IllustrationFeature

25 stunning book illustrations

Never judge a book by its cover - there may well be some beautiful illustrations lurking on the inside as well. Check out these incredible examples...

When it comes to book illustrations, a lot of emphasis is put on the cover, naturally. But there are thousands upon thousands of books out there with insides just as beautiful as the outside. 

So it was a tough job but we've scoured the net to bring you 25 stunning book illustrations by artists from all over the world. Which is your favourite?

01. Ocean Dream

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Transport yourself to a dream-like world with this gorgeous illustration

This beautiful book illustration was created as part of a series for a picture book by Vietnamese based illustrator Khoa Le. The imagery instantly transports you to a dream-like world, using bright, shining colours to show the contrast of light and shadow whilst Khoa Le perfectly executes the under/above water juxtaposition.

02. Hawa'a

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Hawa'a was a brother-sister collaborative effort

This is the first children's album London based illustrator Fx Goby made with his sister and writer Valentine Goby. 'Hawa'a' tells the story of young Anmar and a girl with fiery red hair who one day notice each other from both sides of the land of dust. The illustrations are packed full of gorgeous colour and inspirational character design.

03. The Divide Trilogy

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Weird and wonderful creatures from the mind of Ted Dewan

Created for 'The Divide Trilogy' back in 2004, these book illustrations from illustrator Ted Dewan bring his imagination to vivid life. He regularly uses ink and china marker on embossed paper, giving that extra special effect for all of his creations. His work regularly features weird and wonderful creatures and we can't get enough of them.

04. Puss Jekyll, Cat Hyde

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A picture purrfect book illustration from Jill Barton

Using graphite pencil and watercolour wash, illustrator Jill Barton created these purrfect images for a book entitled 'Puss Jekyll, Cat Hyde'. Drawing since her school years, Barton is a pro when it comes to inspiring book illustrations. Here the eye colour was eventually changed to green for the book but we think it looks great either way!

05. Attempting Normal

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Beautiful colour work and shadows make this a stand-out offering

These abstract illustrations were penned by Australian based illustrator Andrew Fairclough for US Comedian Marc Marons' biography, 'Attempting Normal'. It's instantly eye-catching and combines aspects of the book using clever imagery and beautiful colour work.

06. Where the Wild Things are 

Maurice Sendak was not only a talented author but an incredible artist

One of the most well known and best loved children's stories is appreciated as much for its illustrations as its narrative, both of which were created by author Maurice Sendak.

The talented creative not only had the gift of words but of images too. And he put both to good use in this classic book. Sendak's attention to detail apparent in the millions of tiny ink lines he added to show the hairs on the Wild Things. 

07. The Arrival 

It's not difficult to see how Shaun Tan's The Arrival won Book of the Year as part of the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards back in 2006

Australian illustrator and author Shaun Tan is the man behind this incredibly detailed graphic novel. The Arrival tells the story of an immigrant who leaves his home in search of a better life for family purely through pictures. 

We don't even want to think long it would've taken Tan to draw just one of these intricate illustrations, let alone the entire book. The mixture of photorealistic humans in various abstract environments shows diversity and true extent of his talent.

08. Reynard the Detective

This beautiful image forms part of illustrator Emma Reynolds children's book Reynard the Detective

Emma Reynolds is a freelance illustrator with a passion for narrative storytelling, children's books, creating characters, and producing original and whimsical illustrations. She is currently writing and illustrating her children's book 'Reynard the Detective'.

"For my pen and ink illustrations, I use a Pilot G-Tec-C4 Pen, and have recently started to use Staedtler Pigment Liners too. Depending on the piece, they range from taking a few hours, to an afternoon, to a day. I enjoy putting a lot of detail into my work, and it often has a nostalgic edge," Reynolds comments.

09. The Enormous Crocodile

It's hard not to love the distinctive style and humour of Blake's illustrations

With so many to choose from, it was hard to pick just one of English author and artist Quentin Blake's genius illustrations. But in the end we opted for the gorgeous images that feature in Roald Dahl's The Enormous Crocodile. 

This beautiful picture book was the first that Dahl and Blake collaborated on in the mid 70s. The duo went on to work together for many years, with Blake's distinctive art helping to bring Dahl's much loved characters to life.

10. Sylvester and the New Year

Sylvester and the New Year is illustrator Emmeline Pidgen's second picture book

This gorgeous artwork is by award-winning illustrator Emmeline Pidgen. Silvester and the New Year is her second picture book, due to be published this year. "The style of the book is directly affected by the methods I've use to make the most of the time available with short deadline commissions," Pidgen comments. 

"Whereas I used to work mostly with gouache paints and traditional media, I've pushed myself further into using digital means to complete my work.  I do always try to keep that sense of the handmade by using photographed textures, paintbrush splat stamps and such in the pages." 

11. The Snowman

Now a classic story, The Snowman was created by author and illustrator Raymond Briggs

Loved by adults and children alike, The Snowman was illustrated by critically acclaimed British artist Raymond Briggs. First published in 1978, Briggs created the picture book images using pencil crayons.

In an interview with the Guardian, Briggs commented, "The usual method is to draw in pencil, then "ink it in", then colour it. But the inked line is always deader than the pencil line. The feeling has gone out of it. Using pencil crayon, these three stages can merge together. You can draw lightly in colour, then gradually make it sharper, clearer and darker, while colouring it at the same time. Furthermore, for this book, crayon has a softer quality, ideally suited to snow.

12. Joseph-Armand Bombardier

Jacqui Lee mainly uses inks and watercolours to create her illustrations

Jacqui Lee is a freelance illustrator based in Calgary, Alberta. This beautiful image is from her children's book, The Story of Joseph-Armand Bombardier, about a Canadian inventor who pioneered the development of the snowmobile. 

Using inks and watercolours to create her clean and minimal illustrations, Lee's distinctive style is gorgeous and fits very well with the feel of her book.  

13. Cloth from the Clouds

Alison Jay's distinctive illustrative style secured her a collaboration with author Michael Catchpool on his book Cloth from the Clouds

Artist Alison Jay has an unmistakeable illustrative style, which not only features in many picture books but has also secured her work for various high profile brands, including BT and Crabtree and Evelyn.

This beautiful example of her work is part of Cloth in the Clouds by Michael Catchpool. Jay also has her own picture book, Welcome to the Zoo, which was selected as on of New York's Bank Street bookstore's best books of the year in 2009. 

14. Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears

Husband and wife team Leo and Diane Dillon created the vibrant illustrations for this charming picture book

A West African folk tale, this bold and bright book tells a charming story of a mosquito who tries to woo the most beautiful ear. First published in 1976, the children's picture book was illustrated by husband and wife Leo and Diane Dillon.

The vibrant images not only won the hearts of kids but adults too, winning the title the prestigious Caldecott Medal, which recognises the most distinguished picture book for children, the same year it was published.  

15. Lon Po Po

Ed Young's work as an author and illustrator has won him many awards during his creative career

Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China is a charming folktale which takes the reader to misty mountains where a small panda learns about the dangers of life and the strong bond between parent and child.

The powerful narrative is backed up by just as strong illustrations, penned by book's author Ed Young. The talented artist has provided the drawings for over 80 children's books, 17 of which he has also written. This exceptional book won Young the Caldecott Medal in 1990.

16. The Great Paper Caper

We just love Oliver Jeffers childlike, but never demeaning, illustration style

Best-selling, multi-award-winning talent, Oliver Jeffers both wrote and illustrated this tale of mystery. Animals home are disappearing and trees are being cut down. Can the discarded paper airplanes littering the forest floor explain why?

This charming children's picture book is rammed full of Jeffers’ quirky illustrations. His childlike drawings are simple but brilliant, enabling kids to identify with his characters as well as understanding the message in his moving stories. 

17. Animalia

The detailed illustrations in Graeme Base's Animalia is sure to keep any child occupied for hours!

There's no denying the talent of illustrator Graeme Base based on his drawings for this alphabet picture book with a twist. Published in 1986, each of the 26 letters is accompanied by an amazingly detailed illustration of a different animal.

The illustrations also features other objects beginning with that letter for the reader can identify. And if that's not enough, Base also included a image of himself as a child on every page. A year after it was released, Animalia won the title of Honour Book in the Council of Australia's Children's Book of the Year Award: Picture Book. 

18. Eric and Snail

Eric started as a pencil sketch just five months ago

Children's illustrator Amy Proud first started working on a story about a boy called Eric back in June, when he was little more than a pencil sketch. 

Five months on, Proud is still developing her characters and narrative but from the looks of this brilliant illustration, she's headed in the right direction. You can see the full development process of Eric and his friends on Proud's blog.  

19. Snow White and the Fox

This is just one of many gorgeous graphic illustrations by artist Niroot Puttapipat

Black and white, with just a tiny hint of colour, this detailed illustration was drawn by artist Niroot Puttapipat for the book Myths and Legends of Russia by Alexsandr Afanasev.

Puttapipat comments on his Deviant Art portfolio: "This tale is one of the rarer instances in which a fox plays a benevolent role, rather than an antagonistic one. The 'Snow White' of this tale bears no relation to the more famous one of the poisoned apple from the Brothers Grimm." Puttapipat used ink and gouache on hot pressed watercolour paper to create the scene. 

20. A Happy Pair

Peter Rabbit wasn't the first bunny that Beatrix Potter created

This rather beautiful pair of bunnies were illustrated by none other than Beatrix Potter. Most known for being an author, Potter was in fact an incredibly talented artist, who spent much of her life drawing intricate sketches of the natural world. 

Potter's illustrations were first published in this booklet A Happy Pair by Frederick Weatherly in the early 1890s. As well as appearing on the cover, a further five chromolithographed illustrations were also featured inside the publication. 

21. ll Était Une Fois  (Once Upon A Time)

This beautiful pop-up book is just one of many that talented artist Benjamin Lacombe has illustrated

This gorgeous pop-up book was illustrated by talented French artist Benjamin Lacombe. Featuring eight classic fairy tales; Alice In Wonderland, Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty, Bluebeard, Peter Pan, Little Red Riding Hood, Madame Butterfly and Thumbelina, the images are a mixture of 3D illustrations and paintings. 

It was no surprise to discover that Lacombe attended the prestigious French art school École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs (ENSAD). Since graduating, he has written and illustrated numerous books.

22. The Ship That Sailed to Mars

This is just one of 48 stunning illustrations to grace the pages of William Timlin's The Ship that Sailed to Mars

This fantasy tale was authored and illustrated by artist William M. Timlin. The book started as a diversion to amuse his son in 1921 but the project grew into a masterpiece that took Timlin two years to complete. 

The Ship that Sailed to Mars consists of 48 pages of beautifully calligraphed text in three colours accompanied by delightful pencil drawings depicting various scene from the story. 

23. House Held up by Trees

Klassen's beautiful illustrations complemented Ted Kooser's story House Held up by Trees perfectly

The simple but beautiful illustration style of Jon Klassen features on the pages of this Ted Kooser book House Held up by Trees. An illustrator, designer and concept artist, Klassen has worked on a number of high profile film and animation projects, including U2 music video 'I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight' and Henry Selick’s Coraline. 

The first picture book Klassen illustrated, Cats’ Night Out by Caroline Stutson, won the Governor General's Award for illustration in his native Canada. 

24. Floatsam

David Weisner's illustrations bring the possibility of magical happenings to life

As David Weisner reveals in the opening of this picture book, Floatsam is something that floats. And if it floats in the ocean, it may end up washed ashore for someone to find, which is the basis of this story. But it's the detailed, vibrant illustrations that really bring this charming tale to life.

Wesiner's works have won numerous awards, including picture books Tuesday in 1992, The Three Pigs in 2002, and Flotsam in 2007 all winning the prestigious Caldecott Medal. He is only the second person in the award's history to have won three times. 

25. Tarka the Otter

This wood engraving was used to illustrate Henry Williamson's influential novel Tarka the Otter

Internationally renowned naturalistic painter of British birds and other wildlife Charles F Tunnicliffe is the man behind the intricate illustrations in this classic tale, which follows the life of an otter and its adventures in the wild. 

In the 1930s, Tunnicliffe created some stunning wood engravings, which he used to illustrate many of Henry Williamson's books, including Tarka the Otter. 

This is an updated and expanded version of an article previously published on Creative Bloq.

Words: Sammy Maine

Sammy Maine is a reporter at Creative Bloq.

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