“Which illustration guide has helped you the most professionally?”—Anna Faktorovich, PhD Interview

Faktorovich: Which software do you use to illustrate children’s books, to design books and for other components of illustration and design? Do you prefer some over others, and if so why? Which guide to illustration has helped you the most to illustrate professionally and to make your covers appealing to the mainstream market?

Adams: I use Adobe’s Creative Suite: Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign. Every traditional watercolor illustration is scanned and manipulated using Adobe Photoshop. Sometimes illustrations are created with Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, upon the publisher’s request. Vector logos are created using Adobe Illustrator to eliminate the need of recreation for vector routers. All programs have unique benefits. I recommend learning the basics. Go to the program’s help menu or YouTube to learn something in a pinch.

UnknownThe Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines is for any professional or aspiring artist. Illustration is a broad term covering line art to oil paintings. I’ve used this book for over eight years as a business resource. Pricing projects and creating contracts has been profitable using industry standards found within the handbook.

Every graphic artist is unique. No two illustration projects are the same. Use the Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines to set pricing guidelines for your business. Authors, Art Directors, and Publishers can use this book to budget projects. If you need a used copy, email me. I’ll sell you mine and get the latest.

Read the complete interview with Mark Adams, Award-Winning IllustratorAdams-Author Bio Photo-mwa.company-template with Anna Faktorovich, PhD


Quoting Illustrations: A Simple Formula

Quoting illustration projects varies among professionals. The formula discussed in this post gives authors, indie publishers, and new illustrators a simple formula for quoting picture book illustrations.

This “Simple Formula” was created using the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook average $500 to $2,500 pricing for a color, single page, picture book illustration. Illustrators with a fine arts degree and little to no picture book experience $500 to $1,000 is a fair per page price.

$1,000 per page will be the example used. 

An average picture book is 32 pages. Whether the title and copyright pages are excluded, a front and back cover illustration is needed. 32 pages is a fair estimate for any picture book quote.

32 illustrations at $1,000.00 per page equals $32,000.00. Encountering an author or publisher who purchases illustrations outright is unlikely. Negotiating a percentage deposit and a licensing royalty* is standard for publishing budgets.

The formula works in this way. Ask for a 25% non-refundable deposit**, which equals $8,000.00 (.25 X $32,000.00 = $8,000.00), plus a 10% royalty on the book and all licensed products. If a book has a Net Sale of $10.00, the illustrator is paid $1.00 (.10 x $10.00 = $1.00) as a royalty.

Low budget desirable projects allow illustrators to decrease the deposit and increase the royalty. If the illustration budget is $4,000.00, ask for a 12.5% non refundable deposit, which equals $4,000.00 (.125 X $32,000.00 = $4,000.00), plus a 20% royalty on the book and all licensed products. If a book has a Net Sale of $10.00, the illustrator is paid $2.00 (.20 x $10.00 = $2.00) as a royalty.

Meet any desired illustration request, create income during non-illustration time, and save time quoting projects using this formula.

*Note: Understand the difference in licensing rights verses assigning rights. One limits the usage rights while the other transfers rights. 

**Note: Deposits are usually paid in increments throughout the illustration process. 50% deposit, 25% after layout, and 25% upon completion or vice versa.

Contacting Clients: Illustrator Elevator Spiel

Keep it simple. If asked, “Do you illustrate books for other people?” or “How much do you charge?” follow up with this simple elevator spiel.

“Yes, I illustrate professionally. Many clients choose cost effective Royalty Contracts for full use of the illustrations from books to licensed products. Do you have a card Mr. Smith? I can explain more in an email.”

Spiels quickly qualify clients. The mention of pricing, professionalism, and a contract deters non-paying clients and attracts serious clients. A concise spiel is a must at book events, conferences, or on elevators.


Blog Post: Contacting Clients: Illustrator Follow Up

Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines, Graphic Artist Guild

Art Approval Process: Children’s Books

Writing is a revision process. The illustration process is no different. Don’t feel overwhelmed by “the approval process” of illustrations. Your approval is the green light for an illustrator to dedicate time into a final masterpiece. Written input from authors and publishers allows illustrators to adjust images at various stages.


Below is a basic layout sketch. These layout sketches are done quickly and require minimal time and cost. From thumbnails to the final illustrations, each is generally scanned, manipulated, and sent for review. This dedicated time is beyond the illustration process. Provide clear written direction for each page to avoid back and forth with the illustrator.


This layout sketch is basic, no facial expressions and a general feel of the scene. Storyboarding may come to mind. Notes for this page were: Have the fairy eating a snack and reading a map, possibly on the roof or a branch. Show children reading books and make the moon glow.


Layout Sketch


Based on the “Layout Sketch Approval” This pencil sketch is updated with specific details on watercolor paper. Houses have siding, roses climb a trellis, and a fairy is resting on a branch reading a map. New details add dimension; however, the drawing isn’t 100%. A lightly sketched pencil image still fills the page.


Notes for the pencil sketch adjustments were: Add a flashlight. Make the children happy. Watercolor pencil is used in this book. Other books use either a detailed pencil or pen and ink drawing before colorizing the final illustration.


Pencil SketchPencil Sketch

This line illustration shows crisp details unlike the pencil sketch. In this process some notes are eliminated but will appear in the color illustration. For example: Notice how the moon was eliminated from the illustration. This is done because the moon is added during the watercolor stage along with other details.


Sometimes line illustrations are converted to coloring sheets or activity pages. Communicate with your illustrator before the art is colorized, if you require coloring pages. Also note, not all illustration contracts allow the reproduction of line illustrations. Most contracts only allow reproductions of the final illustrations.

Line Illustration



Four approvals later, the color illustration is complete. The moon is glowing and the once flat lined illustration now has depth. As you can see, the author’s and publisher’s input is needed not once but four or more times per illustration. A 32 page picture book is a fun and complicated labor of love. Created by a team for with readers in mind. I use this approval process to illustrate books my clients envision.


Color Illustration

Meet Mark Wayne Adams, Award-Winning Author/Illustrator/Publisher

Mark was inspired to chase his entrepreneurial dream in the 3rd grade, selling drawings to classmates. Creating books and inspiring others has always been his passion. Mark’s ability to produce quality illustrations at a fast pace and dedication to mentor others has made MWA, Inc. both successful and unique. In the past five years, his authors have won over 50 book awards and he continues to create new, successful products annually.

Mark contributes his talents and time to the community locally and nationally. He promotes reading and writing via public speaking engagements, book signings, and participation in book events from Florida to the Northeastern United States. He has been recognized through the Kentucky Governor’s School for the ArtsKACo (KY Assoc. of Counties)FAPA BoardSCBWIIBPA, and national book awards. He also volunteers his talents to the Kids Need to Read annual calendar and donates books to various organizations.

Mark’s Published Books

Mark’s Book Awards

Mark’s Associations & Affiliations:

★ Official judge of the Readers’ Favorite Illustration Award 2013–2018.

★ Florida Authors and Publishers Association Board Member to President 2009–2017.

★ Independent Book Publishers Association  Since 2008.

★ SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) since 2009.

★ Storytellers of Central Florida members range from novice to professionals.

★ Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts Alumni — 1988


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