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Terms for Making Books

Lesson 12 from: Developing Characters, Environments, and Story Boards

Mary Jane Begin

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Lesson Info

12. Terms for Making Books

Lesson Info

Terms for Making Books

I'm gonna shift to some areas of focus that I'd like to talk about. And that is the terms for making books. And basically, when you're making a book, there are a couple things that you need to know and I mentioned them as I was doing the storyboard review is there are different formats you can choose for books. And one of them that I want you to think about is the full bleed. Now a full bleed is basically any picture that literally crosses over to the edge of the page, it's bled, it's the ink has bled to edge of the page. And the reason why that format might work for a particular story is that you can imagine, when you look at this, that there's more world off to the sides, you just can't see it. This is chopped here but there's more world going past those edges. So full bleeds sort of instigates that feeling so it's really good for scenes of action, it's good for world building, and it feels very comprehensive and expansive. So full bleed is a great choice for something like Dragon's ...

on Dazzle Island where there's a lot of action and world building. Now another format choice which is just as good it's just a different kind of treatment, is called the square up. And as I showed you before the picture of the bear, let's see if I can capture bear here. Here he is. This is called a square up and that just means, it could be rectangular or square, you have white of the page around that shape of rectangle or square. Now, you say, well why would you choose that instead of a full bleed? Typically the choice is made if you want things to feel more classic, more contained. There's little more space between you, the reader, and the action inside that. So it's like a window as opposed to you're in that world. It separates you a little bit. It's a kind of more formal treatment, it's a classic treatment for storytelling so it's kind of an interesting way, depending on how you wanna capture something. This is a really quiet book so when I was illustrating this, I wanted this to feel contained and quiet and that's why the square is sort of, it feels sort of safe and so that was the zone that I wanted to go to for this book. But again, format has to meet the function of the story. Now the next format is called a vignette and a vignette is basically, let's see if I can flip to that page, a vignette is something that softly bleeds into the white of the page. It doesn't have to be a circle, it can be any shape, very organic like an amoeba, it doesn't matter. But that bleeding into, softly entering into the white of the page is known as a vignette. It's a classic way of illustrating books and it's something that you don't see as much as a convention anymore but it's existed, let me see if I can find another one, there's another circle. It's something that is meant to make you feel as though you have a lens that you're dialing into a scene, you're entering the world, there's space between you and the world but it's a soft edge as opposed to a hard edge. So a vignette is again, a classical way of approaching a text. And then silhouette. Now it doesn't literally mean that there's a silhouette shape like a blackened shape. But a silhouette just means that the edge of whatever you're showing, you could literally draw a line around it. It has a hard edge, there's no soft bleeding, it's crisp against whatever the page is. So a silhouette is similar to a vignette but it's more graphic, it's more crisp. I would say that the grass has kind of vignette edge, the characters are silhouette or crisp or clean. So it's a convention that's often used when you're dealing with smaller images, characters or objects. And now I wanna show you a spot illustration. And a spot is just typically meaning a tiny, little element in a book. Anything that's the size of a half dollar when it's printed is just referred to as a spot because it's tiny. So the spot refers to the size. A vignette, this is a vignette, soft edge bleed. It's a spot because it's small. The key is a silhouette shape but it's also a spot because it's really little. And these are my Willow Buds books I mentioned. So, the next thing is a single versus a double page spread. I talked about those when talking about layout. This is a single page, it just means it's literally taking up the real estate of one page on this spread. The spread refers to the two pages with a gutter in between. This is the entire spread. So if you look at this single page is different than, I'll flip to the back of the book, a double page spread which is taking the real estate up of two pages. So double page spread, two pages, single is one page on one side or the other. And the gutter of course is that stitching or seam in between the two pages of a traditional book. A physical book, not an e-book but a hardcover or softcover book. And then the trim size or trim is literally the size and shape of the book. And books can be wildly different sizes. There are standards in picture books but they can be very vertical they can be very horizontal but it's literally where the pictures will end for the whole entire book. It's a decision made between illustrator and publisher and typically you want the shape and size of the book, little book or large book, square book versus a landscape versus a vertical style book, to really mimic what's happening inside. And the illustrator has a lot to do with that because the thumb-nailing helps guide the publisher to that decision. And signature, as I mentioned, has to do with the number of pages that you would expect in a book. And there is again 24, 32, 40 in a picture book. Graphic novels, chapter books can be larger, they can be 60, 80, 100, 200 pages or more. But for picture books, you're tending to land in the 32 page realm. And the layout or the storyboard, as I said, the difference is not wildly different but there is a difference between picture book and animation and gaming simply because a picture book storyboard is gonna tend to be literally this is all you're seeing. There's no in between information, there's no animation, you brain has to fill in what's happening from scene to scene. A book that I would highly recommend for if you're interested in picture books and you want to construct them, this book is called Illustrating Children's Picture Books, it's written by Steven Withrow and Lesley Breen Withrow and they've actually, I'm featured in this book which is kinda fun. There's a lot of different, let's see if I can find it, here we are, well I'm in here somewhere. But it's a really beautiful book. Here we are, Willow Buds, because it deconstructs, just like what I'm talking about here in a more brief fashion, it deconstructs all the ways that you can make a book. From thumbnail all the way to finished illustration and lots of different styles. So I really recommend this. This is a terrific guide for people interested in this. I did have a couple questions for you. Okay. So, one of the questions was you got to a point where you were showing us the hand drawn images that you said you showed to the publisher so the question was are publishers still willing to accept hand drawn illustrations because it seems that a lot of them want images that are in Illustrator or are computerized more so. So the answer to that is absolutely yes. Publishers aren't really engaged necessarily in how you've made your story, the technical way that you've accomplished that. What they're most interested in is the story itself and your translation with your visuals. And if you go to a decent bookstore or you go online and it's hard, you can't flip through the books when you're online but you can in a bookstore, there are people working traditionally in all types of media, collagables, three dimensional stuff that they photograph, cut paper, digital combined with cut paper, it's a wild wild west of media and I wanna encourage every student or person out there, don't worry about will the publisher accept. If it's good, they'll wanna publish it. If you've done something really cool and different, they're gonna be engaged in it. So there's no rigid rule about media at all in publishing. In textbooks, that's a little different story, they tend to want more digital because it's easier to do but in picture books, chapter books, graphic novels, there is no rule about digital versus traditional and that's held thankfully for a long time. And it's primarily because publishers always want something that's different than what somebody else has. And different can mean something nobody's ever seen before. So it's a really, it's an interesting thing and I think that's why it makes it such a cool art form for me, I'm a little biased. I think books are cool because they're objects, they're things you can touch and hold and they're stories and they're also, they're personal. You're connected to the story you tell, whether you've written it or not and the art form is truly yours to construct from start to finish. The publishers give me tremendous freedom and always have, even when I first started. It's like here's the manuscript, okay, do your thing. That's both terrifying but exciting. And so picture books, most people I've talked to, illustrators, authors, feel that they get a lot of creative freedom to do what they do because they're the director, they're everything, they play all the roles. So long winded answer to that question. No, that's perfect, thank you. And Comedy Gumball Machine who asked the question says, "Perfect, that's so good to know. "I heard for a while that they just wanted digital "so that's awesome." And then Rayna Bosch had also asked a question about publishers and if you are showing them in black and white, do they ask you about your color intentions or is it really just that openness? Is the question do they prefer black and white or I want to make sure I understand the question? Sure, she says, "Referring to the drawings "that were approved by the publisher, "are these drawings always black and white "or do they ever ask you about your color intentions?" Oh, my color intentions for a book that I've already been committed to. Because they've seen a lot of my work previously, because I've done a lot of books, they trust that I know what the palette should be, normally for most picture books, they don't ask that question. They don't have me do a color study. A lot of people have told me that that's being asked of more so that publishers can know the intention of an artist and they might ask for studies. The only time that that has happened is with Hasbro My Little Pony books because the world is so defined already in terms of their IP, intellectual property, they wanna make sure that I am not dialing it in the direction of a very neutral world or a dark world. They wanna make sure the palette makes sense for pony. So, they didn't ask for studies but they did ask me like, "What's a palette you're gonna use? "Tell us what range you're gonna use." And I just shared like little swatches of color okay, they'll be in this realm and I didn't have to make a whole scene. But it's not unheard of for people to have to do sample illustrations, especially for new illustrators. Publishers might want, if you have a story, they might wanna see a storyboard, sample sketches, and a couple sample finishes because you don't have the track record for them to say, "Well, how will this look?" So for new illustrators, I recommend if you're pitching to a publisher, that's a package you would want. But for me at this stage, they generally don't ask for my color intention. Which is really kind of amazing 'cause I could do anything but they trust that I know also what they're looking for. And for like The Sorcerer's Apprentice, that palette, I wanted it to be in the Renaissance realm and I explained that but I didn't have to do a sample piece for it. Very cool. And Rayna, who asked the question says, "I was asking about the color "because you had mentioned how color "can create the mood and the message "so thank you for the answer," she says. And just a side note question from Deborah, what kind of paper are you using? You mentioned trace paper when you're doing the sketches and she was asking about is it Bienfang or another type? I use varying types of vellum trace but it's always vellum heavyweight that you can still see through well that will take a beating because I'm really rough with my drawings. I never use inexpensive trace that's cloudy or crinkly or rips or tears easily. But I've used a variety of brands. It's almost like if I got to the art supply store, I'm just gonna, I've literally opened the package and feel the paper and if it has that kind of consistency that I know and recognize as durable, see through, and I can draw on it heavily and it's not gonna cause a problem, then it's fine. And I'm also not a brand-centric person, like the only thing that is brand-centric for me, my watercolors, Windsor Newton watercolors. The student grade up to the professional grade, I love Windsor Newton brushes and watercolors. But for the paper, I use different brands. It depends on, I hate to say this, but it depends on what's on sale. (laughing) As long as the paper is good and it's the quality that I like. That's a great answer for everyone, thank you. And one more question about publishers, if that's okay. The question is are publishers flexible now about accepting both artwork and story from the same author, author/illustrator? Okay, I'm so glad, I don't know who asked that question but I am so glad whoever asked that asked that question because there's been a myth, an urban myth that's gone around that somehow you shouldn't be both writer and illustrator, they should keep it separate. And then there was a myth before that that you have to do both things. So both of those things are wrong. If you're an illustrator and you have no interest in writing, never have, and you suspect maybe you won't, or maybe you will, it's perfectly fine. You would tend to want to show your work or send your work to the art director as well as an editor of a publishing house because you want them to match you up to with a story that makes sense. And that's really what a publisher does. If you haven't written and illustrated something, they wanna match your style to the perfect story and they love to do that. An editor, like that's their jam, they wanna be able to bring those talents together. Even if you never meet, they kinda don't want you to meet because you're two really different creative talents. You can be purely an illustrator and that's all I did for most of the beginning of my career, the first 10, 15 years, I only illustrated because I was like, "I can't write." But if you do write and illustrate, there's also this ease for the publisher because they've got one stop shopping. You're right there, you're a package. But both things have to be equally strong. If you're a really good writer and you're not a very good illustrator, then you have to be realistic about that. Or if you're a really good illustrator but you're not a good writer, you know, to pay attention to that as well. But if you've got both skill sets and you've got great ideas that you've illustrated, you can present it as a package and that's totally fine. So either way, they do both things, and again, all they want are beautiful, amazing, new, fresh, interesting books that are relatable to children. And so yeah, that rule is absolutely, has never really existed and publishers get frustrated by that like, "Why do people think that?" I don't know but I'm here, I'm myth busting, it's not the truth.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Character Slides Artist Reference PDF
Character Slides PDF

Ratings and Reviews


I have to say, this class and the companion class were very humbling. I assume I am not like most people who would watch this class in that I have no such artistic talent. I cannot draw at all (limited to "Spike" from TED Talks), but I had no idea such thought, imagination or ideology went into creating these designs. Professor Begin has an amazing presentation style, she is clear, concise and thoughtful. The subject matter was amazing and I can only see it helping me in evaluating my own work and taking a whole new perspective on art, light and evaluation. I highly recommend this class whatever no matter your creative bent. Thank you Creative Live for hosting this wonderful speaker.

a Creativelive Student

This course is well organized, very informative and goes into great detail regarding the best way to develop character(s) and how they should relate to their environment. Mary Jane articulates her points through art fundamentals, color theory and the power of strong research - as well as her extensive experience in the creative industry. I highly recommend this course for anyone interested in advancing their career or pursuing a career in animation, game design, or children's book publishing.

Nancy Morrison

Excellent!! This is a course that I will review over and over for there are so many great bits of information extremely well explained embedded in the broad concepts of composition and detailed illustration both in her own pieces and that of constructive critiquing her student's work. MJ is an excellent teacher! I am looking forward to her other classes! Nancy

Student Work