My 5 Steps of Book Illustration


Oh hiii! 

I hope you had a wonderful Valentine's Day yesterday! You guys make me feel loved every day, which is partially why I wanted to give back by writing this blog!

I am continuing with self-publishing tips today by telling you how I illustrated my book! You might wonder why I'm not talking about the writing first –and I will certainly get to that later -but I am starting with illustration because that's where I started in my journey! More importantly, many of you have specifically asked me for tips on illustration and book design, and I want to address your most pressing questions first. 


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Ways to Illustrate

Let me start by telling you that there are MANY ways to illustrate! Here are a few I can think of off the top of my head:

  • iPad Pro illustration: Maybe the easiest way (but not what I did) is to create digital illustrations on an iPad Pro using illustration apps like Procreate or Adobe Sketch. That way, your illustrations are already digital and don't need to be scanned onto your computer.
  • Tablet illustration: Some illustrators use a tablet like Wacom brand tablets that hook up to your computer. As you draw on the tablet, your work appears on the screen. I tried this once and it was very difficult for me, so I wouldn't recommend it unless you already know how to draw with a tablet.
  • Other digital illustration software: There are many programs for digital illustration out there, including Photoshop, Illustrator, Inkscape and more. 
  • Good old fashioned hand illustration! This is what I did! There is nothing wrong with illustrating your book by hand, and getting it into your book is very doable (keep reading below!)




How I Did It!

If you're like me, you don't have as much digital drawing experience. Maybe you don't have the money for an iPad Pro, or maybe you just feel more comfortable with traditional painting tools and media. If so, that's ok! You can still self-publish! Here are the 5 steps I took to bring my illustrations from the paper to my book pages. I would recommend that you:

  1. Start painting: I used acrylic paint on canvas paper to create a series of animals in the same style. Not every children's book will be like mine, of course, because many children's books involve repetition of the same characters on each page. The main goal is simply to make sure the illustration style is consistent throughout to give your book a feeling of continuity.
  2. Share your progress: If you have never self-published before, I highly recommend this step!! Share, share, share your illustration process on social media as you go! People will love it, and they will start getting excited for your book to come out! When you self-publish, you are your own marketing team and this is one of the best ways to show people how unique and hand-made your book is. -Plus it really is so rewarding and motivating to hear feedback as you go! You can see some of the progress photos I shared on this page!
  3. Scan the paintings (if you are not creating them digitally): Confession - I used a large, high-quality art scanner in my husband's college computer lab to scan my paintings LOL! It was free for students to use, and we were paying tuition, so it worked perfectly for me. However, you can also find large, high-quality scanners at many print shops. These are the important things to look for in a scanner:
    • Scan resolution: If you decide to look for a scanner at a print shop, you should make sure they are able to scan color photos (not just black and white documents) at 300 - 600 dpi ("dpi" stands for "dots per inch" - anything lower than 300 "dpi" is not recommended for printing, as it will appear fuzzy or pixelated). 
    • Size: Depending on the size of your artwork, you will want to ask about the size of the scanning surface. For example, my paintings were on 12x12" canvas paper, so I needed a very large scanning surface. However, if yours are smaller, you may be able to use an 11x17" scanning surface.
    • Color depth: You will also want to ask about the color depth of the scanner you decide to use. You should look for a scanner that can scan at up to 48-bit for color scans. 
    • Buy your own scanner (optional!): If you have it in your budget, you may be interested in investing in your own scanner! There are actually some really nice scanners you can purchase at a reasonable cost. I actually used this helpful article to decide on a scanner for myself last year!
  4. Touch up your illustrations on the computer: If you've read my previous posts, you know that I am also a Graphic Designer. so I already had a copy of Photoshop on-hand. What I mostly did to edit my artwork was remove the off-white canvas from the background and adjust the colors to make sure the scanned image matched the original paintings. Here are some options for photo editing, even if you don't have Photoshop already:
    • 1 month of Photoshop: Did you know you can use Photoshop for 1 month (or more) for only $9.99/month at the Adobe website here? Would you be interested in a how-to guide on editing your paintings in Photoshop? Let me know!
    • Free photo editing software: Use other free photo editing software! See some of the best free photo software of 2018 here!
  5. Design the book pages: This is the last step I took in bringing the illustrations to my book pages, and I will speak about this in more detail soon (stay tuned)!! For now, I will tell you that I used Adobe InDesign to design my book pages, but there are SO many ways to do this now -you don't even need InDesign! Would you like to hear about these in my next post? Or would you be interested in a how-to guide for creating book pages in InDesign? Let me know your thoughts below!!


Has this information been helpful for you? What challenges are you facing in creating your book? I'd love to hear your feedback, questions, and what other information you'd like to hear next. As always, thank you guys for reading and for all of your love and support! I hope you are feeling empowered to self-publish your own book as well!

Stay silly my friends!