Technical illustration has evolved along with the industrial revolution and then the computer age to be an integral part of marketing communications.
Fortunately, it has also become easier over the years and now technical illustrations can be mastered by all types of employees.
Notice how easy it is to see various elements in the illustrations above. Important parts are tinted red and the red color projects off the paper into the foreground. The blue border recedes into the background and makes the panel appear in three layers: Background blue border, middle ground gray valve and foreground red components.
Still, many lessons learned over the centuries by illustration artists haven’t been written into computer software and that is where history can come in to make your technical drawing better:
1. Make sure your illustration can be copied in black and white. Use black lines for the most important and blue tints that will disappear when you copy the illustration.
2. Red color brings the object to the foreground and blue recedes the item.
3. Better to use callout lines and place the descriptive text next to the described item than labeling the illustration A-Z or 1-N.
To the right, here’s another example of warm colors being used for important parts of the technical illustration and blue tinted objects receding behind the particles. It helps communication to use the red shift to help communication and not hinder it.
Technical drawings are quick and easy with Adobe Illustrator but communication takes a quantum leap when you add an isometric dimension. And all the measurements in the three dimensions can be taken directly off of the drawing.
For the ultimate in communication learn to use a 3D program like AutoCAD or Lightwave. Objects can be rotated to where they communicate what you are trying to portray and then fine tune the sectioning.
Steps 1, 2 and 3, will never go out of fashion for describing a sequence of events in a technical illustration. As is shown in this operation drawing, to the right, the viewer can easily see the important parts because they are tinted red as you go through the process.
Our resident illustration artist, Art Director, Robert Jeffries, has created the perfect dimensional drawing here by coloring the important things black and the less important items blue. The dimensions and their locations will come across in a poor thermographic copy.
Don’t let your chart junk interfer with communication! When laying out a chart, remember the numerals are the most important thing. Don’t make the grid black lines and the text blue! It won’t copy and it will give your reader eye strain.
Your eye naturally follows the three step process in this technical illustration, to the right, because your eye follows the red colored objects.
Classic tinting and shaping of the different planes in your technical illustration is important to separate the planes. Remember, a change in direction means a change in tint. Any object can be clearly drawn by just using gray tints. Adobe Illustrator has some great tools for this as you can position the changing highlights across a surface to make it look like anything from round to oval.
Always remember that we read from left to right and from top to bottom. Arrange your multi-step technical illustrations in that order to make them flow most naturally. If you’re illustrating for other languages follow their conventions. Japanese read from top to bottom and from left to right.
It might sound obvious but the closer an item is to another the more related it should be. That means captions should be close to the object it describes. Even visual elements relate more to each other if they are closer together. The further away an object is from another the less it relates to it. And this also means that items that relate equally to each othr should be spaced equally from each other.
This simple two step process comes across beautifully because it reads from left to right, the callouts are near the object and it would still communicate it you removed the blue color.
All the components we have discussed in this blog come together here in this simple but beautifully communicated technical illustration, to the right. The black lines clearly outline the important features. The warm colors emphasis the features being discussed and if copied would turn a medium gray tint.
In the Diverter Valve illustration below, you will see how naturally understood the tan colored pebbles flow. It’s because they seem to be floating on top of the blue colored valve. The pebbles’ color helps communicate the message.
We hope you have enjoyed this primer from Cincinnati technical illustration and drawing from Lohre & Assoc. It's what comes from over 35 years of experience, so don't get discouraged. Good design is obvious. If you keep that in mind you won't go wrong. Sometimes I say to my staff, "Does it pass the two-by-four and a six-pack test?" Have your audience drink a six pack of an adult beverage and hit them over the head with a two-by-four wooden board. If they can't understand what you are trying to communicate, go back to the drawing board! Chuck Lohre.
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Chuck Lohre's AdVenture Presentation of examples and descriptions from Ed Lawler's book of the same title - 10 Rules On Creating Business-To-Business Ads