How to Illustrate a wikiHow Article

Sometimes, it's impractical or impossible to take a photo for wikiHow that communicates all information that's needed for a certain step. For instance, it's difficult to photograph the shape of the bottom of a hole for planting a tree. In such a case, illustrations are a great choice for guiding the reader visually without the need to take a photo.


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    Decide whether the article needs illustrations, photos, or both. Most articles about activities in the physical world can benefit from a clear set of step-by-step images, but it's often much easier to achieve a clear, visual explanation with photos than with illustrations. Understanding why you need an illustration rather than a photograph will also help to determine the purpose and goal of the illustration.
    Here are some cases when an illustration is helpful:
    • An illustration about how to tell time based on the moon.
      The information is best expressed as something that is not a photo, such a diagram, schematic, or graph.
    • One step in drawing a sea turtle.
      The article is about drawing or illustration.
    • The illustration shows something that can't be photographed or can't easily be photographed, such as a cross section, hidden parts, or cutaway view.
    • A drawing simplifies or highlights something that is not as clear as it would be in a photo.
    • Markings on an origami photo help to clarify the action.
      Remember that illustration elements may be added to or combined with photos to clarify the photo, as in this arrow showing the direction of a fold. You can also use illustrations in the same article as photos, to make certain points clearer.
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    Look for illustrations that already exist. Use the Find Free Photos tool to search on Commons for images that are freely licensed or in the public domain. You may find that there is no need to reinvent the wheel, or to redraw it. You might also find illustrations in public domain works that you could reuse.
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    Plan your illustrations. Often a simple sketch of whatever you are going to illustrate will guide the rest of the illustration process to a cleaner, more accurate result with fewer missteps. A sketch can also tell you early on whether your illustration will work and look as you intend. If you are drawing by hand, a light pencil sketch may even form the foundation of the finished drawing.
    • Look at the article while you plan your illustration(s). Which step(s) are you illustrating? How many illustrations will you need to explain what you are trying to explain?
    • Rewrite or reorganize the text of any wikiHow article to match the illustrations better. It's often easier to make the text fit the illustrations or photos than vice versa, and the result will usually be better organized.
    • If you're not sure how an illustration should look, look at what you are illustrating and, if you can, look at how others have illustrated similar things. Don't copy their work; just get ideas.
  4. Image titled Artwork In Progress.png
    Illustrate. You may create illustrations by any means you wish. Use whatever medium and method is comfortable to you.
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    Draw by hand. If you choose to draw by hand, draw neatly. You may wish to sketch out your illustration lightly in pencil and go back over it in darker pencil or in ink, or trace it on a clean sheet of paper. Use a ruler if you need straight lines, and erase any construction lines from the final illustration.
    • An exception is this photo for bisecting a line, showing where to put the compass.
      Use a scanner, not a camera, to bring hand-drawn images into electronic form, if at all possible. Some cameras can take good photographs of hand-drawn images, but a page scanner usually produces a cleaner result.
    • Illustrate how-to-draw articles by drawing whatever the article is about, stopping along the way to scan in the image. You will automatically get a step-by-step sequence of what went into the drawing.
    • Clean your scanned images with photo editing software as needed. A bit of cleanup can help make your scanned images look their best by removing spots and speckles, cleaning up edges, brightening colors, and increasing the contrast.
    • A hand-drawn closet organizer plan.
      Let hand drawings look hand drawn. This example plan for a closet organizer is in the article not to show the best way to organize a closet but to show that pencil and paper are enough to produce a simple, usable plan.
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    Draw by computer. Use whatever programs you have and know. Computer drawing programs include everything from Microsoft Paint to Inkscape and Adobe Illustrator.
    • You may have many programs already available.
      Try the drawing tools in programs like Word or Power Point for diagrams, or graphs from your favorite spreadsheet.
    • The mitered corner of a chair rail drawn in Google SketchUp
      Try using three-dimensional modeling software like SketchUp. Such programs allow you to create multiple projection and cross-sectional views from a single model.
    • A screen shot from brainstorming software. (Note that the text is much too small to read in this view.)
      Try software that is suited to a specific application or type of illustration or diagram, such as this brainstorming application.
  7. Image titled Draw Perspective Step 22
    Check your illustration. Whatever and however you have illustrated, now is the time to review it. Make sure it is clean and looks as you intended. You can change illustrations after they are uploaded by uploading a new copy, but it is best if you can save yourself this step.
    • Zoom out, or step away from it.
    • In a computer drawing program, flip the image and look for errors.
    • Hold the piece of paper up to a light, with the image facing away from you. You will be able to see the sketch reversed.
    • Apply a filter to turn your image into black and white. Is there enough contrast?
  8. Image titled Exporting PNG.png
    Save or convert your illustration to a suitable format. You can upload any of the following formats: png, gif, jpg, jpeg, pdf. You may perform a Save As or export the image to one of these formats, or you may have to take a screen shot.
    • Whatever the size of your illustration, make sure that it will be clear in a small thumbnail view.
    • Don't make your image size too small. Upload a larger version and let wikiHow create the smaller version on the page.
  9. Image titled Uploading an Image.png


  • If you are combining illustrations with photos, try to make the illustrations follow the photos. In the box gimp example above, the colors of the strands are similar and the knot goes the same way in the illustration as it does in the photo. Try to make your illustrations consistent with one another, too.
  • Look critically at illustrations you see in wikiHow and elsewhere. Are they clear? Are they better than having a photo of the same thing? Do they communicate information effectively? Why? How?
  • Use colors. Colors help illustrations to stand out. They can also be used to help differentiate items in the illustration. Use consistent colors to make multiple illustrations look like they are part of a set.
  • Check that your illustration is accurate and correct before you fill in the details. You will save yourself a lot of backtracking.
  • You don't have to be a professional illustrator to illustrate for wikiHow, just as you don't have to be a professional writer to write for wikiHow. Even non-professionals can create good, clear illustrations and add them to articles.
  • Avoid including text in illustrations. It is difficult to read in a small thumbnail, and text in an image is difficult to change. Do include things like arrows and numbers, and explain what they mean in the caption.
  • Many things need illustrations, not just wikiHow articles. If you get good at illustrating wikiHow articles, see if you can use your skills to advance your career or improve other work you do.
  • Share your illustrations with Wikimedia Commons, if it is appropriate to do so.


  • Illustrations must have an appropriate license in order for wikiHow to be able to use them. Make sure illustrations you upload are your own or from a public domain or freely-licensed source. Mark the source of all images you upload or import.

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