Illustrating a Children’s Book


Hey I’m Jake, and today I’m talking about my new children’s book the twelve slaves of Christmas written by sherry, Rinker and illustrated by me. So the twelve slaves of Christmas is actually my eighth children’s book.

This is all of my children’s books right here, and this is the eighth one to come out, and I realized that never on this YouTube channel have. I really gotten into detail about how I make a children’s book, and so I thought I’d.

Do that today I’d break down the process. I’m, not going to talk about every illustration. In the book, but I’m gonna show you what I did just to make the cover of the book and all of that stuff that I talked about with the cover applies to the rest of the illustrations.

Before I get into all that, I just want to tell you a little bit about this book all right. So when I got the manuscript for this book, my agent sent it to me and she said Jake. I think you’re gonna, like it, I read through it, and I told her yes, I completely want to do this book.

This is, I feel like it was written just for me, so just quickly what the story is elves. They’re, they’re, getting ready for Christmas here. They’re, packing everything all the presents and they’re, getting his coats and his coat ready.

They go to check on the sleigh and the slaves trash and they’re freaking out and they’re like what are we gonna? Do? How did he break it? Let’s fix it up. You know we got to fix it right before Christmas and then they’re like wait.

Since we’re fixing it up. Let’s, supercharge it! Let’s that an engine let’s at nitros. You know we could do all kinds of things to it, and so they decide. Okay, let’s, do a build off. Let’s, break down into twelve different teams, and each team gets to design a sleigh for first Santa, and then we’ll, see which one he likes the best.

So they all break up into these different teams, and here they are like working on everything. This was a just a fun spread to do. I loved this is probably my favorite spread to work on so much detail in there right and then they work into the night and then they start building out different slaves.

So they built a hotrod sleigh. They build a semi-truck sleigh, they build a flying ship sleigh and like a blimp rocket sleigh and a bulldozer sleigh and was that it’s like a motorcycle sleigh, and this page was my favorite, because I got to just kind of pick.

Some of my own ideas, the the text didn’t actually say specifically what to draw so I got to make stuff up, so I did a submarine slay, a Flying, Saucer slay and yes, of course, a robot slay, so that’s.

Pretty much the gist of the book, and – and I want to tell you how I made it okay, so once I had finished all of the interior illustrations, like I showed you there, it was time to figure out what the cover of the book was going to Be and honestly that’s, sometimes a really tough nut to crack.

This book covers so much from Santa’s, sleigh getting trash to the elves, making new sleighs to Santa picking a sleigh. I started asking myself questions: what is this book? Actually about is it about the elves building, the sleighs.

Is it about the elves themselves? Is it about the problem of Santa’s, sleigh being broken? If it is about the slaves, do I show one of the sleighs or do I show all the sleighs? If it’s about the elves, do I show the elves planning or engineering the sleighs? Do I show them riding on the sleighs? Ultimately, I’ve got to figure out what image sells the book the best.

So once I’ve got all those questions going around my head. It’s time for step, one of making this cover and that’s idea sketches in this stage. It’s, all just blue sky ideas. If I haven’t gotten any specific direction from the publisher.

I just start rattling out ideas, after idea to kind of get a base level of what the publisher is feeling. So I’ll, go really far in one direction and I ‘ Ll go really far in another direction and they can say well it’s.

Not this and it’s, not this and then I know I need to be somewhere in the middle here. The least amount of sketches I’ll, usually send in to the publisher, is three: sometimes they’ll send 20, but for this one I thought let’s start off with four that that would give a nice range of Where I think this could go and then we can go from there all right, so I work digitally at this stage and – and so this is all just done in Photoshop – for this idea, I just took each one of the the sleigh designs and I thought let’s, do a collage of having them all together on on one page, so that was idea one and then the other idea was have the the title really big and have all the elves at the bottom of the page, like carrying tools and candy Canes and all kinds of stuff – and it looks like they’re off ready to make make some brand new sleighs.

So that was idea, number two and then idea. Number three was what, if the elves are standing on a giant blueprint, we’ve got the the type kind of looks like blueprint type and we see them carrying tools and stuff, and the idea is that they’re.

All going to be working together to build a new sleigh and then idea, number four was have the title: big: have this ornate sort of filigree going around it Christmas style, decoration and then have the elves looking at this trash sleigh, and the idea here was that You know you see this trash sleigh and you’re, like oh, my gosh.

What’s? What’s gonna happen? You know: how are they going to fix this? How are they going to solve this problem? So these are the the the three are, the four ideas that I sent the publisher, so I sent those in and this is the email that I got back to them and and the art director said.

After talking with the editor, they said, the audience for this book is similar to the audience of our bestseller good night, good night construction site, kids, who love vehicles in action and their parents who would really just like to get through a story time without having to Insist the kid sit lie down again towards this audience.

We’re thinking of a type approach that evokes old-time Christmas and it’s, tradition and warmth. This can either be by the typeset or hand-drawn, while the art focuses on the cool alternate slaves, without giving them all away.

Once I got that I knew once I got that email. I had like a crystal clear direction of where this book cover needed to go, and so I got to working on a fifth sketch, and that leads us into step two, which is the final sketch idea all right.

So here’s, the digital sketch. They sent over, I picked the most visually fun and accessible vehicle from the book and decided to make that the hero sleigh for the cover. I also wanted to slay that would prominently show Santa.

So the hot red sleigh was like the obvious pick for the for the cover, no designed it in a way that it would show motion and energy, and the title was designed in a way that felt very Christmassy. So this is what I sketched up and sent over.

So this is the email that I got back from Christine the art director. In short, the cover design is approved and that’s. The best news to hear – and this was was particularly a painless back-and-forth – that we had other times there’s, a lot of back-and-forth.

You know fix this. Try this do that, but for this I they had a clear vision of what they wanted. I had a clear vision of what I could provide for them, and so it worked out really well now if she mentions that she showed this to showed the sketch to their cover meeting and the folks are loving it.

So the cover meeting she talks about is a group of editors, marketing people, art directors who all decide what’s, the best direction to go with the book cover and these people have sold hundreds or thousands of books.

They know what sells they know. What what’s, i catching, and what people respond to, and so they all have input on how a cover should look it’s, not just what the artist thinks is best there’s, so much money being involved in Marketing these things and and pushing these things out there, that everybody wants to have a little bit of feedback a little bit of input on how it should look all right.

That leads us to step three, and that is finished the entire sketch. In that letter she also mentioned what would it be cool if it was a wraparound cover? So not only am i designing the front now I got to design the backend, so I’ll, show you the wraparound sketch so with the full design.

Here I thought would be cool to show some of the other slays that’s, that the elves are designed, and so I thought it’d, be it’d, be nice to have them all trailing behind. Santa-San is leading the way and the other elves are flying in these.

These slaves that they designed I sent this in. I got a big thumbs up from my editor and my art director, and now it’s time to go to the final art. At this point, the team had seen me finish out pages before they knew what the final art was probably going to look like, so they just left me to it.

They said just show us finished, color inking, all that stuff they didn’t want to check in in every stage. So so I was free to just go in and shut up and send in what I thought was pretty much a finished thing.

Understanding that there would be tweaks and some feedback and input to to take it to that last, you know one or two percent and to make it finished all right step. Four. The final line arts, so here is the the initial sketch and then this is the final line.

Art you can see it’s, a lot more cleaned up here. The line is a lot cleaner and I I sketch out in orange just because that’s, the way I like it, I like how it looks an added benefit to that is that when you, you print this out to ink over it, which is How I like to work is the orange really sets itself apart from from the black ink, so that’s? Why I like to use it as well the reason the reason I like working digitally in in Photoshop? Is it’s just so much easier to make changes and tweaks instead of having to erase and redraw you can see here between the original, drawing and and the line, drawing the final line work, how things kind of shift it around a little bit And changed place just a tad and that’s, so much easier to do digitally than it is to do traditionally.

Step 5 is inking. Alright, so here’s, the original linked pages – and you could see here – I it was such a big drawing that I couldn’t fit it on one sheet of paper, so I did on two sheets of paper, but what I’ll do is, is I’ll print out the the line work onto this paper and then just ink right over the top of it, and you’ve.

Seen me ink on this channel many times, so I’m, not going to actually demonstrate inking, but here’s. The final inked pages for step 5, alright step 6. This is scanning the artwork and laying in flats okay.

In this stage, you could see that the line work is scanned back into Photoshop, and I’ve cleaned up the line, work a little bit and made it nice and crisp, and then what I’ll do. Is I’ll go in and color in flats, and this is just the flat color, no shadow no highlight to it.

This is just to get me started and finding these these base local colors that are gonna work for for the book. Once these are done, then I’ll, go on to the next stage, which is shadowing coloring and finessing everything all right step.

Seven. This is the coloring and finessing stage. This is when everything starts to come together and actually starts. Looking like a finished illustration, okay, you can see here. This is like the final digital illustration to this.

A lot of stuff’s going on here and added in all these swooping lines. To make you know, get motion added in stars. Add in shadow layer really resolved this type so that you know the title design so that it would stand out and look good at this stage we decided that maybe the cover could could use a little bling, and so we, we decided to add foil to to The letters there so I had to make a layer that that told you know the printer where to put the foil shiny stuff for the for the letters and, and so this was approved, and then we got to send it to the next stage.

All right step. Eight – and this is proof – approval okay, so this pen after I’ve sent in the files, the digital files, the printer starts working on making a proof, and what we have here is this is actually a printers purse from from the printer.

So I can check and see if the colors match what I was thinking in. You know we’re looking at vigil II and I can see how the foil really you know, looks on there. Basically, I could just check and see it how everything looks and works before you know we hit okay and they print.

You know thousands and thousands of copies of these things. This is so cool because you’re, getting close to seeing what the final book is going to look like and and it’s just exciting to hold this in your hands.

Step 9 hold the finished book in your hands. That’s, it that’s. How you make a children’s book book cover and every step that I showed you is what went into each individual spread for this entire book and that’s.

For most children’s, books at 16 or 17 spreads 32 pages, so a lot of work goes into children’s books and after eight children’s books. I feel like I finally gotten to a place where I’m comfortable doing these things I enjoy doing them, and this book was probably, I would say my favorite book that I’ve worked on so far.

It was a lot of fun and the subject matter lined up exactly with my interests. The style lined up with the style that I wanted to do so was like the perfect book for me to do right now. I’m, really proud of this book guys, so I think it’s, a perfect addition to your Christmas library if you’re looking at a book to it this year.

Okay, that’s it for this video today guys thanks for watching it. I just want to say that if you are interested in doing children’s books, you want to become a children’s. Book illustrator or write children’s.

Books will Terry and I did a 24 hour long instructional video on SVS learn calm. Just about children’s books. It’s broken into two parts. The first part is the craft of children’s books where we go into step-by-step detail.

How do you turn words into pictures? How does these words that the manuscript that you’ve, gotten from the from the from the author? How do you build that into an illustration that adequately shows what the author wants to say, but also adds more more to the story with your with your art, so that’s, the first half of it? The second half is all about the business of children’s books how to find an agent how to get an agent to to look at your work.

And how do you get your work submit to publishers? We interview an agent. We interview an art director and we interview an editor all from the New York publishing scene. They spend time with us each spent two hours with us, so that’s.

Six hours of interviews where we just ask them questions about how to get your work into into that ecosystem of children’s book publishing, so it’s. It’s, an awesome class highly recommended. If this is something that interests you so go to, SGS learn comm and check that out.

Alright, thanks everybody. I hope you have a Merry Christmas and I will see you at the next video


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