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Book Design Before & After Discussion

There are a lot of things to look for when designing book covers and page interiors. Some common mistakes illustrators and designers can look for when designing pages are listed here:


The Passing

Rose's original concept illustration is above. It's a rough draft where she's finding her legs for the story. What is interesting is that Rose's normal style is more urban than the above image, she usually combines photos and beautiful scratchy hand sketched people.  It's a style that would better suit this text. To try and help her get back to the sponteneity of her style and out of our first impression paradigm that children's books need to be peaceful and bright, I designed a dummy book cover to show Rose that as illustrators, we can look outside this paradigm. Also her artwork and the story text totally inspired me! If the story calls for some darker and emotional images, then draw them.

There are a lot of successful books out there with darker elements. Take Tohby Riddle's 'Unforgotten' & Shaun Tan's 'The Rabbits'. They're absolutely gorgeous and often haunting. Tohby Riddle's book is a massive 132 pages including end papers. Every page is black!


Ask yourself 'how does the text sing to me? What images does it create in my mind? What emotion does it evoke in me?'  Then draw :)

Screen shot images from one of Rose's short films

To follow the progress of illustrating & designing "The Passing" head over to my Blog. In the right column click on the category 'The Passing'

Hip Hop Hurrah

Some of Jade's images are quite child like and naive. They lend themselves perfectly for a school room setting with lots of note paper, black boards and chalk. Which inspired the cover design below.

Wiggle and Oink

Olivia's characters are super fun with a lot of personality. The top image is the raw file, the bottom images are the changes made to develop the visual side of the story and ground the characters in an environment. Having the characters face the page turn moves the reader through the story.

Text can be used as an active part of the composition, illustration and story telling, which adds life and movement to the scene.

You can explore more of Wiggle and Oink Here

Zippity Bears

Ankolie's illustration transformation into the cover design. I really had fun creating layouts and images in a comic book style.

Anchor 1

Where's Bear?!

Ben in the Land of 1000 Mangoes!

Joyeeta's illustration transformation into the cover design.

Original cover illustrations.

... Then there's days when I can't decide which I like best

The winner is . . . this one

Things to watch out for in your illustrations & design ...

Do the illustrations have text or sign posts in them? Text in an illustration makes multi-lingual translations difficult. Take the text out to reduce confusion. Even other English speaking countries can misunderstand words used in illustrations. What it means to you may not mean the same thing in a foreign country. It's not an absolute rule but it's best to take it out.

Is the scene showing enough of the story? For example in Wiggle and Oink above, the characters activities playing tennis and reading are enhanced by introducing background. Having a tennis ball heading for Wiggle also enhances the suspense of the story. More suspense is created by illustrating the action just before it is about to happen.


Are the characters moving towards the page turn or away from it? As a general rule it is always best to have a character moving towards the page turns. It creates a natural flow and better reader experience.


Are we losing characters because they are a similar colour to the background? For example in Zippity Bears above, swapping the bears' colour to contrast against the background makes it easier to see the character and produce a better illustration.


Do your characters look consistent? For example have the spots, birthmarks or ribbons moved from the right side to the left side of your character during your story?

Are your characters and important details too close to the margins, crop lines and page fold (gutter) of the book? Place all your important characters and text about 2cm away from the bleed, crop lines and gutter.


Looking for and fixing some of these common mistakes will improve the look of your story.

Take a trip to your local book shop and look through the books to see how they've been composed through illustration and design.

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