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Top 10 Children’s Book Illustration Styles

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  • October 26, 2023
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  • 9 min read


When you’re drawing pictures for kids’ books, you can be as artistic as you want. Illustrators use rhythm, color, texture, and feeling to bring easy stories to life with pictures so kids can understand and connect with the stories.

It takes a lot of understanding to write a book for kids. Kids understand on a more emotional level, so the artist needs to be able to show this in their pictures.

For kids to understand and connect with the characters, they need to be able to accurately show how those characters feel. Illustration styles play a crucial role in capturing young readers’ imaginations and bringing stories to life in children’s books.

List of the Top 10 Types of Illustrations

From vibrant watercolor paintings to whimsical cartoons, the illustration style sets the tone and enriches the reading experience.

You’ll notice that the characters in picture books have clear facial expressions. Artists spend much time ensuring the characters are fully developed emotionally.

Even though trends change a lot from decade to decade, these are 10 Book Writing Founders recommended styles that you can explore more:

Single-line illustrations:

The line drawings are simple, always black and wide, and there isn’t much coloring or variation.

The beauty of single-line illustrations lies in their simplicity and ability to convey complex forms and emotions using just one continuous stroke. This style forces the artist to carefully plan and consider each line, leading to a deliberate composition.

In this style, the artist uses a single line to outline the subject or create detailed imagery without lifting the pen or pencil from the paper. It results in a distinctive, minimalist look that can be captivating and expressive.

Whimsical illustration:

In whimsical illustration styles, everyday objects, animals, and characters are often portrayed with a touch of fantasy. They may have exaggerated features, such as oversized heads or eyes, elongated limbs, or unusual proportions, adding to their whimsical charm.

Backgrounds and landscapes can be filled with imaginative details, magical creatures, or dreamlike settings. It shows impossible things as if they were natural, like talking to flowers or flying on balloons.

If you look at these pictures from children’s books, they can be in bright colors or pastels, with lots of small details or only a few, but they all have the same magical and dreamy feel.

Stylized illustration:

These pictures are almost silly, but they are usually a bit more organized and have a unique design with some geometric shapes made of color.

The best children’s book illustration styles will take this simple style and turn it into a one-of-a-kind drawing that will make your book or story stand out on the shelf and give the world your made personality and atmosphere.

Cartoonish Style of Illustration:

A style resembling a cartoon is probably the most common type of drawing because it is fun and colorful for kids.

This doesn’t just mean using bright colors and people who look like they belong in Disney movies. It can also mean giving animals humanlike traits, slightly inflating reality, and other things.

Mixed Media Illustrations:

Mixed media illustrations combine various artistic techniques, allowing for high creativity and experimentation. Artists can blend traditional and digital elements, creating rich and eclectic visuals. This book design artistry style is often chosen for stories that require a unique and distinctive artistic approach.

The combination of various materials and techniques allows artists to create vibrant characters, textured landscapes, and whimsical scenes that captivate young readers’ imaginations.

Realistic illustration:

Some children’s books use images, although picture-perfect artwork is not often used.

Others, however, choose to work in a more realistic manner, which they combine with elements from other approaches to arrive at their distinctive look.

The illustration mentioned above is a prime example of this photorealistic but stylized method.

Wacky and Funny illustration:

Characters in these children’s book pictures are constantly exaggerated, have intentionally silly facial expressions, or are a fabrication of the artist’s mind.

The greatest children’s book illustration styles, such as for younger

children who are just learning to read (Dr. Seuss’ books are a great example) or for initially uncomfortable themes like toilet training, the human body, etc.

Humor is the most effective technique to pique a child’s attention and keep them engaged.

Sketch illustrations:

These children’s book images are like one-line drawings but have more depth and detail because they are shaded, may have different lines, etc.

Most sketch drawings are black and white, but an artist sometimes adds one or two bright colors to draw attention to a certain feature.

The original Alice in Wonderland images by John Tenniel are great examples of Sketch illustrations. They show how drawings created for a children’s book can

become cultural icons in their own right.

Vector illustration:

Vector illustration is a style that utilizes mathematical equations and geometric shapes to create images. This technique differs from other styles like watercolor or pen and ink, which rely on the artist’s skills to create a freehand drawing.

The artist uses software programs like Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW to create geometric shapes like circles, squares, and triangles, which are then manipulated to form the desired image.

One of the primary benefits of vector illustrations is that they can be scaled up or down without losing their resolution or becoming pixelated. This means that the illustrations in writing can be used in various formats, from large posters to small logos or icons.

Digital illustration:

It refers to the creation of art using digital tools and software. It has become a popular medium for illustrating children’s books due to its flexibility, ease of editing, and ability to create various styles and effects.

One of the advantages of digital illustration is the ability to make changes easily and experiment with different colors, textures, and compositions without the need for physical media.

Additionally, illustrations can be easily shared and reproduced, making it suitable for print and online publishing.

A Guide to Illustrating a Book for Children:

The process of drawing pictures and typography tracking basics for children’s books is easy and similar to how many other art is made. Finding the right motivation is the first step. Next, pick a style and medium to work in. Make some rough drawings. Finally, get feedback before making your book’s final pictures and layout.

These steps are broken down below:

Discover Ideas:

To discover ideas for your children’s book illustrations, exploring other children’s books or the work of other artists can be helpful.

Observe different illustration styles and techniques to get an idea of what aesthetics you prefer and how they align with the theme of your story. Pay attention to how illustrations contribute to the storytelling process and evoke emotions.

Pick a Style and Size:

Once you have explored various styles, selecting one particular style for your illustrations is essential. Consistency is key to maintaining a cohesive visual narrative throughout your book.

Consider how the chosen Illustration style fits with the theme and atmosphere of your story. Select a suitable medium, such as watercolor, pencil, or digital art, that will effectively bring your ideas to life.

Make the Characters Better:

In children’s books, a main character typically plays a pivotal role in the story. When drawing your characters, consistently capture their unique traits and personality, even as the story progresses.

Pay attention to their facial expressions, body language, and other subtle details that make each character relatable and engaging.

Create a Storyboard:

Creating a storyboard can be valuable in planning and organizing your illustrations. A storyboard is a visual outline of your story, depicting each scene’s key moments and the corresponding illustrations.

It helps you visualize the flow of your story and identify any gaps or areas where illustrations are needed. This process allows you to plan and refine your illustration styles effectively.

Ask for Feedback:

Seeking feedback from others, especially from the target audience (children or parents), can provide valuable insights into your illustrations. Share your rough drafts or finished illustrations with trusted individuals and ask for their opinions.

Their feedback can highlight areas for improvement, suggest alternative perspectives, or validate the strengths of your illustrations.

Main Attributes and Elaborate Information

Type of Illustration Characteristics Application in Children’s Books
Single-Line Illustrations – Simple, continuous line
– Minimalist and expressive
– Conveys complex forms and emotions
– Ideal for stories needing a subtle, artistic touch
Whimsical Illustration – Fantasy elements
– Exaggerated features
– Engages kids with magical, dreamlike imagery
– Suitable for imaginative and fantastical stories
Stylized Illustration – Simplistic, unique designs
– Geometric color shapes
– Makes stories stand out with a distinct look
– Good for books with a creative, artistic narrative
Cartoonish Style – Fun, colorful, and exaggerated – Appeals to kids with familiar, lively characters
– Great for humorous and lively stories
Mixed Media Illustrations – Combination of various techniques
– Eclectic and vibrant visuals
– Ideal for stories requiring unique artistic approaches
– Enhances creativity and diversity in storytelling
Realistic Illustration – Photorealistic but stylized
– More accurate portrayal
– Brings a sense of realism to stories
– Good for educational or more serious topics
Wacky and Funny Illustration – Exaggerated, silly characters
– Engaging facial expressions
– Captures kids’ attention with humor
– Effective for beginner readers or sensitive topics

The Bottom Line:

The power of children’s book illustrations lies in their ability to transport us to magical worlds, teach us important lessons, and foster a lifelong love for reading. Regardless of the chosen illustration style, it can have the remarkable ability to ignite young imaginations and leave a lasting impression.

So, the next time you pick up a children’s book, take a moment to appreciate the artistic beauty and creativity within its pages. Children’s book illustrations truly hold the power to enchant, educate, and ignite the imagination of both children and adults alike.

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