The Different Mediums an Artist Can Use

As the artist, it will be up to that individual what medium they work in. Usually it is what medium they are most skilled at.

Today, there is a wealth of different techniques and mediums that artists will use, and what medical and scientific artists will use to create their images. On each commission deciding on the most appropriate and effective medium is a decision that needs to be carefully considered by both the artist and the client.

In some cases, clients already have a clear idea about the type of illustration they want.  They are looking for a specific look and ‘feel’ that will appeal to their audience and fit the purpose of the illustration.  Other clients may need more help and advice to define the images they require.  A key part of the decision process is choosing the right medium for the project. These include watercolour, pencil, pen & ink, digital, 3D, animations and mixed media.


The beauty of watercolour is that it achieves a very soft, transulcent and gentle ‘look’ and ‘feel’.  It is therefore a preferred medium for certain types of medical conditions or anatomical areas that need to be treated more sensitively: women’s anatomy and health is often illustrated in watercolour.

Watercolour is also a good match for illustrating painful, unpleasant conditions as it helps to reduce the ‘scare’ factor associated with these types of illnesses.  It is also a more popular choice when illustrating images of graphic, invasive procedures as the gentle, subtle style helps to educate and inform without offending or upsetting the viewer.

Pen & Ink or Black and White

The appeal for these types of illustrations is the ease and simplicity of duplicating and printing the images, such as for leaflets and booklets. And, of course, there are cost-savings when it comes to reproducing a black and white image as opposed to colour.

Pen and Ink illustrations are also used to emphasise key details: the main outline is drawn in black and white whereas colour is used solely for the area of interest. This helps focus attention to the anatomical area or functions in question. The drawings are often very impactful because of the contrast between colour and back and white.  They have a simple yet beautiful quality about them that is less likely to date and fall out of fashion.


The mainstay of modern art, digital offers tremendous scope and versatility for commercial, medical artists. It is created by the artist using a Wacom Tablet, and digital pen that acts as your digital paint brush. You draw on the Wacom tablet which creates the illustration directly onto the screen, usually a Apple Macintosh which contains the relevant Adobe Creative Suite software.

Images can be enhanced, updated, and produced at relative speed.  They can also be rotated, cut and dissected to show limitless anatomical views and positions.  The images are fresh and impactful with a clear and clean finish.  Many clients seek digital images because of their commercial appeal, for example, easily reproduced across websites, books, text-books and leaflets.


Antique is stunning form of illustration that is used to depict older style medical images that are then digitally created. The appeal of this style of drawing is often used to infer a heritage or legacy to the client brand and image.

Mixed Media 

Mixed media is literally just that, combining different mediums together. For example a pencil illustration with some colour highlights added in Photoshop. It allows the artist to experimental with regards to technique and the final look of the illustration.

3D Art

3D artwork is a form of digital illustration and is created in very specific programmes such as Maya, ZBrush to name just two out of many. The 3D programmes uses polygon meshes and the artist moulds them into objects. These objects are called 3D as the ‘object’ can be turned on screen 360degrees. They can also be animated. Animation is the process of taking a 3D object and getting it to move.



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