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  • Writer's picturePaul Kelly

Learning Medical Illustration online

“In general, no matter your field, you must think of yourself as a builder, using actual materials and ideas. You are producing something tangible in your work, something that affects people in some direct, concrete way. To build anything well—a house, a political organization, a business, or a film—you must understand the building process and possess the necessary skills. You are a craftsman learning to adhere to the highest standards. For all of this, you must go through a careful apprenticeship. You cannot make anything worthwhile in this world unless you have first developed and transformed yourself.”

– from Mastery by Robert Greene


I’m super excited to report that the LearnMedical.Art team has announced their new online course for learning the fundamentals of medical illustration. I think this is going to be a fantastic resource for anyone interested in getting into the field. I’ve done a few podcast episodes with Annie Campbell and Emily Holden from NOW Medical Studios, the ladies who run LearnMedical.Art and they are crushing it man. I want to mention I’m not getting sponsored by them here, in fact, I myself will be paying them to take their course because I’m so excited to see it and learn from them!

For the past few years I’ve been active on the medical illustration subreddit, I’m now the moderator on that subreddit, and the most frequently asked question, hands down, is some variation of “Do I need to go to school for this?” or “School’s too expensive, is there a

Well your prayers may have been answered!

Head on over to their site. Here’s one of the quotes in how they describe the content:

“This is a truly unique course, offering you over 23 lessons on how to work effectively as a medical illustrator.⁠ We cover everything from client communication through to the production process.⁠”


I want to be fair and mention some of the other resources that exist for online training in medical illustration. For several years now there’s been a course for crafting scientific communications, and that’s S.P.A.R.K. – Five Strategies for the Visual Communication of Science. This is by Betsy Palay and Tami Topla, both seasoned medical illustrators. The acronym SPARK stands for:

  • Serve a sandwich

  • Plan a Path

  • Access your Audience

  • Refine Relationships

  • Keep it Clear

That sounds pretty cool, I like the way they describe this course as “A perfect way to jumpstart your visual thinking and transition from words to pictures“

A resource that I often point people towards is Dr McGill’s Clarafi site. There you’ll find a ton of video tutorials, many of which are focused on Autodesk Maya, biomolecular chemistry and learning the molecular Maya toolkit, but there’s also modules for illustration, ZBrush, you name it, so check those out.


The best resources on YouTube for medical illustration that I’m aware of are the ones I’ve been posting on Reddit. Haha. The Toronto program’s Alumni group, the BMCAA or, Biomedical Communications Alumni Association, for the past few years has posted videos of the presentations from our annual UnCon event, and recently has launched a recurring event, BMClasses, where members of the community share their knowledge about production tools and techniques.


While YouTube is certainly the giant when it comes to online videos, there’s another great video platform you should know about if you don’t already, which is Vimeo. The one significant difference between the two platforms is that on Vimeo, everything in the videos you upload must be 100% original content, they don’t allow re-mixing or montage videos that borrow clips from other sources.

For this reason some artists and groups prefer the Vimeo platform, and that includes both The Association of Medical Illustrators and the Toronto program’s MScBMC account and the BMCAA–the Biomedical Communications Alumni Association’s account. I’ll include links for these, because both channels have really great video content for anyone interested in the field and for practicing medical illustrators alike.


One of the more challenging aspects of the medical illustration field is the business component.

Chris Do has not only put out so so many videos and posts on social media about how to get better at business if you’re a creative, but he also regularly shares the spotlight with lots of other people in the creative design space as well, and you can learn from all these people too.


So I’ll bring this full circle. If you’re interested in medical illustration and you want to know what the fundamentals of the craft are, or if you’re already practicing and you want to tighten up your skills, I’d highly recommend signing up for the Lean Medical dot Art course. I think this will very likely be the first of many courses they put out. These ladies are on top of their game, they have immaculate illustration and design skills, they are well-versed in 3D and social media, they understand the landscape of the field and they are thought leaders in medical and scientific illustration. I have total faith that this course is going to be worth every penny, so jump on over and sign up now to grab that early bird discount.

Until next time, stay safe my friends, stay healthy, and every day, keep learning.

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