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How to Become a Scientific Illustrator

By The Arty Teacher - February 4, 2024

What is a Scientific Illustrator?

A scientific illustrator is an artist who creates paintings and drawings of scientific subjects, such as plants and animals, to help communicate information.

What Skills does a Scientific Illustrator need?

To become a scientific illustrator, you need to be good at drawing and have an interest in science to create detailed and accurate illustrations of animals, plants, and scientific concepts to help people understand and appreciate the scientific world.

What Qualification does a Scientific Illustrator Need?

A scientific illustrator typically needs a degree in scientific illustration, fine art or biology. Scientific illustrators have to be able to draw traditionally and digitally. They have to have a good understanding of science.

Different Types of Scientific Illustrator

There are different types of scientific illustrators, each specialising in specific areas of science and illustration. Some common types include:

  1. Botanical Illustrator: Specialises in illustrating plants, flowers, and botanical specimens with precision and accuracy.
  2. Zoological Illustrator: Focuses on illustrating animals, including detailed depictions of anatomy, behaviour, and species variations.
  3. Medical Illustrator: Creates illustrations for medical and healthcare purposes, such as anatomical drawings, surgical procedures, or medical textbooks.
  4. Paleontological Illustrator: Specialises in illustrating fossils, prehistoric creatures, and paleontological findings.
  5. Entomological Illustrator: Focuses on illustrating insects, showcasing their anatomy, life cycles, and behaviours.
  6. Anatomical Illustrator: Creates detailed illustrations of human or animal anatomy for educational and medical purposes.
  7. Ecological Illustrator: Illustrates ecosystems, environmental processes, and interactions between organisms in natural habitats.
  8. Scientific Visualisation Artist: Utilises digital tools to create visualisations of scientific concepts, data, or complex processes.
  9. Astronomical Illustrator: Specialises in illustrating celestial objects, astronomical phenomena, and space-related concepts.
  10. Microscopic Illustrator: Creates illustrations of microscopic organisms, cells, or structures, often used in scientific research.

What Can You do to Build a CV to become a Scientific Illustrator?

If you want to beceome a scientific illustrator, you can start building a strong CV whilst still at school. Consider the following:

  1. Opt for Art! You need to be good at drawing and/or painting, so do as much as you can.
  2. Digital Proficiency: Learn Adobe Illustrator. See if your school has it or can get it. Students can usually get it at a discount, too.
  3. Opt for Science. You need to understand science, so opt for this, too.
  4. Artistic Skills Development: Keep practising your artistic skills, including drawing, painting, and digital illustration of scientific subjects.
  5. Create a Portfolio: Develop a portfolio showcasing diverse examples of scientific illustrations, including different subjects and styles. This portfolio can be physical or digital.
  6. Internships or Volunteering: Seek opportunities for internships, volunteer work, or collaborations with local scientists, museums, or nature organizations to gain practical experience.
  7. Participate in Science Fairs: Display scientific illustrations at school science fairs or local events to gain exposure and feedback.
  8. Enter Competitions: Submit work to scientific illustration competitions to gain recognition and build credibility. In the UK, there is the BioArtAttack competition, and there is the international Science Without Borders competition.
  9. Networking: Attend science-related events, workshops, or conferences to show you are interested in science.
  10. Learn from Online Resources: Explore online courses, tutorials, and resources related to scientific illustration to broaden your knowledge and skills.

Still curious?

Learn abou Scientific Illustrator Emily M. Eng.

Learn more about Art Careers.

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The Arty Teacher

Sarah Crowther is The Arty Teacher. She is a high school art teacher in the North West of England. She strives to share her enthusiasm for art by providing art teachers around the globe with high-quality resources and by sharing her expertise through this blog.

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