Beautiful Children's Book Illustrations To Inspire Your Story
You can’t have children’s books without illustrations. It’s tragic to picture Where the Wild Things Are without the images of Max in his wolf suit, announcing the start of the rumpus. And what would The Very Hungry Caterpillar be without colorful illustrations of apples, strawberries, and oranges with bites taken out of them? Indeed, it’s the children’s book illustrations that most of us remember when we think back to our favorite childhood reads.
To bring back those days of letting stories carry us away on imaginative rides, we’ve put together a gallery of some of our favorite children’s book illustrations from today’s top designers.
Examples of children’s book illustrations
Whether you’re in the mood for a whimsical browse, or need inspiration for a children’s book of your own — in which case you should make sure to read our tips for finding a talented illustrator below — this gallery is for you!
Images from Rita's Routine. Illustrations created with pencil and digitally. Check out more of Dion's work here.
Illustrations created with pencil and digitally freehand. Check out more of Tamara's work here.
Images from Princesses Wear Glasses Too by Treion Muller. Illustration created with ink and digitally. Check out more of Chris' work here.
Illustrations created digitally freehand. Check out more of Andy's work here.
Images from Cleo & Rob by Helen Brown and Sky High: Jean Batten's Incredible Flying Adventures by David Hill. Illustration for Brown's book created freehand digitally, and for Hill's book with traditional and digital media. Check out more of Phoebe's work here.
Illustrations created with pen and ink. Check out more of Sarah's work here.
Illustration created digitally freehand. Check out more of Sara's work here.
Caitlin B. Alexander
Top-left and right-hand illustrations were painted digitally. Bottom-left illustration was painted with both gouache and digitally. Check out more of Caitlin's work here.
Illustrations created with ink and watercolor. Check out more of Mariya's work here.
Illustrations created with vector art. Check out more of Chris' work here.
Image from Little Blue Duckling by Eli Edizioni. Illustration created with pencil and freehand digital. Check out more of Cinzia's work here.
Illustration created with watercolor, ink, pencil, and digitally. Check out more of Kath's work here.
Images from Art Rebels by Turner Contemporary and Woblin by Lauren Busy. Illustrations created with pencil and digitally. Check out more of Alex's work here.
Tips for hiring a children’s book illustrator
If you’re planning to submit your book to traditional publishers, you can head straight to this post on publishing a children’s book to learn why you don’t need to hire an illustrator on your own.
If you’re self-publishing a picture book, a board book, or an early reader, on the other hand, you will absolutely need an illustrator!
To help you bring your story to life, we’ve put together some tips on finding the right person to craft your children’s book illustrations.
Come up with a creative direction
Most authors who write children’s books requiring illustrations have some idea of how they want the pictures to look. However, while they might be able to visualize the scenes they want included in their book, they might not know exactly what illustration style or technique they prefer.
Before you begin the process of hiring an illustrator, head to the children’s section of your local bookstore. As you browse, make note of any trends you notice. Do certain genres or age categories tend to have similar illustrations? Do you find yourself drawn to a specific style? Are there color schemes you enjoy? While you should allow the illustrator you hire to have creative input throughout the design process, you’ll need to get a sense of what you’re looking for in order to find the right illustrator in the first place.
If you want to browse from the comfort of your own home, scroll back up to the gallery above, or check out our additional page of book illustration examples!
Look at freelancer’s work samples
Any illustrator you consider working with should have a portfolio you can look at to get an idea of their previous work history.
At Reedsy, each freelance professional on our marketplace has a detailed profile that includes an overview of their career, certifications, awards, specialties, work history, and a portfolio including samples of their work. Here’s an example of a Reedsy portfolio:
Consider the freelancer’s niches
While a children’s book illustrator might have broad skills that can be applied to a number of different genres and styles, most freelancers’ work history tends to be denser in some areas than others.
It goes without saying that you’ll want to hire someone experienced at producing children’s book illustrations. But look beyond that: are most of their samples for board, picture, or middle-grade books? Have they worked on mostly fiction or nonfiction books? If fiction, what genres do they specialize in? Are most of their samples watercolor, digital, full-color, black and white?
The more the freelancer’s previous work history matches up with what you’re looking for, the more reassured you can feel in their ability to deliver what you have in mind.
Have a realistic budget
The cost of hiring a children’s book illustrator widely varies based on a number of factors, including:
- The scope and complexity of the illustrations you need
- Whether you need full-page illustrations, or just a couple of chapter sketches
- The experience level of the illustrator you’re hiring
For instance, the cost of an illustrated book cover typically falls somewhere between $500-$1,500. On the other hand, a picture book requiring illustrations on every page will naturally cost a lot more.
Think about “fit”
In addition to finding an illustrator with the right previous work history and a fee that works for your budget, it’s very important to consider your “fit” — how you will work together as collaborators.
Seeing your book come to life with children’s book illustrations is a fulfilling process, but it can also be nerve-wracking! You want the finished product to be how you imagined it — or better! Therefore, you want to work with someone you feel comfortable asking questions, requesting clarifications from, and bouncing ideas back and forth with. You should feel that the lines of communication are open throughout the process.