Developing a Children’s Book Illustration Style (Part III)

I finally developed an illustration style for my Claddagh fairy! Now what? Time to illustrate the whole book. Wow, intimidating. As a graphic designer I had the knowledge (and the software) to design the layout of the book, so that helped. I started with thumbnail sketches (a storyboard) of where the copy would fall and what the illustrations should be.


Even though I had my fairy design, how exactly was I illustrating the book? Watercolor? Acrylic? And I was very worried about getting the fairy right from all angles and keeping her consistent. I read online, about Illustrator, Will Hillenbrand, who draws on vellum (paper) and paints the paper (from the back side). Thank you Will for sharing your technique! I thought that sounded interesting especially because I thought if I drew on the computer, I’d have more luck keeping my fairy consistent.

If you decide to try this technique – printing the illustrations and then painting the back of the vellum – make sure you buy vellum that is compatible with your printer type: vellum for inkjet or vellum for laser.

11 Art Supplies I can't paint without

My Illustration Process:

  • Loose, quick sketch with pencil and paper
  • Scan sketch (to use as guide) and “draw” outlines in Adobe Illustrator using the pen tool
  • Print the drawings on vellum (vellum for inkjet or vellum for laser)
  • Paint the back side of the vellum using Liquitex acrylic paints
  • Scan the drawings and retouch if necessary
  • Using layout program (Adobe Indesign), import artwork and add text
  • Print final book spreads

Vellum with illustration from the computer and back side of vellum painted:


Using more finalized illustrations, I super sized my thumbnails and arranged them on a giant bulletin board to map out the book. At that point, the type and illustrations were different pieces of paper, so I could move things around. Several times I created an illustration only to move copy around and change what the illustration should be.

It was a very fun project illustrating “The Claddagh Fairy.” But it was a lot of work. So far, no one wants to publish it though! lol! In my mind getting it published was out of my control, but sticking with it and illustrating the whole book, was in my control. It felt like a huge accomplishment! It was a great learning process and I don’t regret spending time on it, even if it never gets published. One of these days I’d like to illustrate another children’s book. Although this time, I’d like to do more of the illustrations with pen and brush instead of the computer.

Here are a couple of my favorite Claddagh Fairy spreads:




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Copyright Eileen McKenna 2017. Unauthorized use of this blog’s content, text and artwork is prohibited. Re-blogging and/or sharing links is allowed provided that is credited and a direct link to the original content is included. Thank you.

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