Working with an Illustrator: Best Practices


Process & Practices

When commissioning illustrations, whether with a FriesenPress artist or one you have found on your own, it’s important to be prepared for the process ahead.

One very important consideration is timeline. Is your publishing journey an unhurried one, or are you looking to have your book on the market in five months? Whichever category you fall into, you will want to begin the conversation around your illustrations as soon as possible. Our artists work on a fixed timeline (as published below), the rest of the pace is up to you!


  1. Initial pencil sketches: 3 weeks
    Illustrator works with author’s directions to create initial rough sketches.

  2. Pencil sketch revisions (if requested): 10 days
    The majority of revisions will be made during this revision round. Revisions included consist of up to six minor revisions or one major revision (eg. redraw of character) per illustration. Further changes may be subject to an additional charge*.

  3. Colour stage: 3 weeks
    Any colour or palette preferences should be established by the author before sending the work to the illustrator for colouring.

  4. Colour revisions (if requested): 10 days
    Only minor revisions will be made at this stage. Revisions are limited to colour-related changes or minor alterations. Further changes may be subject to an additional charge*.

  5. Final high resolution files: 3 days
    Your final illustrations will be sent to you in their final, high-res form, ready for layout and printing.

*Any 'missed revisions' (elements, details or revisions requested and not attended to) or inconsistencies (character has red hair in one image and brown hair in another) will be addressed free of charge. 


Translating your own vision exactly onto paper (whether you are artistic or not) is very challenging. Asking someone else to do so is even more difficult! To combat potential difficulty, there are a few things you can do.

  1. Remember: Your artist is not a mind reader!
    Be as clear and descriptive as you can when completing your illustrations forms. Information on characters’ physical and personality traits, exact descriptions of the scene you imagine, the tone or message of your book, and examples of the type of artwork you would like to emulate are all invaluable resources to an artist trying to make your vision become reality.

  2. The more you give, the more you get!
    The more direction you give your illustrator at the beginning, the more receptive and able to make changes they will be further down the line. Alternatively, if you ask your illustrator to “just go for it!” and then hate the outcome, they will be much less able to assist you without accruing further charges.

  3. Keep an open mind.
    Just because an artist hasn’t achieved exactly what you’d imagined, doesn’t mean it’s not great. In fact, professional artists can often create things that far exceed what we imagine for ourselves- that’s why we pay them to do what we can’t! Approaching the artwork with an open mind and an objective eye will help you make the right decision and combat potential stress.

  4. The creative process is a dialogue.
    You have revisions. A whole bunch of them. An author’s first pencil sketches and their final colour illustrations often look quite different. Revisions after the initial pencil sketches are common and expected, so don’t be afraid to provide feedback to your illustrator.

  5. Be constructive.
    Your illustrator is a talented professional and is therefore welcoming of constructive criticism and feedback. The better the communication between you, your Account Manager and your Illustrator, the better your artwork will be.

Keeping these simple details in mind as you begin creating the artwork for your book will give you and your illustrator the best possible start to achieving your dream illustrations!

Like what you just read?

Learn more in our Author's Guide to Successful Publishing - get your free copy:

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