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

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.

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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).

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.

 

Martin Woodward

Martin Woodward - Jet Engine Martin Woodward - Engine Martin Woodward - Water Turbine

Martin Woodward - Eye Martin Woodward - Vein Repair

Martin Woodward, also known as  tecmedi, is a British technical & medical illustrator. He has been producing illustrations for publishing, manufacturing & advertising clients for over 20 years. His portfolio features a broad range of subjects as well as tutorials and a quite sensible style & pricing guide.

AOI Awards Adds Category for Technical Illustration

AOI Awards

The UK-based Association of Illustration has added a new category to their annual international illustration awards:

Research & Knowledge Communication
Illustration commissioned for the purpose of undertaking research and communicating knowledge. Illustration that is used as a research or investigative tool and that represents, explains or seeks to understand information or data.
Includes but is not limited to… natural history illustration, wildlife, scientific illustration, forensic imagery, architectural imagery, illustration supporting academic research (for example in archaeology, geology, paleontology, natural sciences, biological sciences), visual informatics, data-visualisation and graphic facilitation.

The description may be vague and wordy, but this is a big acknowledgement of information illustration. The rise of photography in mass media largely redefined the role of illustration to be something more abstract, emotive and symbolic, more in the world of fine art. This schism between Art and Science meant that for decades illustrators who depicted things from reality, subjects of non-fiction, couldn’t find recognition from the larger illustration community. The inclusion of information illustration in these awards is an acknowledgement of the importance, relevance and indeed the enjoyment of the work that we create.

This is also a great promotional opportunity. Your work will be judged by a panel of influential industry professionals, and if selected, it will be published in the 2013 awards catalogue, promoted online and exhibited in the AOI Awards show.

The deadline for entry is February 28, 2013. Thanks to Kathryn Chorney for the tip!

The AOI Awards

Jim Hatch for Volkswagen

Jim Hatch - VW Beetle Cutaway Illustration

Jim Hatch recently completed this great project for Volkswagen, featuring finely detailed and rendered cutaway illustrations of their entire vehicle lineup. After the break, he shares some insight on working on a project of this scale, some process work, and lots of beautiful final illustrations.

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Masters of the Cutaway

I just happened across design blog Core77‘s ongoing series, Masters of the Cutaway. Some of it seems lifted from Kevin Hulsey‘s much more in-depth Masters Gallery: Art of the Cutaway, but there are a few illustrators you might not know about:

Wrapping Patterns Around Cylinders

Wrapping Patterns Around Cylinders

Brett wrote in looking for a way to accomplish a diamond grip pattern wrapping around a cylinder, like the one shown above. It’s easy enough to trace a photo, but what if you didn’t have one, or it wasn’t at the right angle?

The technique I’d use is similar to mapping a label to a can.

Wrapping Patterns Around Cylinders

1. Create the artwork you’ll need. The diamond pattern matches the angle and density of the original. The black circle is the same diameter as the reference part, and is filled with no stroke.

Wrapping Patterns Around Cylinders

2. Make the pattern a symbol. Drag the pattern into the Symbols palette.

Wrapping Patterns Around Cylinders

3. Extrude the circle. Go to Effects > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Click the Surface dropdown at the bottom and select Wireframe. This will help you orient the cylinder to the desired angle. I usually start by entering 0° for all the rotation angles, then rotating one axis at a time by grabbing the edges of the preview cube.

You may need to reposition your cylinder to line up better with a reference image. To do this, Click OK, move the cylinder as needed, then open your Appearance pallete and double click on the 3D Extrude & Bevel item. You may need to turn Preview back on.

When you’re happy with your geometry, click Map Art…

Wrapping Patterns Around Cylinders

4. Map Art. Click through the Surfaces to find the rectangular side surface. Then select your pattern from the Symbol drop down. Next, select Scale To Fit at the bottom and check off Invisible Geometry. Click OK.

Wrapping Patterns Around Cylinders

5. Change Surface to Flat Shading. Click OK. You can now edit the artwork as needed by going to Object > Expand Appearance. In my example, I changed the yellow fill to white, then drew the rest of the lineart on another layer.

Have a common problem in Illustrator? Let us know in the comments, or email it to suggest@technicalillustrators.org!

Shooting On-Angle Photos

Shooting On-Angle Reference Photos

Often the most difficult and time consuming part of technical illustration is finding good reference material. While the internet serves up a limitless selection of images, finding one at an appropriate size, fidelity, viewing angle, and unambiguous copyright status, can be next to impossible.

Sometimes it’s much quicker to simply step away from your desk and go snap a photo of whatever you need. Of course, this isn’t practical if you’re drawing a submarine or a satellite, but it can help if you’re trying to fill a scene with commonplace objects.

Where it gets tricky is matching your photo reference up to the rest of the drawing. We’ve all seen drawings badly traced and assembled together from photos taken at different angles. We can recognize this because we understand perspective. So let’s apply that understanding when shooting our own photos.

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