Have you written an epic story that needs equally epic illustrations? Or maybe you run a publishing company that’s in dire need of talented illustrators. Whatever the situation, you may be wondering how to hire an illustrator who can take a story from good to great. Technical manuals, children’s books, and ebooks need captivating illustrations to connect with readers. That’s where a good artist comes in.

In 2023, the job market is complex. Many of the traditional work setups have fallen away, and freelance job boards are packed with unvetted artists. How do you know where to look or who to trust as an illustrator? In this blog, we’ll share a 7-step process for finding the right person.

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Why Hire an Illustrator for a Book?

Book illustrations are crucial because they cater to visual learners. Imagine a children’s book without drawings. Kids would probably never open the following few pages after seeing chunks of text. 

Book illustrations are vital for younger readers because they assist with learning. These illustrations keep kids engaged, holding their attention until the end of the book. Including illustrations in picture books can also improve comprehension, developing kids’ love for literature.

On the other hand, book illustrations are also critical for adults. Graphics provide visual assistance in explaining complex ideas and concepts. For instance, illustrations are vital in business books, literary fiction, educational materials, technical manuals, etc. But you probably don’t want to settle for stock illustrations.

How to Hire a Book Illustrator

Hiring book illustrators ensures that your published book is up to par with your standards. However, make sure to follow these steps before you hire a book illustrator. 

1. Make sure the book manuscript is edited

how to hire a book illustrator

One of the most crucial steps that authors neglect is finishing the manuscript before working with a book illustrator. An unfinished or unpolished manuscript shouldn’t be the basis for illustrations. There’s a big chance an editor will eliminate some paragraphs, and some illustrations dedicated to those paragraphs might not be used. This would cost you extra money on the wasted designs, so it’s a no-go.

2. Finish the book’s storyboard

illustration of storyboard

A book storyboard is a collection of images that tell the entire story. This is how authors convey their ideas to book illustrators. A storyboard is an essential part of the creation process. It’s highly recommended that you finish the storyboard before hiring book illustrators so you can collaborate seamlessly.

Illustrators use storyboards for books as a visual planning tool to help them create imagery that aligns with the narrative. Here’s how illustrators typically use storyboards for books:

  1. Understanding the Story: Before creating any illustrations, illustrators thoroughly read and understand the story. They pay close attention to the plot, characters, setting, mood, and any other relevant details that will influence their illustrations.
  2. Dividing the Story: The illustrator breaks down the story into its key moments or scenes. This division helps in organizing the illustrations and ensures that important events are depicted effectively.
  3. Thumbnail Sketches: Illustrators often start by creating small thumbnail sketches for each scene. These are quick, rough, and simplified drawings that capture the basic composition and elements of the scene. Thumbnails allow the illustrator to experiment with different ideas and compositions without investing too much time.

3. Identify the kind of illustrations you want

illustration of computer screen and art supplies

Next is to identify what kind of illustrations you want for your book. There are more than 10 types of illustrations in the creative space. Choosing the most suitable one that reflects the message and purpose of the book is vital. Also, selecting the appropriate illustration type lets you convey the book’s message clearly. For instance, you can choose caricature illustrations on business whitepapers because they’re more formal. 

Choose from these illustration types:

  • Flat illustrations
  • 3D illustrations
  • Realism
  • Cartoon illustrations
  • Comics
  • Retro illustrations
  • Line art
  • Digital illustrations
  • Fashion illustrations
  • Typography
  • Watercolor illustrations
  • Charcoal illustrations

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4. Hire a book illustrator with a specific style

If you’ve already decided what kind of illustration you want for your book, it’s time to find a talent with that specialized style. If you’re an author with a specific genre, finding a book illustrator that complements your genre is imperative. However, if you’re running a book publishing company, finding illustrators with versatile styles and skills is lucrative. This way, you no longer have to find another creative to work on another book genre. 

5. Determine your work contract

illustration of work contract document

If you’re looking to hire a book illustrator in-house, you can find one from online job marketplaces. But the thing about in-house illustrators is you’ll still continually pay them retainers even though there is no book production. 

Another option is to hire a freelance book illustrator from Fiverr, Behance, or Deviant Art. You can see their asking rates and negotiate. Ensure you get unlimited free revisions for illustrations that don’t make the cut. 

Last but not least, try on-demand illustration companies like Penji. You can subscribe to their unlimited plans while the book production is ongoing and unsubscribe after publication. Working with on-demand graphic design services also means getting unlimited illustrations and revisions. Check out how to create design requests in this demo

6. Set a budget

cost of a book illustrator

One of the most crucial steps before your hire a book illustrator is to set your budget. Hiring a book illustrator without identifying your price range is a recipe for disaster. The last thing you want is to stop the project midway due to a lack of budget. Be honest about your budget and offer a fair price to freelance book illustrators

Creating illustrations is a time-consuming task that requires creativity and fresh perspectives. Lowballing your book illustrator might mean losing them to another high-paying client. If you have a low budget, subscribing to unlimited graphic design services is recommended. They charge a fixed monthly rate for unlimited designs. 

7. Set responsibilities and expectations

illustration of book illustrator working at a computer

The last step before signing a contract is to discuss the book illustrator’s expected responsibilities. It’s also essential that you ask the book illustrator about what the service inclusions are. This way, both will be on the same page, preventing issues down the road. 

How Much Does a Book Illustrator Cost?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fine artists earn almost $60,000 annually. That leaves them with a $5,000 monthly income, the higher end of the spectrum when hiring book illustrators.

A book cover artist’s responsibilities also differ from a book illustrator’s. Book covers will cost between $500 to $1,500 on average. That said, book illustrations might cost an average of $2,000 to $10,000. 

Get the Best Book Illustrations for Your $$

If you want unlimited illustrations for an affordable price, an on-demand graphic design service is the answer. With 3 convenient pricing tiers and no binding contract, you can choose what works for you right now. Simple put in project requests and get illustrations back in as little as 24 hours – no catch! Chat directly with your designer and access customer support anytime you need it. Our design team is ready to jump in and create on-brand graphics for you.

Here are some of Penji’s illustration design examples…

penji childnre's book design

Subscribing to Penji means getting all these benefits:

  • Fixed monthly rates
  • Custom illustrations
  • Bespoke design platform
  • 1-2 days turnaround
  • Quality illustrations and graphics
  • Unlimited designs and revisions
  • Vetted top 2% of designers
  • No contract; cancel anytime
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Knock your book illustrations out of the park with an unlimited design subscription. Here’s a 15 percent discount to get you started.