Drawing Dreams: The Aspiring Illustrator's Guide to Children's Books

Hey there, aspiring children’s book illustrator. Ever been captivated by the whimsical worlds that only exist between the pages of children’s books? From talking animals and far-off galaxies to lessons about sharing and friendship, illustrating children’s books is no less than an enchanting journey. 

If you’ve ever flipped through preschool big books and thought, “Hey, I want to create that magic,” then you’ve clicked on the right blog post. Today, we’re diving into the dreamy realm of illustrating books for little munchkins. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

Start Building Your Portfolio: The Golden Ticket

If you ever wanted a Willy Wonka-esque golden ticket into the world of children’s book illustrating, your portfolio is it. Seriously, your portfolio is like your artist’s resume. Think of it as a magical garden where each illustration is a blooming flower showing off your skills and style.

Your portfolio should be a living, breathing entity. That means keep updating it! Finished a new piece? Awesome, add it in. Don’t forget to take out older work that doesn’t showcase your best self. Keeping your portfolio fresh and current is key.

Are you stuck for inspiration? Here’s a fun idea: check out those classic preschool big books and observe how the pros do it. From color palettes to character designs, there’s a ton you can learn. 

Make a list of what you love and start experimenting. You can even re-imagine classic tales with your artistic flair. What would Cinderella look like in a futuristic world? How about setting Jack and the Beanstalk in the desert? The sky’s the limit, so let your imagination soar.

Networking: Not Just Schmoozing, But a Magic Spell

I get it, the word “networking” can sometimes sound as exciting as watching paint dry. But trust me, in this industry, it’s the magic spell you didn’t know you needed. Ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know?” There’s a bit of truth there.

Start by attending industry-specific events. Book fairs, art exhibitions, and literary festivals are teeming with like-minded folks. Strike up a conversation with people whose work you admire. Ask them how they got started or if they have any advice for an up-and-comer like you. You’ll be amazed at what a simple conversation can lead to.

But wait, we’re in the digital age, aren’t we? Yes, indeed. Social media platforms can be a goldmine for networking. 

Connect with authors, publishers, and fellow illustrators on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. Share your work, comment on theirs, and never underestimate the power of a well-timed direct message (DM). Just one message could open up opportunities you’d never dreamt of. And hey, who knows, you might just find your next project sliding into your DMs.

Say Yes to Small Projects First: Baby Steps to Stardom

No one goes from doodling in a sketchbook to illustrating a bestseller overnight. It’s like learning to walk: you start with baby steps. That’s why saying yes to small projects when you’re starting can be an incredibly smart move.

Don’t overlook the local scene. Community projects, school events, or small businesses often need artwork for flyers, posters, or even their social media posts. These might not be glamorous jobs, but they give you real-world experience. Plus, you can always add these projects to that ever-important portfolio.

The beauty of smaller projects is that they’re often less stressful and have shorter deadlines. That gives you a fantastic opportunity to play around with styles, techniques, and themes. You can take risks, make mistakes, and learn from them, all while getting a taste of what working in the industry is actually like. 

Before you know it, these baby steps add up, and you’ll find yourself ready to take that giant leap into the world of children’s book illustrating.

Learn the Business Side of Magic: Become the Wizard Behind the Curtain

Art and business: they’re like peanut butter and jelly. Wait, really? I know it might sound odd, but they blend together more smoothly than you’d think. Embracing the business side can be just as exciting as creating those magical illustrations.

Firstly, understanding contracts isn’t as terrifying as facing a dragon in a fairy tale. Imagine contracts as friendly guidelines, outlining your journey ahead with a client. By understanding the details, you ensure your work is protected and valued. So, the next time you’re handed a contract, don’t just skim it. Read every line, and if you’re unsure, ask for advice or hire someone to help. Think of it as weaving a protective spell around your artwork.

Pricing can be tricky, like finding a needle in a haystack. But it’s vital. Research what illustrators at your level are charging. Maybe even conduct a mini-survey.

Being too modest might make clients underestimate your worth. But go too high without the experience to back it up, and you might scare clients away. It’s all about finding that magic number that feels just right.

And hey, while we’re talking business, ever thought of branding? Design a snazzy logo, get some business cards, and perhaps even create a website. Let the world see the full spectrum of your magical abilities.

Partner Up with Authors or Agents: Your Dynamic Duos & Terrific Trios

In every great story, there’s a dynamic duo. Batman and Robin, Sherlock and Watson, or even peanut butter and jelly (yes, them again). So why walk the path alone when you can partner with a like-minded soul?

Teaming up with an author can be a game-changer. The two of you can brainstorm, critique each other’s work, and together create a masterpiece that neither could have conjured alone. Think of it as a dance, where the rhythm of words meets the melody of illustrations.

But wait, there’s more. Agents can be your fairy godparents in this story. While you focus on creating magic, they handle the not-so-magical parts like negotiations, contracts, and pitching. They’ve got connections, experience, and insights that can help elevate your career. And while yes, they do take a cut, think of it as an investment in your happily ever after.

Never Stop Learning: Be the Ever-Evolving Sorcerer of Your Tale

Magic never stands still. Neither should you. The realm of children’s book illustration is vibrant, constantly changing, and evolving. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, a fresh trend or new technique pops up, ready to take the world by storm.

Subscribing to magazines, joining artist communities, or attending webinars can keep you updated. You never know when you might stumble upon a technique that becomes your new signature style.

Digital tools are like wands for the modern illustrator. Explore software like Procreate, Adobe Illustrator, or Corel Painter. Dive into the vast ocean of online courses, many of which are free, and discover new realms of creativity. For more details visit us at https://www.bbbg.org/.

Remember, in the grand tale of your illustrative journey, let every page, every chapter be about growth, evolution, and embracing the new. Magic is all around, but the true sorcery lies in never letting that spark of curiosity fade.


So there you have it, a magical map to guide you through your journey into the world of children’s book illustrating. From building a captivating portfolio and effective networking to understanding the nitty-gritty of the business, you’ve got your bases covered. 

Remember, every famous illustrator started with a single drawing. Your doodles today could be the highlight of children’s books tomorrow. So grab your pens, brushes, or stylus and start creating your own enchanting worlds. 

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