What is Scientific Illustration?

Visual communication is vital for education in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), but we often neglect the importance of art within these fields. Today SCAD HoneyDripper is highlighting the field of Scientific Illustration, a long tradition of turning observations from the natural world into artwork that can be used to educate and inspire scholars.

The Guild of Natural Science Illustrators is a hub for this art form. Here is how they describe Scientific Illustration:

“Science illustration is much more than pictures in a textbook. It encompasses all forms of visual science communication, including animation, comics, murals, sculpture and even jewelry. It can play a vital role in conveying information from any realm of science, from archaeology to astronomy, botany to cartography, zoology to molecular biology, and many others.”

Source: https://www.gnsi.org/learn-about-it

Scientific illustration has a variety of uses and applications that assist scientists and scholars in their studies. This includes, but is not limited to: botanical identification, visualizing natural history, museum displays and information cards, reconstructing fossils, surgical diagrams and animations, molecular diagrams, species identification, science education (through animation, comics, and illustration), prosthetics, 3D modeling, physics simulations, and technical diagrams of machines.

What skills should a scientific illustrator have?

Science communication helps us better understand the world around us. The career requires strong observational drawing skills, close attention to detail, and an ability to communicate clearly through visual art. In most cases, a degree in the scientific field is not required. However, for medical illustration, a medical degree is required in order to create accurate illustrations that can be used by surgeons, doctors, and other medical experts as reference. See the resource list below for where to find university programs for medical illustration.

What classes should I take at SCAD for Scientific Illustration?

SCAD offers a Scientific Illustration minor! Here are the classes in the curriculum:

  • ILLU 150: Introduction to Scientific Illustration

  • ILLU 160: Illustrative Anatomy and Perspective

  • SEQA 202: Drawing for Sequential Art

  • ILLU 315: Dynamic Visualization for Scientific Illustration

  • SEQA 325: Environments, Props, and Structures

  • ILLU 345: Advanced Rendering Techniques for Scientific Illustration

  • SEQA 352: Constructive Human Anatomy for Sequential Art

  • SEQA 388: Constructive Animal Anatomy for Creature Design

For more information visit https://www.scad.edu/academics/minors-and-certificates/scientific-illustration-minor

If you are interested in learning more about scientific Illustration at SCAD outside of classes, join the SCAD Society of Scientific Illustrators!

Examples of Scientific Illustration

Here are some examples of work from a variety of scientific Illustrators!

Source: https://jamesgurney.com/products/how-i-paint-dinosaurs

James Gurney: Natural History, Zoology, Paleo-art

Source: https://studiokayama.com/portfolio/

Ikumi Kayama: Medical, Surgical, Natural Science, Cellular and Molecular

Source: https://www.nickbezio.com/science-illustrations

Nick Bezio: Marine, aquatic paleontology, Itchyology, cellular biology, molecular illustration

Source: https://www.pakessler.com/Azure-Sky.html

P.A. Kessler: Botanical Illustration

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bg9MVRQYmBQ

Minutephysics / Minute Earth: Animated shorts on Physics and Environmental Science

Resources and Further Reading

SCAD Society of Scientific Illustration:

Guild of Natural Science Illustrators:

By Subject:



Botanical Illustration:

Medical Illustration:

University Programs for Medical Illustration:



(Website) Citizen Science!: https://www.citizenscience.gov/#

Get involved in scientific communities by participating in citizen science!

(Podcast) Ologies with Ali Ward


Spotify - Apple Podcasts - Stitcher

“Volcanoes. Trees. Drunk butterflies. Mars missions. Slug sex. Death. Beauty standards. Anxiety busters. Beer science. Bee drama. Take away a pocket full of science knowledge and charming, bizarre stories about what fuels these professional -ologists’ obsessions. Humorist and science correspondent Alie Ward asks smart people stupid questions and the answers might change your life.”

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