Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 9, 2015

How to Spot a Great Picture Book

IF metamorphosis final

Here is an illustration sent in by Dow Phumiruk that I think will inspire you while working on those picture books. Dow was featured on Illustrator Saturday. Click here to view.

How to Spot a Great Picture Book

Dilys Evans has been providing advice to young artists since 1978, when she founded Dilys Evans Fine Illustration. Below is a summary of that advice—10 characteristics that she believes all outstanding picture books have in common. Use it as a guide while illustrating a picture book. If you are a writer or a writer/illustrator who plans to self-publish your own book this is a good guide to follow:

1. In the Beginning Was the Word

The pictures must be truly inspired by the story.

2. Preparation Is Paramount

The artist knows his or her characters, subject, and the setting inside and out.

3. A Great Cover Is a Great Start

If the cover art is compelling, it will make the viewer pick up the book and turn the pages.

4. The Artist Sets the Scene before the Story Begins

The inside flap offers a great opportunity to set the stage for the story or introduce a character.

5. The Endpapers Involve the Reader

Endpapers are another opportunity to add to the story or overall design of the book.

6. The Medium Is the Message

The perfect choice of medium to illustrate the text should convey every mood and nuance.

7. Every Picture Tells the Story

Every image is central to the story and moves it forward to the next page.

8. The Book Is a Form of Dramatic Art

Every scene must be carefully chosen to dully illustrate the drama and excitement of the story as it unfolds.

9. Art and Type Should Be a Perfect Marriage

The typeface should seem to be almost an extension of the art itself.

10. White Space Rules!

White space is a compositional element and not just a background to present the art.

From: School Library Journal, September 2005

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Great Tips! Thanks Kathy and Dilys Evans. Elegant and inspiring illustration Dow!


    • Thank you, Michelle! 🙂 – Dow


  2. Love Dow’s work!


  3. Yes, yes YES!


  4. Thank you for sharing, Kathy!


  5. This is excellent! (I appreciate the reference to the book of John in the Bible, as well!)


  6. Dow’s art is breathtakingly beautiful. Thank you for sharing these tips, Kathy. 🙂


    • Thank you, Tracy! 🙂 – Dow


      • You’re most welcome, Dow. 🙂


  7. Great tips and that illustration is gorgeous!


    • Thank you, Marcia! 🙂 – Dow


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