Wednesday, August 19, 2015

How to write a picture book using paper illustrations

Last week, I did a small presentation for the young women in my church about how to write a picture book, using paper illustrations, from start to finish. In preparation for this, I wrote up some instructions to pass out. I thought I'd share those instructions here with you!

(The “Debbie” way, using paper art)

You’ll need: Paper, a pencil, lots of different kinds of scrapbook paper, scissors, a light box, and a high quality ink pen. 

Don't know what a light box is? Here is an example of one:

Step 1:   Write a story. Picture books in general, should be less than 1,000 words.

Step 2: Have lots of people read it! Listen to all the feedback. Then go back to your story and edit it. Make sure it’s exactly the way you want it.

Step 3: Play around with your characters, doodle and draw up a general idea of what you want your pictures to look like. Look on google images for ideas and art concepts if you want. CREATE A STORY BOARD: Pair your pictures with the text. Break it up into pages. Don’t put too many words on one page.  

Side note: Why do you think that step 2 needs to happen before step 3? (so that you get the illustrations right the first time and don’t waste time illustrating something that may be edited out in your final version).

Step 4: Decide what characters or “props” in your picture you want to be consistent throughout your book. Any reoccurring characters should remain consistent so the reader doesn’t get confused.
Take those characters and props, and make a prototype in pencil. For characters, do several versions  according to what they’ll be doing in the story– side view, talking, running, bending over, etc. A light box can help to keep things in proportion and consistent.

Step 5: Draw each illustration in detail, the exact way you want it to be in the book.  Use your prototypes and light box as a resource throughout this process. We’ll call those finish pencil drawings your “original pencil picture”. Also, be sure to make your illustrations at least the size you want it to be in your book or bigger. One more tip in this step: Keep it simple! Remember everything will be converted into paper!

Step 6: Convert all your “original pencil pictures” into paper illustrations. This is done using scissors, glue, and the light box.
Sometimes, if the paper is light colored enough, you can trace elements of your “original pencil pictures” directly onto the scrapbook paper (just remember, always trace it on the BACK of the scrapbook paper and backwards of the way you want it to go in the book…make sense?), other times, if the scrapbook paper is very dark in color and you aren’t able to see the lines underneath it, you’ll have to trace the elements onto another white piece of paper, cut it out, and THEN either cut or trace it onto the scrapbook paper you want.
Some elements in your picture may not need to be traced, you can just eye them.
After cutting everything out, use your “original pencil picture” as a reference as you glue all the pieces together. 

Step 7: Fill in lines and tiny details with a high quality ink pen. 

Step 8: Scan your pictures as JPG's onto a flash drive, make sure you scan them in at at least 600 dpi. (DPI is the number of dots, or pixels, per inch that will be scanned in your picture - the higher the number, the higher the resolution.)  You can do this at your local Kinkos or Fed Ex.   

Step 9: You are ready to submit your book to agents, publishing companies, or self publish it through the several companies that offer that, including Createspace (which is what I used).

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