[Taxacom] Scientific illustration

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Wed Jul 22 04:38:39 CDT 2009

Alan Harvey wrote:

"So my question is: these days, how are systematists generating illustrations for publications? Traditional pen-and-ink or computer line-and-stipple (or perhaps some edgier approaches, e.g., digital wash effects?...)? And who is doing the illustration, the author or a hired illustrator?"

Interesting questions. Among my poor underfunded lot of specialists, the pen-and-ink work plus all the digital follow-up as well as composing and labeling the plates with their SEMs, etc is done by the aforementioned specialists. I suspect we're not alone. In the same way that the 'electric broom' (vacuum cleaner) marginalised housekeepers in the 1920s and 1930s and turned housewives into domestic servants, the computer has marginalised scientific illustrators and turned many a taxonomist into a graphic artist.

The drill here on Planet Millipede for line art is:
(1) do preliminary drawings of key structures using a microscope eyepiece grid and correspondingly gridded paper, or camera lucida
(2) adjust drawing size if necessary with a photocopier
(3) 'ink' drawings on good-quality tracing paper using a good-quality pen of appropriate nib width; stippling optional
(4) scan tracings
(5) open scans in image editing software to
(a) edit and touch up the line art
(b) adjust resolution and plate size to suit journal
(c) add labels and scale bars

SEMs and photomicrographs come digital off the 'scopes these days, so they go straight into imaging software for cropping, adjusting levels, labeling, etc. Ditto digital photos.

Zootaxa has a nice guide at http://www.mapress.com/zootaxa/imaging/index.html, but it assumes the contributor has a copy of Adobe Photoshop. (Users of the GIMP, like me, have some translating to do.)
Dr Robert Mesibov
Honorary Research Associate
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
School of Zoology, University of Tasmania
Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
(03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195
Website: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/mesibov.html

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