Drawing “cute” illustrations

A while back, I worked hard to learn about illustrating in a “children’s book style.” I really studied up on it. (See below for the links to the posts I wrote on my progress.) This week I wanted to do a cutesy illustration of a boy with a box of chocolates and a little girl. I first bought a box of chocolates – we all need a little chocolate, right? Then I had my ten year old, pose with the chocolates under his arm and then as the opposite figure. I didn’t want the illustration to be realistic, but I figured having some reference photos would be helpful.

I went straight to my watercolor paper (taped down on a board), and drew with pencil. I didn’t like it at all. My son looked more like a man than a boy, and there was nothing cutesy about the illustration.


I remembered how drawing something over and over, can really help me arrive at the results I want. So, the next day I pulled out my sketch book and did several versions of the little couple. I remembered the things I learned from observing children’s book illustrators:

  • exaggerate features – like big eyes or wacky teeth
  • color palette – stick to 3 colors
  • kids – small bodies, big heads
  • outline

Following this advice, I made the heads bigger and rounder, and the bodies smaller. The illustrations definitely looked cuter.

I went back to my watercolor paper, erased the original illustration, and started over, following the style from my sketchbook.

I thought a heart behind them would really emphasize the theme, so I painted a pink heart and a red background. Then I used my pen to create the ink outlines, using the pencil lines as a guide. I waited a bit, so I was sure the ink was dry, and erased all the pencil. I thought about the color palette I wanted. Instead of using blue from the tube, I added pink to it, to mute it, and make it work better with the pinks and reds.

I’m happy with the results, especially compared to my original illustration.

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day. Lots of love from New York! And if you are also in the Northeast – stay warm!

Other posts I’ve written about children’s book illustration style:

5 thoughts on “Drawing “cute” illustrations

  1. I love your site so much and having so much difficulty getting started and set up. Looking at yours has given me a few ideas on a great approach and hope if you don’t mind if I borrow a few for future posting. Love your artwork so much. I am new at this type of posting and wordpress thing and have so many illnesses that painting and the posting has been so slow for me lately. I do want to thank you so much for following mine even though it is nothing yet but do hope to make it more lively this year! You are a very talented artist with lots to offer to so many. LOVE YOUR WORK!!!!

    1. I am beyond touched by all your kind words about my art and my site. I started the blog in 2014 to motivate myself to be creative. It worked AND I learned so much about blogging AND met such a great supportive community of artist on WP. We all learn and evolve as we go. I sometimes lose steam but know that I’ve put so much into it, I can let it go. But getting a comment like yours is priceless! 💕 Thank you. I am enjoying your art as well! Keep going. 😀

      1. Thanks so much for your encouragement Eileen and am working on trying to make this site more workable for me. Have not found the layout I like yet and wish I had started with oldest painting first and worked my way up but wow, what an endeavor!! Still trying to get about me up closer to the front which is only a blurbby and won’t say much but learning as I go, lol. So glad you liked the Halloween paintings and thank you for looking at my page from time to time. It is always a pleasure and brings me happiness to look thru yours. You have so much there and still have not looked at everything yet. I love your creativity and energy. Yes, I have a long way to go in my art as I am really teaching myself. Have taken a few workshops with this one lady and she has been so helpful but had to stop due to health issues. However, I do still paint on my own. By the way, is there a way to block some paintings, like the Bichon I just posted so that no one can copy … I don’t care about the others but do care about the ones I give as gifts! Loving your art and will be back to your site often! 🙂 ❤

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