Sep 14

We’re on Tumblr!

Visit us at technicalillustrators.tumblr.com! For the uninitiated, Tumblr is a microblogging and social media platform that makes it easy to share, discuss and subscribe to content.

The two sites will mirror one-another, so posts here will show up there and vice-versa.

So feel free to subscribe to our RSS Feed or follow us on Tumblr, whatever works for you!

Sep 14

Mapbox – Design Beautiful Maps

Mapbox Sample Map

Mapbox enables you to easily design and use beautiful maps, selecting your own colors, typography, imagery, textures and line qualities from their vast and flexible toolbox. Then you can add points of interest and data from Pinterest, Foursquare, Github, spreadsheets and more.

This looks like it would be great for everything from an on-brand locator map to some serious big-data number crunching.

Hat tip to Davvi for the suggestion!

Apr 14

Embrace the Future

Cannot Predict Now

If only we could look into the magic 8 ball and know in an instant what the future of technical illustration will be.  I know some have seen it develop from the strictly traditional execution of the past to the now multi-functional digital aspects of today.

Yesterday evening, I attended the graduate show for the Bachelor of Applied Arts in Illustration program held by the 2014 class of Sheridan College students, my alma mater school.  It’s interesting to reflect back on where I used to once be, starting out as a professional after completing my degree, with no idea what the future would hold.  To now be able to see how far a career can progress, just by getting out there and doing.

Doing what? Creating, designing, marketing a skill set, keeping current with ever-changing trends and always new and improving software programs, creating and never ceasing to ask questions about how better to visualize information not only from a technical standpoint, but from a perspective where any viewer just “gets it” in one look.

This led me to ponder how the educational institutions play into what’s really going on in our industry and how this shapes the future as we professionals know it.  Sheridan College in particular when I attended educated students in the Technical and Scientific Illustration stream with a focused vision on what types of illustrations you could be creating out in the world.  Now, this stream is no longer going to exist, as they move towards a more University style approach, allowing students to choose which courses they want to explore.  The courses that were previously within the niche of the technical and scientific stream will still be available, however as a student, you would not be getting the end-to-end experience as I once had to hone the skill set in this ever-evolving field.

We have to ask: Are the educational institutions shaping the technical illustration industry properly, if not at all? Have they looked into the Magic 8 ball and know the answer, or are they assuming they know what the future will hold?

I believe there is still a successful career to be had in Technical Illustration, as the work I do daily reflects the need that clients still have.  So, I should be jumping for joy that major competition is being cut out, right? I think not.  The biggest reason I love competition is that is makes me better at what I do.  It pushes me creatively to do more and go further.  So, the real loss to the industry would be a lack of competition to keep those of us that have been doing this for years “on our toes”.

On the other hand, I know that technology is a driving force to how clients hire, whether freelance or in-house and that the other side of the coin, as a professional you always have to be improving upon the foundation of skills that an initial education brought.  A continual growth in knowledge of software, now even more into 3D modeling and animation, web design or even design of info graphics will allow for a more well-rounded approach for dealing with any and all clients that come along, now or in the future.

Sometimes it’s a challenge to get a pulse on an industry when we work in our own little bubbles, more now with online media.  But some of the indication of that pulse has to come from the education that future Illustrators would be receiving.

Inevitably, from where I stand today and where I stood years ago when I graduated from Sheridan, I choose to embrace the future.  If we don’t, we’ll be left behind.  The future may change, but there will always be Technical Illustration.  It may just be executed differently down the road.

A big Congratulations! goes out to the 2014 class of Sheridan Illustration students.  Good luck and embrace your future!  If you are in the greater Toronto area and want to check out the up-and-coming talent of illustrators, the illustration show is on until Friday, April 11, 2014 at 9pm.  You can find more information on http://sheridanillustration.com/

What do you see where you live? Is there a large school nearby that teaches the Technical Illustration skill set if you were to get into the field? Or has a program that you knew previously existed been pushed to the wayside?

Have you been in the industry so long and have a different take on where things are headed?

Mar 14

Business of Illustration

Business of Illustration

Business of Illustration is dedicated to educating new and aspiring artists to the field of illustration from a business perspective. Its primary focus is on the nuts and bolts of being an illustrator and what it takes to create a sustainable career in this challenging, creative field.

Subjects covered include finance, promotion, contracts, rights, and general knowledge for a career in illustration. Updated every Monday (work-permitting) it should be a great resource for anyone interested in working in the field.


Jan 14

Connector & Fastener Libraries

Fasteners Library Power Connectors Library Computer/AV Connectors Library

Matthew Jennings wrote in to let us know about his illustration libraries. For £10-15 (USD $16-25) you get a set of fasteners, power connectors, or computer/AV connectors, all in vector format ready to use in illustrations, instruction manuals or parts diagrams. The illustrations show a nice attention to detail and line weight.

Kevin Hulsey offers a similar fastener library (USD $50), with a smaller selection of parts but a greater variety of angles.

Scoop all these up and you’ll never have to fuss with drawing a connector again!

Update: Matthew has added two new libraries. The Fixings library (£15.00) is a collection of 23 common fixings in varying degrees of rotation, and comes complete with placement guides for precise positioning. The Measuring and Marking library (£7.50) contains a variety of measurement tools. Get them here.

Industrial Artworks Fixings Library Industrial Artworks Measurement & Marking Library

Dec 13

Adobe Illustrator Bugs, Gripes & Feature Wishlist

Three years ago, members of the Adobe Illustrator team got in touch with me to gather feedback from the Technical Illustration community. While they couldn’t promise any new features, or that any issues we had would be addressed, they were at least reaching out and willing to listen.

Since then, Illustrator has seen two releases: Illustrator CS6 in April 2012, and Illustrator CC in June 2013. Having just recently upgraded to Creative Cloud, I thought it might be time to revisit our list and see what’s been addressed, what problems persist, and what more could be done to improve Illustrator in the future.

Continue reading →

Nov 13

Auto-Save in Adobe Illustrator Using Actions

Auto-Save in Adobe Illustrator Using Actions

Tired of losing work to Adobe Illustrator’s random and spontaneous crashes? You’re not alone.

This tutorial on Vector Tuts+ will show you how to roll your own Auto-Save function using the Actions palette. It’s really easy and lets you set a custom interval and name & location for the auto-save file. So easy, you’ll wonder why Adobe hasn’t added it as a feature.

One caveat is that this workaround means an action is running constantly, and that you can only set one interval for all your actions. This effectively disables your other actions.

Nov 13

Scott Robertson’s Free Tutorial Fridays

Scott Robertson is a concept artist well known for his educational books, DVDs and workshops. Every Friday he posts a free video tutorial to his YouTube page. He covers a wide variety of topics including sketching, inking, marker rendering and Photoshop painting. What I like about his videos is that they’re not strictly technical, he’s really good at explaining the thinking and process behind everything he does.

Oct 13

Astute Graphics VectorScribe 2

Astute Graphics has released a new version of their VectorScribe plugin for Adobe Illustrator. The new version adds some really useful features to their existing tools, as well as a few new tools that technical illustrators might find handy.

The Dynamic Corners tool now detects previously expanded or non-dynamic corners and makes them dynamic again. Similarly, the Dynamic Shapes tool can restore dynamic status to expanded artwork or even convert shapes created with Illustrator’s default shape tools into Dynamic Shapes.

New to the suite are the Smart Remove Brush and the Path Extender/Trimmer. The Smart Remove Brush makes it easy to clean up artwork that is overly complicated, LiveTraced or expanded. The Path Extender/Trimmer works as expected on straight paths, but its real power is intelligently extending curved segments.

Astute Graphics’ YouTube Channel is a great way to see VectorScribe 2 and all their tools in action.

Full disclosure: As a beta tester I received a complimentary copy of this plugin.

Also of note to Mac users, Astute Graphics has updated their whole product lineup for compatibility with Mavericks (OS X 10.9).

Oct 13

Choosing a Niche

Technical Illustration by James Provost

Flaunt My Design interviewed me about specializing as a creative freelancer. Here’s an excerpt:

There are many reasons to specialize as a creative freelancer: Clients trust experts, word of mouth works better, and your marketing becomes more straightforward. For your inspiration, and to give you a little push to specialize, I interview graphic designers, illustrators and web designers who already have chosen their niche.

What’s your niche?

I specialize in technical illustration, the visual communication of technical information. I work with magazines, advertising firms and corporations with projects in the automotive, aerospace, architecture, engineering, energy, science and robotics fields.

How did you originally break into technical illustration?

My first job in technical illustration was an internship with Toronto’s Transit Commission where I produced instructional illustrations for their training department. During my final year of school I started receiving freelance work which enabled me to continue freelancing fulltime after graduation.

Nowadays, how do you find new clients in this niche?

My marketing strategy is simply to do the best work I can and get it in front of the right people by sharing it as widely as possible online. Personal projects, where I’m pursuing my curiosity or exploring new techniques, tend to get the best response and bring in the kind of work I like to do.

What advice would you give a fellow illustrator/graphic designer about to choose a niche?

Be the best at what you do. Define your niche narrowly enough that you are among the best providers of your specific service. This may limit your job prospects, but clients who need your specific service will find you, and you will be prepared to provide exactly what they’re looking for.

You should compete on quality, not price. In a global economy you will lose a price war. But if you provide the highest quality service to your niche, they will receive the best value for their money and keep coming back to you.

Read the full interview.