Drawing Microscopic Images
Found in: Microscopy Basics, Techniques


Drawing is still a useful method for documenting microscopic specimens, despite advances in (digital) imaging technologies. There are certain advantages in drawings that photographs do not possess.

Why talk about drawing microscopic images, if it is now possible to record the images using digital cameras? Drawing is not an old-fashioned or outdated method, rather it complements the possibilities of photographic documentation.

Advantages of Drawing Microscopic Images over Photography

  • Combining different focus levels into one picture: Especially high-magnification images suffer from a low depth of field. A drawing is able to combine the different focus levels. It is now also possible to use image stacking software to combine different (digital) photographs from different focus levels into one final image.
  • Removing artifacts: Dust and dirt do not have to be included in a drawing, but they are automatically part of a photograph.
  • It is possible to draw a “typical” structure: The artist is able to look at several different specimens and then produce a final, typical drawing of the specimen.
  • Emphasizing: The artist is able to emphasize different structures of the specimen, and to ignore others. This becomes useful if the drawing is to be used for identification purposes. This way a drawing can aid an inexperienced viewer. A photograph is often more complex with unnecessary details.
  • Training of observation: Drawing takes practice and requires careful observation. These two aspects are trained.
  • Same style: For publication purposes, it may be an advantage to show different microscopic specimens in the same style and size. Artists can use the same drawing style even for vastly different specimens. It is then possible to arrange the drawings on the same page next to each other without causing too much visual confusion.

Drawing Techniques

  • Drawing without technical aid: For right-handed people, look with the left eye through the eyepiece of the microscope and with the right eye at a white drawing surface. You may need to adjust the angle of the drawing surface (placed right of the microscope) appropriately. With a bit of practice, your brain will combine the microscopic image and the white sheet of paper into one single image. You can then trace the image onto the paper.
  • Drawing tubes: These devices can be installed beneath the microscope head. It will direct the image into a tube and project it directly on the table to be traced.
  • Using a small mirror: A small mirror is mounted in front of the eye piece to project the image onto the drawing surface. The image can then be traced.


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