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lufthansa A380-800

Side-profile illustrations of an Airbus A380-800 in the Lufthansa livery

I’ve been creating vector-based aircraft illustrations for a little over a year now, and for the most part, they are a fun and interesting diversion from my normal 3d work. The downside is that they are extremely time-consuming, requiring a large chunk of time that I would otherwise prefer to be spending creating 3d models. To make matters worse, this Airbus A380 is (by far) the most complex aircraft I have illustrated to date, meaning that I pretty much haven’t touched my 3d modeling software for the past three weeks. I think I’m having withdrawals.

For those who are not aware, my process for creating these side-profile airliner illustrations goes something like this:

  • Step 1: Loosely draw the aircraft and all the details in Adobe Illustrator
  • Step 2: Once all the pieces have been drawn, the painstaking cleanup process begins. Open lines need to be trimmed and closed, and all details are fine-tuned to look as realistic as possible.
  • Step 3: Still working in Illustrator, I take the finished line-drawing and begin applying plain white textures and gradients to make it look like a painted aircraft
  • Step 4: Since high-level realism is difficult to achieve entirely in Illustrator, I export the drawing to Photoshop so that I can add in all the detail shadows, gloss, and reflections
  • Step 5: Paint the liveries and apply them to the aircraft

As you can see, this is a huge amount of work for just one illustration. I basically have to commit to it fully before I begin, knowing full well that this is going to consume me for 2-3 weeks without allowing time for other projects. But it feels so good when I complete one of these things that it makes the effort feel totally worth it.

Now that I have a wireframe line-drawing and a fully rendered all-white version created, I can have a bit of fun and start applying different airlines liveries to it. The first one I chose for this Airbus A380 illustration is Lufthansa, admittedly because they have one of the simplest airline brand identities flying today and I didn’t really have the energy to create something more complex like the British Airways or Malaysia Airlines colors. Those will come later…

Please feel free to use this image however you wish.


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