What is the Difference Between an Illustrated and a Picture Book

What is the Difference Between an Illustrated and a Picture Book?

Many people get confused over what exactly is an illustrated book compared to a picture book, they both are books with drawings in, right? In one respect they are just books with drawing in but there are also many subtle differences between the two publishing formats.

Illustrated Books

  • Stories embellished with illustrations
  • The illustrations enhance the story-line
  • The illustrations tell what a particular scene is about
  • The story can be understood in the narrative without the illustrations
  • The illustration may encourage non-readers to try purchasing the book

If you are looking of examples to fit this category then books such as Winnie-the-Pooh, Charlotte’s Web, and The Hobbit.

Picture Books

  • Stories with illustrations
  • The illustrations are highly important to reinforce the narrative
  • The words and illustrations act together to tell the whole story-line
  • The picture book does not need words
  • The illustrations provide important information about the story-line

Examples of typical picture books are, Oh, the Places You’ss Go, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, My First Piano, The Napping House, and Can we Save the Tiger. Picture books come in many types and genres also, such as concept books, easy reading, non-fiction, wordless, pop-up books, toy books, musical books, board books, and many more.

The Differences

The main differences between illustrated books and picture books can be broken down into five categories, namely,

  • Number of pages
  • Word count
  • Description
  • Role
  • Importance

Number of Pages and Physical Description

Generally, a picture book is around thirty to forty pages in length, with the standard being thirty-two. An illustrated book can be up to three hundred pages long, depending who the target audience is. You can find picture books that come in all different shapes and sizes, and even textures. The illustrated book also comes in a different array of physical sizes depending on the publisher.

Word Count

Similar to the number of pages classification, the number of words in a picture book are far less than an illustrated book. A picture book is usually under one thousand words with the drawings taking up the majority of page space. An illustrated book can be over ten thousand words, obviously depending on the complexity of the story.


The role of the illustration or drawing is perhaps the biggest difference between these two forms of books. In a picture book the drawings are there to relay the story, sometimes with no text whatsoever. Whereas the illustrated book’s drawings are there to assist in telling the story and to highlight certain parts of the narrative.


The importance of drawings in a picture book is essential, the drawings are the main part of the book. In the case of illustrated books, the drawing are their primarily to enhance the readers enjoyment, to hold their attention, and to embellish the narrative. However, the story in an illustrated book can stand up by itself without any illustrations, and sometimes the book is available in two formats, illustrated and non-illustrated.