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Behind the Scenes—Creating Tilly: A Children's Book

Updated: Aug 2, 2019

There's nothing more satisfying to me than to be able to bring something to life.

When a client or an author hires me to do the illustration work on their book, I know it's going to be an adventure from start to finish.

When I'm doing a book project, It can be anything from doing just the cover, to all the illustrations in the book, or being involved with the design of the book and pages. This particular book was the latter of the three. The author only had a manuscript, and some rough concept drawings. After the initial client meeting, I knew I would have a lot of artistic freedom on this book. Sometimes that can be a good thing, and sometimes it can be bad. In this case, it was good, because the author had a neat story and a great cast of characters, and they were confident in my ability to create the world they had envisioned.

FIRST STEP: Character Design

For me, starting out with designing the characters is number one. It's kind of like casting a movie—you have an idea what the movie is supposed be, but before you can shoot anything, you have to have your actors in costume-ready to go. The main character in this story was a lightning bug. Below is a sample page from my design sketches.

STEP TWO: Rough Sketches

After I complete the character designs, and I'm happy with them, I go through the manuscript again, and get a good feel for the scenes that I want to depict, then I get started on full size sketches that allow me to show some more detail. During this stage, the characters can sometimes continue to evolve and change as the scenes are created.


After the characters are designed and everyone is happy with them, then I like to get a feel for the flow of the story from page to page. To help with this, I create what's called a "dummy book" with little thumbnail sketches of the pages blocked out. It looks like a miniature version of the book. This gives me a place to put some rough concept drawings of the pages and turn through the pages of the book. This is very similar to a movie storyboard.  Here's what the mini book looks like:

STEP FOUR: Final Rendering and Color

After the final page sketches are done and a few emails back and forth with the author, receiving and making changes, I receive final approval—and it's time for the final outline renderings and coloring...

To do the final art, I use a combination of traditional art and digital tools. For this project, I used pencil for the base outline, and then mostly digital for the coloring.

COMPLETION: The Final Result

This book has been published for about a year now—below are a few images of the final pages. I hope you like it! You can order a copy of the book from the website

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