Ok you guys…what is it about the MD-90 that makes you all seem to want a template of it so badly? I mean, this was never really a very popular aircraft with the major airlines, and if it weren’t for Delta Airlines, every last one of them would’ve probably been chopped up and converted into beer cans by now. That can of Redbull sitting next to you on your desk? Yup, that would likely have started it’s life as a McDonnell Douglas MD-90 if it weren’t for Delta’s quirky habit of acquiring older aircraft which every other airline can’t seem to get rid of fast enough.
Let’s look at the numbers. According to Wikipedia, there were only 116 of these things built over the span of seven years (1993-2000), and at the time of this writing, Delta Airlines is the sole remaining operator. They’ve got 61 of these airplanes still in service, and that number is dwindling more and more with each passing year. Oddly enough, I’ve been getting requests to create side view templates of the MD-90 at the rate of roughly one per week for the past year and a half (mostly from different people but there have been a few repeats). If you’re good at math, you’ll know that that is roughly 75 requests for what is essentially an aircraft that was never very popular and is all but extinct. What gives?
Is it safe to assume that the MD-90 has a cult following that I didn’t know about? I’m a fairly regular reader of airliners.net, and I’m usually in tune with what’s going on in the world of commercial aviation, but I’m not seeing the fascination with this aircraft on the forums over there. Perhaps there really is a secret underground cult following of the MD-90, and if that’s the case, my only conclusion is that you guys aren’t vocal enough. Somebody needs to start a website called md90love.com or something to take advantage of this hugely untapped market. It sounds stupid, I know, but smelling a business opportunity here is the only thing that pops into my head when trying to decipher the data.
Anyway, on to the templates! I knew right from the beginning that this MD-90 illustration wouldn’t be all that much different from my MD-80 template, as they are basically the same aircraft differentiated by a few minor changes. The biggest change, of course, is that the MD-90 has much bigger and better looking engines then it’s predecessor. The V2500 engines give the MD-90 a really stout and tough looking appearance (especially from a front three-quarter view), which unfortunately makes the MD-80 look absolutely weak and pathetic in comparison. Maybe it’s just because I’m a guy, but judging an aircraft based on how big the engines are and how strong it looks is…well…such a guy thing to do. Size matters!
Technical side profile line drawing of a McDonnell Douglas MD-90
Another difference which I didn’t know about is the fact that the MD-90 has the same squared-off vertical stabilizer as the Boeing 717. I had originally thought that it was Boeing who created that sharper vertical stabilizer, but it was actually McDonnell Douglas right before the merger. Oddly enough, that’s probably the most interesting tidbit of info that I learned from creating this template. There’s always something, and that’s what makes these templates so dang fun.
So there you have it. The MD-90 templates are now complete, which does make me feel pretty good for getting them done and out of the way. Not as good as realizing that it will stop the inflow of email and requests that I get for this aircraft though! I never could understand the fascination with this oddball aircraft, but I imagine these templates are going to make a lot of you happy. My sincere apologies for the long wait!
Did you know that the Airbus A318 has a taller vertical stabilizer than the A319? And that there is a completely different engine option as well? I didn’t either until the evening I sat down to modify my A319 template into this cute little baby bus. The heartburn started heating up after just 30 seconds on Wikipedia, realizing that this one-evening hack job was going to take a lot longer than planned. I hate when that happens, especially when I’ve got so many other airliner templates on my to-do list.
And it wasn’t the taller vertical stabilizer and different engine option that made me reach for the Tums – it turns out that there are a lot of little differences in the engine coverings (for both the CFM56 and Pratt & Whitney options) compared to the A319, and it ended up being faster for me to redraw them from scratch rather than mess around trying to modify the other ones. Oh – and let’s not forget about the details in the engine connection to the wing as well. This ended up being one of those templates that seemed to get more and more complicated the deeper I got into it, and I was kind of regretting taking it on at first.
But you know what? Although it sounds like I’m complaining, the truth is that I’m actually pretty stoked that I learned that the A318 is a lot more than just an A319 with the ends chopped off. There is a lot more that went into the design and engineering of this aircraft than I originally thought, so it’s it’s kind of a shame that it was essentially a failure for Airbus (from a sales and marketing point of view). As a designer myself, I know exactly how demoralizing that can feel. Sometimes the projects I spend the most time on are the biggest failures. It happens, and all you can do is push it aside and move on to the next one.
A technical side profile line drawing of an Airbus A318 with cfm56 engines – basically, the line drawing version of the illustration at the top of this post.
The Airbus A318 was produced from 2001 through 2013, with only four Airlines operating them at the time of this writing (Air France, Avianca Brasil, Avianca, and TAROM). They never gained traction in the US, and the only ones I ever saw buzzing about were here in Southern California. Frontier Airlines had a handful of them, and occasionally I’d see them operating between DEN and SAN. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to get a ride on one, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t missing much. I can’t imagine it being much more than a fat regional jet anyway, and I’m not a big fan of small airplanes.
On the other hand, the traveler in me is slightly bothered by the fact that this is an active aircraft in regularly scheduled service that is deeply established as an “endangered species” – and time is running out if I want to add the experience to my personal flight log. I’ve been wanting to take a trip to South America soon, so perhaps it would be wise to see if I can hitch a ride with Avianca. Just to say I did it.
Here’s the all-white version with Pratt & Whitney engines
Finally, the line drawing version with Pratt & Whitney engines
Anyway, it feels great to have finished these A318 templates, as that means that I now have the complete Airbus A320 family in my archives (all the way up to the latest and greatest NEO). I can’t help but to hope that these won’t be a flop like the real A318 though…
Next up is the McDonnell Douglas MD-90. A quick check of Wikipedia reveals that the only major visual differences between it and the MD-80 is a slightly lengthened fuselage and (of course) larger engines. As long as there are no surprises, I should be able to crank it out relatively quickly. I am traveling to China next week though, so there will be a slight pause in the action. In the meantime, feel free to tinker with any of my other templates while I’m away, and I’ll get that MD-90 wrapped up as soon as I return!
I didn’t realize it before, but I think that the smaller turboprop aircraft such as this Dash 8 are actually more difficult for me to illustrate than the larger airliners that I normally do. The problem is that these turboprops are a lot smaller, which requires me to zoom in and fill the page a bit more than I would normally would when drawing larger aircraft. My source files for these airliner templates are large format (5000 x 3000 pixels), so making a little airplane fit a canvas that large requires some extra work to make sure that I include all the important little details.
On the flipside, its important to maintain consistency with my other airliner templates. I could easily spend an entire year on a single illustration if I was completely obsessed with including every single little rivet and connection bolt, but these templates were never meant to be used as construction drawings anyway. Because of that, it’s important for me to know when to say when in regards to adding extra detail which I don’t include in any of my other illustrations. It took me a while to figure out what detail I was going to and not going to include in these Dash 8 templates, but I hope you’ll agree with me that I found a decent middle ground which still makes these drawings valuable for a variety of different uses.
Those of you that have been using my templates for a long time know that I illustrated the Q400 way back in 2015, and the nice thing about that is that this smaller -200 version shares a lot of the same components of that larger -400. Unfortunately the Q400 is a lot newer and much more modern than the Dash 8, so I had to modify nearly every one of those components before adding them in. But as I’ve said before, I never would’ve known about these differences if I wasn’t doing these illustrations, so I enjoy doing the research and figuring out the differences between all the sub types.
Technical side profile line drawing of a De Havilland DHC-8-200 over a white background with and without the landing gear deployed
Speaking of sub types, I learned that there are incredible number of different variations of the De Havilland Dash 8. Basically, there are four main versions: the -100, -200, -300, and -400 – which is more commonly referred to as the Q400. However, within all of those versions are an endless array of sub models which makes the entire lineup sound really confusing and a bit overwhelming. That’s why I felt a twinge of heartburn when, after I had already committed to illustrating the Dash 8, I realized that this is a very convoluted aircraft lineup and simply doing one illustration isn’t going to cover all the bases. Because of that, I simply chose to illustrate the most common variant which seems to be the -200.
To put it in the simplest terms possible, the –200 is a more powerful version of the -100, and the -300 is a slightly stretched version of the -200. The -400 (Q400) is the largest of the Q Series family of aircraft. And if you were curious to know about all of the variations of each of these, I’d recommend checking out Wikipedia for the full scoop. There are simply too many to list here!
Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have sent me links to the projects you are working on. I love seeing how you are all using my templates, and it really amazes me how creative you guys and gals are. One of these days I’m going to put a giant post together here on the blog showcasing some of that work. All of what I have seen so far covers the gamut in terms of the types of projects – some are using my templates for livery designs (personal projects, school projects, virtual airlines, etc.), some are using them for technical product demonstrations, and there are even a few of you out there trying to start an actual airline, using my templates (with your branding) as part of your venture-capital presentations. Amazing!
OK, first of all, I just want to apologize in a very big way for the lack of regular uploads lately. I’ve been receiving bunches of emails from concerned readers who are worried that I had given up airliner template creation for good, but I’m here to tell you that I’m still committed to this project and I’m not giving up anytime soon. As sick as it sounds, I actually love digging through the Internet looking for information which helps me create these very detailed aircraft illustrations. It’s sick and twisted I know, but I’m a very technical kind of guy and this is my kind of work.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I’d like to present to you the templates I promised in my last post way back in November. I should point out that I’ve actually been working on these illustrations for the entire two months that I’ve been absent from this blog, so it’s not like I’ve been sitting on the beach drinking margaritas and wasting my days away. The problem was that I didn’t have the luxury to dedicate a large chunk of time to getting them done, so I had to work on them 10 minutes at a time, here and there, whenever I could find a spare moment in my day to tinker. But now they’re done and ready for you to download and do whatever it is that you usually do to my templates.
Technical side profile line drawing of a Boeing 747-400F over a white background with and without the landing gear deployed
The Boeing 747-400F is pretty much the aircraft I think of whenever I hear the term “cargo plane”, and I’m not sure that is ever going to change. It was the dominant freighter during the time that I started getting into commercial aviation back in the 90’s so it’s pretty much burned into my brain at this point. Not only that, my very first trip to Anchorage Alaska way back in 2000 helped quite a bit to solidify the 747-400F as the king (I mean queen) of cargo, as it was amazing to see all of them flying in and out of ANC on their journeys between North America and Asia. And if you were wondering, yes, I couldn’t help but wonder if each and every one of them were carrying pallets of rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong.
For those of you who aren’t aware, there are actually two main versions of the 747-400F: those that came from the factory, and those that were converted by Boeing (Boeing Converted Freighters, or BCF for short). The standard 747-400F Versions were designed from the start to be freighters, featuring a large nose door and a shorter upper deck to save weight. The BCF version is an aircraft which started life hauling passengers, and was then converted by Boeing into a cargo hauler after being retired by the airlines. In this case, the interiors were stripped out, the windows filled with plugs, and a small cargo door was installed in the left rear of the fuselage. Note that the side cargo door was optional on the 747-400F, but the nose door was not on the 747-400BCF.
Side profile illustration of a white Boeing 747-400BCF
Technical side profile line drawing of a Boeing 747-400BCF
So there you have it. I hope these Boeing 747-400F templates are useful to you, and as always, please feel free to reach out to me and let me know how you are using these illustrations. Not only is it very interesting for me to see what you all are doing with them, but it also helps me to refine my technique and create better templates which suits the needs of the majority of users.
Next up: maybe the Boeing 727! Not necessarily because I want to do it, but mainly because I started one a year ago and it’s been sitting half finished in my archives begging to be finished. No promises though, as I have received a few specific requests as of late that I may tackle first…
Just in time for the holiday shipping season, it’s time to start focusing on some cargo aircraft! I’m at the point now where my airliner template collection it’s getting a bit too heavy on the commercial aviation side of things, and with the air cargo industry being as large and strong as it is, it’s probably a pretty good idea that I spend a bit of time going back and creating cargo variants of some of the passenger aircraft that I’ve already done.
Thankfully, cargo variants of commercial passenger aircraft are relatively easy for me to create since I’ve got most of the hard work done already. It’s just a matter of eliminating a few things, adding some cargo doors, and fine-tuning the details. There’s no need to re-create these aircraft templates from scratch, which is going to allow me to bang through these very quickly. Are you ready for this? Let’s do it!
Technical side profile line drawing of a Boeing 777F over a white background with and without the landing gear deployed
First up is the Boeing 777F, which is the all-cargo variant of the 777–200. Air France was the launch customer for this freighter, and they took delivery of their first airframe in February 2009. At the time of this writing, there are 128 777F’s flying for 30 different operators all over the world. That sounds like a success to me, and it’s only going to get better with so many cargo airlines looking to replace their older 747 and DC-10/MD-11 freighters with much more efficient and capable aircraft such as the 777.
As most of you have probably figured out by now, I’m pretty darn far from being highly-knowledgeable when it comes to anything aerospace engineering related. I am an artist, plain and simple, and I’m much more comfortable pushing pixels that I am trying to learn and understand the reasoning for the placement of every rivet on every aircraft ever made. I just don’t have the patience for that kind of stuff! That’s why I always learn a lot of interesting little things whenever I create a new aircraft template. What exactly did I learn by drawing this 777F? Quite simply, the cargo doors on this thing are really small and it doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me.
The only two other cargo aircraft that I’ve illustrated so far are the 767–300F, and the 747–8F. Those two particular aircraft have very large cargo door openings, so that’s why I was surprised to learn that the 777F has only one small door on the left side of the aircraft (towards the rear), and then two other small openings on the right side. How the heck do they manage to fit large stuff (like cars for example) into this aircraft? Wouldn’t they want to make the doors large so as to make loading and offloading cargo as painless as possible? My only theory for the use of small doors is that large doors might compromise the structural rigidity of the airframe. Sounds plausible, right? Please, if there is anybody out there who knows the reason for this, I would love it if you could leave a comment below and tell me that I’m exactly right. lol
The next aircraft template on my list is the cargo variant of the 747-400, which I’ve actually got a pretty good start on already. There will be two variants of that one of course (normal and stretched upper deck), and I hope to have those posted here to the blog very soon.
Have you been enjoying my A320 and A321 NEO side profile templates so far? I hope so. A lot of work goes into into each and every one of these illustrations, and it takes me a lot of time to get them looking as accurate as possible. As long as there are people out there like you who enjoy the work that I’m doing, that’s all I need to keep grinding out more and more templates of commercial airliners. I also like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have purchased high-res vector and PSD source files of these templates on my online store – I hope those illustrations are useful for your projects and are helping you succeed in creating some really awesome content.
Now that I’ve got the A320 an A321 NEO templates out of the way, it’s time to post my favorite one of all: the A319. The big new engines combined with the short fuselage makes this aircraft look to be a tough little bugger with more than enough power for any mission, and it seems like it would be an awesome performer for long and thin routes across the US or the Atlantic.
Technical side profile line drawing of an Airbus A319 NEO with CFM LEAP 1A engines
Unfortunately, with only 51 orders for this aircraft on the books at the time of this writing (and no deliveries yet), most airlines don’t agree with me that this is the best Baby Bus of all. To put that number in better context, the slightly larger A320 NEO has 3688 orders on the books with 138 delivered to date. The A321 variant has 1429 orders with 6 deliveries so far. As much as I hate to admit it, things aren’t looking good for the A319 NEO.
This sort of thing isn’t new to Airbus. They faced a similar problem with the A350-800 – a smaller (but longer-range) variant of the A350-900 and -1000 that hasn’t seemed to catch on yet. As a matter of fact, the only airline with an outstanding order (for 12 frames) is Asiana. Rumor has it that Airbus is trying to talk them out of it and into another type of aircraft instead, and once that happens, this “baby” A350 will likely be killed. Will be A319 NEO face the same fate? If I were a betting man, I’d go all in on “you betcha.”
Side profile illustration of a white Airbus A319 NEO with Pratt & Whitney engines
Technical side profile line drawing of an Airbus A319 NEO with Pratt & Whitney engines
It’s easy to speculate what might happen in the long term, but the honest truth is that I really have no idea if this aircraft will see the light of day. Remember, the A321 wasn’t very popular when it was first released either, so maybe it’s just a matter of time for market conditions to evolve to a point where this re-engined A319 is an attractive option. Airbus obviously sees the potential in it, otherwise they wouldn’t have spent so much time and money putting it out there. Sometimes these things take time.
Until then, it will still be a lot of fun to see all of you take these templates and apply some really great liveries to them (both fantasy and real). And who knows? Maybe some of those illustrations will persuade some of the large airlines to think more seriously about this big-engined A319 and how well it would integrate into their existing fleets. Airbus needs your help! Do them proud.
Finally, I’d like to give you a little information about what is coming next. I’ve had a lot of requests for cargo aircraft, so I will likely do a 747-400F, followed up quickly by a 777F, and then a 757-200F. These shouldn’t take very long to do, so you can expect to see them on the blog (and store) relatively quickly. However, I will need to fit these in between the work I’m doing on my travel blog and some cleanup of some of my older templates. That’s right…I said cleanup.
For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, I’ve been working very hard over the past few months cleaning up and refreshing a lot of my old airliner templates for the online store. I’ve been adding more details, smoothing out the shading, and making the PSD files much more organized than the originals. It’s a lot of work to go back through and rework some of those old templates, but I feel it’s important because I want to give you guys the best possible product that I can. I know I’m a bit slow at times creating new templates, but it makes me feel good to take my time to get things right instead of rushing and pushing inferior illustrations.
Thank you as always for your support. You guys rock!
I suspect this is the one you’ve all been waiting for. The A321 NEO seems to be all the rage right now and I’ve completely lost track of the number of times that I’ve been asked to create these Illustrations over the past several weeks. I’m not really sure what happened, but all of a sudden everybody seemed to need this template right away and I was starting to feel the pressure to get it done as soon as possible. Was there a big airline order or something that I missed? I’m not really sure what the reason is for the sudden demand, but I’m happy (and a bit relieved) to post these side view templates today and make them available to all.
Technical side profile line drawing of an Airbus A321 NEO with Pratt & Whitney engines
The images above featured the A321 with Pratt & Whitney engines. Here are the CFM versions:
Side profile illustration of a white Airbus A321 NEO with CFM LEAP 1A engines
Technical side profile line drawing of an Airbus A321 NEO with LEAP 1A engines
The story of the Airbus A321 has been quite interesting to me. I remember vividly when it first came out in 1994, because it seemed to be a flop right from the start due to an apparent lack of demand – at least outside of Europe. There were no airlines in the US interested in it other than USAirways, and the only place that it seemed to get any traction at all was with the airlines in Europe needing an aircraft of this size. For medium density intra-European routes, it seemed to be the perfect aircraft that fit the gap between 737/A320 and larger aircraft such as 767 and A330. But here in the US (and the rest of the world), it just didn’t have the performance needed for difficult missions such as flying westbound Transcon US routes into strong headwinds without payload restrictions, and flying out of hot and high airports such as Denver and Salt Lake City. The Boeing 757 was much better suited for the US airline market at that time.
20 years later, and look where we are now. The 757 is long gone, and these new A321 NEO aircraft are selling like hotcakes all over the world. They simply can’t make enough of them! With the new engines and a plethora of other improvements, Airbus has transformed the A321 into what many consider to be the next-generation 757, and I’m willing to bet that the executives at Boeing are squirming in their seats a little trying to figure out how to gain back some of that lost marketshare. Boeing simply doesn’t have an aircraft that can compete with the A321 NEO right now, though the 737-900/ER (and the coming 737 MAX 9 and 10) comes close. This is a very subjective argument I know, and there are some who may disagree with me on this, but the fact of the matter is Airbus caught Boeing asleep at the wheel and took advantage of a gaping hole in the market left behind by the cancellation of the 757.
In Boeing’s defense, they had every reason to cancel the 757 program in 2004. The economy was still recovering from a deep recession at the time, and orders for the aircraft had completely dried up. It was a very dark phase for the airline industry, and the trend most analysts were predicting was that the airlines were going to prefer smaller aircraft and higher frequencies going forward. That’s when they went all-in on the 737 program and started pushing it as the ultimate 757 replacement with new longer-range variants with higher efficiency compared to the older models.
But here we are in 2017, and there are a lot of airlines with older 757s being retired that need to be replaced. Unfortunately for Boeing, Airbus simply has a better product right now with their A321 NEO. In my opinion, this was a big goof on Boeing’s part. US airlines in particular have depended on the 757 as the backbone of their route structures for years, and with the overall economy as strong as it is right now, there is a need again for an aircraft of this size. There are a lot of old and tired 757s out there, and now that they are starting to be retired in mass quantities, it amounts to a heck of a lot of airplanes that need replacing. Unfortunately for them, many of those replacement orders are going to Airbus.
As I mentioned in my last post, I’m pretty darn far from being an airline CEO, but it boggles my mind that Boeing hasn’t been working on a true 757 replacement for at least a few years now. Why they decided to go all in on the 737 (an aircraft that was originally designed in the 1960s) is something I can’t quite comprehend. I get the fact that it probably saved them a lot of money in the short term, but all they were doing was just kicking the can down the road and delaying the inevitable. They’ve done pretty much all they can to the 737 at this point, and if they want to compete with Airbus in the middle of the market (MOM) segment, it’s going to require an all-new aircraft. They need to get busy, but it may be too late.
My apologies for turning this into a history lesson/rant on the middle of the market airline segment, but as I said – this is the topic I find kind of fascinating and it’s been interesting to watch how Airbus and Boeing completely swamped leadership positions in that regard. Airbus has a hit with the A321 NEO on their hands, and we’re going to be seeing a lot of these things flying around for the next 30 to 40 years. Get ready.
My next side view airliner template (coming soon) will be the last one in the series: the A319 NEO. From a visual point of view, it’s my favorite one by far. Stubby bodies with fat engines…what’s not to like about that?!
Here we go ladies and gentlemen. Finally, after more than two years of procrastination and kicking the can down the road, I present to you my Airbus A320 NEO side view template set. In my defense, there was a pretty good reason for waiting so long to do these illustrations: the lack of accurate reference material. Now, we all know that these new aircraft have been flying around for a while now, but there is actually very little data out there on the Internet regarding the list of changes that went into this very big update for the Airbus narrowbody series. I found plenty of good information about the new CFM LEAP 1A and Pratt & Whitney 1000G engines, but it was surprisingly difficult to find information about other significant updates to the aircraft (if there were any).
I’d also like to point out that I’m pretty darn far from being an aircraft engineer. As a matter fact, I even struggle when trying to assemble IKEA furniture so it would be in your best interest never to depend on me for thinking too deeply about anything that could crash, burn and kill people. However, after weeks of research, I came to the conclusion that there are actually very few visual differences between the existing version of these aircraft (CEO, which stands for Current Engine Option) compared to the new-engine (NEO) variants. It’s basically the same airplane but with meatier looking and much more efficient engines, which actually surprised me a bit considering how much time and effort Airbus put into this update. I was actually expecting major wing modifications and taller landing gear to accommodate those larger powerplants, but nope. Other than general internal modifications to both, there isn’t much on the outside to differentiate them from the older versions. But wow – it’s amazing how much of a visual difference a big engine can make.
Technical side profile line drawing of an Airbus A320 NEO with Pratt & Whitney engines over a blank background with and without the landing gear deployed
You should all know my stance on beefy-looking aircraft by now, so it goes without saying that I’m pretty much drooling over the A320 NEO – especially the version with those fat Pratt & Whitney engines hanging under the wing. I was never much of a fan of the A320 before this, but now it may be one of my favorite aircraft in terms of visual appearance. This is what the A320 should’ve looked like from the beginning! I’m also thinking that it’s a bit of a shame that Boeing couldn’t find a way to put larger engines on the next-generation of the 737. Doing so would have required a taller (and all new) landing gear, which would have added significant cost to the program. Airbus got very lucky that that they didn’t have to do that.
The all white and line-drawing templates above are the version with the Pratt and Whitney 1000G engines. Here are the same templates with the CFM LEAP 1A engines. Which do you prefer?
All white Airbus A320 NEO with CFM LEAP 1A engines
Airbus A320 NEO technical line drawing with CFM LEAP 1A engines
To be honest, I actually prefer the look of the LEAP 1A engine, but it’s smaller size compared to the Pratt & Whitney is less appealing to me. And now that I think of it, it’s probably a pretty good thing that I don’t run an airline because the visual designer in me tends to make decisions based more on visual appearances than anything else. That may be very bad for running a profitable business, but I would have one heck of a good looking fleet that’s for sure.
For those of you looking for the A319 and A321 NEO templates as well, you’re in luck. Both are currently in progress and I’m very close to having the A321 ready to upload. The A319 will follow shortly thereafter (hopefully within a week). I’d also like to use this opportunity to ask those of you who know these aircraft well if I have drawn anything incorrectly in my templates. Because hey – if I’m struggling to assemble IKEA furniture, there’s a pretty good chance that I could have overlooked something huge without even knowing it.
One of the most common questions I get about my free JPG sideview airliner templates is how to add realistic color and highlights to them. There are many of you who are struggling with this, so I thought it would be good to explain just how easy it is using Photoshop. And as a matter of fact, you can use any graphics editing software you want. Any decent graphics or illustration program will do, but for the sake of this tutorial I’ll show you how to edit the JPEG files directly in Photoshop.
So go ahead and download one of my free templates – any one of them will do, fire up Photoshop, and let’s get started! In addition to writing this all out in an easy to follow step-by-step guide (below), I also created a video for those who prefer to learn that way:
Step one: tracing the entire aircraft
The easiest way to add color to these templates is to simply cover the entire thing, and then erase what you don’t need. For the sake of this demo, I’m just going to use red. It’s a bright color, and it will be easy to show how this is done.
In order to trace the entire aircraft, I just use the magic wand tool and click anywhere outside of the aircraft. What this does is selects the entire white area of the background – which is backwards from what we really want, but that’s okay.
Use the magic wand tool and click anywhere in the white space on the background.
Just go to the top menu and click Select > Inverse and now the active selection area has been switched to the edges of the aircraft instead of the background.
Choose Select > Inverse to change the selection from the background to the aircraft.
Create a new layer. This is the layer that we will be adding our color to.
Create a new layer in the layers window.
Change your primary fill color to red (or whatever color you want your aircraft to be).
To fill the selected area with color, just hold down Option + Backspace (or Ctrl + Backspace if you’re on a PC) on your keyboard and it fills in the selection area with your primary color. You’ll notice when you do that that the vertical stabilizer and other small details may not get filled in, simply because their color matches the white color of the background too closely and it was never selected in the first place. That’s okay. Just use the lasso tool to trace the outline of the vertical stabilizer (or any other part that was missed) and press Option + Delete on your keyboard to fill those empty spaces.
After applying the Fill command, you may get something that looks like this. Don’t worry – we can fix that.
Use the Lasso tool to trace around any areas that were missed in the original selection.
Once you’ve selected the missing pieces, go ahead and use the Fill command to fill it with your primary color.
Step two: adding transparency
Okay, now that you got your entire aircraft covered with red, you can easily see that it doesn’t look very good. There’s no detail! Don’t worry, this is an easy fix.
Everything is now filled with color, but it still doesn’t look very good.
Choose “Multiply” from the dropdown menu at the top of the layers window.
Step three: trimming your color layer
We obviously don’t want paint over top of the wings and other details, so it will be necessary to trim all those areas away. With your color layer selected, use the lasso tool to trace around any areas where you do not want color. I usually hold down the Option key on my keyboard and then click around the object to trace – this constrains the lasso to straight lines which makes it a lot easier to trace complex objects.
Now its time to go back and start trimming out all the areas you don’t want color. Use the Lasso tool for this.
Step four: adding highlights
Starting to look pretty good isn’t it? There are some more things we need to do in order for it to start looking realistic though. The biggest issue is the lack of highlights. The fuselage of an aircraft is essentially a large cylinder, and it’s not going to look realistic until you put a highlight right down the center of it. In order to do that, select the soft paint brush tool with a radius of 65 and change your primary fill color to white.
Create a new layer and simply draw a horizontal line with that soft brush across the entire length of the fuselage. Holding down the Shift key will constrain the line to be perfectly straight which really helps in situations like this. Don’t worry about coloring outside the lines – just put a nice highlight across the length of the fuselage, and we will trim away everything that spills over the edges in a moment.
Change your primary fill color to white and choose a soft brush with a radius of 65. Create a new layer, and paint a horizontal line with that brush across the length of the fuselage.
If it’s too sharp you can use the Gaussian Blur (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) tool to blur it out to your liking.
Once you got looking the way you like, we need to trim away all the white highlight that is spilling beyond the edges of the fuselage. Go back to your color layer, hover over the thumbnail icon of the layer and click it while holding down Command on your keyboard. This will select the entire color layer. Then go to Select > Inverse.
With the color layer still showing the marching ants around it, select the highlight layer and then press delete on your keyboard. This will delete all of the blurred white highlight that was extending outside the edges of the aircraft.
Don’t forget to trim away all the white highlight color that extends beyond the edges of the fuselage!
Step five: enhancing the details
Its starting to look like a real aircraft isn’t it? The only problem now is that we can’t see the windows anymore. While you could go through your layers and just delete everything that is covering each window, I would advise against that simply because you want to leave color and highlight layers intact as much as possible. Do not cut those up, because you never know when you need to go back and edit them in the future.
The easiest way to bring back the windows is to simply re-create them. It takes a few minutes but it’s totally worth it. You can do this by creating a new layer and then use the ellipse selection tool to trace an existing window. Fill that with black, and then duplicate that layer for each window using the position of the windows in my template as a guide. What you got all the windows re-created, it’s best just to combine all those window layers into one to keep things simple and organized.
With your bottom (aircraft) layer selected, recreate one window by tracing it with the ellipse selection tool, and then use a copy and paste command – this will automatically create a new layer with just this window in it.
Keep duplicating that new window layer until you have all the windows recreated. Then, combine all those layers into one and move them back into position. Make sure this new layer is above your color layer, or you’ll never see it!
Once you recreate your windows and place that layer over your color layer, this is what it should look like.
Step six: Bling!
One of my favorite parts about creating aircraft illustrations is adding the hard reflection on the vertical stabilizer. It’s the little details like this which will really make your illustration pop and give it tons of depth.
To create a hard reflection, simply trace the edges of the vertical stabilizer with the lasso tool.
Trace the vertical stabilizer with the lasso tool.
Create a new layer, and use the gradient tool to add a white gradient to the front edge of the vertical stabilizer.
As you can see, our first pass of this is much to bright. Since it’s on its own layer, increase the transparency of the layer so that it’s not so strong.
Select the linear gradient tool (foreground to transparent) with white as your primary color.
It’s a bit difficult to see in this screenshot, but notice how I am drawing a diagonal line with the linear gradient tool from the front edge of the vertical stabilizer to the center.
Then use the lasso tool draw a hard line down the center of the vertical stabilizer. Delete the left edge.
Trim away that gradient with the lasso tool. Select the area you don’t want, then press Delete on your keyboard.
This is what it looks like after trimming the reflection. Notice that I reduced the opacity of the reflection in the layers window – you don’t want it too strong!
It’s starting too look much more realistic now, but one thing that I don’t like about this is the hard reflection of the vertical stabilizer compared to the soft reflection on the fuselage. Let’s do something about that…
Selecting the layer for the soft highlight on the fuselage and then cutting it in half with the rectangular selection tool gives it the appearance of being a hard reflection – which matches the hard reflection of the vertical stabilizer. Much better!
So there you have it. Adding color to my free JPEG templates isn’t really that difficult, and you’ll get a lot better with practice. Of course my high resolution PSD templates are much easier to work with (because each element is on a separate layer), but working with these JPEG’s will seem like second nature once you get the hang of it.
Still have questions? Leave a comment below or feel free to email me if there’s something that you’re still getting stuck with. I’d love to help!
If you recall from my last post, I opened up the question about what my next template should be to all of you. I got a lot of responses and I really thank you for that – a lot more than I was expecting actually, which is quite good because it made my decision very easy. Most suggestions came in via email and Facebook direct messages, and I do appreciate everyone taking the time to offer suggestions for my next aircraft illustration.
The winner, which is not all that surprising considering recent events, was the Boeing 787-10. All of you aviation fans out there are probably aware that the 787-10 made it’s debut at the Paris air show this past week, and Boeing did an amazing job of showing this aircraft to the world. I know I was glued to the video stream when it was being announced – how about you?
The 787-10 has actually been at the top of my personal to-do list for quite some time. The problem was was there wasn’t really that much information about it up until this point and I didn’t really have enough reference material to go off to create an accurate template. But now that the aircraft is been officially announced with all the juicy specs and high res photos, it was perfect timing for me to go in and create these side view illustrations.
A technical side profile line drawing of a Boeing 787-10 over a white background with and without the landing gear deployed
I’ll be completely honest when I say it was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. One of the things that I learned in my research was that it was Boeing’s goal to reuse as many components as they could from the 787-8 and -9, and that meant that I didn’t have to redraw a lot of new parts and pieces. The biggest change obviously, is the lengthened fuselage which is stretched nearly equally both front and rear. The other big change is the new main landing gear, but to me it doesn’t really look that much different from the previous version. So I didn’t have to do a whole lot with that – which is nice because it’s usually the landing gear mechanisms that take so long to draw. There were a few minor other differences and changes that I had to make but otherwise this was a very easy side view template to create.
Now that I’ve got three side view templates of the 787 completed, it feels natural for me to declare that I prefer the -10 the best. The -8 seemed a bit too short for my tastes, and while the -9 was starting to look better and more filled out, it just wasn’t enough. The proportions of this lengthened -10 seem to make everything right with the 787. There is just enough overhang front and rear to make it look substantial yet elegant and not at all awkward like the -8, though it almost seems like they could’ve used a taller vertical stabilizer and taller landing gear to help with the performance of this aircraft. But hey – I’m not aircraft engineer, and all I know is what looks good and what doesn’t. Math has never been my thing!
Speaking of not being an aircraft engineer, I have to wonder how much more Boeing can do with these existing components. Any larger versions of the 787 are most likely going to require a new wing, bigger engines, and a whole lot of new stuff under the hood for increased efficiency. At that point, will it still be a 787? I really have no idea and all we can do is just wait and see what Boeing is going to do.
I’d like to take this opportunity to say that the NEO versions of the Airbus baby buses (A319, A320, and A321) were the second most requested aircraft templates in my survey. Therefore, I will do those next. However, I need to manage expectations by letting you all know that there really isn’t that much of a visual difference from the current engine option (CEO) so please don’t expect something amazing! As far as I can tell, the new engine is only slightly larger than the current cm56 engine option and it’s a bit hard to see the differences in side view. No matter though – I will get started on them soon!