Black and White book illustration by book illustrator Duncan Long

Black and White book illustration by book illustrator Duncan Long

I’m continuing to work on my black and white illustration techniques and thought I’d post some of my latest undertakings. A few are modifications of old work that was originally in color; others are new. While these are likely to appear in magazines or at web sites, I am hoping they may make their way into novels.


Yes, novels occasionally display illustrations not only on their covers but inside the book as well. These inner illustrations are almost always black and white rather than color. The reason for the lack of color in novels is that only one color of ink (black) is used to print the text, so a color picture requires printing the picture separately and then inserting it into place during the binding process, not an easy task with automated printing equipment. With black and white artwork, the same ink that’s printing the text of a novel can ink the picture as well.

Color pictures were sometimes popped into books during the early 1900s (N.C. Wyeth’s work perhaps being the best examples of such illustrations). But color artwork on inner pages is pretty much of a rarity in modern novels.

When present, black and white pictures often appear in the front matter of novels (older readers will likely remember those beautiful line drawings in the front of many of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels produced by Ace Books and others in the 1960s and 1970s). More recently even occasional black and white pictures have become rare in novels as publishers try to cut costs wherever they can.

One exception to this is TOR’s recent offerings (such as Pleasure Model: Netherworld Book One) which are loaded with pictures making them a bit of a cross between the graphic novel and the regular novel. Whether these experiments will prove viable or merely an interesting exercise remains to be seen.

Because publishers generally can’t afford to pay a lot for inner illustrations (and thus artists making a living can’t spend a lot of time producing the work), black and white pictures in novels tend to be simple line work and may be quite stylized. These sometimes rough-around-the-edges pictures aren’t without charm, and black and white drawings can be starkly powerful.

Will TOR’s semi-graphic-novel succeed? Stay tuned….

Of course I’m hoping TOR’s experiment pays off. It would be nice to have a new sort of book for authors and artists to play with, and as a new treat for readers.

But it is an experiment; sometimes these creatures which are neither fish nor fowl struggle to fly for a time and then sink into the murky depths never more to be seen like some monster from a 1950s B movie.

In the end, publishing, like many a business, is part science, part art, and part trial and error. Yet, as Thomas Edison noted, even a failure teaches because it brings one step closer to discovering what does work.

So even when publishing’s bold experiments falter, each will take us a little closer to something that will work. And hopefully that something will have new and entertaining illustrations for the reader to enjoy.

Maybe something like those you see at this blog :)

Black and White book illustration by book illustrator Duncan Long

You can see more of my black and white book illustrations at: Duncan’s Drawing Gallery.

Duncan Long is a freelance magazine and book illustrator for HarperCollins, PS Publishing, Pocket Books, Ballistic Publishing, Solomon Press, American Media, Fort Ross, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and many other publishers. See more of Duncan’s book cover illustrations — as well as his B&W work — at: