m of Natural History
Illustration Techniques - page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Graphics and page layout
Scientific graphics should be as simple as possible. Linework and text should be clean, sharp, and fairly fine, and colors should be unobtrusive. The graphic should not compete with the data for attention. Helvetica, Arial and Times are the preferred fonts for use in science graphics. Fancy or creative typefaces should not be used in scientific illustration. All lettering should be uniform in font and size throughout a publication. Type size should generally range from about 6 point (smallest) to 14 point (largest); line weight should generally be .5 point - 1 point in size on the final printed piece. Check journal guidelines for specific recommendations for each journal.

Color diagram.

A great deal of complex information is organized here into a single graphic in this diagram typical of those published in scientific journals. Diagram by Mary Parrish under the direction of R. Bonnefille, K. Behrensmeyer, and R. Potts. Illustration prepared using the vector graphics software program, Adobe Illustrator 10.0.


Bonnefille, R., R. Potts, F. Chalié, D. Jolly, and O. Peyron. 2004. High-Resolution Vegetation and Climate Change Associated with Pliocene Australopithecus afarensis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 101, No. 33, pp. 12125-12129.

Elements within a page should be spaced fairly close together. Unnecessary white space in a scientific publication is considered to be wasteful because page costs are high, therefore it is viewed as poor design by this audience.

Scientific journals and books provide specific guidelines for authors and illustrators submitting papers to them that describe fonts, page size, and other useful advice. Often these guidelines can be found on the journals' websites on the internet. This standardization of style unifies the publication. It also simplifies the artists' work because time is not wasted making design decisions.

Illustration Care