Thursday, January 06, 2011

My First Children's Book!

Nikki Noodle and Antman

I’ll be honest. I’ve been saying that I want to illustrate childrens’ books (in addition to many other things) for years so it’s time to do it. Plus since I’m a bit OCD and love charts and documenting stuff, I figured I would write this up a blog post.

This is a book that my dad had written a few years ago loosely based on my brother and I as kids. These blog posts are written with the intention of tracking the process of this project as well as serve as practice for additional books that I’d like to write and illustrate in the future.

Every birthday, Christmas and anniversary, I planned on illustrating this story for my parents. It is finally time! Also, I have to blog about it after the fact since my parents are dedicated followers of my blog (or the only followers…?)

My only children’s book experience was from Syracuse in 2002. Paint It Black was a tale of a boy who mischievously painted everything black, starting in his bedroom and moving to the rest of the world. Eventually he meets a girl painting things white on the other side of his black fence. The two are artistic buddies and go on to paint crazy pictures together. The professor kept it to use for a future example, so that was cool.

Day 1

Friday November 5 2010

Getting Started

Since the story is already written, it makes for a relatively easy start. I also plan on keeping the story exactly how it is, in its entirety. I’m going to self-publish it through I’ll worry about the number of pages if I ever take it to HarperCollins. Of course, I still need to respect the rules of pictures books – the gutter, text layout, white space etc.

I broke the story down and assigned the paragraphs page numbers. Right now it’s looking like 33 pages total (close to the 32-page children’s book standard.) Lulu has various options… I’m going with a 12.75 x 10.75” hardcover.

Crunched for time, I’m not bothering with thumbnails. Plus, I get really precise mental pictures of what I want from the story as it is. (It IS about me after all ;) I lay out the text with very rough sketches.

Character design is one of the most important parts of this project. I’m starting it as I start the book. Again, let me note the urgency. I opted for little green monsters instead of people and for the last few years, I’ve known what the little guys will look like. The fun part is adding those little characteristics of my family to the creatures.

Dad, I hope you like green monstahz!

Day 2

Monday November 8 2010

Wrapping up the sketches and layout.

I know there will be changes, lots of em! But it’s best to just get the ideas out and on paper.Going through the spreads though, gives me a good sense of the rhythm of the book. When everything seems to flow, I’ll start to work on finished sketches.

Day 3

Tuesday November 9 2010


Decided to go with 8.5x11” [book options]. It will be the easiest to set up. Time to get into Photoshop and get text in place now that most of the illustration ideas are finalized. Instead of going the traditional children’s book route with keeping white space in the illustrations and placing text there, I want to go with a more contemporary look. Almost more of a magazine look with solid blocks of color on the top and bottom of the pages. I don’t recall seeing this in any book I read as a kid, but I’ll give it a whirl. The trick will be to not have the contrast so strong that the text and illustrations become two separate elements.


Day 4

Thursday November 11, 2010


I made a chart.

Day 5

Tuesday November 16, 2010


Scratching the previous idea with text separate from pictures. The gutter makes it impossible (and ugly) to stretch the paragraphs across both pages.

Now re-sketching onto 17x11’s (just tape together printer paper). Will decide today if I will ink these up or go the extra mile to redraw onto better paper. For this project I’m drawing in black and white and will color digitally... for a few reasons: more consistent color, faster, easier to control and edit.

Time to not make this too long and drawn out. Inked right over the printer paper. Uni-ball Vision black fine tip pens are the best. Been using them for years.

Doing what I did for the “Rabbits Wishes” Christmas card:

B&W drawing > vectorize in illustrator > color in photoshop. Probably could skip the coloring in Photoshop and do it Illustrator. Will have to learn that to save time…

Day 6

Thursday November 18, 2010


Well now I know why all those blokes use the fancy blue pencil for sketches. Glad I didn’t get all the way through with regular lead. Erasing all those marks in the scanned image would've taken forever.

Big decisions on which shades of green to use, WOAH! Exciting. The inked images are pretty simple, cartoonish. This is fine, since I have a habit of overdoing work and going crazy with the pen. This book will be very un-noodle. Or maybe New Noodle!

I’m hungry…

Now bringing the images in after vectorizing them in Illustration now into Photoshop. Using the polygon lasso tool, I loosely draw out shapes and fill them in with the multiply layer option.

Day 8

Sunday November 21, 2010

A little bit of panic.

I’m coloring scans today while watching football. Certainly enjoying the digital coloring phase. In fact, all the pages I’ve drawn are already scanned and colored. Need to keep powering through and get these sketches done! Still undecided on how the text will be incorporated.

Small note: Have to change the images from CMYK to RGB, blacks not getting black enough.

Also, going to start using a background color first... Nabbed this idea from Bolt City's Kazu Kibuishi

Day 10

Tuesday November 23, 2010

DONE: 19

LEFT: 13

Well that’s good!! Aiming to have it uploaded to Lulu before December 1st, which is a week away. Of course, this weekend will be shot due to the holidays but optimism! That’s the key.

Day 15

Monday November 29, 2010

Good Intentions

Got up early with hopes to finish all the drawings today, but I Cybermonday-ed instead...

... aaaaand ChristmasshoppingDONE!

Day 16

Tuesday November 30, 2010

Ahead of Schedule!

Almost there! A few more drawings, deciding on a cover and then the layout process begins.

Day 17

Wednesday December 1, 2010

December! :0 AUGHHH!

One drawing left, gotta design the cover and then just figuring out colors for the text blocks. Right now the backgrounds are all black. Went with Futura, just cuz I love it. It's my signature font. Its also 50 million other designers signature font, but what the hell does my dad know about fonts? He's just gonna know it looks pretty...

Day 18

Thursday December 2 2010

Almost there

So far so good, everything is uploaded to Lulu. Fairly easy process.

Blurb took a little tweaking... everything had to be brought into InDesign before uploading. There was way more swearing and drinking while uploading to Blurb than Lulu.

Day 19

Wednesday December 8, 2010

Got the book in the mail form Lulu! Really apprehensive to open it. But it turned out really nice. The printing is … streaky in some parts, and the pages are not borderless.

I gotta say its weird to see it all together in one piece, finalized. All those scribbles and sketches and papers and pens everywhere, scans and cords and computers and time, all comes down to this one little book.

I don’t plan on taking it to a publisher, want to just keep it within the family. But it was a great experience. I guess it would have been better experience if I actually interacted with someone while working on it besides the bunny, who really is a downer sometimes.

All in all, not a bad product for four weeks of work.


The book from Blurb was a like a buck more expensive but worth it. It was a tiny bit smaller but the printing quality was better than that of Lulu and the images bled to the edges.

And at Christmas, the rents loved the book and read it aloud. They even cried a bit - SUCCESS!


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