Carbon dust, produced by sanding pencil leads, is applied to a textured mylar film and manipulated with brushes, paperstumps, erasers and knives. Scientific illustrator Frances Fawcett describes the process:
"A carbon dust drawing is like a miniature, extremely detailed, charcoal drawing. The photorealistic appearance is achieved through subtle gradations from white to very dark gray. The dust medium has both advantages and disadvantages. The major disadvantage is its messiness; the dust penetrates everywhere and covers all parts of the film. The process involves a constant struggle against the natural tendency of the dust to turn everything to a medium gray. Darks have to be deepened continually and highlights recreated as the drawing progresses. But this plasticity is also the great advantage of carbon dust: it allows almost infinite changes to be made during the course of the work, and it makes possible the smooth gradations that create the illusion of photographic reality."
Specimens are viewed under a microscope, enabling the depiction of minute articulations, even on very small species. The actual drawings are typically 8-14 inches tall, while the images available here have been reduced in size and quality for use on the Web.