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Blog > Book Design – Posted on October 15, 2020

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 of 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 particular talent for depicting the wonders of childhood. Her illustrations are windows into the world as a kid sees it: bright colors and an innocent sense of fun bring each piece to life before our very eyes. Her soft touch lends sensitivity to each illustration, fully expressing the intended mood, whether that be tranquility or boundless energy — just like children themselves.

Looking for heartwarming children's book 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 recalls 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 Errol Le Cain’s illustrations in The Snow Queen, but also conveys 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, Mary Poppins-style. Her Instagram, which she co-runs with her sister, boasts 15,000 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.

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 creations. Look at any one of her stunning pieces and you will be able to viscerally sense the 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 children's illustrations with a 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. And Catling clearly loves creating them as well! Catling's precise, intricate linework expresses incredible emotion in his characters, and he especially enjoys playing with exaggerated shapes to make them vividly unforgettable. The end result is a portfolio of playful, lighthearted illustrations that urge you to join in on the fun.

Looking for fun character designs that pop 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 and bursting with character, his art invites its viewers into the exuberant world of childhood. But Fakes’ true gift is his good-natured humor, which comes across in every stroke of his pen. When you unite that with his artistic talent, it’s a formidable combination indeed: one that renders any character unforgettable, whether that be a young boy or an 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 evoke the beloved works of Tim Warnes. With rich colors and gentle comedy, Chio’s art exudes all of the factors that make children’s book illustrations so appealing! Its earthy tones in particular will surely 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 a side 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 breathtaking on both a technical and aesthetic level, lush colors combining with perfectly weighted brushstrokes to create indelible, realistic scenes. The devil, as always, is in the details here. Notice the subtle differences in texture between the robot toy and the teddy bear — not to mention the sheer number of colors that go into painting Trudeau the dog. Indeed, if a picture is worth a thousand words, one of Gadotti’s pieces might be worth a million.

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 let's be honest, who among us didn’t?), then you’ll absolutely adore Evgenia Malina’s work. In her illustrations, you’ll spot traces of Blake merged with her wholly original imagination. Malina’s scratchy linework lends raw, real elegance and levity to each piece, while her perfectly chosen colors spotlight what matters the most: the characters.

Looking for quirky illustrations in the style of Quentin Blake? 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 that’s brimming with surprises. Her 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. Atmospheric and thought-provoking, Filomena’s portfolio builds a worthy case for art being perhaps the best medium 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 vibrant colors define her art, it’s the fine 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 also has amazing range in her arsenal: she has worked in every medium from digital art to watercolors. We defy you to glance through her gallery and not depart with a new sense of peace and wonder.

Looking to see a range of illustration styles translated 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 a paintbrush is undeniable — 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 elevate her illustrations and make her portfolio such a joy to view.

Her specialty is picture books, but she’s also illustrated middle chapter books, children's book covers, activity books, and game cards. Whatever the medium, one thing remains clear: all her illustrations are made with love from Luxembourg.

Looking for the some of the flat-out cutest children's book 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 clients include Scholastic, Random House, Penguin, Grosset & Dunlap, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster — and no wonder! Brimming with sweet, wholesome 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, cozy 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 hypnotically 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, catches the eye — and then holds it. Under his touch, settings blaze to colorful life, whether that's a glen glittering at night with fireflies or a rickety house in the blazing sunset. If you’re looking for illustrations that tread the delicate line between realism and caricature — not to mention drama and humor — then Nick Harris is your man.

Looking for magnificently elaborate 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, where Lisa Wee’s joyful, adorable 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 themes of multiculturalism that make her gallery even more wonderful! With such a strong emphasis on inclusivity, her artwork truly embraces 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's art 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 of the scene. Perhaps that’s fitting, given her background in the motion graphics and animation industry. 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 on an idyllic, wintry lake.

Looking for ethereal illustrations with plenty 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 feeling warm and fuzzy on the inside, and your day will brighten for 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

At first glance, what stands out most about Basia Tran’s portfolio is the sheer diversity of style. Digital art, colored pencil, realism, fantasy: Tran creates magic out of it all, so subtly that you might not realize the spell she’s cast until you've been staring at one of her pieces for a beat too long.

And though their styles may vary, one common theme 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 carefully rendered illustrations that will 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 young readers. Her specialty is picture books, and she’s especially genius at creating cute-as-a-button characters! 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, features a lovable Cheshire cat that you might even want to hug).

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

19. Martina Terzi

best children's book illustrators - martina

Martina Terzi’s gallery clearly demonstrates 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 what's even more impressive is her composition: the natural color palettes and simple shapes effortlessly harmonize character and environment. Needless to say, younger audiences will particularly enjoy her art.

Looking for children's book illustrations with some of the cutest critters you'll ever meet? 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 Mawdsley’s services, and he always delivers with vivid shades, skillfully drawn characters, and expertly layered composition. Perfect for that children’s graphic novel you have in your head.

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 your publisher 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 strong book cover design, will 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 stylus to tablet) 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 types of illustrations that appeal to your specific niche (this helpful guide will walk you through this process.) 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 dreamy or realistic artwork best complement your story? Do you need the sharpness and clearness of digital or graphic illustrations?

A good way to familiarize yourself with the various styles of children's book illustrations is by researching the masters of each style. Check out this post of book illustration examples to expand your knowledge!

2. Look at the illustrator’s profile

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 publishing industry? More tends to be better — though of course, there are also plenty of freshly minted professional illustrators who could be great fits for your book.
  • Genre. Does the illustrator have 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 your illustrator must have a solid understanding of those specific needs.
  • Past published titles. What, if any, books has this person illustrated? If a major publishing house has trusted this illustrator to create 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 browse. If an illustrator that you find elsewhere doesn’t have a readily available portfolio, reach out to ask for samples before committing to any kind of working relationship.

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3. Determine your budget

No two projects are the same, and no two illustrators will charge you exactly the same price for their different styles. The average cost to get a children’s book fully illustrated falls between $2,000-$6,000. But your quote will depend on a number of factors, mainly the length of your book.

Many self-publishing children’s authors underestimate how much it costs to acquire proper illustrations. To that end, we recommend researching the typical illustration rates for your specific niche and desired style. From there, figure out how much you're willing to spend, and narrow down your prospects accordingly.

4. Reach out to the illustrator

Now all that’s left 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 at once. If you found your illustrator elsewhere, then naturally you will need an email address to establish a connection.

Once you’ve found the illustrator whose personality, vision, and style all align perfectly with yours, that’s when the real, exciting work begins. Nail down the terms of your contract (and don’t forget to inquire how much it might cost to get the artwork revised), then 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 worth the time and effort when you’re holding your own beloved book in your hands.