PIAkey makes use two types of illustrations: line drawings and photographs. Line drawings represent the idealized concept of a character state while photographs reveal what the characters states look like for actual specimens.

Line drawings are meant to illustrate particular character states rather than actual species. The line drawings are created by importing specimen image photographs into Adobe Illustrator. The photographs serve as a templates, over which outline layers are traced using the pen tool. The outline layers are then manipulated to illustrate (as succinctly as possible) a particular character state.

Photographs of real specimens are used to illustrate how a character state appears on an actual species. Care has been taken to prepare the specimens as uniformly as possible for photography. For example, the antennae and legs are arranged to interfere with as few characters as possible, and the position of the specimen is face view, profile, and dorsal view is kept uniform as well. Multiple photographs of each specimen were taken with a digital camera mounted onto a stereo microscope. The resulting stack of images were then combined using Automontage software. The resulting montage image was then edited in Automontage and exported to Adobe Photoshop for additional editing.