What do science illustrators do?

Science illustrators work in the service of science, teaching, informing, and fostering understanding of our world. They use a range of visual techniques to communicate science in education, research, public relations, and marketing. 

Where do they work?

Staff jobs for science illustrators can be found in a number of settings, including but not limited to:

  • Research institutes and universities
  • Museums and zoos
  • Publishing companies, magazines, and newspapers
  • Web and animation firms
  • Pharmaceutical and medical device companies

Illustrators in such positions are expected to work directly with scientists and other colleagues to produce visual materials for online and print purposes.
Some illustrators also start their own businesses. Their clients include those listed above, and individuals inspired by beautiful science images and objects. They may work alone or in creative teams, collaborating with writers, graphic designers, web developers, photographers, and filmmakers. 

What training is necessary?

Most professional science illustrators have an advanced degree in life or earth sciences, and formal training in several kinds of visual communication. They need well-honed skills in traditional techniques such as watercolor, acrylics or ink. Familiarity with digital techniques is also important, as many science illustrators produce a wide variety of work including web animations and interactive graphics.
Other examples of the skills that scientific illustrators may use include the ability to handle optical instruments and precisely measure microscopic objects; to prepare pictorial stories of life cycles and scientific procedures; to design graphs and maps; to develop 3D models and images; and to produce cutaway drawings that show the internal structure of complex objects.