masthead graphic
ISM Botany
Introduction to Herbaria
About the ISM Herbarium
Illinois Prairie Plants
Illinois Trees
Herbarium Database
ISM System :Computer-aided Botanical Painting

Painting Botanicals by Computer Lesson

drawing by Chiara, age 12Objective: Students will increase their computer graphics skills and be able to to trace and paint botanicals from digital photographs they take of prairie plants using computer-aided artistic techniques in Painter Classic Software and with the Wacom Tablet and stylus. (available for Windows for about $99.)

Grades: 6th and up

Time Required: 20 minutes outside taking digital photographs of prairie plants; 10-15 minutes downloading pictures into a computer and viewing them in Photoshop™ to choose and crop the best one; 5 minutes to set preferences for stylus; 15 minutes to experiment with the painting tools in the software to find those that will fit the plant picture; 30+ minutes to trace and paint a computer-paint version using Painter Classic; save and print. (total 90-120 minutes)

An interesting artistic and scientific career is that of botanical artist and illustrator. Some botanical illustrators use computers to create their drawings. Graphic artists may also have a need to create botanicals on their computer.

Wacom Tablet and Graphire2 stylus, which comes with Painter Classic software.
digital camera
color printer

drawing by Brian, age 12Procedure:

  • Students will go outdoors, on a field trip to a prairie, or, if this is not possible, find digital images of prairie flowers (closeups of the top of the plant are best). It is always best to take your own pictures, rather than run the risk of copying a copyrighted one. If you take the picture, you also remember the physical details of the plant better because you saw it up close.

  • Students will download the images to their hard drive or disk. They will then choose the image that has the best composition, size, detail, and possibility to become a good small painting. They may have to crop it or resize it in Photoshop or some other photo software.

  • drawing by Kazden, age 11
  • Students will open the Wacom software to preferences and set the weight of the stylus and eraser to their hand, according to directions in the manual. Often, about two-thirds of the way to firm is an adequate setting for most people to achieve delicate lines with light pressure and thickerlines with heavier pressure of the stylus.

  • Students will open Painter Classic and "play" with the painting tools for 15 minutes, trying out the colors, the pens, pencils, brushers, and their variations, as well as brush sizes and other settings. They will look for tools that mimic the textures found in their chosen plant. They can use UNDO to erase, or use the eraser.

  • Students will open their image in Painter Classic. Following instructions, they will select, backspace (delete) and open the tracing paper for it. On this new transparent layer they will enter a painted background of their choice (sky, watercolor wash, etc.). Then they will trace or paint their prairie plant with the software's tools.

  • When satisfied with their painting, or when time has expired, students will save their painting to a disk. To print it out, they can set the preferences to Print Full Page to get a large printout. Printing on textured paper makes an interesting effect, although paper textures and lighting can be adjusted in the software.

drawing by Sean, age 12Assessment:

  • Paintings show a closeup view of a plant with a background in a balanced composition. (5 points or less.)
  • Painting mimics the textures and colors of the original thorough use of tools. (10 points or less)

  • Painting should show the various parts of the plant, such as flower, stem, leaves, even the reproductive parts. (5 points or less)

Illinois State Board of Education Goals and Standards Addressed:
Visual Arts B
: Apply skills and knowledge necessary to create and perform in one or more of the arts.
26.A.2e: Describe the relationships among media, tools/technology and processes.
26.A.3e: Describe how the choices of tools/technologies and processes are used to create specific effects in the arts.
High School
26.B.5: Create and perform a complex work of art using a variety of techniques, technologies and resources and independent decision making.
27.A.5: Analyze how careers in the arts are expanding based on new technologies and societal changes.

Explain how technology is used in science for a variety of purposes.
Describe the effects on society of science and technological innovations such as the computer.

Copyright © 2012 Illinois State Museum Site Map | ISM Privacy Information | Kids Privacy | Web Accessibility | Webmaster| Illinois DNR