Today, we’re talking about popular art styles in children’s books and how picture book illustrators use them. I’ll give you a list of examples from various styles. Then I’ll share a YouTube video where I discuss examples critically, even explaining how illustrations could be improved.


This is something I cover at the very beginning of my Drawing Bootcamp class because I believe it’s important to design our illustrations deliberately. There are a lot of art styles out there, but all of them can basically be simplified down to three main styles.


Examples of Line Driven Styles


Title                                                    Illustrator


“It’s Okay to Be Different”               Todd Parr


“The Missing Piece”                          Shel Silverstein


“George and Martha”                                   James Marshall


“Judy Moody”                                                Peter H. Reynolds


“Diary of a Wimpy Kid”                    Jeff Kinney



Line driven styles, especially the simple ones, usually appeal to younger children. This kind of artwork is flat, and it’s so kid-relatable because kids love to doodle. Some of the more sophisticated comic book styles appeal more to older children.



Examples of Shape Driven Styles


Title                                                    Illustrator


“Press Here”                                      Herve Tullet


“Mixed”                                              Arree Chung


“Leo: A Ghost Story”                          Christian Robinson


“Mr. Tiger Goes Wild”                       Peter Brown


You can see the shapes, right? Shape driven stories appeal to kids because they focus on shapes. The artwork differs from line driven artwork in that you focus on textures and paint and shapes first, instead of lines. Lines are usually patterns. Shapes are so simplified that they’re basically graphic design shapes. The simple artwork is perfect for the youngest ages, where the more complicated artwork can appeal to older children.



Examples of Perspective Driven Styles


Title                                                    Illustrator


“Splat the Cat”                                   Rob Scotton


“After the Fall”                                  Dan Santat


“Ninja!”                                               Arree Chung


“Jumanji”                                           Chris Van Allsburg


“Tuesday”                                          David Wiesner


Perspective driven artwork is appealing because you’re pulled right into the 3D world. These styles are more realistic. They have shadows and perspective. On the other hand, the artwork loses the simplicity of the other styles we’ve discussed.



Figuring Out Your Own Style


Your style is going to change over time. When I was in art school, I focused a lot on drawing realistically because that was a skill I wanted to develop. But once I reached a certain skill level, that style lost some of its appeal. As you study your favorite artists and put in the work, your style will evolve. And as I demonstrated in my graph, you’re also going to find that certain styles work better for certain stories. As your skill improves, you’ll be able to design styles and characters that better fit your stories.


In the following video, I identify the art styles and talk more about what might or might not be working.



Thanks for learning with us!