How to Make Lab Drawings

Making accurate and detailed drawings of the specimens you observe in the laboratory is a necessary part of any course in botany or biology. Every student of botany should have a lab book that will generally consist of a number of lined pages for writing notes, each adjacent to a blank page for the drawing of the specimen you will usually look at under a dissecting or compound microscope. Taking time to create proper drawings that are large, detailed and clearly labeled will enable you to easily learn the different parts of the observed specimen, and remember these parts for future accurate identification. The drawings are the best way for you to remember what the organism or sample looked like under the microscope or possibly without magnification if it is a large sample, especially when you no longer have access to the specimen.

Making drawings of your samples does not require artistic abilities. The most important part of making laboratory drawings of botanical samples and other samples is the degree of detail and accuracy. Scale is important too. It is essential that one draws only what one sees, and not what one thinks one should see. Students often know what should be observed under the microscope and think that including these “correct” details in their drawings even if they are unable to see the detail under the microscope is the way to score top grades. This is not true. Students should include notes and reasons for why certain structures might not have been observed instead of cheating in their drawings.

One of the key features of lab drawings is the size. Large diagrams are what you should aim for. Drawings smaller than half an A4 page are undesirable. Keeping diagrams to scale are important so that you have an idea of the actual size of the specimen and its parts.

Another main feature of laboratory drawings is correct labeling. All parts of the specimen you draw must be clearly labeled. It is suggested that all lines leading from the labeled structure to that actual label all end at the same side of the page, preferably the right side, and that all labels be clearly written in upper case letters one below the other. Different laboratories will have different rules, but to maintain neatness and easy reading for anyone observing your drawing, this kind of labeling method is suggested. You should not have any unlabeled structures in your diagram.

There should also be a legend below or above your diagram, clearly stating precisely what the diagram is an illustration of, with the total magnification at which you observed the specimen clearly noted.

Being able to observe organisms under the microscope and record what you see can be incredibly fascinating. Microscopes allow you to observe so much more than is visible to the naked eye. Taking the time to properly record what you see is worth it since when you look at the drawings at a later stage, it will help you remember what you saw.

So, in summary: detail, large diagrams, clear labels and correct scale are the essential points to remember when making lab drawings in botany.