Key Steps in Illustration: A Children’s Book Cover

This exercise asked to create three client visuals for a children’s book cover. The topic is “Animals around the World”. All the other details are up to me.

I started off with some research on how children’s book covers look like. There are quite a lot of different styles – ranging from abstract to more “natural” looking pictures. Generally they are quite colourful, and often include “happy” figures that look a bit childlike. Some great “modern” examples can be seen here, or here, or here.

Will Terry gives some tips on how to create good picture book designs in his YouTube video.

Existing book covers about animals can be seen here or here. This one is my favourite because it is quite simple, yet has an interesting composition and shows “happy” animals that would appeal to children.

Thoughts and ideas and first sketches

I started to sketch some first ideas of animals. I tried to picture animals from every continent to get a variety of animals that would be representatives for all animals around the world. It should be animals that people instantly can relate to – because they know them.

I worked on the three book covers somewhat at the same time, going back and forth between ideas. I also decided to try out different styles and techniques for this exercise: the first one is fully created in illustrator, the others arer a mix of paintings and processing them digitally.


Book Cover 1


Book Cover 2

Based on painting made with aquarells and guoache.

Trying out different options to include typography and experimenting with different background colours. Several options are too difficult to decipher, or too colourful. While children go for bright colours generally, there is a “too much” colours.

Book Cover 3

Three Client Visuals

Key Learnings: 

  • Working for children is challenging – a learning I took away from the musuem poster exercise already.
  • I enjoyed experimenting with different media and techniques, especially illustrating digitally with basic shapes
  • Colourful is good, but there is a point when it becomes too much – to bright, to many colours that don’t harmonize anymore
  • Keep it simple – same as for the posters: I found it better not to overload the cover with too many details, but rather leave enough space for the motiv to have the best visual effect for the viewer
  • Experimenting with ideas digitally is quite good to get quick results



Google Search. “Kinderbuch + Tiere”. URL, URL

Google Search. “animals + around + the +world”. URL “Our 23 Favorite 2016 Children’s Book Covers” by Elizabeth Mulvahill. Published on Dec 26, 2016. URL “The Most Stylish Children’s Book Designs”. Published on March 25, 2016. URL

YouTube. “5 Design Tips for making a great picture book cover”. Published by Will Terry on Sept 13, 2015. URL “Kinderbücher über Tiere: Der Tiger”. URL




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