All posts in: Aircraft Illustrations
CRJ-200 all white side view
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Finding the time (and energy) to create these side view airliner templates isn’t easy. Of course it’s fun, but it can be downright tedious at times and it’s hard to stay focused when I’d much rather be doing more creative work instead. But I’m staying on track with my goal of creating templates for as many commercial aircraft as I can, and this Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet 200 is the next airplane in that series of illustrations.

I’ve got a love/hate thing going on with the CRJ-200. On one hand, they are extremely cramped and uncomfortable, and I hate flying on them even more than the EMB-120. On the other hand, I personally think it’s one of the best looking commercial airplanes in the sky at the moment. The fact that it looks just like a sleek private jet is what I like the most, and I went out of my way to fly on these things as much as possible back in the late 90’s when they were first introduced. I quickly came to realize how cramped and small they are on the inside, and it didn’t take long before I was avoiding them like the plague. I’d be a happy guy if I never have to step foot in one of these things ever again!

Drawing the CRJ-200 made me appreciate it’s design even more. Perhaps it’s because my last template was a less-advanced aircraft designed in the 1960’s, but I really like the forms of this little jet. Everything just flows together nicely, all elements (fuselage, wing, vertical stabilizer, etc) perfectly balanced. Even the panel sectioning is organized and clean – there aren’t too many places where it looks like swiss cheese all patched together.

CRJ-200 line drawing side view

Technical line drawing of a Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet (200 series)

I also discovered some oddities about the CRJ-200 that I hadn’t noticed before. Did you know that the windows are not evenly spaced? There are slightly wider gaps between certain windows, but it’s hard to tell just by looking at it because the differences aren’t much. But that spacing certainly isn’t consistent! Another interesting discovery is the front landing gear. Of all the airliner templates I’ve created so far, this one is different in two ways: first, it’s really complex (for reasons I don’t quite understand). This is a small airplane, and it just seems odd that it’s a massively complicated piece of equipment clumped together with all kinds of sensors and parts. The second thing is the door flap. See how it opens from front to back rather than side to side? Pretty cool – and very unique.

Stay tuned for a template of the slightly larger CRJ-700, which is on my drawing board right now…

side view eastern airlines l-1011 tristar
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Right off the heels of my TWA L-1011 illustration series, here’s another nostalgic set of this classic Lockheed wearing the three different variants of the Eastern Airlines livery. I actually had no idea that there were three different versions of the Eastern color scheme, but the bit of research I did revealed that there were some slight differences over the years.

The illustration at the top of this post depicts the second version (my favorite of them all) with thick blue cheat lines spanning the entire length of the highly-polshed bare-aluminium fuselage. This is the version I had in my mind when I set off to start this illustration set, and it was only when collecting reference photos that I discovered the different versions of this livery. I guess I’m not as much of a hard-core aviation nerd as I thought I was!

Eastern launched their L-1011 service in 1972 with a very clean white and blue color scheme:

white eastern airlines l-1011

Side view of the original white and blue Eastern Airlines L-1011 livery

Personally, I think this design was a bit ahead of it’s time. Those cheat lines are oh-so-70’s, but they remind me of something that was commonly seen later in the decade, and not as early as they were introduced. Also, the colors seemed to have more of an 80’s look and feel with soft blues over a clean white fuselage. Most 1970’s airliner liveries were very bold and featured dark (saturated) colors integrated with large sections of exposed metal. On a side note, I love how they referred to these things as “Whisperliners”. If you’ve ever had the chance to be under the flight path of one of these things on takeoff, you’ll know what I mean when I say that the nickname was a bit of a stretch. These airplanes did anything but whisper.

The final livery was just a slight variation of their second, with the only difference being thinner cheat lines. The polished aluminum fuselage and both shades of blue remained, but making the stripes thinner had a rather significant impact on the overall look of this design IMHO.

the last eastern airlines l-1011 livery

Side view of the final Eastern Airlines livery, which featured a much thinner cheat line

All the research I’ve done seems to indicate that the purpose behind the stripe re-size was to reduce the amount of paint they used for each aircraft, which not only saved on paint costs, but weight as well (translating to better fuel burn). Eastern Airlines must have been in pretty bad shape financially if they found their original polished-aluminum livery to be too costly. There was hardly any paint on those airplanes to begin with! I would have guessed the reasoning to be just a modernization of the look, that’s all. Remember those ultra-thin neckties in the 1980’s? Thin was in!

side view TWA L-1011 illustration
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Now that I’ve got blank side view templates of the Lockheed L-1011 created, applying liveries (the fun part) can now begin. I knew right from the beginning that TWA was the first airline I was going to render, so here you go! Actually, I was only planning on illustrating the 70’s dual stripe version, but halfway through creating that one I figured I might as well render each of the three Trans World Airlines liveries that this aircraft wore. It’s weird how my brain works like that – simple projects always seem to turn into something much bigger than originally planned. My Northwest Airlines 747-400 set came to be much the same way.

As a child of the 80’s, my memory of the TWA L-1011 TriStar only goes back as far as the dual stripe livery (the version at the top of this post). Trans World was a pretty big airline back in those days, and I remember most TWA advertisements and movie/television appearances featuring this particular aircraft and livery combo over anything else. Perhaps my perception was just skewed, but I found it odd that they didn’t showcase their flagship 747’s more in the media back then.

The livery that preceded the Red Stripe was referred to as the Star Stream colors. It was the color scheme that TWA launched their L-1011’s with back in 1972, and to be honest, it wasn’t their finest. From a designer’s perspective, I find it to be quite sloppy – especially in the forward section where the red arrow, white fuselage color, exposed aluminum, and black anti-reflection paint come together right under the cockpit windows. Nothing blends together well, and it could have looked so much nicer if they would have spent the time to make sure those elements intersected cleanly instead of just…well…ending them abruptly without worrying much about their relationships to each other. It just looks sloppy, IMHO.

side view TWA L-1011 star stream livery

TWA StarStream livery

TWA introduced a brand new livery in September 1995 that never made it to all their aircraft before being absorbed into American Airlines in April 2001. As a matter of fact, only one L-1011 ever wore these new colors. That honor went to aircraft N31029, and it’s a shame that they didn’t have enough time to convert others in the fleet before the last of this type was retired for good in 1997. Interestingly enough, seeing any L-1011 wearing these colors almost didn’t happen – the only reason why this particular aircraft got that paint job was because it was the only L-1011 in the fleet that was due for major maintenance before retirement. Stripping and repainting the airplane was a necessary part of the process, and there was no point in repainting it in the old colors before returning it to service.

TWA L-1011 in the new livery side view

The newest TWA livery, of which only one L-1011 ever wore

As much as I like the final TWA livery, the dual stripe version is still how I remember Trans World today. Long live racing stripes!

all white lockheed l-1011 tristar side view
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As promised, here is the shorter and stubbier -500 variant of the L-1011-1 TriStar template that I uploaded yesterday. It’s basically the same airplane, minus a huge chunk of fuselage and a different wing connection (plus a handful of other minor little details), so building it right alongside my L-1011-1 template was a piece of cake. Plus, my short attention span necessitates the need to create an entire series of airplanes at once rather than coming back to finish the others later – otherwise, they’ll never get done! I batch-produced my entire 767 collection like that, and I’m glad I spent the time to do them all in one shot because there are far too many other illustration projects I’d rather be working on right now.

This L-1011-500 (also known as the L-1011-385-3) is a strange looking bird, especially when viewed from the side like this. I remember seeing these airplanes a lot in real life 10 to 15 years ago, and they looked great close up at extreme front and rear angles. Unfortunately, this orthographic side view exposes it’s odd proportions in a way that you’d rarely see in real life. She was a fattie, that’s for sure. :-)

lockheed l-1011 side view line drawing

A side profile illustration of an all white Lockheed L-1011-500 TriStar over a white background with and without the landing gear deployed

In addition to it’s shorter length, the modified wing connection is another component which makes this version seem so much different than the original. It looks as if the Lockheed engineers had to chop (round) off the front and rear sections to fit the shortened fuselage, so all of those beautiful sculpted forms from the longer version are not present here. Bummer – because that was my favorite part.

So now I’ve got templates of two of the most popular variants of this aircraft created. Well, the -1 series is visually the same as the -100, so make that three. I’m not going to create other variants of this airplane right now, as that short attention span of mine is pulling me towards a long list of others that I want to create instead. Next up: the Bombardier CRJ-200 and -700.

all white lockheed l-1011 template
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Those of you who visit my site frequently just to see if I have any new airliner templates available will be happy to know that I finally finished the L-1011 TriStar that I’ve been working on for nearly six weeks. No, it doesn’t take that long to create each template, but I’ve been really busy with a lot of other projects lately and I just didn’t have the time and energy to focus on this. Late last week I decided that I’ve been putting it off for far too long, so I rolled up my sleeves to get this classic old Lockheed wrapped up.

This particular L-1011 template is the -1 (and -100) variant (also referred to as the L-1011-385-1 and 15). It was the version Lockheed launched the line with in 1972, and in my opinion, is the best looking version of them all. The proportions are pretty much perfect, with enough length to balance out the very heavy looking tail section. That can’t be said for the longer-range -500 variant though, which is 14 feet shorter in length and looks completely unbalanced IMHO. And just so you know, I created a template of the -500 right along with this -1 version, and I’ll be uploading those files soon.

lockheed l-1011 detailed line drawing

A technical side profile line drawing of a Lockheed L-1011-1 over a white background with and without the landing gear deployed

The McDonnell Douglas DC-10 has always been my favorite wide body tri-jet, mostly because the industrial designer in me doesn’t really know what to think about the complex forms that are the result of blending the rear engine with the vertical stabilizer on the L-1011. There’s a lot going on there, and the thing that bothers me the most is how the curvature of the intake doesn’t line up with the forms of the engine protruding from the rear. In that one small section of this airplane, there are four major components blending together: fuselage, engine intake, vertical stabilizer, and engine. It’s kind of messy. The DC-10 solution of integrating the entire engine into the vertical stabilizer looks much better to me.

Other than that, there are some nicely designed parts to this airplane. The wings and their connection to the fuselage are beautifully sculpted, and are much more organic and flowing compared to the DC-10. As I was drawing this template, I couldn’t help but to think how ahead of it’s time this aircraft was. Really – it’s amazing to think that that this airplane was designed in the 1960’s.

Stay tuned for templates of the -500 variant. They are coming soon!

MD-80 side view blank
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Next up in my series of blank side view airliner templates is this McDonnell Douglas MD-80. Technically, this is also an MD-82, MD-83, and MD-88 because they all look the same from the outside – the only differences between them are technical and under the skin. So that means I just created three templates for the time it took to do one! :-) Seriously though, I researched all three aircraft rather thoroughly while doing this illustration, but I’d appreciate clarification from the experts out there as to whether or not they truly are identical. From all that I could gather, there are no obvious external differences.

md-80 line drawing

McDonnell Douglas MD-80 technical line drawing

You might also notice that just like my Embraer 120 Brasialia template, I decided to spend a bit more time on this and accentuate the shadows more than I normally do for these types of illustrations. Stronger shadows help to make the aircraft look more realistic, but I purposefully left off the gloss and reflections. That kind of stuff just gets in the way when adding color to these things if you aren’t working with the layered source files, and it’s always best to apply the bling after everything else is done. I can still remember my college viscom (visual communications) professor getting excited when he added the white gauche highlights to his demo renderings in class. I get that same feeling today when doing the same thing!

I’d also like to point out that I’m not completely finished with this MD-80 set. One particular aircraft that is pretty high on my to-do list is an American Airlines MD-83 in the bare metal livery. I can’t use the all-white template attached to this post, so that means that I’m going to have to create a bare metal version (just like I did for the DC-10 and 767-200). Those take a long time to create though, so I didn’t include it as part of this basic template set. But it is coming, and I’ll add it as an addendum to this post when complete.

I may also create another minor version of these with the cone tip at the rear of the fuselage (under the vertical stabilizer). These illustrations feature the more common “screwdriver” tail, but to make this set complete I’ll need to do the other version as well.

british airways 777 side view illustration
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One of the most interesting things about being a visual designer is that it is very easy to track personal growth over the years. I learn something new with each illustration I create and it’s fun to look back and see how far I’ve come! This British Airways 777 illustration is a perfect example of that. Let me explain…

I was quite proud of my British Airways A380 illustration two years ago when I created it, but comparing that drawing with this 777 is a night and day comparison. The Union Jack colors on my A380 are dark and muddy, and some of the details on the aircraft itself are too bold and heavy (such as the part lines). I’ve since learned to exaggerate colors a bit, keep the shadows light and transparent, and tone town the little details as much as possible. This helps to make the illustration to look more like a photo rather than a drawing, and I feel like I’m making pretty good progress with this stuff. I’m far from an expert at airliner art, but it’s fun to keep learning and refining my craft.

The flip side of all this growth is that it makes me feel ashamed about some of my older work and it’s difficult for me to resist the urge to delete it all from this blog. Of course I’m not going to do that – being able to see (and analyze) a linear path of growth and learning is an essential part of being a successful illustrator. But it still doesn’t make me feel comfortable!

Anyway, creating this British Airways 777 was fun – and challenging. I didn’t realize it before doing this illustration, but there are several versions of the Union Jack flag on these BA 777’s. The shape and complexity of the wave is different, and the newer version is a bit more wavy with smoother highlights. This illustration, by the way, features the older version on aircraft G-YMMS. I’m surprised they even made that change at all because I’m willing to bet that most people wouldn’t even notice that kind of thing.

united express emb-120
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As strange as it may sound, this United Express EMB-120 was the motivation for creating a template for this aircraft in the first place. I know it isn’t the most exciting thing that I’ve ever illustrated, but I needed this airline/aircraft combo for a personal side project that has been neglected badly as of late. It feels good to be scratching items off my to do list!

Introduced by Pentagram in 1998, this blue “tulip” livery was never a favorite of mine. The contrast between the upper and lower sections of the fuselage makes the aircraft look bottom-heavy, and I’ve always thought that they should have incorporated that dark color higher into the fuselage. But we all know how badly dark-painted aircraft fade just after a few years, so I guess it was a smart idea to keep the top portion white. Especially since the United livery that preceded this one was dark gray (commonly referred to as the “battleship gray” scheme), which was starting to look downright horrible on many aircraft in their fleet by the time this livery was unveiled. I think they learned their lesson on that one.

My favorite look on this little Embraer has to be the bare metal SkyWest and Comair liveries that seemed to be everywhere in the late 1990’s. I’m convinced that a livery featuring generous amounts of bare metal can make any airplane look good – even this Brasilia! These are complex machines after all, and exposed aluminum really emphasizes all the cool little details.

Anyway, that side project I mentioned above is in need of two more EMB-120 illustrations: a United Express version in the battleship gray livery, and the bare metal SkyWest scheme. I’m not sure how soon I’ll get to those but you can bet that I’ll post them here once I finish.

emb-120 blank template
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I’m slowly chipping away at my goal of building a large collection of blank airliner templates, and this EMB-120 illustration is my first turboprop. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to creating it, mostly because I’m not a fan of smaller aircraft such as this, and the 120 is not a very nice airplane to fly on (IMHO). It’s loud, cramped, and it’s small size means that it gets bounced around a lot in rough air. Thankfully, I may never have to ride on one of these things again as they’ll be gone for good by the end of the year (at least here in the US).

Having said that, I actually enjoyed doing these illustrations and my admiration for the EMB-120 grew stronger by the time I was finished. There’s some pretty neat engineering going on where the wing meets the fuselage (I love complex surfaces like that), and the organic/twisting form of the prop is very well designed. Not bad for an aircraft that was designed in the early 1980’s.

mb-120 line drawing

A technical side profile line drawing of an Embraer 120 Brasilia over a white background with and without the landing gear deployed

One final thing I’d like to note about the white version of this blank template is that I got a little bit carried away and I may have put too much detail into it. That’s not really a good thing, as the entire premise of these templates is to present a basic representation of the airplane that can be enhanced later when a livery is applied to it. Too many shadows and reflections can actually make things more difficult when applying color later, so it’s best just to keep things simple. My 757-200 template is a perfect example of that. The shadows are light and transparent, and I didn’t apply any gloss to the surfaces. I should have had the same restraint with this Embraer – but I’m going to leave it for now to see how things go.

What do you think? Do you prefer these templates to be more or less detailed?

thai airways international a380 side view
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It just occurred to me as I was going through my archives that I have a lot of airliner illustrations that I’ve created over the years which I never got around to uploading. Although I don’t create these side profile illustrations for the sole purpose of uploading to this blog, I do like to post as many as I can – after all, they don’t serve any purpose stashed away in my archives where nobody but me can see them.

This Thai Airways A380-800 is one of those “lost” illustrations. I created it shortly after I finished my A380-800 side view templates about two years ago, and being a new livery at the time, I remember thinking how striking this livery is on that big whale of an airplane. I’m especially anxious to apply it to the 787-8, but my to do list is long enough already, and there are a lot of other illustrations that need to be done ahead of that one.

Of all the airlines that fly the A380 today, I think that the Thai Airways version is the best looking of them all. The Lufthansa and British Airways illustrations I created just don’t seem to have that visual “pop” that I like, and I’m pretty sure the reason for liking this Thai version so much is that is that half of the airplane is painted bright purple. Combined with the gold accents in the logo, it’s a rather stunning combination – especially when viewed in bright sunlight. I can’t say the same for the more reserved (eh…stiff) liveries from LH and BA.

Anyway, I’ll be uploading more airliner art from my archives in the coming weeks. Some of those pieces aren’t as polished as my latest stuff, but it’s probably worth posting just so I can get my entire collection organized here on the blog.