Scientific Illustration Tips for Your Art Portfolio
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. Choose the right subjects for your portfolio
  2. How to draw accurately
  3. How to use color in scientific illustration
  4. Experiment with different mediums
  5. How to demonstrate technical skill and artistic flair
  6. How to organize your portfolio

Creating a standout scientific illustration in your artist portfolio can be a game-changer. Today, we'll explore some valuable tips to help you take your scientific illustration game up a notch, starting with choosing the right subjects for your portfolio.

Choose the right subjects for your portfolio

Choosing subjects for your scientific illustration portfolio is about more than just picking what you like. It's about showcasing your ability to transform complex scientific concepts into clear, engaging images. Here's how you can make the best choices:

Pick Subjects That Highlight Your Strengths

Do you excel at creating detailed, lifelike drawings of plants? Or perhaps you're a pro at illustrating human anatomy? Whatever your strength is, use it as your shining star. Remember, your portfolio should be a reflection of your best work.

Choose a Variety of Subjects

  • Flora and Fauna: Including plants and animals in your portfolio will not only add a touch of nature's beauty but can also showcase your ability to replicate intricate details.
  • Human Anatomy: If you're comfortable with it, including human anatomy in your portfolio can demonstrate your technical prowess.
  • Microscopic Organisms: Consider diving into the microscopic world. These tiny creatures can be an exciting challenge and add a unique element to your portfolio.

Include Both Simple and Complex Subjects

Balance is key. While complex subjects can demonstrate your technical skill, simple subjects allow you to play with artistic flair. You can use simple subjects to experiment with color, shading, and composition, while complex subjects might highlight your attention to detail and accuracy.

When selecting the right subjects for your scientific illustration in artist portfolio, remember to stay true to yourself and choose subjects that genuinely interest you. After all, your passion will shine through your work, making it even more appealing to viewers. In the next section, we'll discuss how to ensure your drawings are as accurate as possible.

How to draw accurately

Drawing accurately is a core skill for any scientific illustrator. Your illustrations need to be precise and true to life, as they play a key role in communicating scientific concepts. Here, we'll walk through some steps to enhance your accuracy.

Start with a Good Reference

Having a detailed reference is your first step towards drawing accurately. This could be a photo, a 3D model, or even a real specimen. A good reference will provide you with the information you need about the subject's shape, size, and details. Remember, in scientific illustration, you're not just creating art—you're also conveying factual information.

Use Measuring Techniques

Measuring techniques can help you nail the proportions of your subject. Techniques such as sight-sizing, where you hold your pencil at arm's length to measure parts of your subject, can be incredibly helpful. Another technique is gridding, where you draw a grid over your reference and your drawing surface to help you maintain the correct proportions.

Be Patient and Take Your Time

Accuracy isn’t achieved overnight. It requires patience and practice. Don’t rush through your drawings. Instead, take your time to observe your reference carefully and make sure you’re capturing every detail accurately. Every line, every curve matters in a scientific illustration.

By honing your skills and adopting these techniques, you'll be able to enhance the accuracy of your scientific illustration in your artist portfolio. Remember, accuracy is what sets scientific illustrators apart — it's your superpower. Use it! Next, let's dive into the vibrant world of color and how to use it effectively in your scientific illustrations.

How to use color in scientific illustration

Color plays an essential role in scientific illustration. It can be used to highlight important features, convey information, and create a visually appealing image. Here are some tips on how to use color effectively in your scientific illustration in your artist portfolio.

Understand Color Theory

Understanding the basics of color theory can help you make more informed color choices in your illustrations. This includes knowing about primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, as well as concepts like hue, saturation, and value. The more you know about color, the more tools you'll have at your disposal when it comes to creating your illustrations.

Use Color to Convey Information

Color can be a powerful tool for conveying information in a scientific illustration. For example, you might use different shades of blue to represent different depths of the ocean in a marine life illustration. Or you might use warm colors to indicate areas of high activity in a diagram of a cell. So, think about the information you want to convey and how color can help you do it.

Keep Consistency in Your Colors

Consistency is key when it comes to color. If you use one color to represent a certain thing in one illustration, try to use the same color for the same thing in other illustrations. This can make your portfolio more cohesive and easier to understand.

By using color wisely, you can take your scientific illustrations to a whole new level and make your artist portfolio stand out. Now, let's move onto experimenting with different mediums to bring your illustrations to life.

Experiment with different mediums

Choosing the right medium for your scientific illustrations can affect the overall feel and presentation of your artwork in your portfolio. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. It's all part of the process of finding your unique style and voice in scientific illustration. Let's dive into some mediums you can consider for your artwork.

Traditional Mediums

Traditional mediums like pencil, pen and ink, watercolor, or acrylic paint can add a warm, human touch to your scientific illustrations. These mediums allow for a hands-on experience, where you can feel the texture of the paper and the movement of the brush. Plus, there's something quite satisfying about seeing your artwork come to life on a physical canvas.

Digital Mediums

If you prefer a cleaner, more controlled environment, digital mediums might be more up your alley. With software like Adobe Illustrator or Procreate, you can create detailed and precise scientific illustrations. Best of all, mistakes are easily erased, and you have an endless palette of colors at your fingertips.

Mixed Media

Why stick to one medium when you can use multiple? Mixed media art combines different mediums to create a unique, layered effect. You could start with a pencil sketch, add color with watercolors, and then refine your scientific illustration digitally. The possibilities are endless and can lead to some truly unique pieces for your artist portfolio.

Remember, there's no 'right' medium for scientific illustration—what matters most is that the medium you choose allows you to best express your vision. Now, let's explore how to demonstrate both your technical skills and artistic flair in your scientific illustrations.

How to demonstrate technical skill and artistic flair

Showing off your technical skills and artistic flair in your scientific illustration is a delicate balancing act. You need to combine scientific accuracy and creativity in a harmonious blend. Here are some ways you can showcase both in your artist portfolio.

Showcasing Technical Skill

Technical skill in scientific illustration is all about attention to detail. Whether you're illustrating the intricate structure of a cell or the complex anatomy of a plant, precision is key. The audience should be able to identify what they’re looking at without any confusion. Here's how to nail it:

  • Do your research: Understand the subject you're drawing. Look at multiple references and get to know the details before you start.
  • Be consistent: Ensure elements like scale, lighting, and perspective are consistent throughout your illustration.
  • Refine your lines: Clean, crisp lines can give your scientific illustration a professional look.

Expressing Artistic Flair

While technical accuracy is crucial in scientific illustration, don't forget to let your creativity shine through. Infuse your work with your unique style and make it stand out from the crowd. Here are some tips:

  • Play with color: While you should aim for realistic coloration in your scientific illustration, don't be afraid to experiment with color schemes that can add an artistic touch.
  • Experiment with composition: Instead of sticking to a straightforward depiction, try different layouts and compositions to create a more dynamic image.
  • Embrace texture: Whether you're working with traditional or digital mediums, adding texture can add depth and interest to your scientific illustrations.

Remember, your scientific illustration in artist portfolio should be a reflection of you as an artist—your skills, your style, and your passion for science. It's not just about creating a visually appealing image, but also about communicating complex scientific concepts in an accessible and engaging way. Now, let's look at how to organize all these amazing illustrations in your portfolio.

How to organize your portfolio

Organizing your artist portfolio can be just as important as the work it holds. A well-organized portfolio makes it easier for viewers to navigate and understand your skills, style, and growth as an artist. Let's delve into some strategies to help you organize your scientific illustrations.

Create a Logical Flow

First and foremost, your portfolio should have a logical flow. Here's how:

  • Order by theme: Group similar scientific illustrations together. For instance, if you have illustrations of marine life, put them in one section. If you've done work on botanical illustrations, group them in another.
  • Chronological order: Show your growth and development as an artist by arranging your work from oldest to newest.
  • Highlight the best: Put your best scientific illustrations at the beginning and the end. Start strong to capture attention, and end on a high note to leave a lasting impression.

Keep it Clean and Simple

While it's tempting to fill your portfolio with as much work as possible, remember that sometimes, less is more. Here's what you can do:

  • Choose quality over quantity: Only include your best works. It's better to have a few standout pieces than a multitude of average ones.
  • Leave some white space: Don't cram your illustrations together. Give each piece some breathing room to allow it to stand out.
  • Keep descriptions concise: If you're providing descriptions for your scientific illustrations, keep them short and to the point.

Organizing your scientific illustration in artist portfolio may seem like a daunting task, but with these tips, it's a breeze. It's all about showcasing your work in the best light and making it easy for viewers to appreciate your talent and hard work. Now, go ahead and start organizing—that perfect portfolio is just around the corner!

If you're looking to improve your art portfolio with a focus on scientific illustration, don't miss the workshop 'Making an Amazing Portfolio' by George Dyson. This workshop will provide you with valuable tips and insights on how to create a well-rounded portfolio that showcases your unique skills in scientific illustration and helps you stand out in the competitive art world.