Character Design for children’s books: The Catburglar
Before I dive into explaining my choices about character design for children’s books and how I did it for my own book, here are a few words about the world and story of the Catburglar. The Catburglar is a children’s book about a cat who is a burglar (the title was a hint). This story revolves around a family of three (two moms and their son) who one day come across a stray cat. Soon stuff starts going missing (mostly shiny things), and no one in the town knows what’s going on. So a detective and a neighborhood witchcraft student team up to solve these incidents.
Character design for children’s books
When I was designing these characters, I wanted them all to be pretty simple and cute. Character design for children’s books should make kids feel engaged, so that’s why using a lot of colors and interesting shapes, silhouettes, stylistic exaggerations etc is a good way to go. A good way to make characters easily recognizable is to give them unique features. That’s why every character in my children’s book has different faces and body types. Keeping them stylistically coherent is also important.
In this case, the cat is the only one that stands out because… well, it’s a cat and everyone else is a human. Sometimes it’s a good thing to make one character stand out that way. Then it’s immediately obvious that there is something special about them.
A family of three
This family is made up of a detective, her wife who is florist and their 6-year-old son. Out of the three, the detective gets the most action in this story. That’s why I made an extra reference image about different design concepts for her face.
Side character: a friendly neighborhood witch
She’s actually not a professional witch yet because she’s still learning witchcraft but she can help out finding the Catburglar anyway. The setting for the story is magical realism grounded in a contemporary small town setting so this guided a lot of my design choices. This witch is therefore a blend of more traditional witch-like or fantasy design combined with modern elements (reflected by her outfit).
Check out the timelapse video of creating the colored drawing of this witch. I included some making of commentary in the video if you want to hear more details.
Here are also some expressions just because I had fun drawing her.
Catburglar (born from a pun actually)
Before I even started working on the book illustrations, I had already created this punny titular character. I love puns so I made a sketch of this character years before I actually finalized the image digitally. Once it was done, I put it in my Redbubble store and I noticed people liked this design so I felt like it was a waste not to do anything else with it. So that’s why I started writing and planning a short children’s picture book to give this cat a story.
I made a few more reference images for this character. Oh, and if you want to get cool Catburglar stickers or merch, then you totally can on Redbubble.