Computer-aided drawing system – substitute for camera lucida

Computer-aided drawing system – substitute for camera
E.A. Sidorchuk, D.D. Vorontsov
To cite this version:
E.A. Sidorchuk, D.D. Vorontsov. Computer-aided drawing system – substitute for camera
lucida. Acarologia, Acarologia, 2014, 54 (2), pp.229 - 239. .
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Acarologia 54(2): 229–239 (2014)
DOI: 10.1051/acarologia/20142130
Ekaterina A. S IDORCHUK1 and Dmitry D. V ORONTSOV2
(Received 09 March 2014; accepted 16 May 2014; published online 30 June 2014)
1 Arthropoda Laboratory, Paleontological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia.
Laboratory of Comparative Physiology, Institute of Developmental Biology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia.
A BSTRACT — The drawing system we describe consists of a microscope, digital video camera, computer with a mouse or
a pen tablet, and freely available software. The system uses an overlay technology that allows drawing with either raster
or vector software, using a live image background that is translated either from the microscope via a digital camera or
from previously captured images. With some practice, this system allows one to make high-quality illustrations directly
from a microscope, omitting the time-consuming steps of drawing and inking pencil sketches or taking, combining and
importing photo-stacks to drawing software for subsequent outlining.
K EYWORDS — methods; techniques; scientific illustration; morphology
With the development of computer drawing software, the most time-consuming part of taxonomic
description — preparation of drawings — became
much optimized by allowing either the "inking" of
pencil sketches after scanning them, or the outlining of necessary details from a digital photograph
or image stack (Coleman, 2006; Fisher and Dowling, 2010; Tereshkin, 2008). The second method
speeds up the drawing process by excluding the
time-consuming stage of a pencil sketch and allows
production of a high-quality drawing suitable for
publication without further adjustments.
This second method, however, does include another time-consuming stage — combining the stack
of photographs and/or importing multiple images
to the drawing software — if the object is threedimensional and requires multiple images to represent it properly. Also, digital photographs taken
ISSN 0044-586-X (print). ISSN 2107-7207 (electronic)
from the microscope do contain artifacts. Those can
become misleading in the images, received by combining captures of subsequent focal planes, especially if it is done automatically. Direct observation
under the microscope thus remains necessary to
avoid misinterpretation of complex structures. The
last but not the least problem is to choose an appropriate magnification and resolution to capture both
the outline and the fine detail necessary for taxonomic description. While not so important for large
arthropods, this problem stands out sharply when
describing small arthropods, such as mites. This
is probably why many mite taxonomists still prefer
making pencil sketches with the aid of a drawingtube, or camera lucida. The main advantage of this
optical device (Hammond and Austin, 1987) over
using a stack of images is the direct microscopic observation of the specimen that is being drawn. One
can adjust illumination, contrast methods and focal point of the microscope while drawing, to bring
Sidorchuk E.A. and Vorontsov D.D.
into focus a detail of interest, even if it is newly discovered or minute, while photographs must have
captured all the important details at the very beginning. This becomes especially difficult when documenting inclusions in amber, where details emerge
or become obscure depending on the angle of illumination.
This contribution shows how one can combine
the advantages both of the computer-aided drawing and of the camera lucida. The method described below allows making readily printable digital drawings (see figures in Sidorchuk and Norton, 2010; Klimov and Sidorchuk, 2011; Sidorchuk
and Klimov, 2011; Sidorchuk and Norton, 2011a,
b; Sidorchuk and Bertrand, 2013; Sidorchuk et al.,
2014; Norton and Sidorchuk, in press.) from a live
image acquired directly from the microscope, supported by direct observation through the eyepieces.
The system is cost-effective, since it is componentflexible and uses the full power of literally any
drawing software, including freeware and open
It is important to note, however, that newer versions of software are not always better than the
older ones, especially when it comes to the functions which are not very commonly used. Therefore, the first installation of the drawing system we
describe can be difficult in some operating systems
(in Windows 8, for example). Also, using the appropriate version of VLC media player is essential,
although we do not lose hope that the functionality
required for our method will be restored in newer
versions of this media player or implemented in
some other softwares. We describe the method as
we apply it (in Windows XP and Windows 7), providing all the necessary detail, and encourage discussion and application of the other software that
we did not try.
The system we propose consists of a microscope, a
digital camera attached to it, and a computer with a
mouse or (preferably) with a pen tablet. The image
from the camera is translated in a real-time mode
to the computer screen where it becomes the back230
ground for the drawing software. The illustrator
outlines the object using the tools of the drawing
software while adjusting the microscope and position of the object as necessary. Since the live image
is established as a background, the drawing procedure is essentially the same as if using a stack of
images (Coleman, 2006), but with an important advantage: to change focal point or illumination, one
needs only to adjust the microscope, rather than
having to take additional images or cycle through
layers in a stack.
The initial and crucial step of this method is
to establish the live image from the microscope as
a background for drawing. This can be accomplished using a so-called ’overlay mode’ for showing a video image on the computer screen. Overlay is widely used in different software, such as media players, to reduce central processor load while
transferring a video stream to the monitor. In overlay mode the software does not draw every video
frame on a screen pixel by pixel. Instead, it fills
some part of the screen where the video has to be
shown with a specific overlay color (usually darkblue, almost black) while all the rest is done by the
hardware video processor, which finds and replaces
overlay color with the picture from a video file or
from the attached video camera.
To establish a live image from the camera in the
background of the drawing software, one needs to
(i) display the live (video) image in overlay mode,
and (ii) fill the background of the drawing with that
specific overlay color. The second part of the task
can be achieved in almost any drawing software,
either vector or raster. To display the image, one
needs a video camera attached to the microscope
and the software capable of receiving the video
stream from the camera and showing it immediately on a screen in overlay mode. We have tested
a few programs capable of performing this task and
have chosen only one for our work, the open source
VLC media player, but there may be others. Also,
while our method was developed in MS Windows
XP and MS Windows 7 operating systems, it should
be applicable to others, such as Linux or Mac OS X.
Unfortunately, Windows 8 seems to be incompatible with the overlay mode realization in older ver-
Acarologia 54(2): 229–239 (2014)
F IGURE 1: An example of a working place with the complete drawing apparatus ready to use. C-camera, T-pen tablet
sions of Windows, so that we cannot recommend
it for this application. The method is described in
detail below, along with the particular set of hardware and software that we have chosen for our own
drawings. Bold text indicates the crucial steps of
the installation process.
Workspace and setup — While drawing, it is
convenient to have easy access to controls and
eyepieces of the microscope, a computer monitor
within view that produces minimum eyestrain, and
input tools (keyboard, pen tablet or mouse) positioned for access without unnecessary reaching.
Our workspace (organized in space-restricted conditions) is shown in Fig. 1.
Microscope — The microscope must have all the
optical capabilities one normally requires for observation. A trinocular head is preferable, as it leaves
both eyepieces available while the camera is in use.
For close examination of mite inclusions in amber
magnifications of 100-1000× are needed, so we use
a Jenaval compound microscope with both normal
transmitted illumination and epi-illumination from
an external fiber-optic light source.
Digital camera — The best choice is a camera
designed for use with a microscope. If a professional camera of this kind (i.e. made by Leica, Zeiss,
etc.) is too expensive, one can successfully use one
of the cheaper USB cameras that recently have become available. If the computer runs the Windows
XP or Windows 7 operating system, as in our case,
the main requirement is that the camera driver supports the DirectShow standard. The first camera we
worked with was a ScopeTec DCM 500, with a maximum resolution of 2592×1944 pixels (px) and maximum capture-rate of 30 frames per second (fps).
Half that resolution and frame rate is also acceptable. The other cameras we successfully used are
AmScope MU800 and AmScope MU900.
Computer — Virtually, any modern computer
is appropriate for the task (however, see our comments concerning the operating system). The faster
its processor and the larger its operative memory
(RAM), the smoother the whole drawing system
will perform and the higher-resolution drawings
can be made.
We have successfully used the following computers:
(i) Dell Inspiron 600m laptop, (Intel Pentium M
processor at 1.6 GHz, 512 Mb RAM, ATI Mobility
Radeon 9000 video card) which had worked slowly
with raster drawings of 6,000×6,000 pixels in size
and video stream format 1280px at 15 fps.
(ii) desktop PC (Intel Core 2 Duo processor E7500
2.93 GHz, 4 GB RAM, ATI Radeon HD 4550 512M
Sidorchuk E.A. and Vorontsov D.D.
video-card) which allowed comfortable working
with drawings of up to 10,000×10,000 px receiving
from the microscope a video stream of 2,592×1,944
px at 30 fps.
(iii) Samsung NP900X4C laptop (Intel Core i7 processor 3517U 1.9 Ghz, 8 Gb RAM, Intel HD Graphics
Pen tablet — Though one can draw using a
mouse or a touchpad, a pen tablet has proven essential for efficiently making good drawings. The
better the pen tablet, the easier the process will be,
so if the budget is restricted, we recommend saving
on other components, not on this one. The necessary features of the pen tablet are: (i) a cordless and
preferably battery-free input tool, (ii) pressure sensitivity (this allows easy drawing of natural-looking
lines), (iii) high resolution, and (iv) high accuracy.
We use a Wacom Intuos 4M tablet with a pen-stylus
(working area 223,5×139,7 mm, coordinate resolution 200 lines per mm, accuracy of the pen ± 0,25
Operating system — We use Windows XP SP2 or
Windows 7 ( on our
computers. As mentioned above, it should be possible to realize the same method under any operating
system that supports overlay technology. Windows
8 does not fully support the overlay technology and
we cannot recommend it for this application.
Video software — Video software has to support
an overlay mode and be capable of performing live
capture from the video camera. It is very convenient
for drawing when the software also has a "video on
a desktop" mode. If the software supplied with the
camera supports an overlay mode and can display
the live image on a desktop, no additional video
software is required. Software supplied with our
cameras could not work in overlay mode, so we use
an open source VLC media player ver. 0.9.8a. This
is not the latest version of this media player, but the
old versions, including the one we use, are available:,
Newer versions of this media player exist, but they
perform worse for our application, as often happens
with rarely used properties of programs. Obtaining
the appropriate, old version of VLC media player
specified above is necessary to follow our protocol, although we hope that, if set up properly, other
software would also work.
Setting up VLC media player and obtaining
overlay color — Download the VLC media player
ver. 0.9.8a and install it. Run VLC player and
disable its automatic updates. The media player
can use or not use the overlay mode, displaying the
same image in both cases, while only the overlay
mode is suitable for our needs. The preferences of
VLC media player must be set as in Fig. 2 to proceed. From VLC player menu, open ’Tools > Preferences > Video’ in order to see the ’General Video
Settings’ dialog (Fig. 2). In the ’Output’ dropdown
menu choose the ’DirectX video output’. Also check
the ’Enable wallpaper mode’ option (arrows in Fig.
2). Save settings. Close VLC media player and
open it anew to make sure that the saved settings
are applied. In Windows 7 and Windows Vista, it
is safer to disable the ’Aero’ interface: choose ’Start
> Control Panel > Personalization’ and select any of
the themes in the ’Basic And High Contrast Themes’
To check whether the player is utilizing the
overlay mode, open some video file (’Media > Open
file’). A still image file may also be used instead
of a video file (this reliably works in Windows XP,
but not in Windows 7), as shown in Fig. 3A. Make
a screenshot (press a ’Print Screen’ key on a keyboard). Run the drawing software and paste the
screenshot image from the clipboard and make the
pasted replica of the media player window overlap
the original window of the media player (Fig. 3B).
Part of the image translated by the media player
should emerge through the replica. It must be noted
that this effect may depend on the magnification of
the image (zooming) in the window of the drawing
software: for example, in GIMP the area filled with
overlay color looks invariably black being scaled to
66.7% but behaves as in Fig. 3B at the other magnifications.
Close (not minimize) the media player. The contents of the replica of media player window in the
screenshot should become dark if the overlay mode
Acarologia 54(2): 229–239 (2014)
F IGURE 2: Settings of VLC media player. Those important for correct and convenient work in overlay mode are indicated by arrows.
This dialog can be found under the ’Tools > Preferences’ menu.
F IGURE 3: Setting a live image from the camera as the background for drawing (software used for this example are VLC media player
and GIMP graphic software). Since the overlay mode image cannot be reproduced in a screenshot, we photographed the computer
screen using a digital camera instead of making the combined images from incomplete screenshots: A – media player showing the
image; B – screenshot taken from A and pasted to the new file in the drawing software. The overlay mode is active: part of the video
frame is visible through a replica of the media player’s window where it overlaps with an original window of the media player, the
rest of the replica is dark but is nevertheless filled with overlay color. Both arrows point to the area filled with overlay color; C –
media player is closed, the whole area filled with overlay color looks dark; D – same as C, but the media player was not in overlay
mode when the screenshot was taken. There is no overlay color on the screen. See text for further explanations.
Sidorchuk E.A. and Vorontsov D.D.
was active (Fig. 3C). If it still contains the image
which was demonstrated by the media player, then
the media player did not use the overlay mode (Fig.
3D). This can be due to any of the following reasons:
the VLC player settings are wrong, its version is different from the one we recommend (you can check
the version under ’Help > About’ menu), or the operating system does not support the overlay mode.
If everything is set up correctly, the player should
use the overlay mode. If it nevertheless does not
use overlay mode, try stopping VLC player via the
’Task manager’ and running it anew, or restart the
computer and try again.
Pick up the overlay color (Fig. 3B, arrows)
with a ’pipette’ tool and save it for further use
as a background for drawing from the live video
streams, still captures, or video files. Normally,
overlay color in MS Windows is RGB 0:0:1. However, in InkScape under Windows XP and Windows 7, there is a bug in setting the background
color: one needs to set RGB color to 0:0:2 and transparency (Alpha channel) to 255 to get the right background color, although 0:0:1 is still good for drawing shapes. In some other software, the same setting
can be slightly different, and it is worth trying different options if you surely have the live image from
your microscope in overlay but cannot get it in the
background of your drawing.
Driver of the video camera — Plug in the video
camera and install it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The availability of the video
camera in the VLC media player’s list of capture devices (Fig. 4B) indicates that the correct video camera driver is installed. Three video cameras we used
performed differently in this respect. In Windows
XP, both ScopeTec DCM 500 and AmScope MU800
did not create any problems, same was true of the
ScopeTec DCM 500 in Windows 7. Once a camera
was plugged in and its software was installed from
the CD supplied with it, the camera became accessible through VLC media player, as described in the
next section.
AmScope MU900 camera needed additional
steps to make it work with VLC media player both
in Windows XP and in Windows 7: after the camera’s software installation the camera did work with
that software (ToupView) but did not appear in the
list of capture devices of VLC media player. The
reason was that not all required drivers were installed during the software installation, although
the drivers were present on the same disk supplied
with the camera. After they were manually installed, the video camera became available through
VLC media player (Fig. 4B).
Establishing the live capture — To establish the
live capture from the camera through VLC media
player, one has to learn the camera’s resolution
closest to the resolution of the computer’s screen.
Higher resolution would require more memory but
would not be useful as the display would not be
capable of showing it; lower resolution is resourcesaving but can lead to the loss of detail. It is expedient to adjust the driver properties to obtain live
capture of the best quality within the display resolution that permits the computer to show it in a realtime mode at about 15-20 fps or more. Setting a live
capture resolution higher than that of the display is
worthwhile only when one is drawing an enlarged
part, not the whole image.
The currently used resolution of the display in
Windows 7 can be learned by going to ’Control
Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Personalization > Display Settings’.
Available resolution modes of the camera are
most easily found through its specific software:
menu ’Video stream format’ in the ScopePhoto (the
software specific for the ScopeTec cameras) and
’Capture&Resolution’ in the ToupView (the same
for AmScope cameras). For use with VLC media
player, one has to record the larger parameter which
is usually the horizontal size of the frame, in pixels. For example, AMScope MU900 has the following resolution (frame size) options: 3488 x2616,
1744x1308 and 872x654 px. For the screen with resolution of 1600x900 px, the middle option is expedient, so that one should set the ’Video size’ parameter of VLC media player equal to 1744 (see below).
To establish the live video stream from the
camera through VLC media player, open ’Media’
menu and click ’Open Capture Device’ (Fig. 4A).
Ensure that ’Capture mode’ is set to ’DirectShow’.
From the list of available video devices, choose your
Acarologia 54(2): 229–239 (2014)
F IGURE 4: The procedure of setting the video camera as a source of live capture image in VLC media player: A – click ’Open capture
device’ under ’Media’ menu; B – choose the video camera (’Video device name’), set ’Audio device name’ to ’None’ and set the
horizontal pixel size of the video image — it must be chosen from the predefined list specific for particular video camera or, alternatively, left blank. In the latter case the video, most probably, will have the lowest possible resolution. The bottom arrow points to the
command line string which is generated by VLC media player and which can be used to automate the procedure of setting the video
camera parameters; this command line is not required for the method described in this paper; C – setting the live capture image as a
desktop background for convenient drawing.
Sidorchuk E.A. and Vorontsov D.D.
video camera; set the audio device to ’None’ and
set the preferred video size (Fig. 4B, arrows). Click
’Play’ button. An image from the camera should
appear in the media player’s window, maybe after
some delay. The error message ’VLC cannot use the
device "none"...’ is related to the sound and should
be ignored.
eye straining. The image may need to be flipped
(for all of our video cameras it can be done in camera settings), so that movements of the image on the
screen are in accordance with those in the eyepieces
when the microscope stage is moved.
The procedure of choosing the proper video
camera and its resolution can be (optionally) automated in VLC media player. To do that one needs
to obtain the command line string that includes all
the required settings. This string is provided by
VLC player when the ’Show more options’ checkbox is checked in the bottom of the ’Open’ dialog
(Fig. 4B). When all parameters in the upper part of
this dialog are set properly, one can copy the command line string (Fig. 4B, bottom arrow) and create
the desktop shortcut for VLC media player with the
command line parameters added.
Drawing software and establishing a live
image as a background to the drawing —
Whether raster or vector, the drawing software should provide full support for the chosen pen tablet. Our present choices are GIMP
( for raster graphics and
InkScape ( for vector
graphics, both of which are open source. Set the
media player to show video on the desktop in
overlay mode or, if this option is not expedient,
maximize the video window and put the drawing
software window on top of the media player window. Change the background color of the drawing
to overlay color. If this is for some reason impossible, draw a rectangle filled with overlay color. As
soon as it is done, the image displayed by the media
player emerges through the window of the drawing software and can serve as a background for the
For convenience of drawing, we recommend
to check the ’DirectX Wallpaper’ option under the
’Video’ menu of VLC media player (Fig. 4C)-this allows having the live capture image expanded over
the larger part of the screen. This option also allows
having the live image always scaled in the same
way, which is very convenient (see ’Scale bars’ section).
Camera settings — The video camera driver allows setting the resolution, color options, frame
rate and the other parameters. Usually it has a
separate dialog window, which can be opened from
VLC media player. Restart the media player, choose
your camera (see Fig. 4), click ’Configure’ button near the video device name, adjust settings as
needed, save them and click ’Play’ button. In some
cases due to the bug in the camera’s driver it does
not allow adjusting and saving the camera’s parameters from anywhere except the camera’s specific
software — as we experienced with the ScopeTec
camera. In this case all the settings were made from
the ScopePhoto software before opening VLC media player.
If color is not required, grayscale mode is expedient. In our setups, VLC media player represents
colors from the digital camera incorrectly, but this is
not a concern in grayscale mode, which is also less
When all software is set up and working, create a new transparent layer and draw within it.
The procedure of drawing does not differ much
from that with a still image, and we refer reader to
the protocols published by Coleman (2006), Fisher
and Dowling (2010), Tereshkin (2008) and references there in. The difference is that one can draw
while adjusting the focal point of the microscope,
illumination and position of the object, scaling and
moving the object as necessary (see Results and Discussion). As long as the color used for drawing differs from the overlay color, the drawing shows on
the top of a live image. At this stage we suggest
the use of a bright color (green or blue) that contrasts with the microscopic image. Later, it can be
replaced it with a more conventional black. A white
background layer can be created and mostly kept
invisible. Making it visible from time to time helps
evaluating the drawing while it develops.
Acarologia 54(2): 229–239 (2014)
With practice, the drawing system described here
allows making printable drawings directly from
the live-captured image of the microscopic object (for examples of raster drawings, see figures in Sidorchuk and Norton, 2010; Klimov and
Sidorchuk, 2011; Sidorchuk and Klimov, 2011;
Sidorchuk and Norton, 2011a, b; for examples of
vector drawings see Sidorchuk and Bertrand, 2013;
Sidorchuk et al., 2014; Norton and Sidorchuk, in
press.). However, certain mistakes can cause a need
for additional work on the drawings, or in some
cases even totally remaking them to create printable figures (i.e. appropriate for submission with
a journal paper). Our initial mistakes concerned
drawing resolution, line width, line smoothing and
scale bars. The first and third mainly relate to raster
graphics, but the second and especially the last can
become irremediable even when working with vectors graphics.
Drawing resolution — While creating a new
blank image for future drawing (especially a raster
image), one has to keep in mind its final size and
resolution. Journals commonly demand line drawings in their final size to be high-resolution (600
or 800 dpi) and fit a specified width, which varies
among journals between 72 – 85 mm (one column)
and 160 – 170 mm (two columns), and to not exceed a height of 225 – 235 mm. Thus, the canvas size
should not be less than 5300×7000 px. If the computer doesn’t allow comfortable working with such
large images, two or four slightly overlapping partial drawings can be made and subsequently combined. The latter may be necessary when working
with a mouse, touchpad or inaccurate pen tablet in
a raster software: to reduce line irregularities, one
is obliged to zoom an image out to 50 % or even 25
% instead of 100 %, and increase line width and image size proportionally, with subsequent reduction
of the image size.
Line width — It is very tempting to choose thin
lines when drawing from the live capture image,
because one sees every contour as a very narrow
boundary, and magnification is usually rather high,
so each detail seems to be large. Unfortunately, after zooming down to print preview, one discovers
an unhappy truth: outlines are thin and most of the
carefully outlined details are obscure, while shadings are totally invisible. In vector graphics, this
problem can be rather quickly fixed by increasing
outline thickness, but even then line intersections
can become misleading and fine detail may require
simplification. In raster graphics line thickness is
difficult to correct and it is not possible to thicken
different lines to different extent. To avoid such
problems, the line width for the main outline of an
image fitting a 5300×7000 px canvas should not be
less than 30 px, and the thinnest line on the drawing
(or dots used to designate shadings) should not be
less than 6 px. The same is true of dotted or dashed
lines: spaces between dots and dashes cannot be
less than the line width, otherwise they blend together as scale is reduced. In a raster file, to check
if the drawing is printable, one can zoom in to see
it at about 300 % of the print size (lines should be
almost smooth) and zoom out to about 30 % of the
print size to see if all the lines and shades are readily visible. If so, the drawing is printable. Zooming
to about 30 % is also helpful for evaluating a vector
Line smoothing — This function should be
avoided while working with raster images, as line
drawings are usually printed in black and white,
not grayscale. When transferred from full-color or
grayscale, smoothed lines can become "shaggy" instead of retaining their original smoothness, or even
disappear (see example figures in Sidorchuk and
Vorontsov 2010).
Shifting and zooming — It often happens that
with desired magnification, an object is larger than
the screen or working area of the drawing software.
This is not a problem, as the digital camera usually
utilizes only the central part of a microscope’s field
of view, so that distortions at the edges of drawing
are minimal. Thus, as soon as the observable area
is drawn, one can shift a microscope’s stage for the
neighboring area of object to come in view, and drag
the drawing to align it with the new position of the
object. If magnification must be changed, one has to
zoom in or out accordingly. To avoid problems with
scale bars (see below), it is convenient to develop
a table of magnification and zoom, an example of
Sidorchuk E.A. and Vorontsov D.D.
TABLE 1: Accordance of magnification of a microscope and zoom of the drawing software.
intermediate lens
zoom in InkScape (vector)
which is given in Table 1.
Scale bars — As the microscope magnifications
are usually stepwise (i.e. objectives ×12.5, ×25, ×40
and ×100), it might seem useful to make a set of corresponding scale bars. This is only worthwhile if:
one always works with the same computer screen
of a given pixel size; resolution of the camera is
chosen once and does not change; video is always
translated to the desktop with the same scale factor; and changing magnification of the microscope
is always accompanied with zooming the drawing
accordingly. Each of these parameters affects the
actual scale of the video as it is translated into the
background of the drawing software. Unless these
parameters are all set in a routine manner, to assure the correct scale in every case, it is better to
use the following procedure. When the drawing
is finished or has to be set aside, without changing
anything (zoom settings, magnification of the microscope, resolution or orientation of the camera),
substitute the preparation with a stage micrometer
and draw a single line in a new graphic layer with
a text label indicating its actual length. Later, when
labeling the figure and preparing it for submission,
zoom in Gimp (raster)
the line may be rotated and overdrawn by a standard scale bar according to the journal’s style.
Raster or vector? — Raster drawing most resembles normal, non-electronic, drawing: once colored,
each pixel is completely like any other, and it is easy
to erase lines without minding the types or interactions of objects. This makes easier the switch from
sketching with the help of a camera lucida to sketching or drawing with the help of a computer. When
drawing needs to be full-color, with shadings and
subtle tint changes (see Tereshkin 2008 for multiple examples), raster graphic software provides major advantages, as it is primarily dedicated to image creation and processing. For simpler organized
line drawings, however, vector graphic suites allow
greater freedom in changing line widths and styles,
scaling, and copy-editing (examples given by Fisher
and Dowling 2010, their Figs. 5-7). Raster drawings tend to look more "natural", as raster graphics
encourage the freehand outlining of every feature
without trying to interpret it. Vector graphics encourage clarity and the limitation of minor detail,
sometimes even oversimplification and the temptation to copy-paste some elements that are not truly
Acarologia 54(2): 229–239 (2014)
alike in the specimen, which can lead to inaccuracy.
Although it may seem easy to convert the drawing
from raster to vector and back, the resolution is not
improved during the conversion: this can become
problematic when the final illustration needs to be
enlarged. Considering all these points may help in
choosing the most appropriate software for the intended purpose.
We are grateful to Prof. Roy A. Norton (State
University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, USA) for valuable suggestions and improvements to an earlier version
of this manuscript. We cordially thank Dr. Irina
D. Sukacheva, Dr. Dmitry V. Vasilenko, Prof.
Alexandr P. Rasnitsyn and Prof. Alexandr G. Ponomarenko (Borissyak Paleontological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow) for their continuous encouragement and suggestions. We are
thankful to the two anonymous reviewers for constructive criticism of our manuscript and to Dr. Evert E. Lindquist (Canadian National Collection of
Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes) for comments
and suggestion to its revised version. The Russian
Foundation for Basic Research provided financial
support to EAS (grant RFBR # 12-04-01177-a).
Coleman C.O. 2006 — Substituting time-consuming pencil drawings in arthropod taxonomy using stacks of
digital photographs — Zootaxa, 1360, 61-68.
Fisher J.R., Dowling A.P.G. 2010 — Modern methods and
technology for doing classical taxonomy — Acarologia, 50(3), 395-409.
Hammond J.H., Austin J. 1987 — The camera lucida in art
and science — Bristol: Adam Hilger, pp. xii+201
Klimov P.B., Sidorchuk E.A. 2011 — An enigmatic lineage of mites from Baltic amber shows a unique, possibly female-controlled, mating — Biological Journal of
the Linnean Society, 102, 661-668. doi:10.1111/j.10958312.2010.01595.x
Norton R.A., Sidorchuk E.A. in press — Collohmannia
johnstoni n. sp. (Acari, Oribatida) from West Virginia
(U.S.A.), including description of ontogeny, setal variation, notes on biology and systematics of Collohmanniidae — Acarologia.
Sidorchuk E.A., Norton R.A. 2010 — Redescription of the
fossil oribatid mite Scutoribates perornatus, with implications for systematics of Unduloribatidae (Acari: Oribatida) — Zootaxa, 2666, 45-67.
Sidorchuk E.A., Vorontsov D.D. 2010 — How
to make a drawing apparatus with a microscope and computer [Internet] — [12 April
2014]. Moscow [01 July 2010]. Available from:
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Sidorchuk E.A., Klimov P.B. 2011 — Redescription of the
mite Glaesacarus rhombeus (Koch & Berendt, 1854) from
Baltic amber (Upper Eocene): evidence for femalecontrolled mating — Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, 9(2), 183-196. doi:10.1080/14772019.2011.566585
Sidorchuk E.A., Norton R.A. 2011a — The fossil mite family Archaeorchestidae (Acari, Oribatida) I: redescription of Strieremaeus illibatus and synonymy of Strieremaeus with Archaeorchestes — Zootaxa, 2993, 34-58.
Sidorchuk E.A., Norton R.A. 2011b — The fossil mite family Archaeorchestidae (Acari, Oribatida) II: redescription of Plategeocranus sulcatus and family-group relationships — Zootaxa, 3051, 14-40.
Sidorchuk E., Bertrand M. 2013 — New fossil labidostomatids (Acari: Labidostomatidae) from Eocene amber
and presence of an apustulate species in Europe — Acarologia, 53(1), 25-39.
Sidorchuk E.A., Schmidt A.R., Ragazzi E., Roghi G.,
Lindquist E.E. 2014 — Plant-feeding mite diversity in
Triassic amber (Acari: Tetrapodili) — Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, preprint, 1-23.
Tereshkin A.M. 2008 — Methodology of a scientific drawings preparation in entomology on example of ichneumon flies (Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae) — Euroasian Entomological Journal, 7(1), 1-9 + I-VII.
Sidorchuk E.A. and Vorontsov D.D. Acarologia is under free license. This open-access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons-BYNC-ND which permits unrestricted non-commercial use,
distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided
the original author and source are credited.
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