Re: Doing Your Own Art

Subject: Re: Doing Your Own Art
From: cchris -at- toptechwriter -dot- us
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Wed, 25 Feb 2004 17:33:58 -0700

> Greetings from a partly cloudy and cool Salt Lake City.
> We recently lost one of our illustrators and he will not be replaced any
> time sooon because of budgetary constraints. Our other illustrator/writer
> is busy doing parts manuals, so that means the writers are going to have to
> take up the slack and do their own art work. Although I've been in this
> business a long time I have never had to do all of my own line art before.
> I've done lots of block diagrams, captioned photographs, and screen shots,
> but never generated any line art from scratch. We are going to have to
> determine how to produce pictures of the human figure operating complex
> equipment, etc. Stick figures won't cut it.
> I'm sure others have been in this spot. What did you do? Do you know of
> any good books?
> This is not going to be easy, but I'll bet it's going to be fun.
> Thanks in advance for any input. I will summarize for the list.
> Michael C. Johnson
> Technical Publications
> GE OEC Medical Systems
> Salt Lake City, Utah 84116
> phone: 801-536-4615
> email: Mike -dot- Johnson -at- med -dot- ge -dot- com

Hi, Michael

You've been given a great opportunity if you can learn to illustrate along
with writing. I was fortunate when I worked at TRW in the early '80s in
that one of the illustrators taught me the basics of mechanical drawing.
Then we did it with pencil and paper, now I much prefer using a computer
and mouse!

I use Macromedia FreeHand to do isometric illustrations because they can
be created quickly, can be very detailed, and can be reused easily. For
examples, visit my site at

You don't need books to learn isometric drawing, in fact, most textbooks,
instead of taking advantage of the capabilities of computer drawing
applications, just have you do on the screen what you'd do on paper. The
process I'll cover below two main advantages: you can do it quickly, and
you can reverse the process, so I you want to go from 3-D to 2-D it's

Here's what you'd do to draw a piece of hardware:

1. Determine which face (usually the front or rear) you'll be drawing.

2. Use a tape measure, ruler, or dimensioned mechanical drawing to lay out
the face with all switches, dials, etc. shown as a scaled 2-D diagram. If
you've done any hardware illustrations, chance are you're familiar with
this part.

3. Now's where the magic starts: In FreeHand (or Illustrator or any other
high-end drawing app) select the face you've drawn and, using the Skewing
tool, skew the face vertically 30 degrees. Now you've got one side done.

4. Draw the other side (usually left or right side, depending on which way
you skewed the front or rear) of the device as a 2-D diagram. Using the
skewing tool, skew this face -30 degrees (that's "minus 30 degrees")

5. Draw the top of the device. When you're done, scale the top 58%
vertically (you have to do this to take into account the foreshortening
caused by perspective), then skew it -60 degrees horizontally / 30 degrees

6. Assemble the three faces and voila! you're about 75% done. The
remaining 25% consists of drawing the depth lines for the components like
switches, dials, etc. to give them a 3-D look.

When you read it it seems much harder that it is in practice, but if you
give it a try, you'll find the ability to illustrate makes your work much
more interesting, and opens more avenues for you to express yourself as a

For examples of isometric illustrations in manuals, see the Installation
Guides section of my site at


Award-winning technical writing and illustration services.

Previous by Author: RE: Interactive diagrams?
Next by Author: Building a documentation knowledgebase
Previous by Thread: RE: Doing Your Own Art
Next by Thread: Topics to avoid when developing standardized tests

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads