Samantha Stutzman is a medical illustrator hailing from Grand Rapids, MI. She walked us through how a medical illustration gets made:


Medical illustrations, in my experience, are often a way to bring to life a certain didactic image that people can look at to aid in their understanding of what is being communicated. In this specific case, I was given a drawing of what the client would like to see created.

I almost always work from references. This improves my ability to render something more realistically and be assured that all my proportions are completely accurate. I gather as many reference photos as I think I need and I roughly Photoshop them together. They don’t have to line up perfectly, I am just trying to get an idea of what the illustration will look like before I put more time into it.

Once I feel as if I have a good idea of what direction I want to take with the illustrations and I have the reference mock-up, I can then go through and start blocking in the line work. This line work I just use as a guide to create my illustration. I like to use a bright red to start off with because I don’t intend on keeping my lines and this is easier to see on top of the greyscale image I paint first. If I am working on something with multiple elements I will use different colors for the guidelines so its easier to distinguish what I am painting. In this illustration I made the girl red, the underlying anatomy in green, and the tools in blue.


Once all the lines are in place, I go through and block in a very general value scale. I knew the hair was going to be the darkest value so I made that a dark grey. The underlying anatomy will be the lightest value of this piece so I made it a light grey. And then the skin would fall somewhere between those two so that was blocked in with a middle grey. I paint in greys to start off an illustration because that allows me to see the values of what I am painting and worry about the colors later. During this step I am very attentive to how sharp my edges are between each block of grey.

When I have the whole image blocked in then I start adding details. I prefer to focus on one area at a time for this so I can fully focus on just that one spot instead of jumping around from place to place. In this case, I started with the eyes.

Once I had built up the facial elements that were going to be showing, I began to block out the rough value scale of the hair.

Then I added detail to the hair by drawing out every strand of hair. I started with the bottom of the hair so I could layer over top of it as I worked my way towards the top mimicking the way that layered hair falls.

I finished off the rest of the details of the hair and smoothed out the darks a little because I had decided that her hair had too much contrast causing the viewer to draw too much attention to this point.

I added the color to the hair and skin, adjusting it as needed.

I adjusted the skin and hair a little more so that it would look like they were a little more natural. Then I painted in some of the greyscale details of the underlying anatomy of the face.

I finished off the details to the face and started adding in the facial features that sat on top of the structural anatomy.

I cleaned up some of the edges on the painting and then added in the final details along with the color to the muscle and bone. I made sure to add some contrast around the surgical tools being used to hold the skin back because those are the main areas I want people to focus on in this illustration.

You can check out Samantha's work at Blue Leaf Illustrations


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