Use a Graphic Designer’s Mindset to Boost Illustration Impact

Art, Children's Books, Illustration

It turns out a graphic designer’s perspective can be a huge asset when illustrating. Often a few key tweaks can take an illustration to the next level. I try my darndest to think like a designer, but whenever I need outside feedback on my illustrations, I ask my designer friend for her thoughts and BAM! improvements abound.

Here’s my newest example. I created a title page for my in-progress graphic novel using the concept of a TV show opener. You know, the part where the show’s setting and characters are introduced during the theme song. Here’s what I initially came up with:

Cognito Sanchez_Title Page_v1 by Sheri Roloff

I was pretty happy with it. It felt balanced. I liked the flow and layout. But when I placed it within the context of the cover and the chapter 1 sketches, it felt a little out of place. Now, this is an area where graphic designers shine: creating a cohesive look and feel across multiple materials. Upon asking for feedback, my designer friend suggested flooding the background with a color to better coordinate with the cover. And that’s when it hit me: expand the skyline image and extend the water behind the panels below. I also added bubbles, just for good measure. Here’s the result:

Cognito Sanchez_Title Page by Sheri Roloff

So much better! I’m much happier with it, and it coordinates far better with the cover now:

Cognito Sanchez_Cover by Sheri Roloff

It’s exciting when small changes make such a big difference. For more in-depth look at how graphic designer superpowers can boost illustration work, check out my SCBWI blog post. Or befriend a graphic designer today!


Rose-Colored Glasses


I love summer. I love July. And I love sunglasses. It’s also my birthday tomorrow. It all adds up to seeing the world through rose-colored glasses this week. Happy July!

Rose-Colored Glasses by Sheri Roloff

Productive procrastination: the need for side projects


I’ve been doing more writing than drawing the past couple weeks. I’m actually working on a middle-grade book that features a central theme of identity with sci-fi undertones. This idea has been brewing for a while so I’m excited to finally get some words on the page.

I guess I’d consider this book a side project given my current focus on picture books. But heck…all my projects are technically side projects since I’m a member of the day-job community and all.

Historically, I’ve felt this overwhelming obligation to focus on what I’m trying to do with my life. Become a musician, painter, writer, artist, etc. This list has rotated over the years with varying degrees of attention and associated guilt or frustration. I’d always feel guilty when I wasn’t giving 100% of myself to my current path of choice. Since I’m a natural-born dabbler, I’d feel guilty and frustrated a lot. And I still do sometimes.

Turns out, side projects and hobbies have been deemed a good thing thanks to Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like an Artist. This is one of my favorite books. It’s filled with little nuggets that are sure to lift your creative spirit. I page through now and then when I feel stuck or just need a reminder of some of my favorite parts. This part jumped to my mind today as I flitted between projects.

“One thing I’ve learned in my brief career: It’s the side projects that really take off. By side projects I mean the stuff that you thought was just messing around. Stuff that’s just play. That’s actually the good stuff. That’s when the magic happens.

I think it’s good to have a lot of projects going at once so you can bounce between them. When you get sick of one project, move over to another, and when you’re sick of that one, move back to the project you left. Practice productive procrastination.” – Austin Kleon in Steal Like an Artist

So, in the spirit of side projects and productive procrastination, I thought I’d share a couple poster-style pieces I’ve tinkered with on and off over the past couple years.

Happy Hour by Sheri Roloff

Both pieces started as pencil drawings which I then scanned in and futzed with in Photoshop whenever the spirit of side projects (or the overwhelming desire to dabble) moves me.

Go Fly a Kite by Sheri Roloff

So, revel in your side projects! Use them as productive procrastination and don’t feel guilty about it. (I need to keep telling myself this!)

Tell me about your side projects. How do they feed your other creative work?