What You’ll Be Creating
Children’s picture books are enjoying a huge resurgence in publishing at the moment. Sure, they’ve always been available, but now they’re more in-demand than ever, perhaps because they provide an old-fashioned antidote to our tech-dominated lives.
If you’re looking to design your own children’s book, this tutorial will show you how to create a high-quality template for the cover and inside pages, and share with you top tips for making your pages look stylish, legible and, above all, fun and engaging for little ones.
You’ll need access to Adobe InDesign and Adobe Illustrator for this tutorial, which is suitable for beginner-to-intermediate users of the software.
Ready to create a picture-perfect children’s book? Fantastic! Let’s get started…
1. Standard Sizes and Page Count
Whether you’re self-publishing or going through a publishing house, children’s books all need to meet certain technical criteria before you can get your book on shop shelves.
Although you’ll find that many online printing companies will print children’s books in a broad range of sizes, you should be aware that there are a few accepted ‘industry’ sizes. If you size your book to industry-friendly dimensions, you’ll be more likely to have your book bought by a distributor or bookshop.
The three most popular industry-standard sizes for children’s books are:
- Portrait-orientation—10 inches (254 mm) in Height by 8 inches (203.2 mm) in Width.
- Landscape-orientation—8 inches (203.2 mm) in Height by 10 inches (254 mm) in Width
- Square—8 inches (203.2 mm) by 8 inches (203.2 mm)
If you stick to one of these standard sizes, it will be much more efficient for the printer to produce large batches of copies, which means it will work out cheaper for you too.
The number of pages in a children’s book is also subject to general rules. Most books are 32 pages in length, but some shorter books are 24 pages (stick to multiples of four if you decide to go off-piste). Young children may not be able to concentrate for more than 24 or 32 pages, so it really is wise to go for the ‘less is more’ approach, in both page count and word count. When storyboarding, try to stick to a maximum of 500–1,000 words. If you’re aiming at a very young audience, stick closer to the 500 limit, increasing the word count upwards to 1,000 for slightly older audiences.
2. Create Your Cover Template
In this tutorial I’ll show you how to create templates for the cover and inside pages of a landscape-orientation (8 inches by 10 inches) children’s book.
You can choose to simply follow the template steps and create your own unique design, skipping the design steps when directed, or read the full tutorial to see how I add design elements like color, texture, graphics and type to the template.
First up, we’ll create the basic template for the cover…
Open up Adobe InDesign. Go to File > New > Document.
Set the Intent of the document to Print and Number of Pages to 1, and deselect Facing Pages.
Under Page Size choose Custom. In the Custom Page Size window, name the new size Children’s Book Landscape; set the Width to 254 mm (10 in) and Height to 203.2 mm (8 in). Click Add, and then OK.
Back in the New Document window, set the Margins on all sides to 20 mm and add a Bleed of 5 mm all the way around the page.
Click OK to create the new document.
This page will be the front cover for your children’s book. It’s always best to design your front cover on its own first, before you create the full wrap-around design. This will make it much easier for you to judge the impact of the front cover as it stands, and it also allows you to better judge how elements are aligned on your front cover.
We can create a second expanded page for the full cover, including the back and spine, after we’ve designed the front cover. If you’d prefer to just create the blank template for the cover, skip forwards to Step 12.
If you’d like to follow along with how I recreated the front cover design here, go straight on to the next step.
Expand the Layers panel (Window > Layers), and double-click on the default Layer 1 name. Rename the layer Paper Texture and click OK.
Click on the Create New Layer button at the bottom of the panel to create a second new layer. Rename this as Background.
Create a further two new layers, Image, and then, at the top of the pile, Typography.
Lock all the layers except Paper Texture at the bottom.
Download a simple paper texture image, like the one I’ve downloaded from Envato Market.
Take the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) and drag onto the page, extending the frame to the top, bottom and right edges of the bleed. Extend the left side of the frame just up to the page edge (trim).
File > Place, choose your paper texture image, and Open. Arrange the image in the frame so it fills it completely; then go to Object > Effects > Transparency. Reduce the Opacity to 35% and click OK.
Return to the Layers panel and lock the Paper Texture layer. Unlock the Background layer.
Expand the Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches) and click on the New Swatch button at the bottom of the panel. Double-click to edit the swatch.
Name it Mustard, Color Type to Process, Mode to CMYK, and set the values to C=0 M=23 Y=78 K=0. Click OK.
Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and drag onto the page to create a shape the same size as the frame sitting on the layer below. Set the Color Fill to Mustard.
With the shape selected, go to Object > Effects > Transparency, and set the Mode to Multiply. Click OK.
Download this cute illustration of a lizard. Open up the EPS file in Adobe Illustrator.
Remove the background of the image, and the lettering beneath the blade of grass.
File > Save As the image as a new EPS file with a transparent background.
Return to your InDesign document and lock the Background layer. Unlock the layer above, Image.
Create a new frame using the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) at the bottom-right of the page. File > Place, choose the new EPS file, and Open. Arrange the image nicely in the frame.
Lock the Image layer and unlock the top layer, Typography.
I want to create a style for this book that’s similar to that of the famous 1960s graphic designer Saul Bass. Saul was no stranger to children’s book design, and he loved bright colors, strong graphics, and jaunty typefaces.
This Hitchcock font is a lovely tribute to Saul Bass’s well-known style, and it’s free to download.
Download and install the font, and then return to your InDesign document.
Take the Type Tool (T) and drag onto the page to create a small text frame. Type in ‘THE’, setting the Font to Hitchcock (from either the top Character Formatting Controls panel or the Character panel