All posts in: Aircraft Illustrations
blue klm royal dutch airlines 737-800
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It took a while, but I finally finished creating a template illustration of a Boeing 737-800. It took about two weeks of my spare time to draw and render it, with most of the time being spent pouring over photographs of real 737′s to make sure that I was creating the most accurate representation of it as I could. Let me tell ya…making airliner art is fun, but wow – it is time consuming! And the truth is that after all that time spent creating this illustration, I’m still not sure that I got all the details correct. That’s sort of a bummer, but there were just a few things I couldn’t find accurate reference photos of. Oh well – now I know what to take pictures of the next time I’m passing through Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

The first livery I created for this 737-800 illustration was KLM. I did this for two reasons: first, the color scheme was varied enough that it helped me fine-tune the shadows and reflections on the fuselage. Second, I just think it looks cool! Yeah, I really like that KLM blue, and it would be a shame if they ever depart from that. It’s a very refreshing color in a world overflowing with bland euro-white liveries. Oh – and ok, there is one more reason: the KLM livery is very simple to recreate, and this was a big plus after spending so much time drawing the airplane itself. I didn’t have much energy left to spend on a livery, but give me a few days of rest and recuperation and I’ll be ready to create a bunch more liveries for this.

I also debated whether or not I should create a nice background for this (like sky and clouds or something) or leave it just plain and white. I ultimately decided to leave it white because I think it allows other people to extract this image and put it on their own background if they want to.

So there you have it. Does anyone have any requests for the next 737-800 livery? I don’t have a lot of time to spare these days, but I’ll see what I can do.

all white Boeing 737-800
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Right off the heels of my DC-10-30 blank template illustrations, I’m proud to say that I just finished blank templates of the Boeing 737-800! I was actually planning on doing the 777-200 next, but I’m currently working on an unrelated project where I need a drawing of a 737-800 – so there was a real need to make this set.

Just like that DC-10 set, I made a wireframe drawing and an all white version of this 738 – both with winglets. I’m going to hold off on doing a bare metal version for now, as I don’t need it and there are very few airlines these days with exposed-aluminum in their livery. Except for American Airlines – wow…they certainly have one of my favorite color schemes at the moment, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. Bare metal is a very difficult texture to recreate!

Technical line drawing

Technical line drawing

I’d also like to take a moment to mention that I’m actually learning quite a bit about aircraft design by creating these templates. In order to illustrate accurate representations of these aircraft, I have to pour over hundreds of photos and illustrations to make sure I’m getting everything as correct as possible. And the frustrating part is that there are still things in my drawings that aren’t totally accurate! Believe me, the perfectionist in me is not proud, so please don’t send me email reminding me about the little errors you spot. 🙂

August 16, 2014 Edit: I just finished up reworking this template to include a version with split scimitar winglets, so I thought I’d add it to this existing post instead of creating a new one. Here’s it is:

737-800 scimitar winglets

All white version with split scimitar winglets

HA DC10 side view
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Just like the Saul Bass United Airlines DC-10 illustration I recently made, this Hawaiian Airlines version is one of my favorites. The livery is very simple and highly iconic of the Hawaiian culture of the airlines, and was very attractive for it’s time. Heck, I still think it’s one of the most attractive airline color schemes in the history of this business! I’m also quite fond of their service – I’ve flown them a handful of times between San Diego and Honolulu, and they pretty much beat all the other carriers to the islands in terms of onboard product and Hawaiian hospitality. Especially with their new Airbus 330′s on the route – which is a huge step up from the 767-300′s they used to fly.

Anyway, I think what made this old work livery work so well was the fact that Hawaiian Airlines bought all their DC-10′s from American Airlines. As we all know, American is known for it’s smart-looking polished bare-metal livery. When HA acquired one of these birds from AA, all they had to do was remove the AA cheat line and tail logo and replace it with their own tropical version. It was a very easy conversion to make, and it looked very sharp at the same time. I remember seeing these HA DC-10′s cruising around LAX like ants in the late 90′s – and sadly, the aviation geek in me really misses them.

Unfortunately, this livery didn’t stand up so well to the scorching sunlight over the years. Nearly all of those Hawaiian DC-10′s were fading pretty badly and looked downright rough by the time they started being phased out in the early 2000′s. But no worries, this illustration depicts what a freshly-painted HA DC-10-30 would look like back in the 80′s and 90′s. And I actually learned a thing or two about this color scheme as I was drawing it. First, that cheatline must is more complex than I thought because of the way it turns up at the tail of the aircraft. It took a while to get that curve to look just right as it wrapped around the cylindrical fuselage. Second, the colors are much more PINK than I thought they really were. I couldn’t believe it when I was mixing up the colors in Adobe Illustrator. My color palette looked completly wrong until I started applying the colors in the appropriate places on the aircraft. It was very deceiving.

United Airlines DC-10-30 side view drawing
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I just recently finished a blank McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 template, and it’s no surprise that I chose the United Airlines Saul Bass livery as one of my first painted versions of it. This color scheme, combined with this aircraft, is pretty much exactly what I think of when I think of United Airlines to this day. Gee…can you tell that I am a child of the 80′s? I remember the sight of what seemed like an entire terminal at DEN (Stapleton) full of United Airlines DC-10′s during a stopover there during a family trip out west back in 1989, and that image has stuck with me pretty well. It was a pretty cool sight to see, but I was super-bummed that we didn’t get a ride on one of them. Instead, we got a lowly ‘ol 727 for our connecting flight to BOI. It totally bummed me out.

Anyway, I think this is a great livery. The cheat line is so 1980′s, and the colors are borderline tacky by today’s standards. But that’s what makes it so great! It’s iconic, highly representative of it’s time, and it helped build a strong identity for one of the largest airlines in the world. It’s a significant part of Untied Airlines history.

That’s precisely the reason why I was am disappointed in the latest United livery. To me, they missed a great opportunity to pay tribute to the United brand and evolve the tulip design forward into the future. Instead, we got the old Continental color scheme with United titles plastered on the front.

But at least I had fun creating this illustration. I love doing stuff like this!

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Airline livery design is a fascinating subject for me. I’ve been interested in travel, airplanes, and design since I was a wee lad so it’s only natural – right? With that said, I thought it might be fun to create my own illustrations of some of the brands that have caught my interest over the years. I’m also planning on creating some of my own custom liveries too. Watch for some of those over the coming months…

Anyway, I grew up about an hour away from a Northwest Airlines hub so it was only fitting to feature that brand in my first aircraft illustration. It doesn’t really matter that they don’t exist anymore – they will forever be my “hometown” airline.

This particular livery is known in the aviation circles as the “bowling shoe”. Does it really  need to be explained? I didn’t think so. It was introduced in the early 90’s, and at the time, I thought it was a really clean evolution of the previous color scheme. The red/gray/black colors of Northwest were retained, but they were arranged in a slightly more stylish way which accentuated the circular cross section of the airplane.  An example of this would be the black “cheat line” which extended the entire length of the aircraft. Instead of keeping it a constant width all the way across, the designers chose to increase it’s thickness towards the rear. This created a nice wrap-around effect on the tail section and it was a very nice detail and unique for the time. Also unveiled with this livery was a new Northwest Airlines logo – which is still one of my favorite corporate marks today.

By the way, here’s a version of the same illustration without a background:

NW DC-10 drawing

Two side profile illustrations of a Northwest Airlines McDonnel Douglas DC-10-30 with and without the landing gears over a white background

On a side note, this illustration was created entirely in Adobe Illustrator. I’m normally deeply entrenched in Form-Z and Photoshop, so it’s pretty rare for me to step out of that world and use a new tool for something as complex as this. But hey – I’m always eager to  learn new techniques.

Two side profile illustrations of an all white McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 with and without the landing gear deployed over a white background
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A few weeks ago I decided that I wanted to try my hand at doing some aircraft illustrations. I’m not really sure why, but I think the thing that attracted me to this kind of art was the fact that 1). it’s a highly technical kind of art (which I enjoy), and 2). it’s a nice break from doing 3d stuff all the time. Yeah, sometimes its nice to work on other things every now and then!

Once I got into it, I quickly realized how difficult creating accurate side profile art really is. Do you know how hard it is to find high-quality reference material for perfectly side-on views of commercial aircraft? It’s not as easy as you’d think. Of course there is a lot of stuff floating around on the internet, but trying to find high-res detail shots showing the little details of these aircraft is a total pain. Some aircraft are more popular than others, and I quickly discovered that the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 is not one of them (compared to the newest stuff like 777s and A380s, that is). So – many of the details in these illustrations may not be totally accurate.

In addition to the all white template at the top of this post, I created a few more to complete the set. First up is a detailed line drawing (below). This is actually how I start these illustrations – the line art comes first, and then I can go in and add in all the color and shadow afterwards.

Detailed line drawing

Detailed line drawing

Once I had the line drawing and an all white blank template created, I thought it would be a good idea to create a bare metal version. After all, a large majority of airline liveries of the 1970s and 80s featured a bit of exposed aluminum in their design, so I figured I might as well take care of that knowing that I’d have to recreate this bare metal texture in the future as I apply liveries to these templates.

Bare metal version

Bare metal version

So there you have it – three blank templates of the DC-10-30. Feel free to use these for your own livery projects, and you can be sure that I’ll be posting some of my own!