A Childrens’ Book Cover

(Part 4/Style/Areas of illustration/A childrens’ book cover)

Exercise – A Childrens’ Book Cover

I had a look in a book shop and online to see what kind of book covers are ‘on-trend’ not that this is necessarily what I am intending to produce. It is, however, important to look at current design.

However, many of the books on sale have been in production for quite a few years so are hardly going to be cutting edge, but perhaps they are ‘favourites’.

Here is a random selection of books I looked at. I have reproduced mainly books with illustrations . However, most of the books I found for this age group had photographs on the front cover, usually of just one animal. In this selection we see a totally digitally produced image (bottom right), one which is mainly hand drawn (top left), and one which has the large photograph (bottom left). They are all ‘finished’ digitally as might be expected these days.

I like the idea of using a globe but with this title I suppose it is a bit of a cliché. Nevertheless, I have decided to use the idea in one of my visuals as the client will probably expect it. I will look at how it can be done differently.

The examples above all have different kinds of typeface, all to attract children I assume. The top left and top centre have used traditional encyclopaedia fonts but with bright primary colours. Top right and bottom left have used the kind of type which children learn at school and will be familiar with (apart from the ‘a’ in the top right lower case which would ideally be ‘a’ ). The use of lower case letters in the title will make the words easier to read for the younger end of the target agegroup. Bottom left relies entirely on simple capitals using  digitally incorporated textures.

I have a large selection of animal photographs in my archive which I have taken over many years.
I intend to consult these with a view to somehow making use of them. Drawing animals is not my strong point in any case so I will need pictures to help.

Below is a selection of my own photographs of wild animals.


These are my original ideas for the book cover for children.

Left is an earthly sphere, maybe with countries suggested, around it is a queue or line of various animals in silhouette marching along like a ribbon.

Right is a large sketch of part of a peacock copied loosely from a photograph. The tail would be brightly coloured.

Left is the face of a cheetah. Taken from a photograph, it could be a sketch, painting or photo on the finished cover and overprinted with the text.

Right is a rhino copied from a photo possibly set in a (world) hemisphere with rays coming off it and curved writing above.

Left is a globe inspired by Dan Page’s work. It has animals ‘on sticks’ projecting from it. They
look like skewers, not keen on this.

Right is a roundabout with a world globe in the middle and animals going round the edge.

Left is a further development of the idea of animals in silhouette ‘going round the world’.

Right has an animal from each continent sitting on a plinth. Doesn’t seem to have much going for it.


Left is a rhino, a further development of the above, I have digitally traced it from my photo.
This needs a setting or background.

Right is a similar picture traced from my photo of a cheetah face. It takes up the whole cover image.

Here I have further developed the idea of the silhouette animals going ‘around the world’.
This time I have not allowed them to walk away from the ‘earth, they just go round it.

On the right I have  suggested the shapes of countries but kept them low key by using a different yellow. The visual grammar here should be readable by 8-11year olds.

As this is just a client visual, the lettering style is hand drawn and suggested rather than decided. Children are more familiar with lower case letters so I have used those and the ‘bubble’ writing is popular with children so seems appropriate. It also lessens the formality of the image which is not gaudy or complex as in some children’s literature.

This concept is continued in the final background colour of plain dark blue which I have added digitally. The idea being that the earth ‘lights up’ against the dark background and shows the animals around the world.

Further script can be added both above and below the image which is proportioned to international sizes A5,4,3 etc.


The second option for the book cover is based on the photo and digitally traced drawing of the rhino as shown in the thumbnails previously. I have never done this kind of tracing before and want to develop the idea further. Above right I have used digital colouring and shading.

Above I found some textures and adapted one to fit the wrinkly skin of a rhino.  I then tried a variety of backgrounds of which the bright green is one. I added some freehand paintbrush strokes as well.

I have acquired a free Earth image from the Internet. I like the idea of having a physical loop around the world in some way for the is book title so intend to add one to link the two images in order to create a balanced and interesting composition.

I noted many of the books for sale had a white background so I intend to leave mine white also.

I feel a lot of the children’s reference books I have looked at are ‘cluttered’, this is not a style I favour.
There is research to show that children on the autism spectrum, for instance, can not deal with ‘busy’ images and rooms. They prefer not to have ‘clutter’ and noise. I therefore feel it is ok to use a more minimalist style which I try with this option.

I will create a path/road/sunbeam to link the rhino to the earth to shape a storyline for the image. The connotation should be clear and able to be interpreted by a child when taken in context with the title.

Above I have added a green road or path which winds around the world before flowing down beneath the rhino.

At first, I tried the simple curve but then accidentally made green strokes along the side and decided this gives a more interesting feel to the image.

The design is quite minimal as I intended.

I have added some suggested wording using an Elementary font which is familiar to most children.
There is space in the top corners for further information.


The final book cover, as in a variety of other books on sale, will again have just one animal but this time it will be an abstraction and consist mainly of the animal’s face – a  heetah – from one of my own photos.

This featured as one of my original  thumbnail ideas.

I drew the cheetah from the photo and photocopied it several times on to pastel paper. I then coloured the leopard using pastels. I thought this would be an interesting medium to create the hairy texture.

I transferred the best copy to the computer and brightened the colours. I felt  this was suitable for my book cover and a different shape to the previous  ideas.

I still wanted to emphasise the ‘around’ word from the title of the book but this image was different.
So, I felt the best way to echo the idea was to produce some text which suggested the shape of the Earth and flowing around it.

Although I preferred the more vibrant version of the image, when I came to add the text, I felt the better option was to drop the vibrancy a bit so the text was more high profile.


This is version three of the children’s book cover client visuals.