Thursday, 23 July 2009

Biological graphics and illustration

Illustration is a key part of biological communication, and is particularly important in taxonomic descriptions where subtle differences in shape can be the best definition of a species. Body elongate, gradually and almost uninterruptedly narrowed towards the front anyone?

For this reason, I've recently been playing around with graphics a bit and have been learning about the different formats and their strengths and weaknesses. In particular, I'm starting to get rather excited about using vector graphics for the line illustrations that are so useful for species descriptions. The biggest obstacle that I can see is drawing from the specimen in question into the computer program. I'm not sure how the best way of going about this is. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be widespread awareness of the benefits of vector graphics, and there are no tutorials that I've found on biological illustration using vector graphics.

There is however this very good introduction to modifying photographs for publication in the brilliant Zootaxa.

If you're wondering, I use GIMP for modifying bitmaps, and Inkscape for vector graphics.

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