What is "kids book style" and what isn't? What's the definition



  • I recently been thinking about an episode of 3 Point Perspective where the guy were talking about style, and how a lot of students portfolios had 'clean crisp nickelodeon cartoon like' art and that's a big NO NO. Or something.

    Which I get and dont get. NIckelodeon cartoons are literally for children as well.

    I have a slight problem where I'm not actually super enamored or attached or whatever to typical childrens book styles. I LIKE cartoons with lineart and flats way more.

    I'm not super versed in all the nuances of childrens book styles. I haven't seen dozens and dozens of styles, which is why I'm confused probably.

    Can people point me in any directions of childrens books that are CLOSE to cartoon animation art? I'm sure there's gotta be tons of styles in the middle that still work well for kids books.

    Or. Another question. What's a good way to find a lot of inspiration for developing a kids book style? Pinterest? Certain Instagram hashtags?



  • So I've been looking on Art Station and found some really amazing stuff.

    I came across this and wondered, could THIS style be in a kids book?

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    Basically, I know my current art style will NOT be accepted in kids illustration so I have to invent a new one. BUT I don't see the point in rendering art.

    I like making art FAST. What important to me is just communicating your intent. So I just want to do lineart and local tone, MAYBE form shadow as well. But I don't see that often in kids books.

    And when I saw this, I thought, MAYBE it could be done if the lineart is REALLY thin like it is here!!

    I just wanna make a new style and be sure it'll work before I start pouring a hundred plus hours into my portfolio.


  • SVS OG

    You should check out children’s book the were released in the past few years to get a sense of what’s in right now.



  • @Nyrryl-Cadiz That is REALLY smart!! Is there a website or easy way to look this up?

    Hmm. I would try amazon with 'search by release date' but I'll end up getting a lot of self-published ebooks 🤔🤔


  • SVS OG

    @Frost-Drive try the new york best sellers for children’s book per month. That’s a great way to start.



  • So I've been making some drawings, and trying to get feedback from various people but I keep getting REALLY inconsistent reponses so I have no idea what to think. 😔😔

    In the latest one (Left) I tried doing screen tone for the shading! Which I think looks cool and unique, but I've also never seen that in a kids book. I don't see why it couldn't be though 🤔

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  • @Nyrryl-Cadiz Oh yeah that was a good idea Nyrryl!! I found some right away!!


  • Moderator

    I've struggled with discovering/developing my own style as well, and I've had similar questions about "Children's Book Style". But I made some interesting discoveries as I started to explore.

    First off, I feel like the animation/gaming industry is steeped in "style" as part of how each business/studio defines itself. It seems artists are encouraged to create work within the pre-existing working style of potential employers, but at the same time develop their own distinct look. The nature of how animation is created (2D & 3D and the pipelines those entail) and the technology (the newest version of Unreal Engine, for example), and the properties themselves often dictate the nature of the art and the styles that are actually usable and fit within those industries.

    So those sides of the illustration industry often have a "look". Like fashion, if you know what you're looking for you can distinguish Chanel from Dior from Yves St. Laurent. And you can distinguish items being sold in specific stores from other stores, too.

    When I started to take my illustration career seriously, my first step in self-education was taking classes from teachers working in the animation and gaming industries. To them, it was easy to say Kidlit Art had a specific style, because out of industry necessity they self-define themselves using style all the time. But now that I've started taking classes here at SVSLearn that are actually centered on illustration for children, it is harder and harder for me to recognize a consistent "style" like I see for animation and gaming.

    I don't think it has anything to do with your idea about thinner lineart being more suitable to this industry... What I commonly see in Kidlit Art is more about embracing the flat picture plane of the page, and creating art that often leans away from being easily animated or fitting that pipeline of work and technology. It is a style that seems to emulate the natural media side of expression more than today's animation is often capable of doing. So in some ways it may seem more simplistic, but that's not its intent and it certainly isn't created easier... The nature of the traditional publishing industry process seems to indicate that a "simple" 32-page book takes over a year of back-and-forth collaboration and adjustment... That's a lot of feedback and re-do's for 32 finished images...

    One thing that I learned is that what I thought was a clearly recognizable kidlit art "style" was my own misunderstanding of the industry. I have spent the last 2.5 years researching illustrators in this field--from Caldecott winners, to Instagram accounts, to pages of represented illustrators at different agencies, to the instructors here on SVSLearn. And there's one thing I can say--there is no single children's book style. The industry is the exact opposite of the animation and gaming industry in the sense that it actually wants its illustrators to be uniquely capable of telling stories in their own way. Sure there are some similarities (lots of kids and anthropomorphized animals and common settings and such) but at the most successful levels of kidlit illustration those have more to do with subject matter than style.

    A cursory glance of some illustration agencies and the artist's pages on their sites can sometimes demonstrate similar worlds of styles, but like the animation industry some of those styles are dictated by how the standard industry pipelines work. Middle Grade illustrators sometimes seem to create similarly stylized work by nature of the turn-around time and how the images need to fit on a page with text that doesn't have color. Educational texts often use simple spot illustrations. So like animation there are instances where the nature of the product being produced influences the commensurate styles that work. But not so with most Picture Books, it seems. Those styles are practically free-rein and encompass a vast swath of mediums, styles, and workflows. And while it's often the illustrator that has a unique style outside of the norm that is the most successful, it's clearly less about their style and more about their visual storytelling capacity regardless of their style. A good example of this is David Shannon, who seems to invent a new style for each book he illustrates.

    I would encourage you to explore how vast the world of children's illustration actually is. There is room for all kinds of styles, you just need to find the right project, the right publisher, and the right representation. The 3-Point Perspective Podcast is a great place to start. Lee White's "How to Discover Your Style" class is another good one, but really ALL the classes at SVSLearn are dovetailed together in some tangential way.



  • @Coreyartus well said!


  • SVS OG

    @Frost-Drive I really like those cats. The characters and line art remind me a bit of Richard Scary. It’s just not as colorful, but I like it. I agree with what’s been said already. There are so many styles in kid lit. And there are even lots of people who successfully transition from an animation career to children’s books... Armand Baltazar, Molly Idle, and Jake Parker too.
    Just another idea, if you want to sell work that will appeal to kids, is to get feedback from kids as part of your research. I have 5 kids and I let them in my studio. I have a chair just for them and they come in and they definitely have things to say about my work. They are my main audience, so if they “don’t get it” I change things. I also have copies of all my favorite books from when I was a kid and I pull those out and study them. Why did they fascinate me? Why did I soak in these pictures vs those ones... Even go check out kids section at your local bookstore. Look at what’s on the shelves and what people (Kids) are picking up. Or, I guess in these times, look at top sellers from NYT or Amazon. The spectrum of style is HUGE! From Mo Willems to Tony Deterlizzy. There is so much room especially when you account for age level.



  • @Coreyartus That was epically helpful!! I think what I got from that was that each industry has it's own styles based upon the limitations and the way that industry works.

    And kids literature is one of the few that actually wants more variation from every artist, to do what they can uniquely do. But it's also less about style and more about the visual storytelling you do.

    I haven't checked out Lee's "Discover your style" yet but I will now thank you Coreyartus!!



  • @Pamela-Fraley said in What is "kids book style" and what isn't? What's the definition:

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    Oh yeah!! Thanks Pamela!! I have a baby sister and nephews so I can get some target audience feedback!

    I also looked up Richard Scary and got a HUUGE nostalgia blast!! I COMPLETELY forgot about that cartoon series but I watched it all the time as a kid, and it was one of the only kids things I actually liked. So, maybe I should take some notes from his work!!


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