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Blog > Book Design – Posted on December 18, 2019

20 Amazing Children's Book Illustrators (and How to Hire Them)

We all had our favorite children’s book illustrators growing up. From Quentin Blake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fame to Julia Donaldson’s beloved The Gruffalo, the best illustrators not only helped us visualize stories, but also made us fall in love with the sheer possibility of imagination.

If you’re writing a children’s book, you, too, may one day arrive at the point where you need a children's book illustrator to do the job and bring your story to life. So which illustrator should you hire to create the perfect marriage between your words and their images?

In this post, we list 20 of the best professional children’s book illustrators in the industry who you can hire today. If you’re ready to dive into a world of childlike wonder and infinite creativity, let’s start!

1. Laura Watson

best children's book illustrators - laura watson

Laura Watson has a way of depicting the wonders of childhood. Her illustrations might as well be windows into the world as a kid see it: bright colors brim, and an innocent sense of fun brings each piece to life before our eyes. Her soft touch lends sensitivity to each illustration, fully expressing the conveyed mood, whether that be tranquility or boundless energy — just like children themselves.

Looking for heartwarming children's illustrations with a fun feel? Check out Laura Watson's full portfolio here.

2. Lauren O’Hara

best children's book illustrators - lauren

The wonderfully gifted Lauren O’Hara is one of the rising stars in the children’s books industry. With a unique style that might recall Jiri Trnka and Lisbeth Zwerger, it’s not hard to see why she’s on the ascent. Her pastel art contains the majesty and mystique of the illustrations in Errol Le Cain’s The Snow Queen, but also convey a fairy tale-like simplicity and sweetness — a rare and impressive combination, to say the least.

Indeed, her gallery should come with a warning: her artwork is so exquisitely immersive that you feel as though you might slip and fall into the scene itself if you look at it for too long. Her Instagram, which she co-runs with her sister, boasts 13,000 followers, and she’s illustrated for the likes of Little Brown, BBC, and Hachette. Check out her portfolio to see for yourself why she’s one of the “it” illustrators to watch in 2020.

Looking for wondrously imagined illustrations that would fit perfectly into a fairy tale?  Check out Lauren O'Hara's full portfolio here.

3. Penny Weber

best children's book illustrators - penny weber

The illustrator of acclaimed children’s works such as Jennifer Vassel’s I Am Unique, Carol McCloud’s Will You Fill My Bucket?, and Marta Arroyo’s Jorge and the Lost Cookie Jar, Penny Weber has a rare knack for imbuing true feeling into her realistic creations. Look at any one of her stunning pieces and you will be able to viscerally sense the profound emotion rippling across the character’s face, whether that’s joy, newfound confidence, or grief — a reflection of ourselves that speaks to all children.

Looking for realistic illustrations with an incredibly soulful touch? Check out Penny Weber's full portfolio here.

4. Andy Catling

best children's book illustrators - andy catling

Children love Andy Catling’s endearing, emotive characters. Luckily, Catling clearly loves creating for them as well! Catling’s precise, beautifully intricate linework inspires incredible emotion in his art, and he particularly enjoys playing with exaggerated shapes to make his characters immediately unforgettable. The end result is a portfolio of playful, lighthearted illustrations that urge you to join the fun.

Looking for fun character designs that are popping with personality? Check out Andy Catling's full portfolio here.

5. Nate Fakes

best children's illustrators - nake fakes

Meet Nate Fakes — who is anything but fake! His delightfully witty art has drawn the attention of outlets like The New York Times, and he counts the likes of Disney, Scholastic, and Warner Bros among his regular clients.

It’s not hard to see why. Rollicking, creative, and bursting with character, his art seems to invite its viewers into the exuberant world of childhood. But Fakes’ true gift is his good-natured humor, which is evident in every stroke of his pen. When you unite that with his artistic talent, it’s a formidable combination indeed: one that guarantees his ability to render any character memorable, whether that be a young boy or a family of adorably misbehaving reindeer.

Looking for witty illustrations with a professional polish? Check out Nate Fakes' full portfolio here.

6. Ian Chio

Ian Chio’s simple, textured illustrations might at first evoke the beloved works of Tim Warnes. From its rich colors to the gentle comedy on display in each piece, Chio’s art exudes all of the factors that make children’s book illustrations so appealing. Its earthy tones in particular will calm and soothe anyone who’s going through a rough time. Add cute anthropomorphic characters into the mix, and you’ve got the makings of a picture book that readers won’t be able to resist.

Looking for gentle illustrations that come with multiple sides of fun? Check out Ian Chio's full portfolio here.

7. Claudia Gadotti

best children's book illustrators - claudia gadotti

Claudia Gadotti’s art is breathtakingly gorgeous on both a technical and aesthetic level, as lush colors combine with perfectly weighted brushstrokes to create indelible, realistic scenes. But the devil, as always, is in the details. Notice, for instance, the subtle difference in the texture between the robot toy and the teddy bear — not to mention the sheer number of colors that go into painting Trudeau the dog, each precisely placed! If a picture is worth a thousand words, one of Gadotti’s pieces might be worth a million — such is the strength of her authenticity.

Looking for an authentic, traditional style that children will love? Check out Claudia Gadotti's full portfolio here.

8. Evgenia Malina

best children's book illustrators - evgenia malina

If you grew up loving Quentin Blake’s illustrations for Roald Dahl (and be honest now — who didn’t?), then you’ll absolutely adore looking at Evgenia Malina’s portfolio. In her illustrations, you’ll be able to spot traces of Blake, merged with her wholly original imagination. Malina’s scratchy and lively linework lends a raw, real elegance and levity to each piece, while her lovely colors are carefully chosen to spotlight what matters the most: the characters.

Looking for quirky illustrations in the style of Quentin Blake — with a twist? Check out Evgenia Malina's full portfolio here.

9. Francesca Filomena

best children's illustrators - francesca

Ready to float into a wondrous world that you could have never imagined? Francesca Filomena’s expressive, inimitable style will submerge you head-first into a dreamy, surreal realm of artistry that’s brimming with surprises. Her muted, subtle use of color is perhaps most impressive, inviting viewers into the fabric of the work and imparting emotion without needing to speak a single word. At once atmospheric and thought-provoking, Filomena’s portfolio builds a worthy case for art being one of the best mediums for children to explore the limits of their imaginations.

Looking for dreamy illustrations with an otherworldly ambience? Check out Francesca Filomena's full portfolio here.

10. Isabelle Arné

best children's book illustrators - isabelle

Isabelle Arné is incredibly talented at transforming the simple into the extraordinary. Though soft, vibrant colors define her art, it’s the fine, imaginative detailing in each piece — from the feathered leaf-wings of a dragon to the speckled blues of an ostrich — that truly make it irresistible. Arné’s amazing range only adds to her arsenal: she is skilled at every medium from digital art to watercolors. In fact, we dare you to take a glance at her gallery and not depart with a new sense of peace and wonder.

Looking to see a range of illustration styles transformed into warm, joyous art? Check out Isabelle Arné's full portfolio here.

11. Tuire Siiriainen

best children's book illustrators - tuire

Can you get any cuter than a cheeky avocado family? What about a tiny lettuce munchkin? In this respect, Tuire Siirainen’s artwork outdoes itself again and again. Her skill with the paintbrush that she wields is undoubtable — from her deft use of color to the quirky characters she conjures up like magic. But it’s the playfulness and simplicity of each piece that elevates her illustrations, and makes her portfolio a joy to view.

Her specialty is in picture books, but she’s also illustrated middle chapter books, book covers, activity books, and game cards. Whatever the medium, you can be sure that one theme is certain: all of them were made with love from Luxembourg.

Looking for the some of the most adorable children's illustrations you'll see today? Check out Tuire Siiriainen's full portfolio here.

12. Dana Regan

best children's book illustrators - dana regan

Dana Regan’s suitors include Scholastic, Random House, Penguin, Grosset & Dunlap, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster — and it’s little surprise! Brimming with sweet, wholesome, and charismatic pictures, her portfolio is a virtual playground for children of all ages. Notably, her artwork celebrates the value of diversity, and how we each have many things to learn from one another.

Searching for sweet artwork for children of all backgrounds? Check out Dana Regan's full portfolio here.

13. Nick Harris

best children's book illustrators - nick haris

Having worked in the industry for 30 years, Nick Harris boasts a deep and magnetically atmospheric portfolio. From collaborating with Philip Pullman on the first edition of Firework-Maker’s Daughter to illustrating for the famous animator Richard Williams, Harris has proved his versatile talent repeatedly in the most demanding of environments.

Harris’ fantastical, bold artwork, which often plays beautifully with light and shadow, is easily able to catch the eye — and then hold it. Under his marvelous touch, settings and colors blaze to life, whether that be a glen glittering at night with fireflies, a rickety house in the blazing sunset, or a fire-breathing green dragon. If you’re looking for illustrations that stunningly tread the delicate line between realism and caricature — not to mention drama and humor — then Nick Harris is your man.

Looking for magnificent illustrations with a touch of fantasy? Check out Nick Harris' full portfolio here.

14. Lisa Wee

best children's book illustrators - lisa wee

Let’s do a 180-degree turn now and walk towards the opposite end of the spectrum, where Lisa’s joyful, cute body of work awaits. Wielding a colored pencil as her preferred conduit, Wee brings out the whimsy in everyday life through careful application of texture and shape. Indeed, the flowing lines of her art create a sense of movement that will galvanize any kid’s mind. But it’s the theme of multiculturalism that also makes her gallery wonderful: with such a strong emphasis on inclusivity, her artwork is truly meant to bring out the child in every single one of us.

Looking for whimsical children's artwork that celebrates diversity? Check out Lisa Wee's full portfolio here.

15. Taylor Barron

Taylor Barron truly exemplifies the axiom, “Life is like a box of crayons.” Her bright hues dance, ripple, and leap across the page — always in wonderful harmony with the mood that the piece is trying to express. Perhaps that’s fitting, given her background in the motion graphics and animation industry. Indeed, one glance at her portfolio is all it takes to understand her humor, grace, and attention to detail — from her gap-toothed monk-in-training to the red umbrella floating in an idyllic, wintry lake.

Looking for ethereal illustrations with loads of charm to spare? Check out Taylor Barron's full portfolio here.

16. Sandie Sonke

best children's book illustrators - sandie sonke

Sandie Sonke’s portfolio will draw the eye of anybody who loves charming, cheerful art, with its clean lines and limitless personality. Scrolling through her art is the equivalent of drinking a steaming mug of hot chocolate, or viewing a Youtube clip of golden retriever puppies: it will leave you warm and fuzzy on the inside, and your day will brighten up after having experienced it.

Looking for feel-good illustrations to warm you up on a winter day? Check out Sandie Sonke's full portfolio here.

17. Basia Tran

best children's book illustrators - basia tran

Upon cursory glance, what stands out the most about Basia Tran’s portfolio is the sheer diversity of styles on display. Digital art, colored pencil, realism, fantasy: Tran is a master of creating magic out of them all, so subtly that you might not realize the spell she’s casting on you until you catch yourself staring at one of her exquisite pieces for a beat too long.

Despite the various styles on display in her portfolio, however, there is one common theme that ties all her pieces together. As Tran herself says, her art is all connected by one thread: her “desire to tell stories that could make you laugh, teach you something new, or even bring you some peace. Best of all, if they could be all of the above.”

Looking for illustrations that can make you laugh and think? Check out Basia Tran's full portfolio here.

18. Lindsay Scott

As an illustrator for Disney and Penguin Random House, Lindsay Scott has years of experience charming all. Her specialty is in picture books for younger readers, and she’s especially genius at creating characters that are as cute as a button! Just take her book cover for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which does proper justice to the brightness and chaos of Alice’s world (and, amazingly, gives birth to a lovable Cheshire cat that you might even want to hug).

Looking for picture book illustrations with a helping of charm?  Check out Lindsay Scott's full portfolio here.

19. Martina Terzi

best children's book illustrators - martina

Martina Terzi’s gallery is loaded with her uncanny ability to anthropomorphize any animal and make it enchanting. Inquisitive owl? Done! Smug alligator? No need to see you later — here’s the ‘gator. But the composition of her pieces is perhaps even more impressive: the natural color palettes and simple shapes effortlessly create harmony between character and environment. Needless to say, her art is well-suited for a younger audience.

Looking to meet some more of the cutest critters you'll ever see? Check out Martina Terzi's full portfolio here.

20. Devin Mawdsley

best children's book illustrators - mawedesley

Let’s end on an illustrator with a slightly different, more mature style. The Atlantic and The New Yorker have come calling in the past for Devin Mawedsley’s services, and he always delivers with vivid shades, skillfully rendered characters, and an expertly layered composition. Perfect for that children’s graphic novel you have in your wings.

Looking for stylized illustrations with a "cool" factor? Check out Devin Mawdsley's full portfolio here.

So how do you actually hire an illustrator for your children’s book?

Of course, the first step is to figure out whether or not you really need an illustrator for your children’s book. If you plan to publish it traditionally, then the publishing house will hire the children’s book illustrator and supply the illustrations.

However, if you’re self-publishing your children’s book, then illustrations, on top of a book cover design, may be a necessity. With that in mind, here are five steps you should take prior to committing to a collaboration with a professional children’s book illustrator.

1. Know your vision

A collaboration with an illustrator will always be a two-way street. Of course, your illustrator will be the one who’s actually putting pen to paper (or Photoshop) in order to bring your vision to life. But therein lies the rub: you need to have a clear vision in the first place.

Start by knowing the market and the type of illustrations that most appeal to your specific niche (this helpful guide will walk you through this process more thoroughly.) Then, it’s time to nail down the illustration style you’d like to pursue. You might have already visualized your story as you wrote your children’s book. Now’s the time to sharpen this picture in your mind. Is your story, for instance, an elegant fairy tale that might benefit more from a sensitive watercolor style? Will surrealist or realistic artwork most complement your story? Do you need the sharpness and clearness of digital or graphic illustrations?

A good way to familiarize yourself with the various illustration styles in the children’s book market is by researching the masters of each style. We recommend taking our free How to Publish a Picture Book course, as it will help through you this process to give you an idea of what’s possible.

2. Look at the illustrator’s profile

Imagine stepping onto a private jet that’s going to be flown by a pilot you didn’t interview. You’d be gearing up to fly 42,000 feet in the air with someone who you don’t know — and might not be able to trust — at the controls!

Well, that’s what it’d be like working with an illustrator you didn’t take the time to research.

Think of this step as a vetting stage. While you’re looking for an illustrator, take note of their:

  • Years of experience. How many years of experience does the illustrator have in the industry? The more, the better.
  • Genre. Does the illustrator have prior experience working in your particular genre or niche? Each age band in the children’s book industry has vastly different needs when it comes to illustrations, and a solid understanding of those needs will be hugely valuable.
  • Past published titles. What, if any, books have the freelancer illustrated? If an illustrator has been trusted by a major publishing house to illustrate a children’s book for them, that’s a good sign they’re up to snuff.

Most importantly, take the time to look at the illustrator’s portfolio. Ultimately, this is the best way to understand an illustrator’s style and make sure your visions align on paper. It’s why every illustrator on Reedsy has a gallery for you to thoroughly browse. If an illustrator that you find elsewhere doesn’t have a readily available portfolio, reach out to ask for samples before you commit to any kind of working relationship.

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3. Formulate your budget

No two projects are similar — just as no two illustrators will charge you the same price. The average cost for a children’s book might fall between $2,000 - $6,000. But the quote will depend on a number of factors, most particularly the length of your book.

Many self-publishing children’s authors underestimate the budget it’ll take to acquire proper illustrations. We recommend researching the range of prices for your specific niche and perhaps even asking around to get a better sense of the prices, as it does vary widely.

4. Reach out to the illustrator!

Now all that’s left to do is to reach out to the illustrator to express your interest in working with them! On Reedsy, you can contact up to five professional illustrators with a few clicks of your button. If you found your illustrator elsewhere, then you naturally will need an email address to establish a connection.

Once you’ve found the right illustrator whose personality, vision, and style aligns perfectly with yours, that’s when the real, exciting work begins. Nail down the terms of your contract (and don’t forget to inquire about what extra charges artwork revision might trigger), and clear the table to get ready to see your children’s book brought to life! The journey that’s waiting for you ahead might take a little longer, but you’ll know that it was well-worth the time and effort to find the right illustrator when you’re holding your own beloved book in your hands.