Fertilization Triptych Biological Illustration

Fertilization Illustration by Michelle Davis

The biology of human reproduction, as well as lot of women’s health concepts, fascinates me.  I’ve been focusing on conception and fertilization, and though I have plans for a larger and more complex public education illustration/infographic, have initially worked up a triptych of sorts.

Some surprising statistics I’ve come across during research:

  • • some 20-50% of fertilized eggs are ‘lost’ before they even implant
  • • only a small percentage of sperm even make it into the uterus, let a lone the correct fallopian tube
  • • so many barriers exist between the sperm and egg, from cervical mucus, to the thickness of the zona pellucida,
  • • there’s an incredible variation in statistics about fertilization, everything from the size of the ovum (woman’s egg) to the speed of the sperm in reaching the egg (15 min. to 7 hours??), to the number of the original ~250million sperm to reach the egg (a few dozen to less than 500)

Overall though the incredible orchestration of the biology is really striking — so very many pieces and elements and reactions work together to bring about successful fertilization, conception, and implantation into the uterus.

Zbrush, Blender, and Photoshop were used to put this together; in Zbrush I did all the modeling, the particle system Blender was used to arrange and composite the sperm surrounding the egg, and I rendered from Zbrush.  Blender’s Cycle Rendering engine is pretty awesome, but I’ve also found that as long as you use Zbrush’s LightCap lighting method instead of just regular ‘Light’s, you can achieve some cool things.

In Photoshop the compositing and some other edits occurred.

Some variations in colors/style are below.

Initial black/white composite (using ambient occlusion + shadows).  I love the look of this but ultimately it was far too serene for what I was really trying to achieve. Fertilization is messy, energetic, and chaotic, as well as warm, biological, and maternal.

image of fertilization by sperm on human egg by Michelle Davis

Dramatic glowing egg:  This still hold a lot of visual interest to me, but ultimately I opted for the non-glowing-egg style, probably because the glowing-egg-style as a whole had a cooler and less human feel to it; the final is warmer and brighter.

michelle davis glowing sperm fertilization illustration

Final fertilization triptych composite/illustration:

Fertilization Illustration by Michelle Davis

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