The Beginner's Guide to Illustrate a Children's Book

Starting a children's book is not that difficult. To help you along,
here is a simple guide for you to illustrate a fantastic one. Check this out!
Created by Esther Diana |

Children's literature brought out something magical in its design. Created purely for the innocent audience, such a book brings a lot of influence to the reader. Children are blameless, quick learners, imaginative, and also easy to believe what they found. Thus, making them challenging readers to satisfy.

Children's books also range from a lot of categories, including picture books. Creating and illustrate one is not an easy feat. The illustration is the main key of the said literature, which is also the way designers communicate with tiny eyes. If you are interested in creating or illustrate one, here are some of the guides on how to illustrate a children's book.


Illustrate The Main Characters

One point that makes children's books interesting is the existence of lovable characters. In many literature and arts, fun characters in the shapes of human, animal, and animated objects turn into a point of interest for younger audiences. To make a perfect and working project, you will need to illustrate such a good character which becomes the main role in the story.

1. Child-like Main Character

Some pinpoints can help you illustrate and create the best character for your book. The first one is the children or child-like protagonist. It is particularly a very basic understanding that illustrating a young character will help illustrate a relatable role. However, your job as an illustrator is not only creating a young role.

You have to illustrate a character that engages and evokes a reader's reaction. It can be energy, attention, or merely attraction. When you have a young children character for your book, children can imagine themselves as one. It is also a good way to guide children in learning certain information. More so to give an example of children of their age solving problems.

Created by Vallerii Art |


2. Compile and Uses Inspiration

Creating a unique creation was not an easy job to do anyway. In many cases, you can always take inspiration to make the appropriate personality for a certain story. When you illustrate a children's book, underline that your character can be anything, from everywhere, or anywhere. You can take a look at regions, countries, or even your children.

Trying to Illustrate a character that feels real is the main objective when doing a children's book. You don't need to make a genius figure or something out of your imagination, just to make it fun. Real character helps children to emphasize and enjoy the store. It also works the same with the book's setting and story, which is easier to decipher with some real references.

3. Make It Memorable

Is it enough to make a plain child your main character? Of course not. To make your children's book character stand out and memorable, then do something with your character. There are two possible ways to make a memorable children character, giving a tangible object or defining their trait. You can use Harry Potter as an example. He has a unique scar and glasses that make him stand out.

You can illustrate a children's book main character by adding small cute little details. A mismatched sock, a big ribbon, a teddy bear, or curly hair. You can also play around with their character or tones, especially to illustrate the non-human character. Take a look at Olaf from the Frozen movie, he has a big carrot nose with a fun and bright personality.

Created by Vanessa Morales |


4. Show Them The Trait Not Describing

One biggest pitfall that you want to avoid is describing the character. Illustrate your children's character in as detail as possible. Tell their character through actions and dialog. It will be better than giving a long description in your book.  Underline the fact that there is a high chance your audience (children) haven't learned how to read yet. Thus, tell them everything through your drawing.

5. Practice And Planning the Profile

With ranges of children's books as your inspiration and ideas, you will need to keep practicing to master the art of developing a character. As a beginner, you can start by playing around with poses and actions. Draw as much as possible, so you can illustrate every little detail. It eventually helps you show the whole potential of your story and the character itself.

It also helps to envelop diversity and inclusivity in creating a character. As the years go by, children's books can include many universal issues. This means it is not only fictional but also a real-life event. In this case, you can illustrate a variety of skin tones, traits, personality, strength, weakness, or background as your character. But, make sure you are not creating a biased book.

To help you illustrate a children's book and its main character, you can start by writing their profile. It helps you plan and decide the details, thus making the role feel relatable. It also lays out the foundation and plot of your storyline. Thus, you won't get lost in the middle of the process and forget some of the real traits to tell children.

Start by the name. Try to make a rhymed children's name to make it more memorable, such as Nobi Nobita. After that, jot down all of the appearance points for your children's character. You can list the ages, clothes, physical traits, or distinctiveness. Illustrate the profile by adding the relationship details, such as families or friends. After that, finish it up with personality and traits.

Created by Katerina Kasyanova |


Deciding The Setting For The Story And Characters

Every book needs a setting. it can set the story and its information. The idea is you will need a world or a setting to place down your character. So, where is it? You can plan this information as you illustrate the project or the character. The process of making one is also very complicated.

As a beginner, you don't need to be worried about very intricate detail. The chance that children do not even know the world yet. So, creating the appropriate environment for your book is not something you should think about too hard. But it also does not mean you can illustrate it half-heartedly. The thing is, your setting plan will develop the story, tone, and style of the book.

1. Making Sure The Balance And Consistency Of The Design

So, how does the setting affect you illustrate a children's book process? Surprisingly, your setting has a lot of elements. As an illustrator, you cannot draw the design without any details or some information. You will need to make sure that what you have drawn will perfectly represent the story and also create a real depiction. In other words, it should be appropriate and relevant.

In this case, you can take a relation of the world setting tone to your children's book design. If you illustrate a simple character with little fancy detail in it, then you should balance it with the same style setting. You can also create a bright vibrant color setting to balance the other element. Such as highly rendered forest that creates a well-balanced contrast with simple faces.

Created by İrem Ustaoğlu |


2. Mind the Time Period And Location of the story

Another thing that you need to underline when creating children's book settings is the location and time. This kind of detail may require some research. Some details that you need to pay attention to can include clothes, building, environment, culture, information, and many more. A good setting will also depict the detail in a subtle manner, which can help children to learn more.

Worth underlining that every location has varying information to tell. It also works the same with periods that can also set the detail. For example, the 1990s-time setting will not be the same as the 2020's period. You can take a look at Charlotte's Web and the little Prince as references. Both have different settings, so does the visual style.

Charlotte's web book's setting circling barn or countryside life. Thus, the location setting illustrates relevant environment and characteristics, including the barn, field, to the existence of livestock. Meanwhile, the Little Prince setting is outer space and planets. Making the setting and the art style illustrate the imaginative detail.

Created by Zina Lugai |


Doing Your Storyboard Before illustrate The Story 

Illustrate a children's book and make it better with a storyboard. As you reach this part, chances are that you already plan all the characters and the book's setting. Thus, the next step that is the key and the most crucial one is storyboarding. To create a well-balanced and thought story, try to do the storyboard stage so you won't miss out on every detail in your project.

Just like how it works for movies or video, your children's book means to tell a story from the first to the last page. To make it unified and not lost in the process, the storyboard will be your layout. So, how to do it? When it comes to storyboarding, you will illustrate every single page or panel according to your story. Illustrate the details in the form of thumbnails, which means you don't need to use too many details.

Your thumbnail design is the layout plan that you want on the page. It helps you illustrate the imagination that goes rampage in your mind. It also helps you direct the scene and how you want the book to look. What makes this stage important is the ability to change and experiment. With the lack of details, you got the chance to illustrate many angles, cinematic views, or cropping.

In the latter stages, you can choose the best one and make the next page. The ideas are to help you illustrate all your concepts and planning. It is not a mere simple drawing. A good illustrator can illustrate their imagination and guide the children to show the real story. It also helps you eliminate the possibilities of redoing the detailed works just because it does not work.

When you illustrate a children's book, this part can be the sole helper to make a comprehensive design. As a beginner, try to eliminate the ideas of creating a detailed storyboard. Try to make a plan that emphasizes the focal point and information. You can make the landscape cropping, character, and foreground in a sketch.

It will be a behind the scene project anyways, so don't be afraid to experiment. You can even Illustrate a children's book with a small heading blurry sketch. Make sure you use the chance to decide the layout. Thus, your illustration and the story go hand in hand. Some of the professional children's books illustrate using a cross-page design, which allows them to add witty surprise.

Created by Katerina Kasyanova |


Considering The Illustration Technique, Style, Or Tools

In this case, you also need to take a lot of inspiration and build up a portfolio of children's book design as well. The ranges of jobs and ideas you have made will later help you discover many techniques for your picture book. So, how many styles can you find? A lot.

You can see that children's books have a lot of visual styles. The idea is not only to add attractiveness but also to create relevant art that fits their ages. Most of them use a colorful palette to accentuate the fun and vibrant children's character. Some of them also use traditional hand-drawn illustration styles to add a personal touch.

With many illustrator software to use, you get the chance to create many more illustration styles. You can name it from the digital vector, freehand digital, or replicating the manual techniques such as colored pencil, watercolor, acrylics, pen, ink, or even the graphite illustration. You got a lot of options for your children's literature illustration project.

Digital brush and media also help a lot in the creating process, especially for beginners that love to change their mind. Redo and undo features are the best friends for designers. You won't get that option in real life. As you want to illustrate a picture or storybook, doing a digital process also shortens the time for scanning and paint-drying.

However, the technique choices are in your hand. You can choose whatever you enjoy or master. But one thing for sure, make sure you illustrate it consistently. When you illustrate a children's book, use only one style to avoid messy or distracting detail in your book. At the same time, make sure you have the right style to represent your children's book story.

If you take a look at many illustrations, most of the time the books consist of vivid colors. You can do the same regardless of the drawing style. You can also illustrate eye-pleasing textures that come around with pastel hues. Or you can mix the watercolor filling, pencil strokes, and pastel color to create an amazingly attractive book, just like Nobody loves me by Liza Tretyakova.

Created by İrem Ustaoğlu |


Finishing Up the project with an attractive Cover

After you got everything planned for the book contents, now you can move to the cover. Underline that your children's book's first impression is on the case. No matter how cool your design and illustration inside, if people do not feel like buying your book, so it is wasted. Thus, creating a compelling and attractive cover is a crucial step to master.   

So, what should you do to make one? One thing for sure, you have to illustrate a popping cover. Not a literal popping, but a cover that will steal everyone's eyes. It is attractive enough to attract adults' (parents) eyes, as well as a very curiosity-building cover for children. Thus, they want to buy and know the story inside.

In this case, attractiveness is not the only matter to take care of. You will need to illustrate a cover design that also conveys the story, especially the mood. The best way to do it is to show the main character and the main problem. Make it as simple yet engaging. Use the same illustration style to tell the audience the contents, plus showing your skills.

Another thing that you can play around with is hand lettering and typography. As a cover, this part needs to tell the title of the book. Thus, hand lettering illustrates a perfect balance of information-driven elements and also attractive additions to the cover. To do it right, make sure you got some typefaces brushes, guides, or styles.

Write down and illustrate the title. Make sure it is attractive and relevant to the children's book theme. In case you are not good at hand lettering, you can always use typefaces or fonts. Adjust the typography and make it one with the whole aesthetic. Get creative when you make the hand lettering or typography, so you can illustrate a children's book that looks professional.

Created by İrem Ustaoğlu |



While it looks like a very easy-to-do job, it takes a set of nitty-gritty to illustrate a children's book. It is especially true when the books are those with a positive message to deliver. Younger children have limited abilities to process information. Thus, the appropriate picture will be the way to express the message. It also works as a point of interest, which engages children to learn.


Thank you for explaining the steps. Great article!

Patti Miller July 02, 2023

Thank you for all this valuable information…I am writing and illustrating my first picture book and this really helps me out big time.

Moira White February 24, 2023

That’s so helpful… Thank you so much!!

Mariem Lasheen December 20, 2022

Glad i can found this article! This helped me a lot. Thank you!

Tria September 30, 2022

This is amazing! So complete. I am working in my third child’s book and your article is very helpful.
Made me realize a lot of things and to figure it out a solution to some struggles.
Thank you so much.

Gabi August 16, 2022

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