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Labeling medical illustrations
Labeling is an integral part of creating clear and accurate medical illustrations. It should not be
considered as an afterthought. There are many variables to consider and some conventional rules
to follow.
Choose a font that does not distract from the illustration. I usually use a sans sari£ font, and, when
I want to keep things simple, I use Helvetica. Times roman is the default sari£ font Choose a font
carefully and deliberately. The intended audience will often determine the font choice.
The size of the font will largely be determined by the intended use of the illustration. For textbooks
and journals, the font should be no larger than the body text and yet large enough to see clearly at
a normal reading distance. For slides, the type needs to be larger, in order to reach a more distant
audience.
I FOR TEXTBOOK I !FoR SLIDE I
Superior vestibular
Facial n.
n.
Silastic protector
The font size for website labels will be variable according to 'its readablilty on screen. The size of the
font will also be determined by the number of labels needed. If there are only a few labels they can
be larger than if there are many.
Normally the first letter of the first word in the label is in upper case, and the subsequent words
begin with lower case letters.
Bold, italic, and underlining options can be used to highlight a label that is more important
than another. Using different font styles can also help to distinguish one kind or category
of structure from another.
Using abbreviations is standard in certain cases, e.g. "a." for artery, "nn." for nerves, or are
used to minimize the overall amount of text.
Gluteus medius m.
I CATEGORIES I
Middle crus:
Domal segment
Lobular segment
Columellar segment
Footplate segment
jEMPHASTSj
Vastus lateralis m.
Placement of the leader lines will determine the overall design of the illustratoin. When there are
a lot of labels this c ~ m be a challenging task. The most aesthetically pleasing placement, in my
opinion, is leader lines radiating from the center of the subject. Another common format is for all
of the leader lines to be either horizontal or vertical. Sometimes these need to have angled
additions so that the labels are evenly spaced.
I HORIZONJAL]
kidney
Upper lateral
cartilage
Middle crus of
illar cartilage
Premaxillary portion
oi maxilla
. .r'--+'1----crus of penis
!+----spermatic cord
".---+1-----lpeni s
ltr-----head of epididymis
+--- testis
'<JC- --tail of epididymis
jRADIATINGJ
Cribiform plate
Perpendicular plate
of ethmoid bone
Nasal crest of
palatine bone
Palatine bone
Palatine process of maxilla
HORIZONTAL Vv'ITH
ANGLED ADDITIONS
~ - - - - - - - post. hum. circumflex
~ - -   - - - - - - - brachial
Often the labels read more clearly if they are
grouped rather than evenly spaced. Occasionally,
curved leader lines can give a little flair to an
illustration.
lcROUPING I
Anterior superior
iliac spine-- __
Anterior inferior
iliac spine -- - ----
Headache
Neck and shoulder
stiffness '-,,
Backache
'-
Pressure on
discs and
ligaments
Compression of
internal organs
--Obturator foramen
Intertrochanteric line-'
',,Ischial ramus
Lesser trochanter -'
' "\.
Ischial tuberosity
!cURVED LINES!
Pressure on nerves
and tendons
numbness and pain
Figure 1-1. The repercussions of sitting with your head forward
Lateral epicondyle,_
_-'
Adductor tubercle
- ---Medial epicondyle
Head of fibula ,--
,, :
When deciding where to place a leader line
there are other things to consider as well. Will
the background pattern interfere with the line,
will the line disappear when it passes over a dark
part of the illustration, will the line obscure another
structure? One   for allowing lines to stand
out on a dark background is to add a thin white line
around the black line.
rigp.ta:-v
orifice
WHITE AROUND
BLACK LINE
A
Leader lines should be as thin as possible while still being easy to see. They should not
overwhelm the illustration. Using a dot at the end of the leader line enhances the
overall readability. Sometimes it makes sense to use a small arrowhead at the end of the
line, pointing to, rather than touching, the structure. Using dashed or dotted leader lines
is appropriate on a complicated line illustration.
When identifying a group of structures with one label, you can use one major leader line
with short offshoots, or you can attach a circle around the structures at the end of the line.
I ARROWHEAD I
Superior
conjunctival
I DASHED LINES I
To
Dorsal    
To subclavius 0\.
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\
--
_.- From (4
cs
__ _,-- -·--To longus calli m.
- / and scalene rn.
<
/" J. C6
C7
lateral pectoral,
Anterior divisions,
/1..\usculocutaneous
I OFFSHOOTS!
',
Radiar - ----
Median-- -
Ulnar ---
Flexor digitorum
brevis tendon
Lumbrical muscles
Flexor hallucis
brevis muscle
_ Abductor hallucis
tendon
'',Medial pectoral
',,, ', Upper subscapular
, ' Thoracodorsal
',, ',Lower subscapular
',,, ''Medial brachial cutarleous
' Medial antebrachial cutaneous
I ciRCLE I
---From T2
' Long thoracic
Medial plantar
nerve and artery
Medial calcaneal
nerve and artery
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FIG. 67.
Another approach to labeling is to superimpose a number or letter onto the structures and
then to name them in a legend or insert.
Labels are not always used for identification. Sometimes they show direction or movement
arid are critical to understanding the illustration
There are cases when, to create a particular style, you might want to use hand lettering.
!NUMBERS!
DORSAL VIEW OF THE BRAIN STEM
I DIRECTION & MOVEMENT I
1 acoustic area
2 acoustic striae
3 anterior cerebellor
peduncle
4 clava
5 corpora quadrigemina
6 cut surface of thalamus
and corpus striatum
7 dorsal median sulcus
dorsolateral sui=
fasciculus cuneatus
10 fasciculus gracilis
11 founh ventricle
12 habenular trigone
13 inferior colliculus
14 massa intermedia.
15 medial geniculate body
16 middle cerebellar
peduncle
17 opening of aqueduct
18 opening of central canal
19 pineal body
20 posterior cerebellar
peduncle
21 superior rolliculus
22 thalamus
23 third ventricle
C l;-<2:rn.o,.s1:eY'-1.c ·.
24 trochlear nerve
25 tuberculum cuneatum
. . · ,.:.\• ..
c1oaaL1 membr>ane
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kidney 1;·
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