Free Checklist: Preparing Your Manuscript for Illustration

Diving straight into the heart of storytelling, we at Happydesigner believe that every tale deserves to leap off the page and into the vivid imaginations of readers everywhere. With two decades of professional experience, we’ve mastered the art of breathing life into words through the enchanting world of illustration. Our journey has been filled with crafting over 700 beautifully illustrated books, each a testament to the dreams and visions of authors worldwide.

At Happydesigner, we’re more than just a children’s book design and illustration studio; we’re a creative sanctuary where stories are nurtured and brought to life. We understand that preparing your manuscript for illustration is a pivotal step in the storytelling process. It’s where your narrative takes its first steps from being a series of words to becoming a visual masterpiece that will enchant readers, young and old.

Our mission is to make this journey as joyful and seamless as possible. With a blend of expertise, creativity, and a touch of whimsy, we’re here to guide you through every step of bringing your story’s visual elements to life. So, let’s embark on this creative adventure together, transforming your manuscript into a mesmerising illustrated book that captures the essence of your unique tale. Welcome to the whimsical world of Happydesigner, where your stories are our passion.

Understanding Your Story’s Needs 

Embarking on the journey of illustrating your manuscript begins with a deep dive into the heart of your story. At Happydesigner, we believe that every narrative, no matter how big or small, holds a universe of possibilities waiting to be explored through illustrations. It’s not just about adding pictures; it’s about weaving visual magic that complements and enhances your tale, making it unforgettable.

Firstly, understanding your story’s theme is crucial. Is it a daring adventure across mystical lands, a heartwarming tale of friendship, or perhaps a humorous escapade filled with quirky characters? Each theme carries its own set of emotions, settings, and characters, all of which should be reflected in the illustrations. This alignment ensures that your story’s soul is captured visually, creating a seamless flow between text and imagery.

Identifying key moments in your story that demand illustration is another vital step. These are the moments that pack an emotional punch, deliver crucial plot points, or simply need to be seen to be believed. They are your story’s landmarks, guiding readers through the narrative landscape. At Happydesigner, we adore these storytelling signposts and revel in bringing them to life with our illustrations.

Remember, illustrations are not just decorations; they are narrative partners that dance alongside your words. They have the power to transport readers, offer new perspectives, and enrich the storytelling experience. That’s why we’re here to help you pinpoint these moments and themes, ensuring that your illustrations do justice to your story’s depth and beauty.

So, let’s dive into your story together, exploring its themes and uncovering its pivotal moments. With Happydesigner by your side, your manuscript will not just be read; it will be experienced, one illustration at a time.

Choosing the Right Illustration Style 

In the vibrant world of Happydesigner, we understand that the soul of your story is expressed not just through words but through the visual symphony of illustrations that accompany them. The choice of illustration style is a pivotal decision that can set the tone for your entire book. It’s like choosing the right voice to narrate your story; it needs to resonate with your narrative, characters, and the emotions you wish to evoke.

From the whimsical and playful to the detailed and realistic, our range is designed to cater to the diverse tastes and needs of authors and their stories. Whether you envision your book with soft watercolours, bold, bright and vibrant, or classic pencil sketches, we have the expertise to bring your vision to life.

Selecting the right style involves a delightful exploration of your story’s essence. Consider the age group of your audience; younger readers might be captivated by bright, bold colours and simple shapes, while older readers may appreciate more intricate and detailed artwork. Think about the emotions and themes of your story as well. A tale of adventure might call for dynamic and vibrant illustrations, whereas a gentle, heartwarming story could be best complemented by soft, soothing artwork.

At Happydesigner, we’re here to guide you through this creative process. We encourage authors to share their visions and inspirations with us, creating a collaborative environment where ideas can flourish. Together, we’ll navigate the vast sea of possibilities to find the perfect illustration style that speaks to your story’s heart, ensuring that every page turn is a visual delight for your readers.

Embarking on this artistic journey together, we’ll ensure that your book is not just a story told but a world seen through the perfect lens of your chosen illustration style.

Preparing Your Manuscript

author tips

Finalise Your Text 

Before the first stroke of the illustrator’s brush graces the canvas, the foundation of your story—your manuscript—must be solid and complete. At Happydesigner, we emphasise the importance of finalising your text before embarking on the illustration journey. This step ensures clarity and coherence, allowing the illustrations to truly complement the narrative without the need for significant changes down the line.

Finalising your manuscript involves a meticulous review process. It’s not just about dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s; it’s about refining your story’s flow, ensuring consistency in character development, and polishing the narrative to shine in its fullest potential. Consider enlisting the help of beta readers or a professional editor to provide feedback and insights that can enhance your story.

Remember, the finalised text serves as the blueprint for the illustrations. It guides the illustrator in understanding the story’s pacing, the emotional beats, and the key moments that need visual emphasis. By providing a complete and polished manuscript, you set the stage for a seamless integration of text and art, where each complements the other in telling your story.


Storyboarding is your manuscript’s first visual breath. It’s a process where the narrative is laid out visually, scene by scene, providing a bird’s eye view of the entire story. At Happydesigner, we cherish this step as it bridges the gap between words and pictures, allowing for a cohesive visual narrative to emerge.

Creating a storyboard involves sketching out each page or spread of your book, noting down key scenes, dialogues, and transitions. The goal is to visualise the flow of the story, identify where illustrations will have the most impact, and ensure that the pacing feels right.

This visual planning helps in determining the number of illustrations needed, their composition, and how they interact with the text. From there, we will produce a layout design for the book, which we will share with you for your comments, and work with you collaboratively to ensure the final layout aligns with your vision.

Character Development 

Characters are the heart and soul of your story, and their visual representation is crucial in connecting with the reader. At Happydesigner, we dive deep into character development, ensuring that each character’s personality, emotions, and journey are reflected in their visual design.

This process begins with understanding your characters inside and out. What are their traits, quirks, and backgrounds? How do they change throughout the story? Providing detailed descriptions and insights into your characters helps us craft illustrations that capture their essence.

We also consider the story’s setting and genre, ensuring that the characters’ appearances and attire align with the world you’ve created. This attention to detail adds depth and authenticity to the story, making the characters come alive on the page.

Collaboration is key in this stage. We encourage authors to share their visions, inspirations, and even sketches of their characters. This partnership ensures that the final illustrations not only meet but exceed your expectations, bringing your beloved characters to life in a way that resonates with readers.

Setting and Background Details

The setting of your story provides the canvas on which your narrative unfolds. It’s not just a backdrop but an integral part of the story that influences the mood, tone, and authenticity of the narrative. At Happydesigner, we give meticulous attention to setting and background details, ensuring they enrich the storytelling experience.

Describing the setting in detail helps us visualise the world you’ve created. Whether it’s a bustling city, a serene village, or a fantastical realm, each element of the setting plays a role in supporting the narrative and characters. Consider the time of day, the season, and the atmosphere you want to evoke—each detail contributes to the visual storytelling.

We also explore the interaction between characters and their environment. How do they move within it? Are there specific landmarks or objects that play a key role in the story? These considerations ensure that the illustrations are not only beautiful but meaningful, enhancing the narrative’s depth and immersion.

Collaborating closely, we’ll bring your story’s setting to life, creating a world that readers can visualise and explore, one page at a time. This careful crafting of setting and background details ensures that your story is not just told but experienced, inviting readers into a world crafted with love and attention to detail.

Illustration Notes

Crafting the perfect illustration for your story is akin to a dance between author and illustrator, where each step is guided by clear communication and shared vision. At Happydesigner, we treasure your illustration notes as the map that leads us through this dance. These notes are your opportunity to convey specific ideas, emotions, or details you envision for each illustration, ensuring that every brushstroke adds depth and meaning to your narrative.

Whether it’s the subtle glint of mischief in a character’s eye, the vibrant hues of a magical sunset, or the intricate patterns of a character’s attire, your notes help us capture the essence of your story’s world. They don’t need to be overly detailed; even a few well-chosen words can spark the creativity needed to bring your vision to life.

Remember, these notes are a bridge between your imagination and the final illustrations. By sharing your insights and expectations, it is essential that we have a healthy margin of artistic freedom to fully explore and achieve their maximum composition and impact. We can ensure that the illustrations not only meet but exceed your dreams, making your story leap off the page and into the hearts of readers.

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Working with Happydesigner

At Happydesigner, we’re not just about creating illustrations; we’re about crafting experiences that bring your story to life. Our book creation package is designed to be comprehensive, guiding you from the initial concept to the final print-ready files. This journey is a collaborative one, where your vision and our expertise merge to create something truly magical.

When you choose to work with us, you’re not just getting an illustrator; you’re gaining a partner in storytelling. We pride ourselves on our ability to listen, understand, and then translate your words into visual masterpieces. Our process is interactive and personal. We believe in open communication and regular updates, ensuring that you’re involved and satisfied at every step of the way.

Our support extends beyond just illustrations. We’re here to assist you with navigating the complexities of self-publishing, from obtaining ISBNs to understanding printing and distribution options. Our goal is to make the journey from manuscript to published book as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

Moreover, every book creation package now includes our self-publishing and marketing guides at no extra cost. These resources are designed to demystify the publishing process and empower you to successfully launch your book into the world.

Choosing Happydesigner means choosing a team that’s as invested in your story as you are. We’re here to bring your vision to life, ensuring that every page of your book captivates and delights your readers. Let’s create something extraordinary together.

Final Checklist

Before we embark on this creative journey together, let’s ensure everything is set for a smooth illustration process. Here’s a quick checklist to help you prepare your manuscript for illustration with Happydesigner:

  • Manuscript Finalisation: Ensure your text is fully edited and finalised.
  • Character Descriptions: Provide detailed descriptions or sketches of main characters.
  • Setting Details: Offer descriptions of important settings and backgrounds.
  • Illustration Notes: Prepare any specific notes for the illustrations, highlighting crucial elements or emotions.
  • Open Communication: Be ready for a collaborative process, where your feedback and insights are invaluable.

With these preparations in place, you’re not just ready to start; you’re set to thrive. At Happydesigner, we’re excited to partner with you, turning your manuscript into a visually stunning book that captures the hearts of readers. Let the adventure begin!

Conclusion: Preparing Your Manuscript for Illustration 

As we wrap up this guide on preparing your manuscript for illustration, remember that at Happydesigner, your story’s journey from text to visual masterpiece is a path we walk together. Illustrations are more than just art; they’re the heartbeat of your story, bringing it to life in ways words alone cannot. Our mission is to ensure that every page of your book is a window into the world you’ve created, inviting readers to step in and experience the magic for themselves.

Thank you for considering Happydesigner as your partner in this creative adventure. We’re honoured to have the opportunity to work with you, to bring your visions to life, and to help you share your story with the world. Here’s to creating something truly extraordinary, one illustration at a time. Let’s make your book not just a reading experience, but a journey that readers will cherish.

Dive into the world of storytelling with a splash of colour; read more on our Children’s Book Consultation services and let Happydesigner bring your manuscript to life!

Further Reading

For those looking to enhance their writing skills, the following article offers practical advice and strategies:

  • Step-By-Step How to Write a Good Book and Get it Published: While specific details from the Reddit thread couldn’t be accessed directly, such forums often contain real-life advice, detailed experiences, and step-by-step guides shared by authors. These can be invaluable for understanding the nuances of writing and publishing a book from a community of writers. Visit the Reddit writing community for diverse perspectives and tips.
  • 10 Rules for Writing a Good Novel – MasterClass: This article outlines ten essential rules for writing a compelling novel, emphasising the importance of reading widely, making detailed checklists, and developing a consistent writing routine, among other tips. Such structured advice can be crucial for both novice and experienced writers aiming to refine their craft and produce engaging, well-structured novels. Read more at MasterClass.

Some of our previous clients

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