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Last updated on Dec 01, 2023

How to Find an Illustrator to Bring Your Children’s Book to Life

If you’re self-publishing your children’s book but you’re not a talented illustrator, it’s advisable to find an artist who can create stunning visuals for your story. Someone who can take your idea and vision and turn it into an amazing picture book that will fuel the imagination of many young readers.

So in this post we’ll share where to find such professionals, and how to choose the right one for your book. 

How to find an illustrator for your children’s book:


Which children's book illustrator is the best fit for your book?

It'll only take a minute!

1. Browse marketplaces 

These days, you don't need to have connections in the art world in order to meet world-class illustrators. There are many platforms that facilitate the process, from specialized marketplaces and general freelance sites, to design platforms. 

Where to find an illustrator:

  1. Specialized marketplaces like Reedsy
  2. General freelance sites like Upwork
  3. Design hubs like Behance or Dribbble

Specialized marketplaces 

If you want to make your search easier, you'll want to check out online marketplaces that focus exclusively on book publishing talent, such as Reedsy. Here you’ll find some of the most talented children’s book illustrators with many years of experience and who have produced art for several published books or high-level publications.



Bring your children's book to life

The best children's book illustrators are on Reedsy. Sign up to meet them.

On Reedsy, you can easily browse through the profiles of over 300 illustrators, with a diverse selection of styles. In each professional's full profile, you’ll find information on their experience, their portfolio, and author reviews from previous collaborations.

Some Freelancers profiles on the Reedsy marketplace.
Browse through illustrator profiles on Reedsy.

Specialized marketplaces are the best places to find highly skilled and vetted professionals, but they aren’t the only option. 

General freelance sites 

You can also browse more generic freelance marketplaces, like Upwork or Fiverr, which are home to many great artists and more than a few novices looking to cut their teeth. Because of the open nature of these sites, none of the freelancers are vetted — so make sure you thoroughly investigate their profiles and portfolios. 

Experience in publishing is an important factor to check when you scout for an illustrator. Children’s books are made for young readers — a lot of specialist skill and care is required to make the art tell a story while appealing to readers and working in harmony with your text. Not every illustrator, no matter how artistically talented, can deliver the work that complements your manuscript. So make sure, where possible, that illustrators on your shortlist have the right experience. 

Design hubs

Finally, you can personally browse through sites like Dribbble or Behance and find illustrators you love. You can bookmark the artists you like and then get in touch to define the details of your collaboration. 

If you do decide to collaborate with artists on these websites, make sure you hammer out a contract that protects your work and ensures you have the necessary rights to use their illustrations for all aspects of publishing. Or alternatively, you can see if they are available on platforms like Reedsy where service contracts are provided by default and both parties are protected.

Whatever platform you choose, before you begin your search for illustrators, it's important to have a clear idea of the art style you want for your project.

2. Pinpoint an art style you love 

This is the most exciting part of this process — it's about expressing your taste by finding an art style that you love, fits with your book, and gets you excited to see what will happen!

The wide world of children's book illustrations is wonderfully diverse, ranging from whimsical and cartoonish to abstract and painterly and everything in between. Each illustrator has a unique style that they create through various techniques such as line drawing, watercolor, digital art and more.

🎨 For an overview of the diverse talent available on Reedsy, check out our post featuring 30 remarkable children's book illustrators

Some children's book illustrations of kids and animals in different environments
From top left to bottom right, art by Taylor Barron, Marina Saumell, Mariana OstanikTommy Hardman.

To find your preferred illustration style, explore a range of picture book illustrations online and in print, saving those that stand out to you. Then, you can compile these favorites into a mood board using digital tools like Canva and Milanote. This will help clarify your ideal aesthetic and color scheme.

A potential mood board for bold, colorful, and contemporary children’s book illustrations.
A potential mood board for bold, colorful, and contemporary children’s book illustrations. From top left to bottom right, art by: Kseniia Kudriavtseva, Taylor Barron, Jillian Goeler, Angela Sbandelli.

Once you know what you’re looking for, you can start your search for the right freelancer by evaluating their profiles 

3. Evaluate the portfolios of your favorite artists

At this stage, the process becomes more hands-on. You want to select a handful of children’s book illustrators to potentially collaborate with by evaluating their portfolios. 

First, assess their artwork 一 you should feel excited to feature it on your book! Then, examine their previous projects, particularly other picture books they've illustrated, to understand the types of projects they like to get involved with. 

If qualifications are important to you, review their resume and check for any experience with major publishing companies or evidence of their success as self-taught artists. 

The illustrator's background can also be a significant factor. For instance, author Zenda Walker actively sought out Black illustrators for her book Zara’s Wash Day. She wanted someone who shared her protagonist’s cultural background and could accurately capture the unspoken elements of the story. This kind of synergy can be crucial in effectively translating your ideas.

Finally, read what previous clients said about collaborating with them. You can learn a lot about an illustrator’s work (and work ethic) from their customers' testimonials.

Example of a children's book illustrator's portfolio

You should end up with a handful of illustrators you’re eager to get in touch with to make your book happen. Remember, quality often comes at a price, so before you start reaching out to anyone, make sure you know how much you’re willing and able to spend.

4. Consider your budget

Set aside a good part of your publishing budget for your illustrator. There is a lot of value that they bring to the table, from character design, storyboarding, page layout, illustration design and coloring, to file formatting. 

According to data from thousands of quotes on the Reedsy marketplace, the cost of hiring an illustrator for a children's book ranges between $60 and $200 for a single-page illustration, and between $100 and $400 for a two-page spread. Your budget will depend on how many and what type of illustrations you need, and the experience of the illustrator you hire. Overall, it can cost between $2,000 and $10,000 to hire an illustrator to work on a full picture book. 


What will it cost you to hire a children's book illustrator?

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To get a budget estimate, review your book's layout template and count the number of single and double-page illustrations you need. Then multiply for the market cost average. If you’re self-publishing and you want to dampen your total cost, you could review your manuscript and remove less unimportant scenes, or decide to have spot or half-page illustrations for some of them, which usually cost less. 



Children's Book Storyboard Template

Bring your picture book to life with our 32-page planning template.

Armed with a clearer understanding of the art style you want and your budget, you're now ready to reach out to professional illustrators who can bring your vision to life.

5. Send a design request

Send a design brief to a handful of illustrators introducing yourself and your book. Make sure to include:  

  • A book synopsis,
  • How many and what illustrations you’re looking for,  
  • Your budget for the project,
  • When you’d need the illustrations to be delivered. 

💡 On Reedsy, you can request quotes from up to 5 freelancers at a time, which will save you lots of time. 

The illustrators will then send you a quote or ask further questions about your project. Here you might share more details about which book printing services you’re looking to use, the length and size of the book, and attach some of the images you collected for design inspiration. 

Whimsical children's book illustrations of kids and animals
From top left to bottom right: Amanda Letcher, Cristina Dan, Mia Tivey, Aleesha Nash.

Once you get responses, it’s time to lay your options out on the table and decide who to go for. 

If you’re unsure about whether or not you’d like to collaborate with an illustrator, you can ask them for an art test (like a character sheet or a simple scene) to get a sense of what your story will look like and how they work. 


Sketches of a young boy playing and knitting
Example of a character sheet by Sara Kuba.

They may present you with a few character sketches with different eye shapes, clothes, and so on, but also in various situations and in different moods to capture their personality. Then, they may provide a full-color rendering in the book's intended style. This will cost you (usually less than $200,) but it can really help you assess the illustrator’s work before hiring them for the whole project.  

When you find an illustrator who checks all the right boxes, seal the deal with a contract that protects you and your work.

6. Finalize your project agreement with a contract

To start the collaboration, you’ll have to create a contract that outlines all of its terms and conditions, such as deliverable dates, payment schedules, and contingency plans for any dispute or challenge that may arise. 

The contract should also cover intellectual property rights. Sometimes rights to the illustrations are transferred to the author at the end of a project (upon full payment,) but the designer may retain the right to use the images in their portfolio. Other times they retain the copyright of the art (though not of the story’s characters) and grant you the rights to use it indefinitely on any platform. 

You’ll have to discuss these things with the illustrator. As mentioned earlier, platforms like Reedsy provide a standard contract to which you can add special terms to cover your specific needs. 

Once the contract is signed, the fun begins! The collaboration starts and, through a few rounds of storyboarding, designing, and coloring, your picture book will be ready to be published and read to and by children worldwide.

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