Working with an illustrator – part 2

This is part two of a two part blog on working with an illustrator. Last week I discussed finding the right artist and commissioning artwork. This week, I’m discussing the next steps in the process – from receiving the artwork to publication. At this point, you should have received sketches from your artists and perhaps some colour tests to choose from.


5. Write the first draft and do a layout

I didn’t get this right when I was doing Jan the Dragon – I wrote the story and sent it to Marianna but I didn’t start the layout. Why does this matter? So you can make sure the images are suitably spaced apart. As it happens, I got away with it for Jan the Dragon (Marianna knows her stuff, even if I don’t) but with one of the ones I’m working on at the moment, I haven’t been so lucky. So, if you are only asking for 4 illustrations, for a 40 page book, you need to ask the artist to illustrate something roughly every ten pages.

If there are specific things you want, by all means discuss those with the artist (“If we can have one of Jan at the ice-rink, that wold be great”) but don’t be too restrictive – allow room for their creative talents and they will surprise you.

6. Review sketches and colour samples and approve

Once your illustrator has done first drafts, take a look over them. Things to ask yourself:

  • Where will these go in the book – even whether they go on a left or right page matters, so you know if the ‘action’ is heading towards the central spine or ‘out of the book’?
  • Do they reflect the story accurately (you may have changed things in your plot since you sent the first draft)?
  • Are the characters as described in the text?

It is worth being fussy at this stage because it is so much easier to make changes now than once the final illustrations are done

7. Make up the final layout

With the final illustrations, create your book, and ask the illustrator to check they are happy. I did this as much because I knew Marianna would have more of any eye for the design aspects than me and would be able to add thoughts – two pairs of eyes are twice as likely to spot errors as one!

It will also tell you both if anything extra is needed or needs adjusting.


8. Thank your illustrator

Does that sound obvious? Maybe – but they’ve worked hard for you and everyone likes to be appreciated. It is customary to send the illustrator a copy of the final book and, should they want it, provide a testimonial for their work.

Goodwill is worth a lot here. If you have a good relationship, your illustrator may promote their work (i.e. your book!) via their own social media channels and, who knows, drive a few more sales for you. They might even write you a guest blog about the development of the illustrations!

So, hopefully that has been a helpful guide. I’d be really interested to hear comments from others who’ve also used illustrators. Add your comments below!

Cate Caruth is the author of the Bremmand Chronicles. To buy her books or learn more about them, go to

You can follow Cate on Twitter at

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