Illustrious Illustrations by Jaz (Part 1)

Creating a Book Cover for Children or Young Adults


Authors need illustrators to design book covers but if you are a graphic novelist or a children’s book author, , you’ll need to make choices for page layout and what you want to illustrate. Today’s segment deals with illustrating the characters in your stories. Those characters can be placed on the book cover, chapter headings, inside pages, Web site, and even in a graphic novel. Here are some simple steps to get you started.


STEP 1: Research and Decide a Style

This is the fun step. Head for the children’s book section at the library or do a Web search for children’s book covers. Of all the illustrations, which ones attract your attention the most? Why?

Ask yourself these questions: Who is your target audience? What is their age? What is the message you’re trying to illustrate? Does the book have a serious theme or a playful theme? Is it a mystery or an informational book? An illustration for a four-year-old would need a different art style than something for a ten-year-old or a young teen.

Most illustrators have developed a signature style. Have you developed yours? Is your style sharp or diffused, accurate or distorted, subtle or bold, predictable or spontaneous, opaque or transparent, hard-edged or brushy?

Here are some great examples of various styles:



STEP 2: Decide WHAT to Illustrate.

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words and that you can’t judge a book by its cover. But the truth is many readers buy a book because of the cover. Make sure your cover design says something about your book and doesn’t let your readers down.


STEP 3: Create and Develop Primitive Sketches

Draw preliminaries. I use several tools to help me create my characters. I use dolls, models, lights, cameras, and Photoshop. Sometimes I turn on the self-timer to my camera, and I become the model. Most of the time I like to use a free beta program by Adobe called Fuse. Next month I’ll give more specific detail on Fuse.


STEP 4: Develop the Drawing

Whatever method you use to help you with your preliminaries, you will then need to develop the drawings by adding more subtle detail until you have a more completed drawing.


STEP 5: Fill in Textures and Finish with Color

For the young teen book, I’ve just completed, I used Fuse to help develop my characters, but then I wanted my final book cover and characters for the Web page to have a superhero outline with a watercolor finish. Here is an example of the rough Fuse layout and then one of the unfinished watercolors.


Rough sketch in Fuse                                         Watercolor of one of the characters



Thanks for reading, , I have much more to share in future newsletters.

—Jaz

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