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Digital Cuneiform Blog

Assyriologist in the digital world

How to draw copies of cuneiform tablets: Introduction

By 7:06 PM ,

In this tutorial, divided into several parts, I am going to describe how to draw cuneiform copies. The final result would look like that:

Tablet PF 0233: copy side by side with photograph
This is obviously copy shown side by side with source photograph used for a drawing. This is Achaemenid Elamite tablet from the Persepolis Fortification Archive (PF 0233 of Category L), so it features Achaemenid Elamite cuneiform, but the way how it was drawn can be applied to drawing copies of any cuneiform tablets. The photograph itself is available at CDLI site here. The transliteration of the tablet was published by Richard T. Hallock back in 1969, and it is available for download for free here. So if you want to follow the tutorial drawing the same tablet, you can. You can obviously use your own photographs of tablets you are interested in, and techniques I am using can be applied to your own work too.

A word on what tools I was using to draw this copy. I was drawing in Adobe Illustrator, so the result is a vector drawing. Some people prefer using Photoshop or other raster graphics editors to draw copies, but vector graphics have many advantages over bitmap/raster drawings, and are particularly useful for hand-drawn cuneiform copies. The main advantage is that the resulting drawing is perfectly scalable without losing any of the quality, namely, without pixelization typical for raster graphics. Also, publishers prefer graphics in vector formats because of the same reason.

Besides Adobe Illustrator, one can use any other vector graphics software, like CorelDraw, free Inkscape, and others. However, I consider Illustrator particularly good for hand drawing. Illustrator tools are built for, well, illustrators, and their work is comparable to work of a person drawing a copy of a cuneiform text. I'll go over these tools in the following posts.

Illustrator has also this advantage that it is pretty well-known program and there is lot of tutorials online about it. You can start with Adobe's own Illustrator help, but any search for Illustrator tutorials or help on particular tools would result with many useful links. If you want invest in learning Illustrator, I recommend Lynda.com

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