Random Thoughts on How to Do Patent Drawings, If You Can’t Draw


Patent drawings are not a rewarding legal part of the patent, but you need them.  Method 0 is best, but you may not be able to do that.



Leave a 1 inch margin on each side, or you will likely still get your filing date, but be required to file publishable drawings promptly.  The actual USPTO requirements are 1 inch top and left, 5/8 right and bottom.



If you have a prototype of the actual device or something close to the actual device, you can begin with a photograph, preferably taken with a digital camera which can easily transfer to a computer. So, assume here you have a photograph.


Method 0

Send the work to a patent illustrator.


Method 1

Place the photograph against a light source such as a window.  Paper clip thin paper, for example, tracing paper, over the photograph. Then trace over the important edges and features of the photograph.  Periodically lift off the paper and check what you have done.


Method 2

Steal your child’s DigiDraw and use it to do the same thing as tracing.  You must hold you head still or return it to the same place. These actually work, and are available over the Internet.


Method 3

Obtain a clear plastic sheet like a blank overhead projector sheet or page protector. Trace over the photo with a felt tip marker that will adhere to the plastic.  I am not sure which ones work.  Then later make a photocopy of the plastic sheet backed by a white sheet of paper.


Method 4

Import the electronic photograph file into a program such as Adobe Illustrator, Visio, or whatever, then trace over the major features using the program.  This does not work efficiently for me, as I am not expert in drawing using these programs.  If using Visio, you may want to make the layer having the photograph an inactive layer, and then do your drawing on a new layer over the photograph layer.


Method 5

Just use the photograph and print it out, black and white, on paper. Print it a little on the lighter side, then draw dark lines over any edge features you want to show better.  Draw your lead lines as curved lines using a very wide black marker, perhaps around ¼ inches wide.  Make the lead lines curved. Add the reference numerals at the end of the lead lines. If the lead lines are black, they will show up over gray areas. If the lines must cross over black areas, you may want to draw over the black areas using a white paint marker line which changes to the black line color once over a gray or white background. 


In a variation on this method, scan the photo into Visio or MS Paint, then draw the lead lines and reference numerals using the program. 


In this method, you are not really drawing, but using a photograph.  It should get you past the initial patent filing, but you will likely have to replace this with something better in order for the drawings to be considered “publishable” by the patent office, or in order to have good drawings for an issued patent.  If you want to see an example of this type of patent “drawing”, see US Patent No. 6,782,787, FIGS 2, 4, 5, 7A-C. This was done crudely as required by my 3 day timeline, from project request to finish.  I never saw the patent application after that.  It seems others did not request or file formal drawings. It happens.


Method 6

Obtain paper CAD drawings and white out the parts and details you don’t want. Hand draw the lead lines and reference numerals.



Method 7

Obtain Solid Works e-Drawings from the inventor, and then download the free viewer. Zoom, pan, and remove parts that get in your way. Remove and add the surface texturing as you wish.  The results may be very good.



I use Chem Draw. There are cheaper programs out there. Often you can obtain the drawings from the inventors, as they are often proficient at generating them for papers.




I use Visio, now owned by Microsoft.



I use Visio for flow charts and block diagrams. If you have a software modeling tool, use that output.


Note that the USPTO can require that characters be 1/8 inch (12 point type) if they want to.  I find that they wanted this mostly for characters you actually had to read, not incidental background characters, say, on screen shots. So, use 12 point type in the Visio flow chart symbols and for the reference numerals. 


For screen shots from computer displays, just grab the screen shots and do your best.



You can now electronically file drawings as Adobe PDF files.  The old strict requirements for Black/White (1 bit depth) no longer apply. So, you may be able to file less formal drawings than before. Just try to make them crisp, gray scale photographs or renderings.  The patent office will accept photographs sometimes, when appropriate. See US Patent Pubs. 2005/0107872 (Mensah et al.) FIGS 9A-9C or 2006/0273048 (Doyle et al.) FIGS 14-16B. I used the first ones to show lab results, and the second ones to show dry texture of materials and a working device.