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My tips on illustrating a picture book: Jarvis

We love these five illustration tips from author-illustrator Jarvis and hope you do too!

Thank you, Jarvis, for taking the time to give us this peek into your creative process.



Experiment. I always use a month of experimenting with different visual ideas before even sketching a book. This is the fun part, no one has to see any of it, you could make a mess or you could have a break through idea that opens up new inspiration. For me this is where the personality of a book is developed. Nothing at this stage is concrete, before you start to rein everything in.


Find the main visual focus of the book and let that dictate how it should look. I’m currently about to begin a book with flowers as the stand-out, so how I make those flowers dictates how everything else will look. It’s simple, but it gives the experimenting a focus. I do this with every book, there’s always something visual that powers the story along. In a winter book it might be the way a tree looks. Or it might be the main character. Whatever it is, work on that and then build everything else around it.


Be open to ideas that might not be yours. And if you don’t like a certain direction, then come up with something better, everybody just wants to make the best book. Keep your personality in the book, but use the experience and knowledge of others too. All publishers are different, but each one is a collaborator and it’s important to be open and honest.


If you’re working on the sketches for a book (that you haven’t written), and a little tweak of the text would work better for the book, then suggest it (obviously within reason!). The text isn’t set in stone until it’s printed and sometimes a text will benefit from a change when images start telling the story too.


Don’t get hung up about style. Style will find you. Look at how the story should be told, what the characters should be like, how the emotions should be communicated and then, before you know it... you have your style, and it will be natural to you.


Jarvis is the illustrator-author of Alan’s Big Scary Teeth, Tropical Terry, and This Little Piggy, among others. He had lots of different jobs before creating his first children's book in 2015, including bingo caller, bouncy castle painter, record sleeve designer, and animation director. Jarvis just loves telling stories with pictures.

Jarvis lives in Manchester, England with his wife, Jenna and their little fluffy dog, Milo.

To see more of his work, find him on Instagram.


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