Picture Book Illustration e-Course with Nina Rycroft

Following this years Pilot Program, I’ll be hosting two Picture Book Illustration e-Courses in 2018. 

The 6-week e-courses will commence on
Thursday 22nd February, 2018 finishing Thursday 29th March 2018 and then again on,
Thursday 18th October 2018 finishing Thursday 22nd November 2018.



Picture Book Illustration e-Course

The Picture Book Illustration e-Course (PBIC) will walk you through the entire process of illustrating a picture book from start to finish. Offering support, guidance and projects to keep you on-track while you develop your story. With weekly lessons, printable resources, set projects and feedback (on coursework) from me and the online community.

During the 6-weeks, I will share the process that I use when working on a story from generate ideas, designing character, developing a storyboard, all the way through to producing a final artwork. With weekly projects designed to keep you on track and to bring you ever closer to your picture book dream.

The process of illustrating Florence Fox

You can either choose to work on Ben Whittacker-Cook’s‘Florence Fox Goes To School’ manuscript or your own story, using the course resources, support and feedback to pace yourself and to kick-start your project.

A Little About Me

I’ve been illustrating picture books since my first publication Little Platypus receiving a CBCA (Children’s Book Council of Australia) Notable Book Award in 2000. Since then, I’ve had more than a dozen picture books published worldwide, winning some awards along the way.

I’ve enjoyed teaching picture book illustration since 2007, using interactive white boards and video conferencing technology to deliver talks and workshops to schools across Australia with Literature Live!  (2010 – 2012). More recently, I’ve been teaching regular character design and illustration classes with Skillshare (since May 2016) having taught more than 10,000 students to date.

Nina Rycroft’s Picture Books

Course Outline

WEEK ONE offers an overview of the course, its online community and how I got started. I then take you through the physical mechanics of a picture book, discussing layout, format and the things you’ll need to consider before starting work on your story. I then show you how to gather inspiration, showing you how to organise your collections into workable resources.

Generating Ideas for the Florence Fox character

WEEK TWO gives an overview on the picture book characters. I’ll then walk you through the character design process. First we list our character’s physical and emotional traits …

Character Mapping for Florence Fox

exploring multiple character design options, staring with the face, then working the character as a whole, focusing on the entire body.

Florence Fox character ideas

We will then work on a character map. As picture book illustrators, you’ll need to be able to draw your characters over and over, and in multiple positions. A character map not only helps you understand what your characters looks like from every angle, but it also helps keep characters consistent throughout the story.


WEEK THREE we start developing our thumbnail sketches, jotting down ideas quickly and easily, looking at our visual stories as a whole and learning how to use different layouts, text breaks and illustrations to influence the pace, rhythm and flow of your story …  

Thumbnail sketches

and because we’re now bringing movement to our characters, I’ll share some simple techniques to bring your characters to life. This will set you up for next weeks storyboarding session.

Bringing Florence Fox to life

WEEK FOUR offers an overview on the importance of storyboarding. We’ll discuss book formats, and then start working our thumbnail sketches into a larger storyboard format. Adding in detail, learning about composition and the need to consider both the image and the text. I’ll also discuss setting and how this can dramatically change the tone and mood of your story.


Developing a storyboard

WEEK FIVE is when you set up your final illustration, keeping in mind crop-marks, bleed, the gutter, cleanliness and most importantly readability. We will discuss different illustration techniques  then start applying this to your final artwork.

‘Florence Fox Goes to School’ illustration layout

WEEK SIX is the final week. By now, you have designed a character, developed a storyboard and produced a final artwork for your story, sharing your journey with your online community. So, to wrap things up, we will be discussing “What Next?”

Picture Book Illustration e-Course Showcase

Following the completion of the Picture Book Illustration e-Course, you’ll be invited to submit illustrations to feature in the Picture Book Illustration e-Course Showcase, celebrating illustrations created over the 6-weeks. The showcase will be posted and shared across multiple online platforms.

Will I complete a picture book by the end of the course?

Illustrating a picture book is a marathon not a sprint, it can take me anywhere for 3-months to 3-years to illustrate a story, so I don’t expect anyone to finish a picture book in the 6-weeks. Instead, look at this course as an opportunity to get a real understanding of your story, to expand ideas, map out characters, develop a storyboard, to build your skillset and confidence as an illustrator and to connect with a like-minded community.

Online Community

A key part of the PBIC success is the online community designed only for students who have taken part or are taking part in the Picture Book Illustration e-Course. As well as a place to post and discuss weekly projects, I’ll be popping (for the duration of the course) offering feedback, guidance and the occasional ‘live’ feed.


Following the completion of the Picture Book Illustration e-Course you will…

  • have the option to stay in touch with the online PBIC community.
  • have lifetime access to the Picture Book Illustration e-Course video’s.
  • have access to the Picture Book Illustration e-Course printables.



Do I need to draw like you?

The most exciting thing about picture books is that they offer a wide variety of styles and techniques.  Across the 6-weeks, I’ll be encouraging you to gather inspiration from a wide variety of sources to help you discover (or solidify) your own visual ‘voice’ … whatever that may be. Whether your style is naive, emotive, graphic or cartoon-like, I want you to be able to celebrate you and to be able to bring this to your story. During the course I’ll be drawing and demonstrating with my illustration style – because thats what I am most comfortable with. If you’re still in the process of exploring illustrations styles, you may find your work influenced by me as your work through the lessons and projects. This is perfectly natural, and its all a part of the learning process. Eventually, as you gain more confidence you’ll learn ways to translate what I teach and make it your own.

Who Can Enrol?

The Picture Book Illustration e-Course is open to all levels as it is designed to allow you to take your individual skill set and build on that.

You may have no art experience, just a great story idea or you may like to learn how to translate your fine art, etchings, collage, appliqué etc … into the picture book format. Perhaps you are an animation or design student, wanting to up-skill or break into the publishing market with a comprehensive portfolio piece. Or maybe you’re looking to self-publish or to find a publisher. You might be working on a competition piece or perhaps you’ve just signed your first picture book contract and you’re looking for some guidance.

Either way this course is the perfect accompaniment for your creative project, designed to keep you on track, expand your story ideas and offer support while you to develop your project.


Can I publish my e-Course illustrations?

  • If you are working on your own text, manuscript and/or story this is yours.
  • Can I use my ‘Florence Goes To School’ character designs and illustrations for my own personal portfolio? Yes you can. As long as you credit Ben Whittacker-Cook as the author.
  • Can I publish my ‘Florence Goes to School’ character designs and illustrations as a picture book, an e-book, or for my own personal book? Absolutely not. As the author of ‘Florence Fox Goes To School’ and the creator of the Florence Fox character, Ben Whittacker-Cook has allowed the Picture Book Illustration e-Course to use his unpublished manuscript ONLY for your personal and creative development.
  • Can I send my ‘Florence Goes To School’ character designs and illustrations to a publisher? Yes, as long as you credit Ben Whittacker-Cook as the author.

What does the Picture Book Illustration e-Course offer?

  • cohesive weekly videos sessions.
  • Weekly feedback from your online community (and me) throughout the duration of the e-course.
  • Ongoing community support from other PBIC members that will continue even after the e-course is complete.
  •  (While you wait for class to begin) you’ll have free access to my ‘Face Shapes’ Skillshare class.
  • A marketing feature in the Picture Book Illustration e-Course Showcase video.

What Next?

If you would like to be put on the waiting list for the Picture Book Illustration e-Course (21st February, 2018  – 6th March 2018), send your email address to nina@ninarycroft.com . In December, I’ll be announcing enrolment intake to the waiting list one week before announcing enrolment intake on other social media platforms.

The cost of the Picture Book Illustration e-Course is US$247.00 to be paid in full to reserve your place. Numbers are limited to 100 students per course, so if you don’t make it this round, you’ll be first on the waiting list for the Picture Book Illustration e-Course commencing 18th October 2018 – 22nd November 2018.

  • In you email, if you could let me know
  • how you heard about the course
  • What you hope to get out of the course,
  • and whether you’ll be working on your own text or the course manuscript.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Nina x

So you want to learn how to illustrate a picture book?

So you want to learn how to illustrate a picture book?

Well here’s your chance!

The classes that I’ve been producing on Skillshare this past year are a breakdown of the many processes that I use when developing characters for a picture book. From the things that I need to consider before starting work on a story, designing character, all the way through to deciding what illustration technique will be most suitable for the final artwork.

To make things easy for you, I’ve listed my classes in the sequence that I use when producing illustrations for a story. Work your way through, and you’ll be well on your way to producing your very first picture book publication. Skillshare are now offering a one-month FREE trial, so all you need to do, is click on the links below to join me in class.


‘101 Guide to Picture Books’ will give you the framework for everything you need to consider before starting work on a picture book.

101 Guide to Picture Book Illustration

‘Face Facts – a Beginners Guide to Drawing a Self Portrait’ is a chance to brush-up on the basics in face proportion, so that you can start illustrating characters with confidence.

Inês Mateus’ self portrait.

‘Face Shapes – Explore Character Using 9 Simple Shapes’ is the perfect kick-start to any character design.

Face Shapes Skillshare Class

‘101 Guide to Drawing Eyes’ allows you to hone in on your character, exploring the shape, size and the placement of the eyes, and seeing how these small tweaks can dramatically change age, look and style of your character.

101 Guide to Drawing Eyes

‘Emoji Me – the Art of Drawing Facial Expression’ walks you through the six basic emotions and then some. If you’re illustrating a story, this class is a must!

Emoji Me – The Art of Facial Expression

‘How to Draw the Head from Every Angle – Part One’ shares simple techniques that will help you draw yours character head every which way.

How to Draw the Head From Every Angle

‘How to Draw the Head from Every Angle – Part Two’ will save you hours and hours of mistakes and frustration. Making a mini-model of your character’s head, will not only help you understand character but it will also help you draw your character accurately and consistently while working on a picture book.

Polymere Clay Model

‘How to Draw the Head from Every Angle – Part Three’ walks you step-by-step through the process of drawing your characters head from every angle, creating valuable character reference.

Drawing a characters head from every angel

‘Draw a Circus of Characters – Exploring Body Shape and Body Proportion’ takes you through the process of drawing a set of characters for a story using three simple steps.

‘Illustration Masterclass – Exploring Technique and Style’ gives you the opportunity to experiment with a wide variety of illustration styles and techniques.

Illustration Techniques Master Class


I have some exciting new classes in the works, including my next class ‘Draw a Circus of Movement’ where you’ll learn how to bring your characters to life with movement and gesture. In this class, you’ll explore body posture, exaggeration, line-of-action and other techniques that will have your characters balancing, lifting, walking, skipping, running and leaping right off the page!

If you have an idea for a character or a picture book story, my classes offer the opportunity for anyone who has always wanted to illustrate a picture book, but needs guidance; for anyone who is in the process of illustrating a story but needs encouragement; or just for anyone who wants to draw and explore and see where it takes them. The lovely thing about these classes is that you can work at your own pace and in your own space, practicing new skills, all the while working on the bigger picture – your your picture book publication.

I look forward to seeing you in class and if you have any questions or even an idea for a future class, please drop me a line. I’m alway happy to help. – Nina

The Art of Bunnies in Books – an Easter Illustration Celebration

With Easter just around the corner, I have taken the opportunity to explore rabbits, bunnies and hares in picture book stories, with my latest class, The Art of Bunnies in Books – an Easter Illustration Celebration. 

I’ve spent the past month, putting together a class that not only offers an opportunity to hone-in your drawing skills but also, to inspire you with illustrations and art from a wide selection of ‘bunny’ books, walking you step-by-step through the process of drawing, designing and illustrating animal-like, human-like and toy-like bunnies.

I’m super proud of this class, with 55-mins of inspiration, a bunny booklist, illustration templates and instructions on how to paint and draw bunnies galore The Art of Bunnies in Books – an Easter Illustration Celebration will be sure to get you in the mood for Easter!

‘The Grasshopper’s Dance’, Illustrated by Nina Rycroft

As you may know, bringing human qualities to animal characters is one of my favourite things to do, so having the opportunity to spend time researching and seeing how different illustrators approach anthropomorphism across time, has been absolutely eye-opening for me.

For as long as picture books have been in print, illustrators have used anthropomorphism as a technique to engage and connect to the reader. A balancing act of various degrees of animal/human qualities, from keeping the animal natural looking to having the animal behave, dress and even live in a human-like way. This class will show various degrees of anthropomorphic techniques and how illustrators across time have implemented them.

Full Moon - Water Colour illustration Nina Rycroft

An illustration from ‘The Grasshopper’s Dance’, by Juliette McIver, Illustrated by Nina Rycroft

I’ve illustrated the occasional bunny in my time, and have found them an absolute delight to work with. So if you enjoy picture books, illustration, bunnies and celebrating Easter with more than just chocolate, then this class is a must!

My new Skillshare class,The Art of Bunnies in Books – an Easter Illustration Celebration explores the popularity and the history of rabbits, hares and bunnies in picture books.

Aesop’s fable ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’

From early fables like The Tortoise and the Hare, to well-known characters like the Velveteen RabbitPeter RabbitMiffy and more, this class will inspire you with a time-line of picture book stories, illustration styles and techniques. You can also download a BUNNY BOOKLIST, listing all the books, authors and illustrators that I mention in the class, as well as links to purchase copies of the books. *only if the books are available online.

‘The Velveteen Rabbit‘ by Margery Williams

‘The Velveteen Rabbit‘ by Margery Williams

The Art of Bunnies in Books – an Easter Illustration Celebration gives you comprehensive instructions to try your hand at anthropomorphism, illustrating animal-like, human-like and toy-like bunnies. With over the shoulder instructions, I show you my methods to creating animal characters for picture books, taking you through the entire process, from ideas, drawing rabbits from photographic reference, all the way through to creating final Easter Celebration Illustration using watercolour.

Beginners and seasoned artists are welcome! though I would highly recommend basic knowledge in watercolour.

Easter Celebration Illustration by Nina Rycroft

Easter Celebration Illustration by Nina Rycroft


  • A Bunny Book List (featuring all the books mentioned in class).
  • Illustration Templates for the ‘Easter Celebration Illustration’, ‘Toy Rabbit’ drawings and ‘Bunny Sketches’ from photographs.
  • Material lists for each illustration project.
    As well as this, you will have  55-mins of over-the-shoulder tuition!

Nina’s velveteen toy rabbit inspired drawings

If you join The Art of Bunnies in Books – an Easter Illustration Celebration using this link, you’ll get a one-month-free-trial at Skillshare, where you can enrol in my other (11 character design and illustration) classes as well as take part in thousands of other creative classes.

As always, I look forward to sharing everything that I’ve learnt over the years illustrating character and story!

Enjoy your Easter preparations with books, bunnies and maybe a little chocolate – Nina 🙂


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I wanted to take this opportunity to focus on the colored pencil techniques that I offer in my Illustration Masterclass – Exploring Technique and Style.

Illustration Masterclass – Exploring Technique and Style

I’ve made sure to cover a wide variety of style and technique, so if you’re wanting to try out colored pencil, this class offers the opportunity to explore a range of styles in a relatively short amount of time. From bold and playful to soft and delicate, the results are as different as (the feeling) and the process it took to complete them.


This expressive energetic illustration style is all about layering bold cross-hatching line in multiple directions. Starting with a soft color then, layering over the top with stronger pigments. Let’s say I’m coloring-in the girls hair, instead of using one yellow pencil, I use a family of yellow colors, from deep cadmium and gold, all the way through to burnt sienna and orange. Using a family of colors helps create the depth and richness I’m after.

This technique, requires a bold line and confident hand. I enjoyed the process of working at a fast rhythmic pace and getting results quickly.

Materials for Illustration One
Derwent Artist Pink Madder Lake 19-17
Derwent Deep Cadmium 19-6
Derwent Middle Chrome 19-8
Derwent Scarlet Lake 19-12
Derwent burnt sienna 19-62
Derwent Geranium Lake 19-15
Derwent Terra Cotta 19-64
Derwent Kingfisher Blue 19-38
Derwent Sky Blue- 19-34
Derwent Turquoise Green 19-40
Derwent Gold 19-3
Derwent Cobalt Blue 19-31
Derwent Deep Vermillion 19-14
Prismacolor light peach


This soft whimsical style of illustration is much more delicate that the previous style. When using this technique, think light and soft, brushing the pencil back and forth across the paper without putting any weight behind it. This technique is all about slowly building up the layers of color one after the other. I use the same cross-hatching technique as I did with the previous illustration however, I brush the sharp-tipped pencil across the paper changing the direction 45% for each layer.

To add interest, I create a textured pattern by drawing with a blunt pointed tool then laying the colored pencil over the top. This illustration required much more patience than the previous style and needs a calm approach. Once I found my rhythm, I enjoyed the process and found myself falling into a ‘flow’.

Materials for Illustration Two
Prismacolor light peach
Derwent Artist Pink Madder Lake 19-17
Derwent Raw Sienna 19-58
Derwent Geranium Lake 19-15
Derwent Deep Vermilion 19-14
Derwent Orange Chrome 19-10
Derwent Olive Green 19-51
Derwent Bronze 19-52
Derwent Sky Blue- 19-34
Derwent Light Violet 19-26 19-15
Derwent burnt sienna 19-62
Derwent Kingfisher Blue 19-38
Derwent Golden Brown 19-59


This playful, expressive style of illustration requires a child-like approach of fun and exuberance. It’s about being bold and brave, leaving perfection (and drawing inside the lines) at the door. This style is about finding the balance between play and precision. The line is confident and the colors are strong, with the excitement of creating child-like ‘scribbles’ with the wisdom that comes with experience.

This technique requires you to dive right in. You need to have total conviction with a sprinkling of play. Once I got this, I enjoyed the speed and excitement this illustration required.

Materials for Illustration Three
Derwent Spectrum Orange 19-11
Derwent Middle Chrome 19-8
Derwent Venetian Red 19-63
Derwent Burnt Yellow Ochre 19-50

Other Materials needed
Arches Hot-press watercolor paper
a compass
an eraser
a sharpener

If you haven’t already, use the links below to get started in Illustration Masterclass – Exploring Techniques and Styles
FREE http://skl.sh/2krWZL3
Premium Link  http://skl.sh/2jyzAV3

I’d love to see and hear how you get on. Did you enjoy the bold playful style, or did you prefer a more delicate timely process?

All the best with your coloured pencil adventure! – Nina

Why I Make a 3D Model of My Characters

Drawing my characters’ head rotating on the X, Y and Z-Axis


When creating a new character, I like to start by using my hands to quickly and effectively sketch the shape and form using clay. My view… I’m experiential learner and making a 3D model takes me through the process of building my character from the ground up. The tactile experience of adding, pressing and shaping the clay offers a multi-sensory experience and offers me a deeper understanding of my character.

About the new site…

Hi there!

I’m Nina, a picture book illustrator. I’ve been illustrating picture books since my first publication in 2000 and I am now in the process of re-working my face-to-face illustration classes into video style online classes with Skillshare. With 9 classes to date, my character development series walks you through every aspect of designing and developing characters for a picture book. Each class is between 20-30 mins with the occasional Illustration masterclass. I love teaching and I’m so excited to be able to share the tricks of the trade with other artists, illustrators and anyone interested in trying out picture book illustration.

Full Moon - Water Colour ILlustration Nina Rycroft

My website features a new class each month, my books page and my online portfolio. As well as illustrating and teaching online, I enjoy school visits and one-on-one mentoring, so if you’re interested in finding out more, please drop me a line or better still subscribe.