Critique on Procreate illustration with Design Elements


Okay, hopefully this now works. I had posted earlier and could not find a way for the image to upload.
The link above should do the trick!


I am looking for a critique on a project I completed for my portfolio.
This is not for a client and all work you see is my original work with some inspiration.
I am creating a portfolio with the goal of becoming a freelance children’s book illustrator.

A couple of things I am aware of: Kerning can be better, shadow and light can be better as well. I am unsure about if this project will print well but it will be for a web portfolio.

This is my first project in a long time and I learned so much about Procreate in making this piece. Most of the mistakes I made I have improved or changed in the pieces that followed this project.

I would prefer critiques from illustrators but of course all are welcome as there are elements of design and layout and the forum is open.

Please keep in mind I don’t own a heavy sweater. I can take honest sharing of what I should do instead but just blatant deconstructive criticism I don’t handle well so please, teach me something, tell me how but present me with an opportunity to reach my fullest potential.


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Your illustrations are all kinds of fun. I really like them a lot.

You might try improving the edges of the organic items a bit. You’ve made an effort in those directions, but where the edges should look rounded, they just sort of cut off as though they’re cut out of paper and pasted in. This is especially noticeable with the green seaweed. Some edges look great, like the bottom of the seaweed, but the top edges are just sudden and abrupt, as though you cut them out with scissors instead of making them look like truly 3D shapes in a 3D space.

As you already know, the typography is another matter, and for that, well, that heavy sweater you don’t have might come in handy. I’ll leave it at that, unless you’d like some constructive feedback on it.

Back to the positive, though, I absolutely love your illustration style. It’s fresh, colorful, playful, engaging and makes me smile. Work on those things I mentioned, then team teamed up with a good designer and a good writer, and I think you would have the makings of a very viable book. :smiley:

Thank you! Yes I agree with everything you said, I can see what you mean, and please educate me on typography and such. My knowledge is really close to nothing in that area.

i would put some kind of depth that has shadows, highlights on the tentacles.

More shadows, got it. I’m gonna work on this more and repost in some time. I can definitely go darker in many areas. Ty for your input :slight_smile:

dont over do the shadows, just a 5 minutes dabs of bleated white and darker orange on the tentacles will unite them with the top body.

The illustrations in a book like you’re proposing would be the star players. The story itself is an equal player that needs to be good enough to seal the deal promised by the illustrations.

The story is what’s spelled out in the written text. The text is the means by which the story is told and read. When looked at that way, the main objective for the text is to provide an easy way for the reader to read the story without getting distracted by the text itself.

In other words, the text (typeface, leading, personality, point size, etc.) needs to be thought of as a supporting part of the cast whose role is to facilitate the reader’s enjoyment and comprehension of the book, the illustrations and the story. The written text needs to complement the illustrations and the story without competing with it. It needs to have the same personality, but be more neutral and subordinate.

With all this in mind, your illustrations are very playful, yet the typeface you’ve chosen is, what, Futura — a very formal, geometric not-at-all-playful typeface. If it were me, I’d choose a softer, more neutral typeface — possibly a serif face.

Placing the text in two justified columns is also rather formal. Given the size of the text and the narrowness of the columns, justifying the text creates large, unsightly gaps between the words. You might try flush left, ragged right.

Red text is a little odd, and it draws attention to itself, which isn’t good. Standard, black type is almost always best for body copy.

The large illustrated headline integrated with the main art is interesting, but it’s so decorated that it detracts from the illustration.

You might try some initial drop caps — even specially drawn ones — to start out the story.

Your byline belongs at the beginning of the story (unless there’s a general credit that applies to the whole book), not tucked over on the side somewhere.

Line things up. Don’t have credits and headlines arbitrarily start in spots that don’t line up with the edges of the text unless you’ve made a deliberate decision that improves the design. It’s generally best to stick to an established invisible grid, then line things up with the grid lines. You don’t need to be a slave to the underlying grid, but when in doubt, lining things up is generally the way to go.

I agree with B. Overall a lovely look and with a bit of refinement, it is just the sort of thing I would commission. I also agree regarding the typography. However, type is a discipline in itself. That is not to say don’t learn good practice, but either one – illustration or typography – can take a lifetime to perfect.

As B says, for a kids’ book, the layout is too rigid and formal. More magazine than kids’ book. That said, arguably, it is not something you should really worry about too much. Unless illustrated type is part of a particular design and you are commissioned to do it. As an illustrator, unless it is a self-initiated project like your cephalopod, in reality you will likely get a very specific brief and the type and layout would not really be part of your remit.

For years, a good chunk of my work has been educational, non-fiction children’s book design. These days more adult trade non-fiction, coffee-table, type books, but same principles apply. Each market has a very specific tone of voice and typically, it is the designer’s job to set this. This will include illustration style. Either the publisher will have chosen the illustrator they want for the project, or the designer will suggest a few and the publisher have the final say. Kids’ books go through tons of focus groups and levelling to get the tone just right for the age group.

After this, if the illustrations aren’t a fait accompli, and provided as finished pieces a designer has to work with (rare, but it can happen), then the designer will usually get text and any photos (commissioned or stock), put together as first layout with instructions/a thorough brief in position for each illustration.

The next stage would be for the illustrator to drop in a pencil sketch so that at first proof it can be approved, or revised, in terms of content, positioning, etc. After that, depending on complexity / content / publisher workflow, it would either go to final, or sometimes an intermediate, blocked in colour sketch.

So, things like where tentacles are to interact with type would usually be part of the design brief anyway and it is unlikely to be the illustrators volition. That said, the most successful projects I have worked on and the best illustrators, usually involve a collaboration, in that, when a brief is sent, sometimes further suggestions are made by the illustrator.

That is the basic project methodology I’ve worked to over the years. Each publisher is different and have their own idiosyncrasies, but, that roughly how they all work.

I am not suggesting you don’t need to have an understanding of type and print production (this latter is an absolute must) because you will make the designers job easier and the project a lot smoother.

There is such a marked difference between illustrators who understand the production process and those who don’t. As a designer, you know straight away who ‘gets it’ and who doesn’t. The first make you sigh with relief, the second make you face-plant your desk. I will ALWAYS pick an illustrator, who understands, bleed, CMYK vs RGB colour gamuts, gutters, etc, etc.

As an aside, my one pet hates, typographically, is indented first paras. As B suggests, a 2-line drop cap, or just full-out is far better. As you have done it here leaves a jarring misaligned hole at the beginning of a block of text, which immediately leaves the reader with a sense of disharmony. The type needs to put the reader at ease.

As Mr Frutiger once said, ‘If you remember the shape of your spoon at lunch, it has to be the wrong shape.’ Cutlery has to be unnoticeable in aiding the way you eat and ideally, invisibly improve the taste – as correct wine glass improves the taste of the wine. Typography is the same.

Hope this helps

Excellent advice from @sprout.

I’d never read the Adrian Frutiger quote before, but it’s a great one. Sometimes a spoon (or typography) might be intended to make a deliberate impression, but usually it’s there to serve a function without drawing attention to itself.

Fantastic, isn’t it? This is the full quote…

If you remember the shape of your spoon at lunch, it has to be the wrong shape. The spoon and the letter are tools; one to take food from the bowl, the other to take information off the page … When it is a good design, the reader has to feel comfortable because the letter is both banal and beautiful.

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