What I learnt about formatting books—part 6

Images and Illustrations—part 2

Today we’ll look at more issues affecting illustrations.  Each image is different and may need a separate rule of thumb but keeping a consistent look throughout the book will probably be your main concern.

Looking at the stroke (line thickness) of the illustrations is important.  If the image is to be small but fairly detailed, the stroke needs to be fairly fine but not so fine that the printer won’t print it properly.  Remember each printer will print it differently and the commercial printer the book is finally printed on may have a minimum stroke setting.  I found the minimum stroke I could use was a 0.25 pt.  Strokes will also look different on the computer screen than they do in print.  As I was enlarging and reducing the size of my images throughout the book to suit the layout, I was continually altering the stroke width.  Yes, this was annoying but worth it in the end.  Most of my illustrations used a 0.75 pt stroke.



A thicker stroke width can obscure the detail of the design.

You’ll need an idea of what size you’re illustration is going to be in the book and draw it that size in the drawing program.  If you draw a 3″ design and then enlarge it to something like 5″ in the word processor, it may print out pixelated.

The next thing to look for is how the stroke is finished off with caps and corners. Basically, this is how the line ends—whether it be with a pointed corner or a rounded corner.  I’ve never found a reason to use the central style below.  I tend to use the rounded edge with curved designs and some straight line designs deserve a pointed corner.  The only thing I try to do is keep the stroke style consistent throughout the book.



Stroke caps and corner options.


If there are illustrations or patterns in the book that are to be reproduced or traced by the reader, make sure the stroke is thick enough to be seen through tracing paper.  If the illustrations are to be enlarged, the stroke shouldn’t be so thick that it’s going to be one quarter of an inch wide when photocopied and enlarged.

If your book is to be printed, photos and illustrations should use the CMYK format and not RGB.  This will limit or alter the colours a little.  Colours may not print out as they appear on your screen.  They may appear different on your screen than they do on another computer screen.  If your book is to have a digital format, change the colours to RGB.  You can change the colour format within your photo editing software program.

If creating a black and white book, you’ll have to look at how you portray any grey scale.  Some printers will print it like newspaper print with dots, which may not be good if the illustration is a line.  To break up an illustration when showing different areas to quilt, I went with a bold line, a thin line and a dashed line.  I included a legend with the illustration too.  I used stripes to show a grey area in the kaleidoscope block below.


Greyscale Fiona Schiffl

One last thing I’d like to address on illustrating (and remember I’m a doodler, not a Da Vinci) is hand drawn style illustrations versus polished versions of the designs.  What style do you prefer?  I haven’t done a survey but there seems to be quite a few quilt books using hand drawn style designs.  Is this to give you the idea that the design doesn’t have to be perfect and that free flowing designs are fine for these types of quilts?  The author may be wanting you to draw your own version of them, I don’t know.  They may be of the opinion that free-motion quilting isn’t perfect so there’s no use in drawing a perfect drawing in the first place.  They may not want to spend the time create perfect versions of the designs.  Before I go any further, I am fine with the notion that free-motion quilting isn’t always perfect and the hand drawn style is great if that’s what the quilt needs.  I’m of the opinion that if it works for you and your quilt, go for it.  I think what I’m saying is you may want to appeal to both sides of the fence—the neat freaks and the free-flowing people by creating perfect designs.  The neat freaks will appreciate the perfect drawings and the free-flowing spirits will recreate the image as they want it to be.  Personally, I painstakingly agonise over getting my designs perfect with smooth curves and straight lines.  I have put that much work into each design that I pride myself on the quality of the line work.  Have a think about it, anyway.  Here’s a hand drawn version and a perfect version of a design.  Do you care that the hand drawn version is asymmetrical?


The hand drawn version is on the left.


If quilts are made, photos are taken or illustrations are drawn by other people, set out a clear contract for use of the items and payment for the services rendered.  You won’t want to run into copyright issues later on or lose friends over it.

It may seem to be a lot to think about when it comes to illustrations but I’ve spent the last six years drawing designs nearly every day and these issues come up regularly.  It’s a lot of fun drawing designs on the computer, it frees your mind and allows it to play.  Enjoy illustrating your book.  Any drawing may lead to learning more about design and take your book in a different direction.

Happy illustrating and quilting,


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