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What Is a Technical Illustrator?

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Technical illustrators create 2-D, 3-D and computer-generated drawings and diagrams that are used to illustrate how something is put together or how it operates. Illustrators take care to present graphics proportionately and accurately, often keeping specific measurements in mind. They often have backgrounds in the military, engineering and scientific fields.


Technical illustrators use drawings and diagrams to communicate the structure, principal or mechanics of an object, concept or machine. The illustrator creates visual images that are accurate and proportionate regarding the subject in question, and that communicate the purpose and function of the illustrative material to the viewer.


Technical illustrators have historically created design concepts for craftsmen, such as those created during the Renaissance by Leonardo da Vinci. Early technical illustrations usually did not contain measurements. With the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, more attention was paid by illustrators to proportion and measurement, which was required for mass production standards. With the advent of computers, technical illustrations have been increasingly generated using computer software programs.


Technical illustrators communicate visually through graphics in technical manuals, electronic guides and assembly instructions. Illustrators often have a background in engineering or science, such as aerospace, military defense or architecture. Often, an illustrator develops graphics for the purpose of communicating with experts, such as engineers or aerospace technicians.


Some types of technical drawings are exploded view drawings, which clarify the relationship of parts or their intended order; traditional line drawings, which are 2-D drawings typically without added color or shading; and cutaway drawings, which are 3-D illustrations in which certain parts are selectively removed to provide a visual example of the assembly or appearance of other parts.


Illustrators commonly work in broadcast media, and the medical, engineering and scientific fields, creating diagrams and graphics for presentational, educational and illustrative purposes (see Resources).


Cynthia Reeser has been editing for three years and writing for 18. A former columnist and staff writer for a military newspaper, she is the editor of a literary journal. Her book on publishing for children is forthcoming in early 2010 from Atlantic Publishing, and she is currently writing a book on Kindle publishing. Reeser has a Bachelor of Arts in English literature.

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