Picture of How to illustrate your own Instructable
Every time I do an instructable someone asks how I draw the illustrations that I use. It's not difficult really and this instructable will help you do the same (if you want) or at the very least, it will show you what I do and how I do it.

Writing an instructable is like telling a story, so the process of drawing up the instructions follows the same path as any other DIY making project, only when you start to draw it up you realise that you have to resolve things that don't quite work. This way the finished instructable can be a bit better.

I started drawing up my instructions because I make them into downloadable project sheets for my website dadcando and the extra bandwidth to needed to serve up high quality photos was too much. As it happens, drawing picture of each step is a lot more work, but then the end result is very nice.

You'll need:

  • some drawing skill (but not much really)
  • a vector drawing package (I'll explain more later)
  • probably a digital camera or phone camera
  • a decent idea fir an instructable

Step 1: Design your Instructable

Picture of Design your Instructable
Designing your instructable is a different process from designing or building the thing that is the subject of the instructable. In most cases a nice DIY project evolves and therefore if you write an instructable about it the process could be a bit rambling. The best projects and therefore the best instructables are the ones where the person making it has a good idea what they want to achieve at the outset and has some sort of plan, or has done it before.

You can get round this by taking loads of photos and then using the best to describe a clear story later, perhaps leaving out some of the parts that showed trial and error. Nevertheless, if you learned valuable lessons by making the errors, then it is best to make a note of these and pass on that learning, so that the person following your instructable can avoid falling into the same trap.

For me, I want to describe a way of doing the project that will give the person doing it the best chance of repeating what I did. For this not only do I need a project design (even if it is very rough or just in my head) but I really need an instructable plan. In my case I use this plan to design my project download.

The image here shows my first quick sketch of the steps I would like to show in the finished instructable, and my dadcando downloadable project sheet. For my download I would like to get this one on to one sheet, and that means I will need no more than 9 steps. I sketch out the steps I need to show and tinker with the steps a little to make sure that I have what's needed.

As it happens this project is how to make a bottle cap beetle after my 14 year old son made one, one afternoon, and asked me if I wanted to put it up on line on dadcando. So I already had the finished project. In this case I had to draw the steps from scratch, because I didn't have photos of the individual steps as he was making the model.
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 I spy a typo in the title.
KaptinScarlet (author)  M4industries5 years ago
Ahhh, thanks for spotting that, glad you're paying attentioin, my spelling is rubbish. but now corrected.
Ummm...I greatly respect you, but in the intro, where it says what you'll need, the bottom one says:
"A decent idea fir an Instructable."

Also excellent 'ible.

You are actually the first person to react nicely my pointing out a typo. Others call me a troll.
KaptinScarlet (author)  M4industries5 years ago
No worries, and thanks, I appreciate you taking the trouble to tell me, ignore anyone who calls you a troll, it's just their insecurity showing through
 Thanks man!
CrLz4 years ago
Thanks for sharing and teaching! Your Instructable helped me a lot with my own pub's.

FIG ouch problem.jpg
I illustrated this instructable using this technique.  I used inkscape.  It took a long time at first, but I started to get the hang of it, and I was able to reuse images.  Great instructable!

anres3215 years ago
Great !!

What program do you use?

KaptinScarlet (author)  alltootechnical5 years ago
Freehand MX or Freehand 10, is old but I like it. See step 2
Is it free? A good alternative to Illustrator?
KaptinScarlet (author)  alltootechnical5 years ago
No it's not free. In my humble view it is much better than Illustrator, but there are other vector drawing packages that are free. Have a look at the instructable and search on Google for free open source vector drawing programmes and see what you come up with. Perhaps leave a comment on what you find to help others wanting to do the same.
Atomman5 years ago
This is very professional! You certainly make good Graphics.
wenpherd6 years ago
can you use MS paint
McGrep wenpherd6 years ago
Sure, just as long as you use the shape and text tools more than freehand drawing, it tends to be messy.
DaveNJ6 years ago
Great job! Thanks for the information. Your instructables and website are top notch! I look forward to seeing more of your work.
animan16 years ago
what program
ReCreate6 years ago
Thats,thats,Amazing,trueley amazing. It looks so pro...very nice,its like,wow! Thumbs up
Whatnot7 years ago
There are free vector drawing programs, like inkscape http://inkscape.org/index.php?lang=en
And of course you can use google's sketchup for design illustration too http://sketchup.google.com/
And for some paintwork there's gimp http://gimp.org (alos available for windows) or paint.net http://www.getpaint.net/
what is GIMP?
It's a free paintprogram made by linux users but also available for windows etc., or as the site says so concisely: "GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed piece of software for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. It works on many operating systems, in many languages." As for the meaning of 'GNU': GNU - A recursive acronym: "GNU's Not Unix!". The Free Software Foundation's project to provide a freely distributable replacement for Unix. The GNU Manifesto was published in the March 1985 issue of Dr. Dobb's Journal but the GNU project started a year and a half earlier when Richard Stallman was trying to get funding to work on his freely distributable editor, Emacs.
gimp is actually a bit better than photoshop...
not if you know how to use photoshop to its full extent.
Agree. Still using photoshop 6 on my windows box. GIMP is a little funkier to use on my linux laptop. Tend to ftp back and forth between the systems. Have even used my circuit board software (pads) to make line drawings for machine shops! Whatever you use is fine, just document what you do! (still trying to get my paper work into a digital instructable)
abizar Whatnot7 years ago
Would add Xara Xtreme to the vector drawing list, free for linux and low cost for windows. http://www.xaraxone.com/
KaptinScarlet (author)  abizar7 years ago
and they have some nice tips and tutorials on that link too, very user friendly, thx for posting
KaptinScarlet (author)  Whatnot7 years ago
yes, thanks for posting these details, very useful
blugyblug6 years ago
How do you draw the illustrations that you use?
wow thats good. i have been using google sketchup but working in 3d can be a pain at times
wenpherd6 years ago
can you use google sketchup
wow, i still think i can't do that...

lost20106 years ago
WardXmodem7 years ago
An excellent Instructable! Thanks! Is there something that will take a hand-drawn sketch, and vectorize it in a way that could then be "fixed"? I think I'm dreaming, as it would take some serious artificial intelligence to determine that for example a crooked "+" is really two overlapped lines, and allow them to be separately aligned, etc... Thanks!
KaptinScarlet (author)  WardXmodem7 years ago
I don't think you are completely dreaming. there are some advanced OCR scanning programs that can deal with diagrams as well as text. I'm not sure about their output, but as with any auto tracing program you tend to get out something, but it's never quite what you want and then you have to go back into the image and manipulate all the lines, which can take as long if not longer than doing it from scratch. The best way is to get good at the pen and tablet and draw the stuff straight on to the computer, or draw it out with pencil first and then trace over it. Most vector drawing packages will convert free drawing to vector line bezier curves with handles that you can bend about.
Thank you for the reply - it turns out Inkscape with its tracing is enough to get me going - I'm enjoying toying with it... I seem to recall some programs that can "clean up" a sketch - but those are probably related to tablet computers, etc, i.e you draw "sort of a box" and it says "AHA, a box! and corrects it.
i´m afraid of bugs... very (very) good ´table!
andrew137 years ago
lol. this is funny.
BeanGolem7 years ago
Nice work! Two things: 1) Drawings look fantastic and all, but an Instructable riddled with typos is still annoying and distracting. 2) Documenting failures and mistakes that get left out of a "clean" Instructable are often just as useful. I would suggest putting a "step" at the end that is just an archive of mistakes and explanations that led to the final design. In the spirit of DIY, these "lessons learned" have the possibility to be translated to many other projects.
KaptinScarlet (author)  BeanGolem7 years ago
Ok, firstly thanks. Thanks for reading the instructable and giving such good feedback. I completely agree, the instructable was finished very late at night / early morning, which when combined with a nightcap (shall we say) and a slight propensity to be a rubbish speller, resulted in a truly substandard text. I have (or hope I have) now corrected the typos. I have also clarified my comment about not putting in your mistakes. I agree with you that some of the errors one makes when doing DIY are valuable lessons. My comment was really about how one should get rid of irrelevant dead ends that just serve to confuse the reader. Anyway, I hope the new copy is acceptable, and very glad you like the drawings.
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