Making a Children's Book


by Cailey Tervo

Over the course of the semester, I worked on a children’s comic book. It was a long and fun, but sometimes grueling, process. I thought I’d share some of the process and inspiration that happened behind the scenes of the finished book.

My book is called A Coat For Papa. It is children’s comic that teaches opposites and is aimed at young readers. It totaled at about twenty pages, and has more than 40 panels. The characters and setting are based off of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. I have been in love with Les Mis since I was in high school, and I have revisited the material in my illustration many times. My book tells the short story of Cosette helping her Papa (Valjean in Les Mis) find a new coat for winter.

The first phase of making my book was the thumbnailing process. My thumbnails are rough, quick, and ugly, and are only intelligible to me. From there, I went on to rough comps. When I approach my work, I think more in color and shape than in line, so my comps are a more of a blueprint that I build my color comps off of.

In my color comps, I layout all the color shapes of the characters and the backgrounds. I constantly switch from color to black and white during this process so I can make sure the value

structure of the spread is holding.

From my color comps, I lay out my basic shapes. At this point in the process, the book is just about done. All the character’s silhouettes are clear, the colors and value of the spread are done, the hand-written type is placed and edited, and backgrounds and details are mostly completed. From here, all that is really left is adding textures to bring a layer of visual interest to the page.

 To achieve the texture effect in my final page, I use textured brushes and layer masks. I brush away the entire layer, then brush it back in to get an overlay effect.  The brushes I use from Kyle Webster toachieve the textures. The main ones I use are his gouache, pastel, and charcoal brushes.


I learned a lot from the process of making this book, but the most important take-away for me was to make work that I am passionate about. I have always had a hard time working on long-term projects; I prefer doing lots of short projects and the instant satisfaction that goes along with those. For this project, I had to very carefully consider the subject matter and form the project would take, so it would hold my attention throughout the semester. A Coat for Papa ended up being a mix of three of my favorite things: comics, kids books, and Les Misérables. If you’re approaching a big project, make it about something you love, or if you can’t, really try to something in the project that can hold your attention. Long projects are a lot of work, but really pay off. Nothing can beat the level satisfaction I get when I hold my book in my hands.

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 11.28.11 PM

Cailey is a senior illustrator major, RA, president of the Illustration Student Collective, comic artist, and cat enthusiast. She also probably needs a nap. You can view her work on her website