How to shine on social media! Illustrator Jeff Crosby offers some tips on using Instagram to promote and enhance your work.

Instagram is a great social media platform for promoting illustration. The fact that it allows you to share your posts simultaneously on Facebook makes it all the more appealing (it also allows you to share to Twitter, though only the written caption is shown and not the image). Here are some tips that I have found useful for promoting my illustration on Instagram:

1. Hash tags are ways of adding your posts to topics for others to easily find. So if you are posting a children’s book illustration you created, you might post it with #kidlitart in the caption so that editors and art directors can find it.

2. Keep lists of frequently used hash tags that you can easily copy and paste. I keep a few lists in the Notes app on my phone that I can copy and paste for quick and easy captions. My children’s book list is: #art #illustration #kidlit #kidlitart. I sometimes add #sketchbook if it is my process drawings or #penandink if it is done in that medium, both of which are widely used.

3. Choose highly visible and relevant hash tags. Instagram used to show a list of possibilities as you typed, with how many times those hash tags have been used. So it might say #kidlitart has been used 1.5 million times, which means it is popular and more likely that art buyers will be trolling those waters. However, Instagram now just names a couple of the people you follow that use that same hash tag instead of the number of uses, which I find less helpful. A very social media savvy illustrator friend of mine said it is important to always post a hash tag of your Instagram handle as well, to lead people back to you if your images are widely shared. I always end my hash tags with #jeffcrosbyillustration. To find useful hash tags, look at the ones other illustrators commonly use.

4. Other things to include in the caption: In addition to the hashtags, I include my portfolio website address. I want to make it as easy as possible for art directors to find my work. I also add the title and medium of my artwork and sometimes I will include the brief. These are all things people want to know and give context to your art.

5. Use good quality photos or files of your art for posting. Instagram is intended for photo-sharing. Be sure to use well lit and in-focus photos. You might even include some of your workspace and art materials in the photo. The default square format can be changed to a rectangle by tapping on the sizing icon in the bottom left of your image. There are the famous photo filters too, that can sometimes be handy at enhancing the image quality. There is a roundabout way of getting desktop computer files into Instagram. On my laptop, I save digital files of my art as 72ppi jpeg files and email them to myself. I then “Download” them in my iPhone and “Save to Files” where they are added to my photo roll. From there they can be opened in Instagram.

6. For finished artwork, you may want to save some close-up details to include alongside the main image. You can post multiple images at once on Instagram and this is a good use of that function. You might also use the multiple images to show a series of sequential images or to show the process of an image being created.

7. Post as frequently and consistently as you can to show that you are constantly working at your craft. This means including posts about your creative process too. I show images of my observational research, thumbnails, sketchbooks, drawing materials, tight sketches and maquettes as well as my final art.

8. It doesn’t have to be just children’s book illustration. I also like to include my personal artwork, observational drawings, and the illustrations I do for editorial and advertising clients (keeping in mind it shouldn’t be so inappropriate that it would chase away children’s book art directors). My children’s magazine illustrations are especially relevant. All this work informs who I am as an illustrator. It’s even okay to feature some of your past work that you would like to show off again.

Hopefully these tips will make you a little more savvy and efficient at promoting your work on Instagram. I’m sure there are many other tricks and if you know of any, please add them to the comments section below. Happy posting!


A native Texan, Jeff Crosby moved to the UK with his wife and daughter, and is now based in Cambridge. His picture books have been published by DisneyHyperion, Holiday House, Penguin Random House, Tundra, and Getty.
Jeff's official site is here, he can be found on Twitter and Instagram.


  1. Hi Jeff, I am pretty new to instagram found your tips really helpful. I need to check out how to re proportion some images so that all of the image is included. I had no idea how to move away from the square format. :^) Thanks so much for the tips Jeff. If I discover something new I will certainly add it to your excellent summary.

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