Working with an illustrator

Most illustrations require a very close collaboration between author and illustrator, to ensure clarity and accuracy.

This section covers:

Preparing a brief for an illustrator

Once you have identified an illustrator, you should supply them with a detailed brief of what you want. Be specific. Ensure that line weights, amount of detail and contrast levels will be adequate for production.

If text is included in the illustration, ensure that it will be legible at the size it will be used in the publication. Some illustrators work with layers in Photoshop or Illustrator so the text can be edited or corrected.

Suggested specifications to include in your brief or discuss with the illustrator before starting work are:

  • purpose (eg type of publication, audience)
  • subject (eg particular species of plant or animal, medical process)
  • type of illustration (eg line drawing, rendered drawing, watercolour, airbrush, 2D or 3D computer graphic)
  • how the illustration will be used (eg A4 printed book, A0 poster, website) – this determines the size and resolution of the images required
  • measurements of the area of the page you are using to reproduce the illustration; illustrations are often reproduced at about half to three-quarters of their original size
  • preliminary sketches, diagrams or visual ideas
  • examples of other work that might help the illustrator with style, and ‘look and feel’
  • options (if any) to review the illustration if the artwork does not meet your stated needs
  • licensing and copyright (who will own the copyright?)
  • delivery or file format (eg scanned file or original artwork).
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Process of an illustration project

Any illustration project needs a clear understanding of the processes involved, from the perspective of both the client and the illustrator. This means mapping out a set of agreed steps to share discoveries or problems that may occur along the way.

The process may require a checklist or set of instructions that requires approvals at agreed intervals or milestones. It will need to take into account all the tasks that are required by client and illustrator to final delivery of the product, including:

  • administration
    • agreed quote or costing
    • agreed timeframe and deadline
    • meetings
    • copyright, credits and acknowledgments
    • archiving original artwork (electronic and non-electronic)
  • representation
    • supply of research material and information
    • exact or generalised representation
    • illustration conventions (eg mechanical, exploded view, medical, annotated)
    • structures or features that need to be shown
    • technique (eg line, continuous tone, colour)
    • size of drawing for publication (height × width in actual publication)
  • drawing
    • preliminary sketches (including basic forms, views and proportions)
    • scaled rough drawing (accurate outline, including scale at appropriate size for publication)
    • detailed preliminary drawing (final outline showing all important details)
    • rendered drawing (including shading and final detailing)
    • drawing adjusted to correct image size and resolution for publication.
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