Mercedes Padró knows how to catch a kid’s eye.
The Brooklyn-based illustrator earned her B.F.A. in Graphic Design and Creative Writing at the Kansas City Art Institute, and is currently a designer at Scholastic where she conceptualizes, sketches and designs products, interiors and books—including several for their Peppa Pig franchise (see: Happy Birthday, Safety First, and Peppa Gives Thanks), as well as Leslie Mosier’s I Am Doug The Pug (which Padró illustrated, too).
Since it’s Nesting Month here at Society6 and because we’ve just launched our kid-centric Lil 6ers collection, we asked Padró to share her expert tips on how to best create for kids. Follow her at @tuesdaysarenotokay.
Look for children’s illustration trends
Go to your local bookstore and see what’s there on the shelves. Is there a style, color palette, or type treatment that’s trending? Do you want to keep this in mind while illustrating, or do you want to go against the norm to make your work stand out? Also, take note of publishing houses, illustrators and designers that inspire you, and follow talent on social media. Instagram can be a great tool for creatives and visual inspiration. It’s also nice to find inspiration in the unconventional spaces. I find going to museums, gardens, or on a long bike ride inspiring. The best creatives are the observant ones, people who understand the world around them and can visualize that world through their lens.
Sketch, sketch, sketch
Whenever I’m starting a project, I like to use computer paper and loosely sketch a multitude of ideas with my inspiration in mind. The paper is cheap and non-committal, so it frees up your creative juices and keeps the ideas flowing. Out of 50 ideas, there may be about 3-5 strong concepts that you can build off of. From these sketches, present them to your client, to a classroom, to your mom. Get your sketches out there and take a tally to find out which one is the strongest. Sometimes you have to filter through the critiques, but be open-minded and see what comes of it.
Keep it true to you
Style is something you develop after illustrating for years. It makes your aesthetic unique and niche so that you can market yourself. With a combination of communicating an idea, sketching, composition, and staying true to your style, illustrating for children becomes a natural process. Just think of your favorite book from childhood and what about its story and illustrations inspired you to do what you do today.
Ultimately, some of the best illustrations focus on storytelling and getting a concept across rather than just focusing on if a “kid” will like it. So when you’re illustrating for children, keep in mind that if you like it, a kid will too. After all, we were all kids once and they’re just little humans—just like you.