Step-by-step guides

‘A high street hardware store is developing a series of instructional guides to help their customers with some basic DIY skills. The client wants them to be accessible and easy to use for a non-specialist audience – so, for example, they mustn’t be too visually cluttered.

Develop a step-by-step guide for a DIY task you’re familiar with, such as preparing and painting walls, measuring and replacing soft furnishings, or putting together flat-pack furniture. Your guide can be based in the home or garden and should describe the activity from start to finish.’

When looking for good examples of technical illustration I found the website Planet Illustration by Adrian Cartwright. The following examples are taken from his site. I feel they show a high level of technical ability.

Although printing in colour would cost more money, the use of colour really enhances these images, and I personally find them more engaging.

In this first image, I like the use of shading and the impression of glass. It combines just the right amount of realism with and accurate rendering of the relevant point of focus.

There are many points labelled here, but unity is achieved with the consistant use of angled  lines with the horizontal tips that leads us to the text.

Very crisp, yet there is the addition of ‘fabric lines’ to show us these are medical  gloves

Cut away of insulation – just the right amount of detail

As I mentioned in the previous post, this is a very skilled and specialist area. I really admire the execution, its beautifully done. If someone else could work out the steps for me, and what to show, I’d be happy to have a go at representing it. I just hate the preparation, it feels really tedious thinking about tasks in sequence. Maybe I could do one about paint drying?

Ikea do really cute instructions, which is rather refreshing…  (Have other companies copied this style? I don’t know) But I know an Illustrator who has…

… Ed Harrington Ikea style instructions for building monsters (and now I’m back in my comfort zone) Sigh.

So. What to do? Here (for what its worth) is my brain stormy moment. Not sure you will be able to read my scrawl, but I chose putting up shelves.

There are plenty of videos online that describe the process of putting up floating shelves, which serves as a starting point for my instructions. I took screen shoots to help me think about what needs to be shown, and made notes. ( have injured my thumb, hence the really extra scruffy writing)

From these images I could then think about how a video stills could translate to clear visual information – what to include and what to discard.

My Roughs

Here you can see Im working out what to show and how to show it. I decided against a hand scanning a wall, as the scanners come in quite a variety of shapes and sizes, so there is no generic representation.

It became clear that some exploded views would help. I was also trying to think how to show underneath the shelf

Also the metal rack slots into the shelf that covers it – dotted lines seemed to be the way to show this

This was my first version of a drill bit, using a 90% repeated transform. Its not very neat and when looking carefully at a drill bit, it doesn’t actually taper until the very tip

I got a bit stuck with how to render cylinders – using the pen or with 3D effects?

I considered adapting a ready made pencil from the symbols panel but I don’t think it ready suits this project

It became clear that the images only looked really crisp if I drew them entirely inside Illustrator. Any hand drawn aspects, however subtle, just don’t look polished enough for this type of project.

I spent time building all the images I needed, then made a new document and transferred each image in sequence. The layout evolved fairly logically on the computer screen along with a bit of blurb I wrote along the way. Next is the final result…

How to Build a Floating Shelf


I liked the technical drawing aspect of this task, it was challenging as I’ve never done any on computer, I really would have loved to have someone in the room with me who knows about  this stuff!

As I said, it was the planning I couldn’t stand.

When my friend Caroline was training in Equine Science, she had to do gait analysis (length of stride, rhythm & timing of movement of individual horses as a statistical outcome) Its highly technical, and I don’t think I could grasp it very well. But I would happily illustrate the sequence of leg movements in a horse, as its a great subject I’m naturally inclined towards.

In contrast it just feels VERY tedious to analyse things step by step for shelving. Its probably because the subject isn’t that interesting. Please don’t ask me how I empty the dishwasher either. Bloody hell! I just do. OK!!!’


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