Popular Art Styles in Children's Book Illustration

Let’s talk 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

Shape driven stories appeal to kids because they focus on shapes. It’s different than 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 from a Drawing Bootcamp workshop, I discuss art styles in children’s book illustrations. We go over some exercises that will help give your drawing a great foundation.

Thanks for learning with us!

Blog Contributors

Myrna Foster writes and edits content for Storyteller Academy and the WriteRiders Newsletter for SCBWI Nevada. She has spent a lot of time teaching and coaching children, including five years as a preschool teacher. She's also worked as a journalist, and Highlights High Five has published six of her poems. 

Arree Chung is an author/illustrator and the founder of Storyteller Academy. Arree’s Ninja! series has received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. Kirkus also gave a starred review to Mixed, which recently won the FCGB award. 

Today Arree lives a creative life, making stories for children. Arree spends most of his time making picture books, writing middle grade novels, and sharing his love for art, design, and storytelling with kids and dreamers everywhere.

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