10 essential books for aspiring and established illustrators

Whether you’re graduating from university this summer, have been illustrating for most of your life, or have never taken your hobby further, there are plenty of books that can help you improve your illustration skills.

Seeking inspiration and advice from all angles is one of the best things any person working in the creative industries can do. Head to your local bookstore or library now and grab one of these essential reads…

1. Inside the Business of Illustration by Marshall Arisman and Steven Heller

Inside the Business of Illustration acts as a guide to everything that is going on in the dynamic illustration industry. There’s help on how to establish yourself as an illustrator, tackle issues with authorship and build a more efficient promotion strategy, as well as how to find and hone your own unique style. It’s also worth noting that writers are prominent names in the creative industries so they really know what they’re talking about.

Priced at £15.99 | Buy the book

2. Marketing Illustration: New Venues, New Styles, New Methods by Steven Heller

A must-read for anyone that is planning on making a career as an illustrator, Marketing Illustration gives you an insight into how to prosper within a competition and evolving world. There is practical advice on everything concerning the role of illustrator, across various industries such as graphic novels and comics, fashion, web games and design, and animation. Add to that interviews with 50 of the most respected names in the industry, including Christoph Niemann and Yuko Shimuzo.

Priced at £17.23 | Buy the book

3. The Picture Book: Contemporary Illustration by Angus Hyland

The Picture Book is like a mini bible for illustrators giving a comprehensive survey of exciting work from illustrators across the globe. Each artist’s work is featured alongside a short and illuminating profile, offering engaging stories from real people to help inspire your own journey as an illustrator. There are snippets of advice from the artists on how to feel inspired and how to turn your ideas into artwork.

Priced from £1.24 | Buy the book

4. Show Your Work!: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Getting Discovered by Austin Kleon

As a follow-up to the New York Times’ bestseller Steal Like An Artist, Show Your Work! delivers the next step for the creative community, offering forward-thinking advice on how to get noticed. Kleon has a lot of useful suggestions about how to make your work ‘findable’, structured under ten transformative rules for being open, generous, brave and productive. It’s an eye-opening read about building yourself as an artist but also respecting and encouraging the community of artists around you too.

Priced at £8.99 | Buy the book

5. How to be an Illustrator by Darrel Rees

A nice place to start if you’re relatively new to illustration, How to be an Illustrator looks at all areas of the job, from creating a portfolio and approaching potential clients, to preparing for contract meetings and managing your time and money. There are easy to follow chapters that cut everything down into manageable chunks so that you can get the most out of things. Amidst the pages are interviews with leading art directors too giving their thoughts and advice on how to be and how to succeed as an illustrator.

Priced at £15.56 | Buy the book

6. 100 Great Children’s Picture Books by Martin Salisbury

All great work is likely to have been inspired by something along the way and 100 Great Children’s Picture Books is a visual feast for illustration. Looking at books from around the world over the past one hundred years, there are so many different illustration styles, inviting you to experiment with your own illustration style. Book illustration is a major avenue to explore as an illustrator so this book gives a ton of inspiration for anyone thinking of taking their work to that level.

Priced at £19.96 | Buy the book

7. Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders

This nice little book Lost In Translation combines a love for illustration and words to create something quite original. You won’t find illustration tips within its pages but it is a good example of how illustration and words can come together to make something. Communication is a key component of illustration and all creative industries, and this book shows just how literally or subtly you can explore this in your own work.

Priced at £7.50 | Buy the book

8. Champagne and Wax Crayons: Riding the Madness of the Creative Industry by Ben Tallon

Sometimes all you need to help your own creative career along is to hear from someone who has managed to succeed in the industry. Champagne and Wax Crayons tells the story of illustrator and art director Ben Tallon as he grew his childhood hobby of drawing into a freelance career. Tallon definitely provides a reality check, proving that not everything gets handed to you and that the road to success is never easy, but he injects humour along the way and offers some savvy advice.

Priced at £12.08 | Buy the book

9. Thinking Visually for Illustrators by Mark Wigan

Featuring a wide range of work, Thinking Visually for Illustrators has a diverse showcase of various ideas, techniques, skills and visual languages. The book will let you take a step back from your own work and explore the approaches of contemporary illustrators. It also features work from recent graduates, present students, and educators past and present, proving that anyone, no matter how old or how much experience they have, can be an illustrator. The newest edition includes a chapter on illustration for the digital age as well, highlighting the relevance of the digital world in the creative industries.

Priced at £19.41 | Buy the book

10. Fifty Years of Illustration by Lawrence Zeegen

Charting the rich history of contemporary illustration, Fifty Years of Illustration flits through the 1960s right up to the early 21st century, showing how illustration has diversified during this time. The book highlights the historical periods, giving context to each of the pieces sociologically, politically and culturally. It’s a good read if you’re interested in learning more about the impact of the modern day on the kind of art produced.

Priced at £20.40 | Buy the book

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