Counting In The Ocean

Counting In The Ocean Children’s Book Illustration
(case study)

“Bilangan Sa Karagatan” (Counting In The Ocean) is an educational underwater adventure storybook for young Filipino readers


Vibal Group is a leading technology and education company in the Philippines aiming to promote literacy to Filipinos through high-quality educational books and technology.


Create illustrations for “Bilangan Sa Karagatan” (Counting In The Ocean) a Tagalog narrative poem written by Raissa Rivera Falgui about counting underwater animals. This book aims to help young Filipino readers learn how to read and count, and get to know more about underwater animals.


  • Character Design
  • Background Design
  • Narrative Illustration
  • Hand Lettering


Colorful, playful children’s illustrations custom made for Falgui’s story depicting two merchildren having an adventure in the ocean as they count underwater animals.

Bilangan Sa Karagatan Filipino Childrens Book Jeca Martinez


For this project I was given a lot of creative freedom in terms of art direction, and design of the characters and environment. Aside from the animals that were mentioned in the manuscript, the main characters were neither described by the author nor referred to in the poem.

My initial sketches for the main character depicted a young human girl exploring the ocean. Below are the corresponding first sketch versions of the images above:

However the evaluators were concerned that young readers would think it’s ok to swim in the ocean alongside wild animals without guardians or safety equipment. It was decided that the young human girl will be changed to a young mermaid, accompanied by a young merman character to appeal to male readers.

Here are the revised sketches (the orange wiggles are text placeholders):

As for the animals and environment I softened and rounded out their shapes, and all the animals were designed with friendly, harmless personalities to them to appeal to young readers. And since this was a counting book for children, I made sure to space the animals out so that they would be distinguishable from one another, and easy enough to count.


One of the client’s guidelines for the project is to avoid dark colors in the illustrations (particularly black) and instead opt for bright, happy colors to appeal to children. Keeping this in mind, I designed each spread to have varying color schemes to convey a different atmosphere with each animal; I felt that this would make the book more colorful overall instead of sticking to the blues and greens of the ocean.


The two sketches below were presented for consideration for the book cover. Although the client preferred the first sketch, they wanted to have a space in the middle of the back cover for the blurb, barcode, and company logo. However the client was also open to using the second sketch, but with the merchildren drawn like in the first sketch.

In the end I chose to go with the second study because: 1) the corals in the back cover were a perfect backdrop for the blurb, barcode, and company logo without covering any important illustrations, 2) I felt it would make sense to introduce the readers to the animals as the story progresses instead of all at once on the book cover, and 3) we wouldn’t have to repeat the same illustration for the last page of the story as the front cover.

For the title itself, I designed some playful hand-lettering inspired by bubbles and the ocean waves.

For a more in-depth look at how the cover came to life, I published a speed painting video of me working on it on my YouTube channel.

I also filmed a quick vlog of the book launch!


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