Art is a huge piece of the self-publishing puzzle. Whether you simply need a cover, want a custom map illustration, some illustrations for within the pages, or an entire picture book done, you’re going to need the right book illustration software to do it.
Fortunately, there are some incredible options for all budgets, so let’s get straight into the list.
These two are tried and true – and are two of the most versatile pieces of software available and now that you can get Adobe Creative Cloud, you can get them plus all the other apps in the suite for around $40 a month, depending on how and when you buy. (Many people have had success talking to the sales team or buying on a sale.)
Both pieces of software take some learning, but once you have an even adequate amount of skill, you’ll be able to create incredible illustrations and art for your books.
If you’re an artist, Procreate is going to be the best tool for you. While you will need to invest in an iPad and iPencil if you don’t have one already, the app only costs around $10 and allows you to do just about everything. Create layers, draw and paint from scratch, add lettering – it can do it all.
Looking for something free? GIMP has been the go-to free Photoshop lookalike for many years now, and so if you’re looking for something to learn the ropes without investing a ton of money, this is it. It’s updated regularly because it’s open-source, and is incredibly user-friendly. You can find it on all operating systems here.
Inkscape’s tagline is “draw freely”, so if you’re an artist that’s used to using paper and you don’t want to invest in an iPad, iPencil, and Procreate, this is a great choice. You will need a good PC and ideally a drawing pad, but you can pick those up for a relatively low amount of money. Inkscape runs on all operating systems, has a strong community and plenty of free resources, and best of all it’s free! Find it here.
CorelDraw graphics suite is Corel’s equivalent of Adobe’s creative suite, only it doesn’t offer a monthly subscription option. While it is technically cheaper than Adobe, a year’s subscription will set you back $198, or you can buy for a one-time fee of $669. In this suite you’ll get CorelDRAW – their version of Illustrator, an image editor, font manager, a bitmap-to-vector tracing application, screen capture tool, and more. If you’re experienced and you want a full suite of apps for a one-time buy, this is worth investigating. Find out more here.
Painter is designed from the ground-up for illustrators and artists, just like Procreate, so it’s perfect for those of you transitioning from paper and canvas. This software easily integrates with drawing tablets and you can find all the brushes and tools you’d want at your fingertips. Just a glance at their website will show you what incredible things can be created with this tool, from concept art, to fine art, to manga and photo art, you can do it all.
Beware, though, because it’s expensive. If you haven’t got a tablet already, you may want to look into getting an iPad, iPencil, and Procreate and compare options. After a 15-day free trial, you need to pay $211 for a year’s subscription (no monthly option), or the equivalent of $478 for a one-time purchase. It’s available on windows only.
If you’re looking for the right book illustration software to help you bring your art to life for self-publishing, all of these are great options. However, if you’re going to pick one, Adobe will likely win. You can access their entire suite and Illustrator is ideal for formatting, as well as creating your illustrations.