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October 27, 2014
By Daniel Lefferts
When it comes to art and illustrations, consulting with a professional is almost always ideal.

In addition to cover art and interior layout, there are additional image- and design-related issues that every indie author will encounter when self-publishing a book. Among these are interior visual elements, namely art or illustrations. Both of these elements are important and the process of securing them—and the challenges they can present—are similar. Here are few things indie authors should keep in mind when obtaining, creating, or preparing art for their books. 

[Note: this article was originally published in October 2014 and was updated on February 18, 2021.]

Art and Illustrations: Working with a Professional and DIY

When it comes to art and illustrations, consulting with a professional is almost always ideal.

Jeff Feuerstein and his sister Dayna Brandoff self-published their children’s book, Half Popped, which includes several cartoon-style illustrations of food. They initially tried to illustrate the book on their own, but “felt something was missing.” “The cartoon food didn’t have any emotion,” Feuerstein says. “And that’s when we sought another artist to complement my sister’s photography style.” The designer they ended up working with, Alex Miller, “brought the characters to life,” Feuerstein says.

Though Feuerstein and Brandoff found Miller (along with other designers they originally auditioned) through word-of-mouth, there are a number of resources and databases that authors can use to find artists. Indie authors writing children’s books should look to The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, which offers an Illustrator Gallery that’s searchable by illustration type and region. Another site,, offers a portfolio directory, as well as a listing of illustrator agents.

If an indie author happens to have some design savvy and feels confident creating her own artwork or illustrations, there are several popular design programs she can use. Adobe InDesign and Adobe Photoshop are among the most popular, but can be pricey. GIMP, a free design program, offers features similar to those found on Photoshop. Another free program, Inkscape, offers a number of design tools and purports to be a free alternative to Adobe InDesign.

Working with Self-Publishing and POD Services

Whether an indie author is working with a designer to create images or producing her own artwork, it’s best to know which self-publishing service she'll be using, and, thus, what limitations she'll be working with. Many self-publishing services have specific formatting requirements for illustrations or other images. While these specifications can be limiting, they can also act as useful parameters.

Feuerstein and Brandoff used CreateSpace to publish Half Popped. By the time they entered the design phase, Feuerstein says, they had all the information about dimensions and specs that they needed. “We knew where we were going to get cut off based on how the book was going to be put together; we knew the ratio of everything that had to be submitted,” says Feuerstein.

In addition to providing guidelines for artwork, many self-publishing services also offer design services. Outskirts Press, for example, offers custom full color illustrations. Though prices are established by quote, they generally range from $479 (for one illustration) to $4,119 (for 15). Outskirts provides examples of illustrations they’ve done in the past, and authors do not need to publish with Outskirts in order to purchase the service. Other self-publishing companies that provide design and artwork services include CreateSpace, Lulu, and AuthorHouse.