Beth Krommes | Steps to Illustrating a Picture Book

By Beth Krommes

Beth Krommes’s storyboard for "The House in the Night"
Beth Krommes’s storyboard for "The House in the Night" (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2008) by Susan Marie Swanson, illustrated by Beth Krommes

Although the creative process for making individual picture book illustrations will vary among artists, the basic steps for making all the illustrations come together are largely the same from publisher to publisher:

1. Read the manuscript. The editor at a publishing company first accepts a manuscript from an author then, with the art director, chooses an illustrator for the manuscript. The editor sends the manuscript to an illustrator, who can decide whether or not to take on the project.

2. Create a Storyboard. I draw tiny thumbnail pictures to lay out the entire book and help me decide how to break up the text. I usually don’t share this with the editor or art director. The storyboard also helps me figure out where I’ll use different kinds of pictures, such as close-ups, big landscapes, silhouetted images and so forth, to add variety to the book. See my storyboard for The House in the Night (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2008), by Susan Marie Swanson, at the top of this page.

3. Create a book dummy. A book dummy is a mock-up of the book, which I do in pencil. The pictures are still roughly sketched out, though in more detail than they are for the storyboard. A book dummy is often made to the actual projected size of the final book. Paging through it helps me figure out what’s working and what isn’t. I send a copy of the dummy to the editor, author and art director for their input. When we’re all in agreement, I move on.

4. Draw pencil roughs for each illustration. Next I draw detailed pencil roughs for each of the pictures in the book. I send these to the editor, author and art director for approval.

5. Create the illustrations. When I have approval on the pencil roughs, I begin the illustrations in scratchboard, which is my chosen medium. Some artists work on one illustration at a time, but I work on all the pictures at the same time. If I completed all of the first picture and then went on the the second and so forth, my technique might get better by the time I reached the last picture. Once I’ve completed all the scratchboard illustrations, I make photocopies and send them to the publisher for another full set of approvals. Many illustrators would be done at this point, but my illustrations require a two-part process. So when the editor, author, art director and I are in agreement about the scratchboard, I make another set of photocopies of my paintings to which I can add watercolor. When all of the illustrations are colored, I send the set of completed illustrations to the publisher.

Beth Krommes received the Randolph Caldecott Medal in 2009 for her scratchboard and watercolor illustrations of The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson. Visit her website at Read more about Krommes in the November 2011 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.

Click here to order a print version of the November 2011 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.

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