How to Draw From Microscope Slides

Written by dr. alex tan
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The earliest images we have of cells and microorganisms were drawn by scientists like Leeuwenhoek looking through a microscope and sketching what they saw. Although photography has made imaging easier, many scientists today still depend on their drawing skills to capture the basic images they see when looking through the microscope. Since microscope observations are considered data, the goal is to see on the page exactly what you see through the microscope. With a little practice and patience, you can accurately capture what you see through the microscope.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • White paper
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Pen (optional)
  • Microscope with slide

Show MoreHide


    Sketching the Basics

  1. 1

    Using a pencil, draw a biggest circle you can given the space limitations. If space is not limited, beginners should use at least half of an 8 1/2- by 11-inch page to learn the technique.

  2. 2

    Lightly draw crosshatching on the circle to divide the space into four quarters.

  3. 3

    Start with biggest shape in the field of view. Looking through the microscope, mentally divide the field into four quadrants, just like the big circle. Determine where the big shape falls among these four sections.

  4. 4

    Lightly sketch an amorphous shape with a pencil where the edges of the item are. Check your proportions. Look through the microscope, then at your shape to get the outline as accurate as possible.

  5. 5

    Do the same for the other shapes in the field of view, starting with the next biggest and so on. Lightly sketch each shape, using the previous shapes and mental crosshatches to help determine proper proportions. Check each one, first by looking through the microscope then at your drawing, several times before starting the next shape.

  6. 6

    When all the general outlines are completed, look through the microscope again. Check that the ratio of proportions of one shape to another are preserved. Check that empty space in the field of view is also in your drawing.

  7. 7

    Move on to internal shapes within the already outlined shapes. If necessary, draw light crosshatches through the biggest shapes you have outlined to help guide you. Sketch internal shapes, constantly checking your proportions as before. Repeat for the all the visible shapes in the field of view.

    Finalise and Perfect Your Drawing

  1. 1

    You should have a lightly drawn circle filled with several amorphous shapes filled with amorphous shapes. Transform these placeholder shapes into what you actually see. Look through the microscope and mimic the curvature of the actual shapes. Start with the simplest shape. Erase unnecessary lines and add new ones until you're satisfied.

  2. 2

    Once you have a light sketch of what you see in the microscope, go back and replace lightly sketched lines with dark, heavier ones. Check image again in microscope for noteworthy textures or patterns in the outlines. If using a pen is allowed, now is the time to begin using it. Complete all larger shape outlines before going back and completing internal shapes in the same way.

  3. 3

    Add any remaining small structures not yet added. Add texture and depth to drawing with pencil shading, swirls, lines, etc. as time allows. At every stage, check your work through the microscope until the drawing is satisfactorily similar to what you see.

Tips and warnings

  • Using coloured pencils can give your sketches more depth and interest. Once you have mastered the steps here, consider including them. Don't go overboard, but add little details of colour to your final pen or pencil drawing.

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