• Lucille Solomon

Forensic Illustration, Part 1

Aktualisiert: 14. Nov 2019


A friend and fellow medical illustrator is going to participate in a really exciting post-graduate on the topic of facial reconstruction. This (re) sparked my interest in forensic illustration. I first got introduced to forensic illustration at the first AEIMS (Association Européenne des Illustrateurs Médicaux et Scientifiques) Congress I attended and let me tell you; I was very fascinated. So I'm very excited to write a blog series on this intriguing subject. Maybe even ending the series with an interview of my friend after completion of the said training, which I personally am really looking forward to hearing more about.

What is Forensic Illustration?

Forensic Illustration aids in the identification, apprehension, or conviction of criminal offenders, or that aids in the location of victims or identification of unknown deceased persons. Because forensic illustration is presented as visual information it enables offices and the public to better focus on a suspect's appearance based on the witness' description rather than on an erroneous image made up in their own minds based on a verbal description. Age progressions or updates on the visual appearance of missing persons or fugitives helps the public visualize a current likeness rather than focussing on an outdated facial image. The reconstruction of skeletal remains, either drawn, with 3D-modelling or sculpted by hand can give the nameless findings a face and hence help with the identification. Another area where forensic illustration comes to play is for court presentations. These illustrations aid both the judge and the jury in the objective understanding of crimes and crime scenes.

Facial Anatomy Obviously, a solid foundation of the facial anatomy is pretty important for medical illustrators but especially for illustrators specialized in forensics. Learning about the fundamentals of facial anatomy enables the illustrator to recognize and capture the individuality and hence moving closer to identifying an owner of a face. An important way to think about this is to recognize that each head (usually) is made up of the same general components, like bones and muscles. The individual components, however, vary in size and form and make up a unique face. As a medical and forensic illustrator, it's important to recognize these subtle variations that make an individual.


What the Bones tell us Classifying humans into ancestral or ethical groups isn't an easy subject matter, especially regarding the appropriate terminology. It is however interesting and also obvious that the observation of the proportions of the skull does enable us to make certain classifications. There are visual clues of the skull to determine if a person might be European-derived, African-derived or Asian-derived.


When regarding the sex of an individual there are subtle differences between female and male skulls. These differences are best seen when looking at the skull lateral. The male jaw and chin are usually a lot more defined. In general, the lower half of the male skull is proportionally larger than the female skull because the mandible is larger and stronger. Another indicator is the forehead, where the male skull shows a more prominent brow ridge area.

In the following blog series I'll go more into depth regarding the topics: 💡More on composite drawings 💡Age progression 💡Facial reconstruction 💡Forensic Illustration used in court

I hope you're equally as interested to hear and see more regarding this topic. To stay up to date you can subscribe to my newsletter to never miss a new post! ✉️

#ForensicIllustration #compositedrawings #medicalillustration #medizinischeillustration

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