Saturday, April 10, 2010

How much does a childrens book illustrator cost?

Whenever anyone asks me how much does a children's book illustrator cost, I want to reply, how much is a car? The answer is not a dollar figure, but another question, what is it that you are looking for specifically?

The most expensive illustrators are well known and established best sellers. Cost is effected by experience, cost of materials, time it takes to create and how well known an illustrator is.

I have seen illustrations range from $25 per page to $2,500. The average being $100 to $400 per Illustration. As in most cases, you get what you pay for. The cheapest rates are from students or recent college graduates, but their style is most likely still developing and your first page will most likely look a lot different than the last page of your book. Also, the artist may not have the printing experience to create your artwork and you really could have something that is unusable by printers because they were created at the wrong size or resolution.

Another aspect to the cost is rights.The artist owns the right to the artwork until they sign them away. Some artist include the rights in the work, called a work for hire. While other artists retain all rights to the artwork and printing. The most common is a work for hire agreement. It is also common practice to offer a mix of price and rights. For example, an artist might offer do create their artwork at half of their normal rate for 50% of the rights to the work or any variation thereof.

Traditional illustration is the predominate format, though digital versions are becoming very organic with programs such as Corel Paitner which allows the artist to use digital watercolor, oils and more.

Traditional Illustration styles include one or more than one of the following together
  • Pencil - Pencils come in a variety of grades that effect softness and darkness when shading. the H grade pencils are very light and the B grade are very dark, and artist will usually use a combination of many types.
  • Charcoal - When used properly and shaded well Charcoal can create amazing realistic grey-scale images of surrealistic places.
  • Ink - This is a favorite medium for people who want to create black and white whimsical illustrations or combined over watercolor or pastels to create vivit yet defined artwork.
  • Paint - Acrylic or oil, oil is more expensive but produces richer brighter colors while acrylic is more flat but perfect for scanning and publication.
  • Watercolor - realistic. can be scaled down in size but not up. Changes might require seperate illustrations of parts to be 'photo-shopped' over the original. 
  • mixed media or other - you only have to look online to find that people can draw with anything from Coffee to french fries and ketchup. The look and style of your end product should determine the medium and not the other way around. You should use whatever combination of mediums gets you the look and feel that you want in your children's book.
There are two types of digital illustration, Vector and Bitmap. Most designers create your pictures in a bitmap program like Adobe Photoshop, while others prefer a vector style and use software like Adobe Illustrator.
  • Bitmap - realistic. can be scaled down in size but not up. Anything scanned in or created in Photoshop or Corel Painter is considered bit-mapped art, meaning that it is comprised of pixels. You can always scale this type of artwork down without loosing resolution but never up as the program will interpolate (guess and make up) the pixels in between the ones you are expanding. 
  • Vector - cartoon style (mostly), can be scaled to any size without the loss of resolution. Vector Children’s book artwork can be scaled to any size and not lose resolution as it is resolution in dependent. This is the same way that text is created. For example, you can scale text up or down and it will always print very sharp. Vector artwork is a mathematical type of art and programs like Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw as-well-as many other programs now widely available.
Please let me know if I can answer any questions;

Toby Mikle

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Children's book Illustrator Toby Mikle


  1. What about traditional media artists? I am an amateur in business so as an artist, I am looking to do illustrations for an author who commissioned me. This is both our first gig, so is there something beyond scanning that I should be aware of? Or does it matter?

    1. That sounds wonderful! Congratulations on the project. As long as you have a good scanner and can get the images to 300dpi (or better) it will be good for print.

      As far as rate, It would depend on what you are willing to work for, how long does it take to create each page. The first books I created I did as portfolio work for free. Traditional art takes a long time but can be amazing. I wish you the best!

      Please let me know if you have any other questions.

  2. you are so right that you get what you pay for. People often want to pay the lowest amount but expect the best quality work of all time, and the world just doesn't work like that!

    Great read, keep those posts coming :)