[Taxacom] Scientific illustration

Alan Harvey aharvey at georgiasouthern.edu
Wed Jul 22 17:53:07 CDT 2009

Sam and others,

That's actually what inspired my original query. I have most of a MS on these techniques, which I put together in the early '90's. As I've been out of the field for a while, I was wondering if there were already plenty (or at least sufficient) resources available for scientists wanting to do this on the computer, as there's no point in republishing the wheel.



>>> Sam Brown <s_d_j_brown at hotmail.com> 07/22/09 6:41 PM >>>

Alan, Bob, Mary and others...

Thus far, I've used pen-and-ink techniques, but I've also been looking into the digital option a lot more.

For photographs and the like, the standard bitmap images (JPG OK, TIFF better) work a charm. However, line drawings and diagrams are much more flexible if drawn in a vector graphics format as supported by programs like Illustrator or Inkscape (the open source option. www.inkscape.org). The main feature of this is that it allows lossless scaling of images, but vector drawings are also very easy to modify. Of course, drawing into the vector graphics program from biological specimens is the trick, which I haven't yet had any practical experience with. Options could include using a drawing tablet; or taking photos, importing them into the graphics program, and tracing over them. 

If anyone has any other tips, or know of any other online tutorials for biological illustration, I would be very glad to hear them. 



Samuel Brown
Postgraduate Student
Bio-Protection Research Centre
PO Box 84
Lincoln University
Lincoln 7647
New Zealand

>    5. Re: Scientific illustration (Bob Mesibov)
>    7. Re: Scientific illustration (Mary Barkworth)
>    8. Re: Scientific illustration (Bob Mesibov)

> Message: 5
> Date: Wed, 22 Jul 2009 19:38:39 +1000
> From: Bob Mesibov <mesibov at southcom.com.au>
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Scientific illustration
> To: aharvey at georgiasouthern.edu
> Cc: TAXACOM <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
> Message-ID: <20090722193839.0fff5082.mesibov at southcom.com.au>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII
> 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

> ------------------------------
> Message: 7
> Date: Wed, 22 Jul 2009 05:12:53 -0600
> From: "Mary Barkworth" <Mary at biology.usu.edu>
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Scientific illustration
> To: "Bob Mesibov" <mesibov at southcom.com.au>,
> 	<aharvey at georgiasouthern.edu>
> Cc: TAXACOM <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
> Message-ID:
> 	<E9259A26315FBF4C86486B341847B019017E06BA at bioserver.biology.usu.edu>
> Content-Type: text/plain;	charset="us-ascii"
> Being one of those folks who cannot draw, my response has been to figure
> out some way to pay someone who both knows plants and can draw. One of
> these invested in a dissecting microscope plus camera and built in
> micrometer. She takes a photograph and uses that to guide her
> illustration. She figures that the combination enables her to make
> accurate drawings more rapidly. I had a lot of work for her - and pay by
> the completed plate so being able to work more rapidly made the
> equipment a good investment. She also works as a botanical consultant so
> the dissecting microscope is used for that also, but she had an adequate
> microscope for that purpose. 
> We scan the line drawings at 1200 bpi for publication, do any cleanup
> needed in Photoshop, and label with Illustrator. I still really like
> good line drawings. I have found, as I am sure others have, that the
> illustrator needs to understand the structures being drawn. Botanist
> first, illustrator an additional and valuable skill. I am sure that it
> can work the other way round but I find it difficult to explain to a
> non-botanist why their illustration is not quite right. 
> Mary
> ------------------------------
> Message: 8
> Date: Wed, 22 Jul 2009 21:36:39 +1000
> From: Bob Mesibov <mesibov at southcom.com.au>
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Scientific illustration
> To: "Mary Barkworth" <Mary at biology.usu.edu>
> Cc: TAXACOM <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
> Message-ID: <20090722213639.d9a3680a.mesibov at southcom.com.au>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII
> Mary Barkworth wrote:
> "I have found, as I am sure others have, that the illustrator needs to understand the structures being drawn."
> Agreed. If you asked me which of the steps in my last post I would hand over to an illustrator, the answer is 'All but the first - the preliminary drawings'. I know what I want to show and I know how to show it, and I'd have to train up an illustrator in millipede taxonomy to get the same result.
> Line drawings of millipede genitalia are not only the most useful parts of a species description, they're often the *only* parts that other specialists look at. They need to show the diagnostic features in just the right way.
> -- 

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