Children's Book Watercolor Illustrations - The Process By Lorraine Watry

Blankie Meets Baby

I am behind on my blog but I have a lot more of the illustrations for the children’s book, “For I Am Yours”, completed. For those that are new to my blog, I am creating 17 watercolor illustrations for a children’s book written by author, Pauline Hawkins. Some of these 17 illustrations are 9”x7” and some are the double spread and therefore, 9”x14”. The story is told from the blanket’s point of view and, as the baby grows, the blanket is needed less and less. The blanket is a metaphor for a mother’s love.

One of my favorite images so far is early on in the story when Blankie meets Baby for the first time and feels her breath on it’s ruffles. I enjoyed the close up view of the baby and tried to create a peaceful color scheme.

Skin Tones In A Watercolor

I started this watercolor with thin washes of color on the blanket, the babies skin, and the clothing. Then I started building the depth with glazes of the same colors. I use a warm red (Pyrrol Scarlet) with New Gamboge Yellow for the base skin tone on the baby and then start to glaze on more of the same colors for depth. I also use other mixes to cool the skin tone down in places or give it shadow. Some of the mixes I like are: Quinacridone Rose by itself or with a yellow like New Gamboge or Aureolin Yellow, Permanent Alizeran Crimson & Ultramarine blue for the shadows and Pyrrol Scarlet with a tough of Burnt Sienna for warm, darker areas. I also leave some glazes with hard edges and use water to soften other edges after applying them. If there were more dramatic light on the baby, my glazes would be darker and might have harder edges in places.

Applying Masking Tape To Preserve Whites In a Watercolor

Before starting the painting, I used some masking tape on the shapes that would become the baby’s breath. The tape was applied over my pencil line and then cut out. You can see more of this process in my blog post at this link: Masking a Watercolor With Masking Tape. You can see the masking tape in this image because of the darker paint. In this image I have continued to work around the painting. I applied the first layer of color to the hair and used some water toward the upper right corner to soften the hair into that corner. I also used some Indigo while the paint of the hair was still wet to darken the corner. I have started to add shadows. These additions allow me to see how all of the values and colors are working without over committing too soon. So, I take my time and keep building until I feel I have an area completed.

Painting An Illustration Without A Photographic Resource

I was not working from a photo for this image, as is the case for most of the illustrations in this children’s book. Therefore, I am using my knowledge of other paintings to create the light and form of the objects. I purposely kept the light on the babies face a little softer and used harder shadows on the blanket and the fabrics to keep the look of the baby soft and sweet. Whenever, I work on a face, I tend to make adjustments and changes as I go. With watercolor this can be a little tricky. I was happy with this painting, but in one of the later figures, I ended up having to start again because I could not get the facial features to work. To finish this illustration, I removed the masking tape from the shapes representing the babies breath. I then used a small flat brush with a little water to soften some of the edges of the white shapes, so that they would not stand out as much and look more “atmospheric”.

If you would like to see more of these illustrations, please follow along and I will continue to blog about this journey.

'For I Am Yours' Children's Book Illustrations in Watercolor by Lorraine Watry

This is the continuation of my posts to create 17 watercolor illustrations for the children’s book, “For I Am Yours” by Pauline Hawkins. My plan was to post about the process every Friday, but life got in the way! I have until the end of July to complete all 17 illustrations, so I have planned to get one or more done each week. Right now, I am ahead, but some of the coming illustrations will have more figures in them and I am anticipating these to take longer.

The images that I have completed are not in order. I have skipped around to the ones that I felt either wouldn’t take too long or that I felt the drawing was resolved and ready to go. The first two pages also helped me figure out the colors for almost everything because they will be repeated throughout the pages.

Here are the first two pages with the blanket waiting for the baby to arrive. Before applying paint, I masked some of the shapes with Winsor and Newton masking fluid. The shiny shapes in photo #1 is the masked areas. The masking will protect the white paper until I am ready to paint in those areas or I can leave them white.

Then I started painting the background walls. I used a mix of Aureolin (Cobalt) Yellow with Amazonite Genuine (a turquoise blue) and created a soft yellow green. Because I am making up these scenes, I am building them slowly so that I don’t go too dark. I found it easiest to paint in the objects that I was certain of their color and value and then move on to the objects with more value or color variations.

As I add objects, I keep adjusting the things around the room because I can better judge the value of everything. I ended up needing to increase the value of the walls and I gave them some shadows in the corners to make them less important and bring the focus to the middle of the image. In the final image, I have everything painted in and I have added shadows. .

As I was working on these pages, I took a break in the beginning and started adding some color to the second double page spread. It helped to get away from the first image to see it with fresh eyes and while one area dried on the first image, I often added the glazes to the second image.

Here are some images from the next pages:

Again, I started by painting in the color on the bedroom walls and the color on the blanket. In this scene the blanket has a little more character and is dreaming of the day the baby comes home.

I used some Winsor Newton and some Pebeo (blue) masking fluid to save some of the smaller parts of this illustration.

I then started painting the image of the baby in the ‘dream bubble’. I used a mix of a warm red (Pyrrol Scarlet) and yellow (New Gamboge), thinned with water to paint the base color on the skin and slowly added layers of color to form the face of the infant. I used lighter color and soft edges along the outside of the bubble to make it feel like a dream.

After looking at the scene some more, I decided to increase the size of the circles that lead to the thought bubble. Using some masking tape over the area, I cut out the larger shapes. I used a small piece of a ‘Mr. Clean Magic Eraser’ to scrub off the color and get those areas back to the white of the paper. If you use a ‘Mr. Clean’ make sure to use the kind that does not have soaps or chemicals because you don’t want to transfer these to the watercolor paper. Also, test your paper. The ‘Mr. Clean’ is abrasive and can tear some papers.

The final image here still has some areas that need adjusting or painting. I also decided to add the lamp in the lower right corner. I was able to use the same method listed above with the tape and ‘Mr. Clean’ to lift the paint and get back to the white surface of the paper.

I was pleased with the outcome of the first two, double page spreads, for the children’s book. I have already started work on several others and will continue to post more as I create them. Thanks for following along!

Creating Illustrations for a Children's Book - Starting the Paintings

I am working on creating 17 illustrations for a children’s book, “For I Am Yours” written by author Pauline Hawkins. This is the second post of my journey to create the illustrations. I have not illustrated a book before and I thought I would blog about the process. The first blog post in this journey is linked here: Creating Illustrations for a Children’s Book

Fabriano Hot Press paper - Click to Enlarge

Yesterday, I started painting two of the pages on Fabriano 140 lb. hot press paper. I have used this paper for other paintings and really like it for ink and watercolor. However, while painting one of the figures in the story, I tried to make a change by lifting some color off with a stiff brush and because the Fabriano is a soft paper, the paper surface became marred. My usual substrate, Arches watercolor paper, can handle a lot of rougher techniques like: lifting, masking, and scrubbing. So, I decided instead of struggling with the Fabriano throughout this process, I would go back to the Arches paper.

Masking Fluid - Click to Enlarge

After deciding to change back to Arches 140 lb. cold press paper, I began with pages 3 and 4 because there are no figures, accept toys, on this double spread. So, I could get used to my process for the illustrations without the extra pressure of painting a figure. My paper was stretched and dried overnight. I taped the edges down to help hold the paper a little more firmly while painting some of the wetter areas. Then I masked some of the shapes with masking fluid to protect them while painting.

Mixing Colors - Click to Enlarge

Before starting the painting, I mixed a large amount of the color for the wall color in the baby’s room and a smaller amount for the blanket. I mixed the colors in some jars with lids to hopefully have enough to use for all the pages of the book. I used a mix of Amazonite Genuine by Daniel Smith (the aqua color) and Aureolin Yellow for both colors. There is more yellow the wall color and more Amazonite in the blanket color.

I began painting the bedroom walls on dry paper because I didn’t want to lighten the color I had premixed. This is a different way to work because I usually mix the color I need as I am working on a painting. Once the wall color was dry, I started painting some of the other objects in the room. I am making up the scenes, so I have to imagine where the light is coming from and how that will affect the objects. I will be adding layers and making adjustments as I go.

I have 3 other pages drawn and stretched onto the Arches watercolor paper. I will start painting portions of these that repeat from this first image like: the blanket, walls, stuffed animals, etc. That way I can get a production line going.

I have one video on my Youtube channel so far and will continue to film and post others. And you can check out Pauline Hawkins’ blog post - “For I Am Yours: The Story Behind the Story”.

First Layers - Click to Enlarge

Creating Illustrations for a Children's Book

In 2015 I was asked by author, Pauline Hawkins, to create the illustrations for a children's book that she wrote when her daughter was little. We started the process and then both our lives got busy and now we're getting back to it. I will be creating 17 watercolor illustrations to tell the story from the blankets point of view. The blanket is a metaphor representing the love of mothers for their children. As the child grows she needs her blanket less and less, but the blanket will always be there for her, protecting and loving her.

I have not created illustrations for a children’s book before, so I am learning as I go. I started with small mock-ups, about 2 1/2” x 3 1/2”, to sketch the story out. Pauline has modified the story a few times now, so a few of the images have changed or were deleted. Since I will be painting the illustrations with watercolor, I wanted to make sure the drawings are exact before starting the paintings. Watercolor is not an easy medium to make changes to. Changes are possible, but if I can avoid having to make adjustments, that would be preferred.

I asked Pauline for images of her daughter when she was little and the little girl is a combination of her daughter and some images of my daughter. I also looked up poses to use for some of the illustrations since I didn’t have photos of the actual scenes. The stuffed animals that inhabit the little girls room are from Pauline’s two kids and my three kids. I enjoyed placing them around the scenes as secondary characters. I also decided to include a butterfly in almost every scene for the young readers to search for when reading the book.

Images drawn on Borden & Riley Paper and inked

Images drawn on Borden & Riley Paper and inked

I wanted to keep the illustrations interesting, so some of the scenes are viewed from overhead or from a lower or higher perspective. After doing the initial sketches, I began drawing the images full size 9”h x 7”w for a single page or 9”h x 14” for a double spread (23 x 18 cm or 23 x 36 cm). I draw on Borden and Riley, #234 Bleed Proof Paper for pens because I like the weight of it and it doesn’t smear when I run my hand across it. After I finished the drawings and started inking them in so that the lines would be dark enough to transfer to my watercolor paper using a light table.

This is also my process when I do any of my watercolor paintings. It might take longer to create the drawing, ink it, and then transfer it, but there are several reasons why I do this.

1. I do my drawing on a separate piece of paper because I can erase and make changes before transferring it to my watercolor paper. It is better not to erase a lot on watercolor paper so that you don’t damage the surface.

2. By doing the drawing on a separate piece of paper, I can easily re-draw the image if I have an issue while creating the painting or if I want to enlarge or reduce the image before transferring to the watercolor paper I can do that.

3. Because I have drawn the image three times by the time I have transferred it to my watercolor paper , I sometimes see things I want to adjust and I am more familiar with the image prior to painting.

Small drawings printed out and shaded

Small drawings printed out and shaded

For the book, I decided to scan my inked drawings and using my Corel Draw graphics program, I reduced the drawings to fit 4 images per piece of printer paper. Then I printed them out and shaded the images to give myself information on the location of light and shadows in the scenes.

Illustrations printed on watercolor paper

Illustrations printed on watercolor paper

The next thing I did was to print some of the images onto watercolor paper using my Epson WF-4734 printer. This printer uses the Epson Durabright ink. This ink is waterproof so I can paint on top of it without it smearing. I was able to print on some 140lb, Fabriano hot press watercolor paper. It depends on your printer whether it will handle printing on this thicker paper. I then tape the watercolor paper onto some gatorfoam board.

I decided to start with the baby to get an idea of the colors I wanted to use. I tried different color combinations for the babies skin and some some of the materials. The blanket will be a minty green and I decided I like a mix made with Amazonite Genuine by Daniel Smith and Aureolin Yellow to make the green. I didn’t feel the need to do all the shading and values in these color studies, because I will do that on the actual paintings.

Four versions of the baby color studies

Four versions of the baby color studies

I ended up liking the bottom left version of the baby. I am also trying to decide if I want to use the Fabriano hot-press paper or use Arches cold-press. Normally I paint on Arches 140 lb. cold press paper. I like the fact that Arches is able to handle a lot of techniques including lifting. That might come in very handy if I have to change something in one of the children’s book illustrations. Fabriano is a slightly softer paper and is brighter white. I like the look of it, but I may not be able to use some of the techniques because the surface can tear with rougher techniques. I accidentally dropped some yellow watercolor on the green blanket, but was not concerned about lifting it back off since it is just a study.

Close-up of the baby using Aureolin Yellow and Quin. Rose for pinker skin

Close-up of the baby using Aureolin Yellow and Quin. Rose for pinker skin

Right now, my lines really show. I am trying to decide if I want to use any other medium with the watercolor, like ink or watercolor pencil to give the illustrations a distinct character.


Next, I painted four versions of the babies bedroom to get an idea of the color scheme. I could probably do a dozen versions of the bedroom color scheme, but I ended up liking the warm look of the upper left bedroom with the yellow and green with touches of blue and pink. I explain my process for the bedroom color schemes in the video below.

I will continue to post my process and progress as I work on the illustrations for the book in the next couple of months. So, please check back.