Tips while on-the-rise: what we learnt while illustrating a children's book (by @hso.art)

Updated: Mar 10

Thoughts by MIXTURA co-founder and illustrator @hso.art.


During the 2020 lockdown in Dubai we were lucky enough to illustrate the children's book by UAE-based author Annamaria Ronca. In the book, she imagines adventures with her son as he solves mysteries across the UAE.


During the illustration process – which was done by hand using brush markers and a uni pen – we learnt a couple of things we wish we would've known before that can hopefully help you along the way


TIP 1. Get your colour palette straight

When you set off to do a book first decide on your colour palette and which colour markers, tickness of pens etc you will use throughout. This counts for hand-drawn illustrations as well as digital. We started off with a cover where we then decided the character's skin was too dark. We edited this digitally and then realized oh oops – now we have to do all drawings like this! So we set off to buy matching markers but this was a loop we definitely could have skipped.


TIP 2. Always make drawings with no edges

Whether your drawings will be full page, at the edge of a page or in the middle the safest way forward is always to make a drawing which isn't cropped or cut on any side. That way if you shift things around you don't have to clone-stamp or re-draw. We learnt that the hard way and had to digitally extend the drawing afterwards which was a huge pain (see below).

TIP 3. Unless you're a calligrapher, add text in digitally

When we started off, we wrote the text in the hand-drawn illustration using a pen or marker which was a no-go. By digitally adding the text later on you can ensure the text background is clean, you can adjust any mistakes, change fonts and move words around if needed. (This counts for the cover as well as any drawings with text hidden in them).

TIP 4. Insert your backgrounds digitally

While drawing by hand gives a great effect inserting backgrounds digitally allows for easier colour adjustment and a smoother look. This way you can also play with textures and saturation and make sure your backgrounds match each other and the drawing.


TIP 5. Don't be scared to try new things

Before this book we never did character illustrations with brush marker. We were coloured pencil kinda guys. For this children's book, we wanted a vibrant feel so we did a cover option with markers even though we didn't think this would be the client's first choice. Then the client decided on the brush marker cover and we had to follow this technique through for the entire book. We panicked a little. But guess what? It worked out far better than with the coloured pencils. The lesson? Listen to suggestions and try them out before you say no and let your client push you out of your comfort zone sometimes.


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