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10 Mistakes Illustrators Make. Every illustrator is different. And yet—regardless of experience, education, or talent—there are common mistakes all illustrators make. Some of them are harmless oversights: while others can damage a reputation. Here are my top 10 most common illustrator mistakes. 10. WRONG FILE TYPE.
Even though this is No. 10, it might be the most frustrating. Every so often, my designers and I receive a low-resolution JPEG as art intended to print. Here’s what a JPEG does to your file: Imagine your art is a crystal champagne glass.
Now imagine you pulverize the glass with a hammer, stuffing some (not all) shards into a matchbox. Imagine you shove the matchbox into a thimble.
You then send the thimble to someone with a note saying, “Drink your champagne out of this. Submitting the wrong file type is perhaps the easiest mistake to avoid. If in doubt, communicate with your client.
A quick email or phone call will save you from an embarrassing gaffe. 9. WRONG COLOR SPACE. Not as egregious as “wrong file type”, but it’s No. 9 because it can be a big time-waster. This mistake can cost you hours, if not days, worth of work. You’re humming along; happy with the intense colors you’re whipping around the page; proud of yourself for delivering files on time.
Only, you receive an email later asking that you provide the files as CMYK, a much more limited color space than RGB. “No problem”, you say. That is until, after seeing your intense colors die, you have to go back and adjust them to claw back some of the vibrancy you had in RGB. For traditional art, you can forget about reproducing unnatural colors in print (unless the publisher antes up for what’s called a “5th (or 6th, etc. ) color”.
Any inks used in print production beyond the first four (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) is costly, so it’s a good bet it’s not in the publisher’s plan. Communicate with your client about the color space for your project. That, or be content to see your neon oranges and neon pinks not match what you provided. 8. PUSH COLORS. Speaking of color, No. 8 is No.
1 or 2 when I’m conducting portfolio reviews. I see this constantly.
grass is just green, the sky is just blue, snow is just white, space is just black, bark is just brown. So many, so many. illustrators go to the 9-pack crayon box when choosing color. Now, I’m not saying I want a kaleidoscope of absurdity.
And I’m not saying it’s wrong to make grass green. You can paint any way you like. My point is, avoid choosing the color by rote without first thinking about the piece’s overall tone. Sure, a sky can be blue. Could it have varying blues? How does the sky color affect the surrounding colors? Does the sky gradually change in value? What other colors could you add? Does it have to be blue.
I’m also not saying that you have to use a lot of color. My favorite pieces of art all tend to have very limited color palettes. “ Colour is a means of exerting direct influence on the soul. ” — Wassily Kandinsky. There’s no one right formula to applying color. But there is a rule: Color shouldn’t be approached as a foregone conclusion. The point-of-view is called a few things: camera-angle, perspective, distance-to-reader.
Whatever it’s called, forethought for the POV is paramount when illustrating children’s books. In books, we see several dozen images in a short amount of time.
If the POV isn’t considered—if it’s the same throughout the book without a clear reason—engagement with the reader will be lost. As with most of these points, I’m not asking you to do it for the sake of doing it.
I’m asking that you give it some thought. With the POV, could we be close up, or far away? A step above, or a step below? Behind, or in front? Bird’s eye view, or worm’s eye view? Are we seeing the main character, or are we the main character.
Again, I’m not asking for M. Escher on every page. POV changes can be subtle. They can be close-up in an emotional or revelatory moment.
They can be far away to describe scope or convey a character’s feeling of insignificance. These infinite choices are vessels with which you will carry emotion and story. Cropping refers to the relationship between the art and the trim of the art. For inanimate objects, my general rule of thumb is that if you’re going to crop something, crop more than a 1/3 of it. If you don’t want it cropped, bring it onto the page with at least a 3/8th inch distance between it and the trim.
Whatever you do, avoid placing the object right on the trim. It prohibits the viewer from imagining the space beyond the trim (unless you want to do that).