What Makes A Good Illustration?

good illustration

Every “Friend” short story and serial needs to be accompanied by a striking illustration. On our website, there’s an informative behind the scenes blog post from Illustrations Editor Manon.

For the purpose of this post, I want to highlight the illustrating process from an editorial point of view.

Short stories

After reading a short story, we have a few ways of finding suitable illustrations. We can either access our own picture library of illustrations, or access the online agency where we source the likes of vector art and photographs.

Vector illustration by Sarah Holliday.

The other option is to type up an illustration brief. This involves highlighting the main character(s) alongside a specific scene. We will also highlight a specific “mood” we want captured within the scene and, if relevant, the season.

It’s important not to give the ending away in an illustration though. For example, characters who are single at the start of a story but end up as a couple at the end. We can still show them together, but not in an obviously romantic way.


For serials, we rely solely on illustration briefs. The reason being, there will be recurring characters who will feature in multiple scenes.

The characters have to be suitably attired each time. Unless it’s a particular vocation, the readers don’t want to see characters wearing the same clothes all the way through a serial.

Though serials can contain a multitude of characters, we prefer to show the main characters in the majority of scenes.

Unlike short stories, where we can simply show a landscape to capture the “heartbeat” of a story, we will always show a minimum of two characters in each serial scene. For the simple reason, serials are more character focussed than in short stories.

Final thoughts

Due to its creative diversity, a montage works well with both short stories and serials.

Whatever the style of artwork, illustrations must complement the stories and serials they appear alongside.

Illustrations are all about drawing readers into a story world, capturing specific moods, whether it’s through a smile or sunset.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.