Illustration Reference Types & Requirements

Kevin Hulsey Illustration, Inc.


All Text & Images - Copyright © 2011 KHI, Inc.

Illustration Reference Types & Requirements

This page will cover the various types of reference materials that are commonly provided to the technical illustrator in order to accurately and efficiently execute an illustration that contains highly detailed subject matter. The following five examples show the dramatic effect that reference material type and quality will have on the final cost and turnaround time of a given illustration.

"On-Angle" Photographic Reference

When a client provides photographic or CAD reference material that is in the exact same angle of view as the final illustration, it is generally referred to as "On Angle" reference.

The following five images show the various stages of a sequential photo shoot. While the camera remains stationary, the vehicle is disassembled and internal parts are placed in their correct positions and orientations. (Fig.1) Body exterior. (Fig.2) Body with hood, doors, and wheels removed. (Fig.3) Chassis buck. (Fig.4) Chassis buck with wheels, hoses, and engine covers removed. (Fig.5) Interior seat buck and steering column.

Shot List 1

When a client provides this type and quality of photographic reference, it will result in the least amount of illustration time and the lowest illustration cost when compared to the use of other types of reference material. On the other hand, providing this type of reference material can be quite expensive for the client so a cost/benefit assessment must be made to determine which scenario will result in the lowest overall cost.

"On-Angle" CAD Reference

The following two images show an illustration that was created from CAD reference that was output at the angle used in the final illustration.

On-Angle CAD Reference

This type of reference is equivalent to "on angle" photo reference in that it will result in the lowest illustration cost and the fastest turnaround time. The CAD line-art output would typically be redrawn in vector based software such as Adobe Illustrator before being exported to Photoshop. Additional backup photo reference will still be required to to complete the color work.

Blueprint Reference

This example shows an illustration created from paper or electronic blueprint reference, engineering drawings, or PADs (production assembly drawings) in plan and elevation view (Fig.1). Fig.2 and Fig.3 show the perspective construction phase that will need to take place in order to create a 3/4 perspective view of the subject from this type of reference material.

Blueprint Reference

When a client provides this type of reference, it will result in a much longer turnaround time and a much higher illustration cost (as much as 200% higher than the base price shown in the first two examples).

"Off Angle" Photographic Reference

The following images show an illustration that was created from reference that was not shot at the same angle as the final illustration angle. The process of creating an illustration from this type of reference is prone to errors since many assumptions must be made regarding scaling. The photographic reference would need to be very sharp, down to the smallest detail.

Off-Angle Reference

Creating an illustration from this type of reference will result in the highest illustration cost, as much as 250% of the base price, and longest turnaround time because it is the most labor intensive process.

Good vs. Poor Photographic Reference

The following images show the difference between good quality "high resolution" photo reference and poor "low resolution" photo reference. When zooming in on Fig.1 we see that the smallest details are readable (see Fig.2). In Fig.3, the detail starts to fall apart as we zoom in, reducing it's usefulness. Working from poor quality photo reference (as shown in Fig.3) could add as much as 100% to the cost of an illustration and will increase the likelihood that mistakes will be made due to guesswork.

Photo Reference Quality

For more information on the terminology used within this page, refer to this Glossary of Technical Illustration Terms.

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