Are you ready to hire an illustrator for a children’s book or are you just getting ready to start thinking about hiring an illustrator? You’ve come to the right place for all the info and tips on hiring a children’s book illustrator from start to finish, and no, it’s never too early to start thinking about an illustrator for your children’s book!

Should You Hire an Illustrator for a Children’s Book?

Remember your bedtime stories as a kid? Or maybe the ones you’ve read to your own children. Illustrations can bring a story to life and make the room come alive with imagination at night. We all had our favorites, the ones that stay in our minds and make the story magical.

We all know that good illustrations are crucial to the success of a children’s book. Whether they are simple sketches or detailed drawings, illustrations help make the book come alive. Plus, kids love them, and kids are the target audience, right? The key is having illustrations that jive with your story and message. If you’re working on a children’s book, you’ve probably had images in your mind all along of your illustrations. But what if illustrating isn’t your strong suit? You’re already a talented writer, we can’t do it all, right?

So maybe you want to hire an illustrator. It’s a great idea and a way to get those illustrations and images that you’re envisioning for your book. There is some debate on whether you should go ahead and hire an illustrator for a children’s book or wait and let your publisher do it. Let’s see what editor and illustrator Jeanette Bradley has to say:

In terms of illustration, what you need to know is that if you are submitting your manuscript to traditional publishers or to literary agents, you are better off submitting it without illustrations. Publishers like to have control over the choice of illustrator. Having an illustrator partner with you before submission will actually decrease your chances of having a traditional publisher accept your work. If you chose to self-publish your children’s book, you will need to find and hire your own illustrator. Unless you happen to have a lot of friends who are children’s book illustrators, this can be a daunting task. I belong to several online children’s book groups, and I see authors trying to figure out how to navigate the illustration process all the time.

Maybe it’s not an easy process, but first, let’s look at self-publishing versus working with a traditional publisher.

Self-Publishing or Traditional Publishing?

When you’ve written your children’s book and you are ready to get it on the market, you have a very big decision to make. Should you go the self-publishing route or try to get on with a traditional publisher? Both have their own sets of pros and cons, and you’ve got to decide what may work best for you.

Let’s look briefly at some quick advantages and disadvantages of each. To start, with traditional publishing, your editor and publisher will do the hard work for you. That means finding an illustrator and marketing the finished book. But the con is that it can be difficult for a publisher to accept your work. And some people don’t like to hand over control. That’s where self-publishing can pay off. The disadvantage here is that you have to do it all or hire people to do it, like illustrators and editors. It can cost quite a bit, but the payoff can be worth it – whether it’s in monetary value or self-fulfillment. Also,  you get to keep full control of your book.

As far as illustrations go, if you are going the traditional publishing route, your publisher will more than likely take care of the illustrations so you don’t have to hire an illustrator. Easy enough. But with self-publishing, it’s all yours. Let’s go with this quote from Self-Publishing School,  The beauty of a picture book is the symbiosis between the text and the art.  Neither the words nor the art should tell the story alone. They should rely on the other to tell the whole story.

Pressure, right? If you are self-publishing, you’ve got to find your own illustrator. And it’s important not just to find one, but to find the right one. Your story is yours, and the illustrations should complete it, not overpower or change it. It’s your job now, to find the right illustrator to work with.

Types of Illustrations and Illustrators when Looking to Hire an Illustrator for a Children’s Book

One important thing to think about is the type of illustrations you want for your book. When you are ready to start looking to hire an illustrator for a children’s book, it makes it easier to have something in mind already. One of those should be what types of illustrations and what type of illustrator do you want.

Live Medium versus Digital Art

One thing to think about is what medium do you want your art in? Do you want live art, like watercolor, sketches, or paint? This will have a certain feel to it that could work great. Another option is digital art. Do you think this type of illustration would better suit your story? Think about this choice to help you find the right illustrator. It’s a great way to narrow down options.


Research by looking through other children’s books and checking out their illustrations. What speaks to you? Do you like a surreal, magical touch or a more realistic vibe? Are you drawn to an animated feel or something more whimsical? Take note of all of this because the more information you can have on hand, the easier it will be to find the right illustrator to hire for your book.

Hire illustrator for a childrens book for agencys

Color Palette

Do you have a color palette in mind? Something that comes to mind when you think of your story? When you are choosing an illustrator for hire, think about samples of their work and how they’d look in your color palette. This also can make your illustrations softer or bolder, and this is all part of the marriage of art and words.

Remember this from our own Bunny Studio library when hiring an illustrator for your children’s book:

Like anything, when you outsource part of your work, make sure to find someone to match your vibe. That means you have to know it, too. When your illustrations complement your text, the magic will happen. Your work can come alive, be dynamic, and enthrall your audience right away.

Some Things to Look For When Hiring an Illustrator

Now you know a little of what you want your illustrations to look like, but how do you want to go about finding and narrowing down a shortlist of illustrators? Here are a few things to help in that search:


Your budget is probably pretty important, and you want to find an illustrator within that budget. It’s important to have someone who shares a clear and transparent cost, without hidden surprises or add ons. For instance, are revisions included in the upfront cost? Is your satisfaction guaranteed? Does the cost include a set timeline or will that fluctuate or maybe you have to pay more for quick turnaround? Sure, we’d all like to be free of budget constraints, but that’s usually not the case, so hire within your budget to avoid financial issues down the road. At Bunny Studio, we always have a clear set, upfront budget. You’ll know what you’re getting and what you’re paying.

Experience and style

Is previous experience something important to you? Do you want your illustrator to have experience with children’s book illustrations or is their talent enough? Does their past work show appeal to your target age of children? What work have they done in the past? You may know a very talented artist, but maybe their style doesn’t match your wants, so you probably shouldn’t use them.  You can also check out some reviews from their social media or company and see what other clients think about them.

Will they be easy to work with?

How will you collaborate with this illustrator? Do you speak directly to them or work through other agents? Many people like to communicate throughout the process, others trust it will be fabulous and just want the finished product. Some writers often like to work with a service where they will take care of everything, from cost to deadlines to communication. They’ve already vetted and trust their illustrators, so you shouldn’t have problems in the middle of the project.

Beginning the Real Search

Whew, it may be a lot to take in, but now you’re ready to start your search. You’ve narrowed down some important factors like the type of illustrations and the type of illustrator. It’s not so difficult to find one of these guys, either. Maybe you’re in a network of authors and illustrators, check them out here. Or maybe you know someone with connections at a graphic design school and would love to find an up and coming artist.

Sure, you could put an ad out, but you may not really know what you’re going to get. Often writers love to work with illustrations affiliated with a design service, like our fabulous illustrators at Bunny  Studio. We handle all the details after you share your project with us, and we guarantee you’ll love the illustrations. Just reach out to our sales team if you’d’ like to see what we can offer. We’d love to chat!

The Big Take Away of How to Hire an Illustrator for a Children’s Book

Not much is more exciting than putting illustrations to your children’s book! The key is finding the illustrator who will complement your story and complete it. Think about what you want to see and things like style and color. Figure out how to convey this, and you’ll find just the right illustrator. Don’t settle! The result will be magic when you hire the right illustrator for your children’s book. And remember, let us know if we can help!