Tutorial – How to Draw Hands

I can’t remember how or when I came across this tutorial on drawing hands by illustrator Joumana Medlej, but it’s been an invaluable resource. It neatly summarizes everything I’ve ever learned from anatomy books and life drawing lessons on the construction and depiction of a palm & five digits. The style is clean, concise and technical, and the examples explore the hand’s full range of motion and various viewing angles.

Bookmark it. You’ll find that it’s handy.

Super Quick 2d Rendering Tutorial

I’ve been asked once or twice how I create some of my images. Here’s a quick rundown on how I did this illustration.

This tutorial is not aimed at making something look great but really to get the job done with a quick deadline. I’m not a great illustrator but I can get shit done fast and still make them look reasonably good. Sometimes that’s all the job requires.


It’s not overly detailed or even that good but it only took an hour and it’s going to be pretty small in the final image.


So here we go!

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Things you wish you would have learned long ago

I’ve been using illustrator now since oh version 1.4 or something and I think it’s crazy how I’m still always learning on it. For example, for some silly ass reason I never bothered to really get used to setting up symbol libraries and custom user profiles. Finally after all this time I set up a user profile with custom swatches and symbols that I use every time I start up a new document. What a time saver.


And then I find this gem in Computer Arts latest edition. Here’s a tip from Luke O’Neil on blending paths. Now I’ve used blending paths quite a bit but I had no idea you could shape them to a custom spline.


05___ Creating blends between two objects is easy in illustrator. You draw 2 objects and go to Object>Blend>Make or, alternatively, specify the number of steps you’d like in the options box. It’s also possible to change the direction of the blend by simply drawing a path and, with the blend and path selected, going to Object>Blend>Replace Spine.

How about you, anything you recently discovered that you are kicking yourself in the ass for not using earlier?

Illustration Challenge

Most of the stuff I do involves having to make illustrations for instructions that speak clearly and can have no text at all. The obvious reason for this are so that there will be no need for translations into multiple languages. One thing I come across all the time is the need for an icon or symbol that describes something making a sound or a click. I’ve tried a variety of things from an ear to a speaker to some silly lines indicating a noise. I would rather not go so far as to add music notes. What do you think would be a good icon or symbol to use? Draw one up if you would like, it might be fun.


Critique Request!

Steven Howards writes in….

This is my portfolio link, http://www.swhowardillustration.blogspot.com

I’ve been studying illustration at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and have only recently developed a desire to pursue technical illustration. I know there is much that I need to do and work on, but any comments, critiques, and help is very much appreciated!

Here’s my critique, you do very nice work, keep drawing your butt off. If a chump like me can make it as a Technical Illustrator you surely can. One suggestion, get yourself a real website with a quality domain name, not that blogspot business. If you want to go the free route here are some suggestions.

Thanks for sending that in.

Any advice for Steven?

Path Area and Perimeter in Illustrator

Calculate Path Area and Perimeter in Illustrator

Calculate Path Area and Perimeter in Illustrator

Ever needed to determine the area or perimeter of a path in Illustrator? You may (or may not) be surprised that Illustrator lacks this information. Luckily, Telegraphics offers free plug-in filters to add this functionality to versions 7 through CS4!

Path Length and Path Area filters free from Telegraphics

Elements of Drawing with Bruce Morser

Bruce Morsers - Elements of Drawing

Bruce Morser, a freelance illustrator with a unique and highly technical colored pencil technique, teaches the course Elements of Drawing: A Creative Approach at the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle, Washington. (Unfortunately, the spring 2010 class is full.)

Bruce Morser - Cigar Box

Bruce Morser - Cigar Box

“Drawing is a wonderful skill, but it also serves as a key for unlocking personal creativity. Many artists speak of great ideas emerging once their pencil starts moving across the paper. Each of the 10 class sessions will be divided between instruction in the basic skills of drawing, as well as an exploration of the creative process through techniques that enhance your own sense of creativity. Whether you’re refocusing on drawing or have no prior experience, this is your class.”

Bruce Morser - Golf Tips

Bruce Morser - Golf Tips

Morser has created images for a variety of clients including Apple, National Geographic, NASA, Nike, Starbucks, Smithsonian, Boeing, Microsoft and IBM. His subject matter ranges from technical to medical to fashion and portraiture.

Non-Disclosure Agreements

Technical Illustration Non-Disclosure Agreements

Technical Illustration and Non-Disclosure Agreements

Almost every project I take on involves signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement of some sort. An NDA is a contract that protects the client as well as the illustrator from legal and financial liability should confidential information related to the project fall in the hands of a third party.

A client with a patent pending wouldn’t want their illustrator disclosing details of a project to a competitor (or anyone for that matter). On the other hand, the illustrator needs to show work in their portfolio in order to bring in more work. The NDA contract ideally strikes a balance between the needs of the two parties.

For example, they may agree that everything is to be kept under wraps until the project is completed and published by the client. After that, the illustrator is free to use the sketches, roughs and finals for promotional purposes or even reuse or resale. This is a typical NDA clause for magazines

They may agree that all roughs, reference materials and correspondence be kept confidential, and that the illustrator can use only the final image. This is typical when working with science and technology firms.

Or the client may insist that the project be kept strictly confidential in perpetuity (Forever. Forever ever.). Because an illustrator needs to show work to get work, a clause like this seriously restricts future work opportunities. This factor must be taken into consideration when negotiating a fee for the project.

How to Get the Most out of NDA Negotiations

  • Understand your client’s needs. Clients often use boilerplate NDAs, meaning they’re often more restrictive than they need to be. Figure out what aspects are important to the client, and propose that the other restrictions be loosened.
  • Explain your needs. The client most likely hired you because of the work they saw in your portfolio. You might be missing out on the next job because you can’t show your work from this one. Explain to the client how that affects your fees.
  • Just ask. A contract usually states that changes can be made with express written consent. Once a project concludes, send the client a friendly follow-up email expressing your pride in the work and your desire to include it in your portfolio. Keep a copy of the email along with the NDA contract.
  • Deal with it. Sometimes a client really really needs absolute confidentiality. Try to work it into your fees – you don’t want this becoming standard practice. Use self-assigned projects to keep your portfolio updated and keep getting the work you want.

A non-disclosure agreement can work for you or against you. Read it. Understand it. Negotiate it. Abide by it!

How do you deal with non-disclosure agreements? Let us know in the comments!

Reference This

Creating and maintaining a library of reference images is a very valuable resource for a Technical Illustrator.

Auto Show Inspiration

Auto Show Inspiration

Last weekend I had a great opportunity to spend some time photographing and sketching new reference materials for a library of images that I have created. I attended the 2010 Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto, which is still running until February 21st. I also went out to see the Body Worlds Exhibit at the Ontario Science Centre which hosted a sketch night, allowing artists to draw the numerous pieces on display.

Both were extremely different types of shows, however both related to the work that I do as a technical illustrator – specifically from a reference-building standpoint.

At the Auto Show I was able to take 350+ images of all types of vehicles.  However, at Body Worlds all I could create for new reference were drawings that I did there, and it allowed me to view the subject matter closer than I would if I just snapped a photo.  Photos and drawings are great reference resources!

There are many great benefits to creating and maintaining one’s own reference library:

  • It makes you get out and explore new technologies, gathering information and becoming knowledgeable in many fields where you may not already have much knowledge.
  • It provides inspiration for future pieces of work, whether for personal promotional pieces or for client directed illustrations.
  • You set up an easily accessible resource base for yourself that is all your own.
  • Great high-res reference photos of technologies can be more valuable that lo-res reference viewed online or images supplied to you by clients, as you also decide what vantage point the photos are taken at.  This is extremely advantageous when dealing with major detailed pieces.
  • Seeing something up close and personal always helps us understand the components better.

I always believe that the best reference material is the actual thing, but when you can’t get it, controlling your own reference photography is the next best alternative.

Do you keep a reference file? What do you include and how do you organize it? Let us know in the comments!