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How to create great technical illustrations

The starting point for a good technical illustration is to carefully research and consider the subject. Whether it is a process, a physical structure or a set of statistics, knowing which parts need to be visually highlighted or explained is an essential first step.

I like to make sketches as I begin to consider how to illustrate a subject. By keeping in mind what needs to be highlighted, the sketches should develop more quickly. A small tip: I often sketch in black and white and then add colour with highlighters. It's a quick way to work that rapidly clarifies the image.

Once you've decided how you will illustrate the subject it's worth considering the text and how it will work with the image. For sequential text, try to stick to top to bottom and left to right, it's easier for readers to follow. With text you should also consider the actual fonts, weights and sizes that you use. Besides clarity, good typography can help a reader access the information.

For the illustration you'll need to carefully consider colours. A muted palette with a highlight colour works well but may not suit the project. Generally speaking it's the age-old expression that's worth remembering, less is more. Keep it simple, avoid clutter, and there's a good chance that your illustration will work.

Copyright 2008 Richard Palmer

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