Technical drawing has no artistic connotations, however, it requires the ‘artist’ to have fantastic graphical representation skills.

Technical artists are essential to the engineering industry.

  • What sort of tasks do they have to complete?
  • What qualities and drawing skills are required?
  • What makes technical drawing different from any other type of drawing?

Explore the many sides to this profession, which focuses on putting concepts onto paper with a view to have products made.

As a profession, technical drawing is dominated by men, with women accounting for just 23% of employees.

Let’s have a look at this lesser-known drawing technique.

What is Technical Drawing?

First, how about an explanation of what technical drawing involves?

It’s all about representing parts of products, buildings and industrial machinery accurately from several perspectives.

It’s a long way from caricature drawing and painting, and doesn't involve learning how to draw a face, the human figure, learning how to draw eyes, taking drawing courses London in portrait drawing, drawing animals, using negative space, shading techniques, charcoal, colored pencil, pen and ink, watercolor or acrylic paints, or oil pastel.

What it does include is a different type of realistic drawing to the type of realism found in drawing a still life, for example. This involves working with one point perspective, practicing line drawing (to create a simple outline of a part), considering proportion, online drawing lessons in contour drawing, and getting used to producing pencil drawings as well as digital drawing.

In the past, technical drawing was done manually on a drawing table, but today, technical artists work primarily on computers with CAD (Computer Aided Design) software.

Technical drawing has several objectives:

  • Descriptive formal representation of an object, which allows people to see what their ideas look like on paper
  • Communication within a team so that all members are able to access the data relating to a project

Technical drawing courses can be used in mechanical or civil engineering, and is indispensable to the creation of prototypes by teams of engineers.

Computer assisted drawing speeds up the design process and makes life easier for technical illustrators
In the digital age, computers make designers' jobs far easier ¦ source: Pixabay - PactoVisual

Technical drawing takes every element of a project into account, as each individual piece is drawn by the technical illustrator. Final drawings and diagrams contain information such as dimensions, shapes and materials to be used.

By creating labelled and detailed sketches, the illustrator also checks the viability of the project through analysing the associated risks as well as production costs.

Whether it’s for creating an industrial product or an architectural project, technical illustration is the first step towards realising a concept, and is therefore incredibly transferable to other industries, including:

  • Automobile
  • Aeronautics
  • Construction
  • Furniture design

The technical illustrator is at the epicentre of the design process of a product, as their drawings link the conceptual product to the real-life one.

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The Different Types of Technical Illustration

Technical artists need to be able to create different types of drawings.

There are several categories:

  • Sketch: A sketch is a graphite pencil drawing produced at the very beginning of a project. They’re usually drawing freehand with a graphite pencil and paper, and are only an approximation, however, they help to visualise the general idea of a concept. Sketching is a common first step and is found in other types of art such as cartooning, satirical drawing and portrait drawing.
  • Diagram: Diagrams are more refined than sketches, and include more information. They give a general idea of the functions of a product and its dimensions.
  • Assembly Drawings: These drawings represent objects in their entirety, once all of its components have been assembled. Assembly drawings are used in the conception phase and help teams to focus on solutions to difficulties they have overcome.
  • Detail Drawings: This is a complete representation of the product with all of its components and details of their functions. This is a useful document for inventors to present to manufacturers.

What Standards are Expected of Technical Illustrators?

Technical drawing, because of its scientific and mathematic nature, has no room for the artist's creativity, and drawings should be clear and accessible for a range of people to be able to understand.

As a profession, technical drawing demands accuracy and precision, so that drawings represent their products as realistically as possible - the complete opposite of caricature drawing.

There are many standards which must be respected:

Scale and Size

Depending on the product being drawn, it’s not always possible for illustrators to represent objects in their actual proportion. This is where scale comes in and allows the illustrator to blow up or shrink models to make them fit onto a sheet of drawing paper.

Paper sizes are standard, and there are five of them:

  1. A4: 210 x 297 mm
  2. A3: 420 x 297 mm
  3. A2: 420 x 594 mm
  4. A1: 840 x 594 mm
  5. A0: 840 x 1188 mm

Having standard sizes for paper means that sheets can always be folded down for storage as an A4 sheet without affecting the drawing.

Producing scaled drawings helps others to interpret the design
Drawing diagrams to a standardised scale makes the transformation process easier ¦ source: Pixabay - CurtisMmedia

This simple fact means that sorting blueprints and archiving them is far neater.

Title Block

This is a framework with encompasses certain types of information concerning the drawing.

Among these elements are:

  • Name of the product in the drawing
  • Scale of the drawing
  • Name of the illustrator and their business
  • Display method (British or American)
  • Date

The dimensions of the title block are also clearly defined, as is its position on the sheet.

Traditionally, the title block is found in the bottom right corner, however, this can vary.

The objective of the title block is to help people identify a drawing without having to remove it from its file and unfold it.

The characteristics of technical drawings also conform to specific standards as defined by BSI group, which provides technical illustrators with drawing instruction for detail, information required and the clarity of details to ensure information cannot be misinterpreted.

This type of regulation in the world of engineering and technical drawing ensures that blueprints are easy to interpret, saving engineers time and speeding up the development process.

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How do you draw an object in its entirety?

Perspective drawing is at the centre of a technical illustrator’s work. Designers must represent objects from several points of view, so that the product can be viewed from every angle.

Drawings can be one of 6 views: front view, rear view, left side, right side, below and above.

Technical drawing is central to the design process of any product
Blueprints give creators clear instructions on what to produce ¦ source: Pixabay - Ippicture

A drawing’s disposition is also precisely defined. There are two methods: American and European.

According to European convention, views are positioned taking into account the projection system. When we face the right side of an object, the view we have is projected on the left, and on a technical drawing, we find:

  • The aerial view represented below the face-on view
  • The left side view represented right of the face-on view
  • The below view represented above the face-on view
  • The rear view on the far-right hand side of the page, next to the left side view

In drawing lessons, illustrators are also taught to produce three dimensional drawings and cross-sections.

Where Can Technical Drawing Get You a Job?

As we have already seen, technical drawing is used in many industries, and the professions linked to technical drawing as just as numerous.

Do you want to make a career of technical drawing?

Technical illustration requires lots of different drawing skills and other knowledge.

Usually, vacancies are advertised within engineering businesses and in the local press.

Technical illustrators can work as:

  • Technical Designer: After around 5 years of experience in designing, you will be able to become a technical illustrator and produce more detailed diagrams
  • Project Manager: 10 years’ experience is needed before you become a project designer. This profession consists of managing a team of illustrators and intervening when problems arise during the conception of a project.

Teamwork is an essential quality of a good technical illustrator. You’ll need to be able to prove your eye for detail and precision whilst never lagging on accuracy.

It is equally as important to be scientifically-minded so that you really understand the different drawing techniques you will be required to use.

There are many ways you can train to become a technical illustrator.

Technical drawing isn’t a creative profession; however, it is an indispensable type of drawing which has been rapidly developing since the beginning of industrialisation.

So, what is the best part of the technical drawing profession? It gives you the skills to work in a wide variety of sectors.

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As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.