Technical Illustrator  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotTechnical illustrators in the past used ink, pens and T-squares to map out their drawings, but that method of drawing is becoming less and less common.

"Those things are in my studio museum now," says illustrator Chris Ceccarelli. "Everything from architecture to blueprints and instructions with exploded views are more than likely done on a computer."

dotTechnical illustrators are the people who draw diagrams and directions for understanding how things work. They also prepare the artwork for operating manuals for cars and appliances, industry parts and much more. They illustrate company newsletters and digitally enhance photos.

dotTechnical illustrations are designed to help people understand how to install or fix a product. They are also made to help designers fabricate and piece together a new product.

dotDrawings are also used for promotional and advertising purposes. Advertising illustrations usually show how a device operates, or they depict a product that can't be photographed well.

"A lot of parts are impossible to photograph, so a company calls me in," says Ceccarelli.

dotTo begin their job, technical illustrators meet with the company or with product designers to discuss how to depict the product. The illustrator does a rough sketch. They may take the part as a measure for drawing or may photograph it. Sometimes, the drawing must be made by following an oral description.

"There's always the creative sense like, 'This is what the client wants and this is the way it's gong to be used. What's the best way it can be represented?' I think that's where a lot of creativity can be employed," says illustrator David Holter.

"But for the most part, you're getting a message through. There isn't going to be a lot of room for artistic expression."

dotThe work is mostly done on computer. According to people in the field, technical illustrating is not physically difficult.

At a Glance

Draw diagrams for products and manuals

  • Computers have replaced pen and paper
  • Many technical illustrators freelance from home
  • Two- or four-year college design or drafting programs are recommended