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Anatomy of the Suboccipital Triangle, Posterior View



Completed on:

Tools used:

Prof. Dave Mazierski¹

Anatomy students, medical students

Nov. 2016

Adobe Illustrator

This is a vector illustration depicting the muscular and neurovascular anatomy of the "suboccipital triangle" region of the neck. Original reference based on dissected human neck specimen at JCB Grant’s Museum at University of Toronto. Specimen was studied with rough pencil sketches for reference, structures cross-referenced with various anatomy atlases, before final digital render.

¹Biomedical Communications, University of Toronto

Process Work

1. Rationale

This project was a technical illustration exercise on creating a complex multilayered medical illustration using only vectors. The suboccipital triangle is a region with complex layering of muscles, nerves, vasculature and bone, and proved to be a challenging subject for this exercise.

2. Specimen Sketch Study

The source for this illustration was a dissected neck specimen in the Grant's Museum. The specimen was observationally sketched, and the sketch was further refined and adjusted based on anatomy literature of the suboccipital region.

3. Vectorization

Linework in the observational sketch was extensively traced in Adobe Illustrator. The vector shapes were then filled, and layers were rearranged and grouped in order to create a flat, correctly-layered vector illustration.

4. Vector-Based Rendering

To improve visual fidelity and depth of the illustration in Illustrator, multiple techniques were used. Layered gradients, variable stroke widths and translucent shapes were used to render complex lighting, shadows and textures.


Augur, A.M.R., and Dalley, A.F. 2017. Grant’s Atlas of Anatomy 14e. Page 41: Suboccipital Region. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Company.

Clemente, C.D. 1997. Clemente Anatomy 4e. Plate 416: Suboccipital Region: Muscles, Vessels, Nerves. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins Company.

Rohen, J.W., Yokochi, C., and Lutjen-Drecoll, E. 2011. Color Atlas of Anatomy 7e. Page 237: Nuchal region. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Company.