hundreds of photos of your children. Now, you can gather them all into a printed, professional-looking book.

To do this, start by collecting all your photos into one computer folder. Scroll through your phone, your social media posts, and other places where you have pictures. If you have a lot of printed photos, take them to a photo site that specializes in turning photos into digital files.

Use only the best and highest-quality pictures for this project.

Design a cover

Choose a cover image, and use your book template to create an eye-catching cover for your book. Add graphics, colors, and personal notes that have meaning to your family.

Add your personal touches

To personalize it even more, include reproductions of your children’s artwork, cards they gave you, and other mementos from their childhood. Create a record of these memories that you and your children will treasure.

There Are Many Ways to Tell Stories with Pictures

Picture story telling allows you to exercise your creativity through drawings, illustrations, and photographs. At Publishing Xpress, we work with first-time writers who want to tell their stories in words and pictures. Contact us if you need help with your first printing project.

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