Think of all the children’s’ books you have ever seen in your life. Don’t you love how colorful and vibrant they are? The pictures are always so vivid and eye catching. I love how even though all children’s books share these similarities, they also have defining illustrative styles. Some books use watercolor paintings printed on the pages, others use a mix of painting and collage, others are all digitally illustrated while others look like they were created with ripped paper and set up as a colorful collage.
Of all the ways that a children’s book can be illustrated, one of them is to create scenes with ready to use vector graphics, like the ones you can get here on Freepik. Using vector graphics to illustrate a children’s book is essentially creating pages and pages of collages to illustrate the story.
Illustrators also use this technique to illustrate books they are hired for. It is in no way a “lesser” form of illustration, just a faster and maybe easier way than drawing it all by hand or on the wacom tablet and much better than drawing it all with your mouse on photoshop!
Vector graphics are designed by illustrators, and that is why the vector graphic collage technique is so practical. Remember those plastic books with the reusable stickers to create different scenes that we used to play with as kids? Vector graphic collage is the same thing and it’s just as fun!
A Step by Step guide to illustrate a children’s book with Vector Graphics
1- Get Organized
The first thing you need to do when brainstorming for the illustration of a book is to read the story! If the story is your own, as in you wrote it then you probably have a set visual idea as to how you would like it to look, or maybe just a feeling for the atmosphere in the pages. Either way, we need to fill out a little list to get organized.
- Title: What’s the story called?
- Main Plot: What is the main storyline?
- Characters: What are the characters names, ages and characteristics?
- Location: Indoor or Outdoor?
- Time of Day and Weather: is it day or night in your story? What kind of weather is there?
- General Sensation: Is the story happy, educational, sad, uplifting?
- Pets: Are there any animals in the story?
- Decorative elements: Are there any special things you would like to use? (Some books have a hidden mouse on each page for example). Maybe you want to use a vector alphabet letter to begin a new paragraph on each page?
You might already have these if you wrote the book yourself! You might be doing this illustration for your cousin’s book or maybe for a story your 9 year old son wrote. That doesn’t matter, what matters is that you are a bit organized so you know how to look for the vectors you need and how you get the most out of them. Once you have all these things thought out you can go on to collect the vectors you need for creating the pages.
Tip: if you are a schooled designer then you will know what’s coming up but if you’re self-taught, this is a great practice to learn and implement for any project, not just your new children’s book!
2- Find and Organize the Vectors you need
It is easy to get overwhelmed by downloads and files with unmemorable names like 5343lkg.jpg. You will find so many files to download that if you don’t keep some order your creativity won’t flow. First things first is to create a folder on your computer that will be the basis of your workflow for the project. If you are a designer you might already know this process, it doesn’t hurt to review!
Create a folder called “vector asses for book illustration”, or whatever you want to call it. That is your main folder, like your art table. Inside this folder create three folders called
- Decorative Elements
Inside each of those folders, create the format folders;
- PNG cutouts
Start searching for your vectors in Freepik and begin downloading. If you still aren’t sure of the style you can try a couple different styles of vectors and work your way from there. All files from Freepik arrive in your downloads folder as a ZIP files, when you unzip, start placing the files in the corresponding folder, making sure to change the name into something descriptive that will help you find elements faster. Be overly descriptive and use words that make sense.
If while you are downloading vectors you already know that the little girl in pigtails with the green dress will be your main character, then add her in a separate folder inside the “Characters folder”, First in her respective Zip folder and then when you unzip, into her respective file format.
3- Create your layout on InDesign or your favorite publication editor
Set up your empty book and begin by drafting the story with the text. The title in the cover, and pieces of the story on the pages. Start from the back to the front in layers; so start with backgrounds to create the space / location of the story. Keep a unifying feel throughout your book, it could be watercolor swashes or textured patterns, or sky and grass; the idea is that there is a flow from beginning to end. Don’t forget your cover and back cover!
4- Cut out the “stickers” to place over the background
Use photoshop or your favorite editor to start cutting out the png’s you will need to create the scenes in your pages, the characters, the elements, etc. Remember that vectors can be customized! You can change the colors of the clothes, change the expression on the face, the position of the arms and legs. Make sure you keep a copy of every position in case you need to use it again!
This part is really fun, almost like being a kid again! If you are missing any elements just go back and download some more until you have everything you need. Create your scenes until your visual story is ready. Take a day off and come back to look at it again so you see it with fresh eyes. Get a friend or two to look at it and give you feedback.
You are ready to “publish” your book! If you plan on keeping it as an online publication you can download it as a pdf and then upload to amazon kindle or sell it (or give it away) on your own site. If you plan on printing it, contact a printer and ask them how they want the files handed over; they will probably need bleed and cut marks.
Now that you have designed your own children’s book, you can do another in another style and maybe you’ve found a new calling! Wasn’t it fun to do it with vector illustrations?