10 Tips to Boost Watercolor Art in Kids' Books
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


  1. Use quality materials
  2. Explore different color palettes
  3. Practice blending techniques
  4. Experiment with texture
  5. Encourage creativity
  6. Incorporate storytelling elements
  7. Use light and shade
  8. Teach patience and precision
  9. Bring in real-life observations
  10. Celebrate mistakes as learning opportunities

Watercolor illustrations in children's books can captivate young readers and fire up their imaginations, transporting them to magical lands and charming adventures. But, getting better at watercolor illustrations in children's books isn't always a breezy journey. It takes time, practice, and a few handy tips to make your watercolor art pop off the page. Here are 10 tips to help you raise the bar.

Use Quality Materials

The first step to getting better at watercolor illustrations in children's books is investing in quality materials. Yes, it might be tempting to save a few bucks by buying the cheapest paints and brushes, but trust us, quality matters.

First off, let's talk watercolors. Choose paints that have vibrant pigmentation. Brands like Winsor & Newton and Daniel Smith are known for their superior quality. They offer a wide range of colors that are perfect for illustrating a children's book.

Next, you need the right brushes. You don't need a whole arsenal, but a couple of different sizes will do. Look for brushes with soft bristles that hold water well and keep their shape after use. Brands such as Princeton and Da Vinci make some top-notch brushes for watercolor painting.

Lastly, don't forget about the paper. You need watercolor paper that can handle the moisture without warping or tearing. A heavyweight paper from brands like Arches or Strathmore should do the trick.

Remember, the better your materials, the easier it is to practice your skills and create stunning watercolor illustrations for children's books. And who knows? You might just create the next big hit in the world of children's literature!

Explore Different Color Palettes

When it comes to getting better at watercolor illustrations in children's books, playing with different color palettes can be a game-changer. Books for kids often feature vibrant, lively illustrations that grab children's attention. So, don't shy away from exploring various color combinations.

Start with the basics: primary colors. These are red, yellow, and blue. You can mix them in various ways to create all the other colors on the spectrum. Once you master these, you can explore secondary and tertiary colors.

But here's a little secret: you don't have to stick to the rainbow palette. Try out some unconventional color combinations. Ever thought of using purple for trees or pink for the sky? It might sound strange, but these unexpected hues can add a unique charm and whimsical feel to your illustrations. After all, when you're illustrating for children's books, the sky's the limit!

Keep in mind, however, that the colors should also fit the mood and theme of the story. If the story calls for a darker, more mysterious vibe, muted and cooler colors might be a better fit. On the other hand, a happy, sunny day in the story calls for brighter and warmer colors.

Remember, experimenting with different color palettes not only helps you create eye-catching illustrations but also allows you to express your unique style. So go ahead, mix and match, and let your creative juices flow!

Practice Blending Techniques

Another important aspect of improving your watercolor illustrations in children's books is the art of blending. Blending gives your illustrations depth and dimension, making them more visually appealing. Don't worry if you're not perfect at it right away—it's something that improves with practice.

Blending in watercolor involves transitioning from one color to another, or from a color to white. To blend two colors, start by applying one color, then while it's still wet, apply the second color. The wet paint will naturally blend into a gradient. Remember to clean your brush thoroughly before moving on to a new color to avoid muddying your palette.

One technique you can use is wet-on-wet, where you apply wet paint onto a wet surface. This technique creates a soft, diffused look. Another technique is wet-on-dry, where you apply wet paint onto a dry surface, creating a more defined look.

Blending isn't just for colors—it can also be used to create different effects. For example, you can blend colors to create shadows, reflections, or even textures. The key is to experiment and see what works best for your illustrations.

Remember, the goal isn't to blend perfectly every time. It's about getting better and better with each attempt. So, don't be afraid to make mistakes—each one brings you one step closer to becoming a master blender!

Experiment with Texture

One of the most joyful elements of watercolor illustrations in children's books is texture. It adds depth, interest, and can bring your art to life. So, why not take a leap and experiment with texture in your next creation?

Watercolors offer a fun and unique way to create textures. For instance, you can use a technique called "wet-in-wet" to create a soft, diffused texture. This involves painting a layer of water on your paper first, then adding your colors. The paint spreads, creating a dreamy, blurred effect—perfect for skies, backgrounds, or to give an ethereal feel to your illustrations.

Alternatively, you can use the "wet-on-dry" method for more defined, sharp textures. Paint your first layer and wait for it to dry. Then, add your next layer. The dry paper keeps the paint in place, allowing for more control and precision.

The world of texture doesn't end there. You can also experiment with different materials, like salt, plastic wrap, or even a sponge. The trick is to add these while your paint is still wet. As the paint dries, it reacts with the materials, resulting in a variety of fun and exciting textures.

Remember: getting better at watercolor illustrations in children's books doesn't mean you need to stick to the rules. Quite the opposite, breaking them might be just what you need to create your most memorable piece yet. So go ahead, experiment, have fun, and let your creativity shine!

Encourage Creativity

When it comes to getting better at watercolor illustrations in children's books, one of the most important aspects is to encourage creativity. The beauty of watercolors lies in its unpredictability and the countless possibilities it offers. So why not embrace it and let your imagination run wild?

Start by stepping outside of your comfort zone. If you're used to painting flowers, try painting animals. If you always stick to realistic colors, try a bold, vibrant palette. You'll be surprised by how much you can grow and discover when you try new things.

Another great way to spark creativity is to experiment with abstract shapes and patterns. Instead of focusing on perfecting every detail, let the watercolors flow and see what shapes they create. This can also be a fun way to warm up before starting a more detailed piece.

Don't forget to also encourage creativity in your storytelling. The illustrations in a children's book are more than just pretty pictures. They help tell the story, set the mood, and bring characters to life. So think about how you can use your illustrations to enhance the story, whether it's through the colors you choose, the way you arrange your elements, or the expressions of your characters.

Ultimately, creativity is about enjoying the process and expressing yourself. So, as long as you're having fun and creating something that's uniquely you, you're on the right track to getting better at watercolor illustrations in children's books.

Incorporate Storytelling Elements

Storytelling is the heart of any children's book, and your illustrations play a major role in bringing that story to life. As you work on getting better at watercolor illustrations in children's books, remember to incorporate key storytelling elements into your art.

Firstly, pay attention to your characters. They are the heroes of your story, and your readers need to feel connected to them. Invest time in understanding their personalities and how they would react in different situations. Then, express these traits through your illustrations. Whether it's a cheeky smile or a thoughtful gaze, small details can make your characters more relatable and memorable.

Next, consider the setting of your story. Is it set in a bustling city or a quiet countryside? The time of day, the weather, and the surroundings — these are all elements that can greatly influence the mood of your story. Use your watercolors to paint vivid scenes that transport your readers into your story.

Lastly, think about the sequence of your story. Each page is a part of a larger narrative, and your illustrations should guide your readers through this journey. From page layouts to color schemes, each decision you make can help build anticipation, convey emotions, and create a satisfying reading experience.

Remember, your illustrations are not just decorations, but visual narratives. So, don't be afraid to let your art tell the story. By incorporating these storytelling elements, you'll be one step closer to mastering watercolor illustrations in children's books.

Use Light and Shade

One of the most effective ways to add depth and dimension to your watercolor illustrations in children's books is by using light and shade. A well-placed shadow or a cleverly used highlight can transform your flat drawings into vibrant, three-dimensional scenes.

When you're painting with watercolors, think about where the light is coming from in your scene. This will help you figure out where to place your highlights and shadows. Use lighter shades to represent the areas that are directly hit by light, and darker shades for the parts that are in shadow. It's a simple trick, but it can make a world of difference in your artwork.

But remember, it's not just about making things look realistic. In a children's book, you're creating a world of imagination and magic. So don't be afraid to play around with light and shade to create interesting effects. Maybe you want to paint a forest bathed in moonlight, or a castle glowing in the sunset. With watercolors, the possibilities are endless.

So give it a try! Experiment with different lighting situations and see how it changes your art. Not only will this improve your technical skills, but it will also add a new level of richness to your stories. And before you know it, you'll be getting better at watercolor illustrations in children's books!

Teach Patience and Precision

Watercolor painting is a journey, not a race. It requires both patience and precision, two skills that are incredibly valuable in many aspects of life, not just art. So, as you progress in your journey of getting better at watercolor illustrations in children's books, it's essential to cultivate these qualities.

Patience is a virtue in watercolor painting. Watercolors take time to dry, and rushing the process can lead to smudged or muddled colors. Plus, as you gain more experience, you'll find that the most beautiful effects often come from letting the water and pigment interact naturally on the paper. This is where the magic happens, when you surrender control and let the watercolor do its thing.

At the same time, precision is equally important. With watercolors, it's hard to correct mistakes once you've put the paint on the paper. Therefore, it's crucial to plan your composition carefully and pay close attention to each brushstroke. This doesn't mean you have to be rigid or overly cautious—just mindful of your actions.

Practicing patience and precision will not only improve your watercolor skills but also enhance your understanding and appreciation of this beautiful art form. So, take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy the process. You'll find that getting better at watercolor illustrations in children's books is a rewarding journey of learning and growth.

Bring in Real-Life Observations

Art, at its core, is a form of expression and communication. It's a way to capture and share the world as we see it. And this is precisely why real-life observations are so important when you're working on getting better at watercolor illustrations in children's books.

Take the time to observe your surroundings. Look at the way light reflects off objects, the way shadows fall, the array of colors in a single flower, or the texture of a tree's bark. These details might seem trivial, but they can make a significant difference in your watercolor paintings.

For example, let's say you're painting a tree. Instead of using just one shade of green, observe a real tree. You'll notice a variety of greens, browns, and even yellows. Incorporating these colors into your painting will make it more realistic and visually appealing.

Moreover, observing real-life scenarios and objects allows you to understand their structure and form, which is crucial for accurately representing them in your illustrations. So whether you're painting a bustling cityscape or a serene countryside, bringing in real-life observations can significantly enhance the quality of your work and help you get better at watercolor illustrations in children's books.

Celebrate Mistakes as Learning Opportunities

In the world of watercolor illustrations, especially in children's books, it's easy to get caught up in the pursuit of perfection. But remember this: art isn’t always about getting it right on the first try. In fact, mistakes are a crucial part of the creative process, and celebrating them as learning opportunities is a key step in getting better at watercolor illustrations in children's books.

Did you paint outside the lines? Great! It's an opportunity to explore a new direction or add an unexpected element to your illustration. Did your colors bleed into each other? No problem! It's a chance to learn more about controlling your water and paint ratios.

Remember, every artist, whether a beginner or a seasoned pro, makes mistakes. But it’s those who learn and grow from those mistakes who truly excel. Think of the great artists like Van Gogh or Monet. They didn't create masterpieces overnight. They made countless mistakes, but they learned from each one and used that knowledge to enhance their art.

So, the next time you make a mistake while painting, don't be disheartened. Instead, celebrate it as an opportunity to learn and grow. After all, every mistake brings you one step closer to mastering the art of watercolor illustrations in children's books.

If you're looking to further develop your skills in watercolor art for kids' books, we highly recommend the workshop 'How to Illustrate for Publishing' by Laura Suarez. This workshop will provide you with valuable insights and techniques to create captivating illustrations for children's books, making your work stand out in the publishing world.