ILLUSTRATION KNOWHOW Creating a strong image: readability

Picture books need to create balance between words and pictures so they flow together in a fun and dynamic way. Illustrator Rekha Salin shows in this four-part series how you can communicate, emote and guide the eyes of the reader.

In children's literature, especially picture books, pictures play a vital role. Images are meant to:

- communicate the story/text, 

- help the reader empathise with the character and guide their eyes across the page.

Equally vital as text, illustrations are there to support and enhance the story. The images need to communicate and tell a story while still being visually appealing.

The READABILITY of an image is important. Below are two ways to check an

image’s accessibility:

1.  Zoom Out

Zooming out or making the image really small on the screen is a good way to know if your image loses its clarity and is blending together or, is it strong enough to read clearly when small? 

This is especially essential as our worlds have become more global and virtual, so our images appear as tiny icons on search engines.

The book covers are viewed as such on Amazon and other websites.

Readability of the image at a very small size is crucial and zooming out is one of the best ways to see how they would appear when reduced.

If you are working traditionally, then you can photograph your work from afar with more background. In this case, make sure your background isn't busy, maybe place some plain paper or sheet behind. This avoids detracting from your illustration.

Here is an example of how an image would appear when zoomed out:

2. Squint

Squinting your eyes is one of the most effective tests and needs no additional time or effort. This enables you to instantly detect any errors or missing links since it's all blurred out. 

If you do not want to play squint-squint then you can also use the Gaussian Blur tool. It instantly blurs the image. 

*Header image: collaboration by Rekha Salin & Tita Berredo
all other images: Rekha Salin


Rekha Salin
 has three books published as an illustrator. Two picture books, one in 2020 and the other in 2022, and also a recipe book (for adults) in 2022 published by ABV publisher. She is currently working with Gnome Road Publishing, and this will be available in 2024.

See more of Rekha's work here. Follow her on Instagram and on Twitter.


Ell Rose
 is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures
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Tita Berredo is the Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and the Art Director of Words & Pictures. She has a Master's degree in Children's Literature and Illustration from Goldsmiths UOL and a background in marketing and publicity.   

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