The brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text. In the same breath, people remember 80% of what they see than only 20% of what they read. It explains why children and adults alike learn faster and remember book illustration compared to endless paragraphs.

To build a context, it is worth noting that illustrations have been part of human history and communication for millenniums. The oldest written literature is in the form of illustrations on walls and household tools. Millenniums later, people can understand the message that illustrators then wanted to pass.

Today, illustrations are a crucial part of books, learning manuals, reports, and digital media. However, it is worth noting that not every image is an illustration. Further to that, not all illustrations are fit for use in books or manuals.

So what are book illustrations? What value do they add to your book? Are there good and bad illustrations, and how can you choose the best for your materials?

Let’s dig deeper into the discussion on book illustrations to help you make a choice and add value to your publication.

What Are Book Illustrations?

Book illustrations are a form of fine art involving pictures and images. While children’s books feature more illustrations than texts, adult materials ride more on text. The illustrations help enhance the understanding of the text on a page.

book illustration

With that said, two questions come to mind:

  • can illustrations stand on their own?
  • Are illustrations secondary to text?

The answers are, however, not that straightforward.

Text can stand on its own, a fact demonstrated by numerous publication materials that use complete text. The delicate question is whether illustrations can stand alone and still pass the target message.

From experience, some stories and publications use more graphics than words. Most of these publications are fictional magazines. As such, one can comfortably state that illustrations are enough to pass the message. So, why do they need to be combined?

Well, combining images with text makes ideas easier to understand. A famous phrase, a picture is worth a thousand words’ drives the point home better. Book illustrations make your work easier to understand.

For that purpose, there are two types of illustrations:

1.     Fictional Illustrations

These are illustrations you find on fictional materials like magazines, book covers, and children’s stories. Science fiction novels also come with mythical illustrations. They help a reader to build the imaginary image along with the storylines that the writer has created.

For instance, describing Batman would take an entire chapter of a book. However, the illustration of a Batman makes the concept easier to understand.

Fictional illustrations are essential for stories and children’s books. Once a reader forms a mental image, you create the context of a character that was previously not in existence. The reader can now easily follow the story and associate actions in the story with the character.

2.     Non-Fictional Illustrations

These illustrations represent existing forms. They include people, buildings, events, and objects. In other cases, the pictures represent the flow of information, management structures, and processes.

Non-fictional book illustrations are helpful in reports, training manuals, branding materials, and books. An example is an illustration: a chart explaining how money flows in a company or its command structure.

Non-fictional book illustrations are also found in biographies where the image of the main character is illustrated instead of using actual pictures.

Whether book illustrations are fictional or non-fictional, they must be created professionally. Further, the imagery requires consistency so that the same image is replicable across the book.

Through consistency, a reader identity characters, places, objects, and the thread within the narrative. It takes a professional designer to maintain such consistency and, therefore, produce the best illustrations.

Why Add Illustrations On To Books

Books sell without illustrations or a single picture. If that is the case, why would you go through the trouble of adding images to your books? And is there something that such illustrations will take away, like seriousness or eat into your profit?

a)     Simplify Your Content

First, book illustrations make your point or content easier to understand. The best description of this point is where a cartoon character is involved. Describing Batman in words, for example, will leave readers with varying imageries. However, an illustration harmonizes all imaginations, making it easier to understand and follow the story.

Book illustrations are fundamental in informal writing. For instance, images of body parts in biology books make the topic easier to understand. It takes a shorter time to understand illustrated content. Hence, a reader can follow arrows and directional flows in a report to understand the point you are trying to make. This simple twerk will increase the number of people interacting with the work.

b)    Ignite Reader’s Imagination

Long text is boring to read. The endless paragraphs fail to engage the eyes and could result in boredom. To spice up your content, add a few illustrations.

The imagination of a reader is vital in fiction books and children’s literature. When a reader interacts with images of a city or a national park, you help him form a viable notion of what you are writing about. As a result, your content becomes exciting and engaging to read.

However, such imagination is at risk if you engage an amateur. Amateurs mix up characteristics, causing confusion and resulting in disconnection with the story.

A professional illustrator creates scenes and images that catalyze any reader’s imagination who comes across your work.

c)     Represent Fictional Ideas

All cartoon characters are imaginations. However, imagine what would happen if these cartoons existed only in descriptions. Magazines anchored on cartoon stories would cease to exist. Therefore, the entry of illustrations makes the ideas easier to represent.

Beyond cartoon characters, books tell fictional tales using illustrations. If you walk into hotel lobbies and relaxation facilities, wallpapers feature images. The ideas on most of these surfaces are fictional. Hence, it takes a professional illustrator to bring such ideas to life.

d)    Avoid Reality Fatigue

Art has a way of making scenes unique. Take an example of an office reception or a conference facility. Using images of people or cities would make such places mundane. However, a remarkable illustration will instantly capture the attention of patrons and visitors.

In other cases, the image of an iconic leader or personality could have been splashed exhaustively on magazines and books. To give the same person or brand a different appeal, the publisher uses an illustration. It works perfectly, especially when publishing children’s materials from non-fictional books. Images are more attractive to children than the use of actual photos.

Illustrations are a game-changer during publishing. They help you simplify the most complex ideas and pull readers to engage more with your content. Your work will also be more attractive, causing it to go viral and sell more copies.

To top it up, you avoid fatigue associated with the use of real images. Consequently, the market is more receptive to your work.

Book Illustration Styles to Choose

Each artist has a different approach to book illustrations. In a true sense, it is this diversity that makes images unique and admirable. Luckily for book publishers, you have a range of styles to choose from, based on your content, audience, and personal preference.

Here are a few elements that define illustration styles for books.

Let’s get started.

       i.          Abstract Illustrations

They are common in fictional books.

Deciphering the idea is purely based on imagination because art does not represent anything known to humanity. Such illustrations rely heavily on text to decode the message.

You are also likely to find such illustrations on book covers and artistic walls.

     ii.          Formal Illustrations

A formal illustration represents the flow of ideas or processes. It is what you would find in a management or chemistry book. They are factual and used to simplify information.

The illustrations do not require a lot of creativity. However, the designer must pay close attention to detail. You can imagine a description of a company’s earnings with misrepresented figures or a misleading management structure.

Accuracy is crucial for formal illustrations.

   iii.          Caricature

Caricature represents a person in real life but lacking in proportions. It depicts the person as a cartoon character such that readers can identify him though he is not the actual person. This technique is common when creating children’s materials from biographies or when you do not want to use real photos. The features may also be exaggerated to pass a point based on the theme of the book.

When illustrating a book, the technique or style depends on the resources available, target market, and personal preference. Luckily for publishers, the options are endless, most of which perfectly fit different publication situations.

book illustration

How to Hire the Best Book Illustration Designer

Illustrations are conspicuous enough to determine the reception a book gets. Where the depictions are perfect, your audience will fall in love with your work.

In case you settle for horrible illustrations, you will struggle to break even with your book.

So, how do you hire an illustration designer for your book?

Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Technical skills– the designer must be trained in graphic design with a specialization in illustrations. The designer must understand the different software to use for the image, the best styles, and be creative enough to deliver the best results.
  • Experience– has the designer illustrated books in the past? Check the portfolio to assess the quality of work done. Experience makes it easier to understand your idea and deliver to your expectations.
  • Creativity– book illustrations require creativity. Creatively designed pictures are engaging and memorable. They also capture ideas better, making your work enjoyable to read.
  • Work ethics– illustrating an entire book takes time. It would be best to have a professional who understands your timelines and will commit to delivering within a reasonable time. Whether you hire a freelance book illustrator or an agency, you must demand commitment to deliver your project according to requirements and on time.
  • Cost– like all other projects, illustration costs money. Choose a professional offering a reasonable rate that will still help you profit from your work or keep your expenses at a minimum. However, a good illustrator is an investment you make for the sake of your book.


Book illustrators make your work exciting and engaging to read.

Some of the projects will require a creative illustrator, while others demand attention to details.

Either way, hire a professional who understands your project’s needs and can deliver.

What now?

Book illustrations require a professional designer to help you actualize your idea.

At Bunny Studio, we have highly trained and experienced book illustrators waiting to handle your project.

Hire a designer today and get a personalized package for your project.