Manual Random house childrens books - illustration and story stuff inside

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With the details, I try to find a balance between them being authentic to the period but also relevant and familiar to children today. For example, with Knight Time , I had to produces images that featured endearing characters and settings that were spooky, but not too scary.

Children's Book Illustration, Part 1

Once I am happy with the first roughs, I email them to the client. They then lay them onto the cutter guide and add the text. It is at this stage that the publisher shows the visuals to the author.

The publisher and author then agree on what changes they feel are necessary and email me a brief for the second stage of sketches. This brief has thumbnail-sized layouts with my sketch and the type in place, alongside short, written pointers. The changes could include moving or removing details to make more space for the text, or the author may want me to add additional details.

I then go through all their feedback and make any of my own suggestions.

With changes settled upon, I then redraw all of the layouts. This is a good time to refi ne the characters and check for continuity. Continuity is probably one of the biggest challenges when illustrating a picture book. When I am happy with this new set of artwork revisions I will email them to the client and they position them with the text. There are usually only a handful of comments at this stage and, provided there are no major changes, I photocopy all of my sketches to the size required for the final book and proceed with the final traces.

I draw these final traces on layout paper. I make full-size copies of my traces and send these to the client for approval. At this stage, they may go to the author once more. Once the traces are approved, I am ready to start on the finished artwork. I work on watercolour paper that I stretch onto boards. I then transfer my traces to the paper using a product called Tracedown, which is similar to carbon paper.

I often start with a small vignette artwork just to get me in to the flow — it can be a bit daunting to start with a large scene. I like to build up the artwork in watercolour and then strengthen the lines towards the end with a coloured pencil. Producing the final artwork can be a time-consuming process.


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A detailed, double-page spread for Knight Time took on average two full days to complete; the longest I have spent working on a book illustration was the gatefold woodland scene in Knight Time , which took me almost a week to paint. If I am feeling unsure about a particular artwork I may send it to the client, too. In total, it takes me several weeks to complete all the artwork for a single book.

Maurice Sendak

If the client is happy with the artwork, they will send it off to be scanned and they may then make mock-ups for sales purposes. I will then receive a copy of the final book; this often happens several months before it appears in the shops, so I have to keep it under wraps to avoid spoiling the surprise! Completed a masterpiece recently? Entries are now open so click here to enter now.

1. Know the market

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How to write a picture book - Advice from a professional children's author

Sign in Welcome back to Portfolio Plus! Make sure you ask permission to include each book cover in your portfolio, since the work you do today is key to landing future jobs.

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Do you have any advice for others who are interested in landing this type of work? Tell us in the comments below! Designers, check out these contests so you can start building your career. Get a design. Illustrating for traditional publishers — For both writers and illustrators, breaking into a traditional press is the hardest, yet most worthwhile, goal. Via HarperCollins. Illustrating for small presses — This contest-winning illustration from Ni. I like the fact that I can trace the drawings over and over, tweaking them each time.

It also means that I can turn the sketch over and see it in reverse — this helps me to spot any major errors in a pose. I may also scan the sketch and flip it on the computer to see it afresh. With each stage of sketches, I refine the characters as they become more familiar to me.

Publisher Interviews

I tend not to use direct references because I find that if I study a photo for a certain pose, my illustration becomes too wooden. It is only if I become really stuck for example, with how a hand should hold an object that I will get somebody to pose for me. The first rough sketch is the most taxing, as there are so many things to consider: the composition, the setting and location, the pose and expression of the characters, the props, and so on. Consider your audience, too.

With the details, I try to find a balance between them being authentic to the period but also relevant and familiar to children today. For example, with Knight Time , I had to produces images that featured endearing characters and settings that were spooky, but not too scary. Once I am happy with the first roughs, I email them to the client.

They then lay them onto the cutter guide and add the text. It is at this stage that the publisher shows the visuals to the author. The publisher and author then agree on what changes they feel are necessary and email me a brief for the second stage of sketches. This brief has thumbnail-sized layouts with my sketch and the type in place, alongside short, written pointers. The changes could include moving or removing details to make more space for the text, or the author may want me to add additional details.

I then go through all their feedback and make any of my own suggestions. With changes settled upon, I then redraw all of the layouts. This is a good time to refi ne the characters and check for continuity. Continuity is probably one of the biggest challenges when illustrating a picture book.

When I am happy with this new set of artwork revisions I will email them to the client and they position them with the text. There are usually only a handful of comments at this stage and, provided there are no major changes, I photocopy all of my sketches to the size required for the final book and proceed with the final traces. I draw these final traces on layout paper.

I make full-size copies of my traces and send these to the client for approval. At this stage, they may go to the author once more. Once the traces are approved, I am ready to start on the finished artwork. I work on watercolour paper that I stretch onto boards. I then transfer my traces to the paper using a product called Tracedown, which is similar to carbon paper.