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How To Illustrate A Picture Book

How To Illustrate A Picture Book

So you want to write a children’s picture book, but you’re stuck on the biggest hurdle – getting illustrations. So what can you do?

Well, there are three routes you can go down for this.

1 – Hire someone to do them for you.

2 – Scour the web looking for images that are either free, or pubic domain ,and try and work those into your story line. 

3 – Do a blend of public domain and free images to make your own.

In my own case I went down the 2, 1, 3 route – in that order.

How To Illustrate A Picture Book For Children

Free Children’s Picture Image Route

You’re probably wondering if you can get anything good for free – well, because they’re free, right?

Well, you’d be surprised by that.

Take the following search I did on for ‘monkey’ (using the illustrations option in the search box)

How To Illustrate A Picture Book

I’m sure you can see that some of them are pretty impressive.

But to find what you want, takes a lot of searching to find a collection of images with the same style. – Take the brown monkey on the left, it’s good but from what I’ve seen, it’s a one off.  – Fine if I’m using it for a book cover, but not if I’ve got a 30 page story.

Now I need another 29 images of this monkey in different poses and hopefully ones that will work with my story line.

Having said that, it’s still possible to find what you need, but be prepared for a long search and reworking your book for your images and text to make sense and work together.

  • Pro’s – No cost.
  • Con’s – You’ve got to work with what you find and you’ll probably have to rework your story line to suit your images.

Paid Children’s Picture Book Image Route

This is a better route to go down. But even then, there are a few directions you can take with the paid image route.

1 – Go to a paid image site like and buy a collection of images there.

2 – Hire someone on or to make your own images. 

How To Illustrate A Picture Book

As you can see from the image above, if I was writing a book about a little elephant and it’s mother, the collection of images would make a pretty good picture book.

But there’s a snag. You’re still limited with what you’ve got to work with.

As you can see we’ve got seven images, which is OK for a seven page book, but if you need more you’ll have to either spread your images throughout your  book or have to rework your story line to make do.

There’s also’s prices… 

While Shutterstock has a higher price tag over the free option, hiring someone on sites like Upwork or Fiverr can send your cost even higher.

Here’s an example of costs…

How To Illustrate A Picture Book for kids

Going from $8 to $80 (only a snapshot of prices) I’m sure you can see that a twenty or thirty picture book can spiral out of control.

Those prices are only basic prices too, if you’re looking for re-edits, or additional items, you may find your page price increase from there.

Compared to Fiverr (where you can see what people can create), Upwork on the other hand can be hit and miss.

Hit, in that you can find great people at great prices. Take for example the following illustration I got created for a picture book of mine.

How To Illustrate A Picture Book for children

And miss – in that you’ll find people who will swear that they can do everything you want – from web design to video creation (and everything in between) – for peanuts.

As the saying goes ‘Master of everything, master at nothing.’

But if you’re willing to take your time and sift through the ‘experts’ you can find some very talented people who will do your job cheaper than Fiverr. – I got 24 illustrations like the one above done for $60.

If you’re thinking of hiring someone on a site like Upwork, here’s a few things to keep in mind.

  • Pro’s – You get the type of illustrations you want.
  • Con’s – Costs can spiral out of control leading to a book you may never make your money back on.

Creating Your Own Children’s Picture Images Route

This is the third option that most people don’t know about, making your own images using what’s already out there.

Confused? I’ll explain.

Say for example, I’m looking for images for a children’s picture book that’s about a princess in a castle.  First I need a background image.

Doing a search on, gives me a castle backdrop like the one below.

Next I need a character to go with my castle. – Again, doing a search on Pixabay for a ‘princess,’ gives me a character I can use.

Next I’ve got to combine the two.

And voila, I’ve got my princess  and her castle backdrop.

Using this technique you’re not limited to a lack of images (because I can add more characters to the scene/or take them out – to make each image unique), and you can reduce your expenses.

Which is a great way to test out book ideas.  – If your book doesn’t do well, you’re not  $1000 dollars in the red trying to make it back in some other way.

You just move onto the next idea.

Is it hard to do what I did?

Do you need some complicated software to do it?


It can be done simple using, Pixabay, and a little legwork to find your background and character images.

While you can use Pixabay for all you need, here’s some great vector image sites you can go to to find characters for your books.

  • Pro’s – You’re not limited to images that are out there. And you cut down on your costs.
  • Con’s – Your picture will never be as good as hiring an experienced illustrator.

How To Illustrate A Picture Book For Children

Finally, depending on your skill level, your budget, and whether you’re only starting out, one of the above will help you get pictures for your children’s picture book.

But as I always say, think of each book like a business owner would with an asset. If your book’s not making a profit for you,  then it’s a loss, no matter how good it looks.

How long would an offline business last if it continued to sell goods no one wanted? Not long.

And so it is with your book business. If you’re not making money you’re not going to last long.

If you’d like to see the full process on how to illustrate a picture book you’ll find all the information here.

Best of luck with your book!

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