All posts in: Aircraft Illustrations
ANA Boeing 787 illustration
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Being that ANA was the launch customer for the Boeing 787, I thought it was important that I make an illustration of this airline and aircraft combination before I do anything else. If you’re paying attention, you know I made a Japan Airlines version as my first 787-8 illustration – it’s not like I’m trying to go in chronological order or anything, but I should have done the All Nippon Airways version first.

This particular ANA color scheme is one of two special liveries that ANA is using on it’s 787′s. It features very large ”787″ titles at the forward section of the fuselage, while the rest of the livery remains standard ANA. Not a bad way to represent their admiration of the aircraft, eh? The other special livery (used only on two aircraft I believe) is much more detailed and I do plan on making some illustrations of that one too. But for now, I just wanted to illustrate a version of this one as it will be applied to all new 787′s that ANA receives from here on out.

With that said, I tend to think that this blue and white livery (although very attractive) is a bit dated and not as bright as some of the other liveries we are seeing from competing airlines these days. I was actually getting a little frustrated as I was drawing it because it seemed so dark and unbalanced. I had to wonder if it was my drawing or just the way that the color scheme really looks – and based on all the photos I used as reference material, I’m going with the latter. These are dark and busy colors.

japan airlines 787 airliner art
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It’s been a long time coming, but I finally finished creating an illustration of a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. This was the aircraft that I wanted to draw the most when I started creating airliner art last year, but the lack of good reference material held me back a bit. Well, I’m happy to say that I finally got to work on it over the past few weeks and I finished it up this past weekend.

Being a resident of San Diego, I thought it would only be fitting to create a Japan Airlines version of it for my first one, as JAL recently stared nonstop 787 service from Tokyo Narita (NRT/RJAA) to San Diego (SAN/KSAN). Of course it has been put on hold for a while due to the federally-mandated grounding of the aircraft due to the battery issues, and the route is currently being served with 777-200′s. But we will see the 787 back in San Diego soon enough and all of us here are quite happy about that.

I’m still not sure what I think about this particular Japan Airlines livery. On one hand, I’m thrilled to death that they brought the Crane logo back – but on the other hand, could this livery be any more bland? There’s really nothing to it other than the logo and “Japan Airlines” titles applied to a completely white aircraft, and it sure doesn’t even look as if the designer who put this together spent very much time on it at all. Compare this to the tail of the recently-unvieled American Airlines livery, and you can see what I’m talking about. The designer in me thinks that there could have been so much more to this color scheme, even without going too heavy and bold.

side view 787-8
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Have you ever fully committed to a project before realizing how much work it’s really going to be? That’s exactly how I feel about my decision to create blank templates of all the major airliners (past and present). I’ve quickly discovered how much time aircraft art takes, and frankly, I didn’t expect it to take more time than the 3d illustrations that I do. This is hard work! But I am enjoying it, so I have declared it as long term project (that may never be complete) and I’ll just do what I can.

So here we go. Next up in my series of blank templates is one of the most talked about airplanes in existence today: the Boeing 787-8. If you recall in my 777-200 post, I mentioned that it was relatively easy to create illustrations of that airplane, as it has been around for a while and there is a ton of good reference material for it. Well, that’s not quite the case for the 787. This is a brand new aircraft, and trying to find detailed pics and diagrams has been…difficult! So that means that I had to use my own creative freedom in a few places, which I hope to fix over time as higher quality reference material becomes available.

As usual with all my templates so far, I’ve created two versions of this 787: a blank (all white) illustration, and a more detailed black and white line drawing:

787-8 technical line drawing

787-8 technical line drawing

On a side note, I never really noticed how much of a leap forward in design the 787 was until I started doing these drawings. The nose looks like a space ship, and I am totally digging the scalloped engines. This is a good looking aircraft!

new american airlines livery on a boeing 777-200
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Like it or not, this is the new look for American Airlines. Even though we all knew this was coming, I was actually at a loss for words when I first saw it. It was nothing like I thought it would be. I knew that the iconic polished aluminum fuselage was history, and that silver paint would be used instead. And I had a pretty good feeling that they would stick with a red, white, and blue color scheme. But the tail. That tail! I was hoping to see something a bit organic and flowing, but instead we got hard-edged and highly abstract American flag. The concept in and of itself is good – I like the idea of incorporating the flag into the livery. But I personally feel it’s too busy and not complimentary to the new logo (which, as a matter of fact, I love).

Now that this new livery has had a day or so to sink in, I thought it would be good to create an illustration of it on a Boeing 777-200LR (N773AN). This helps me to examine the livery on a nearly microscopic level, in much more detail than I ever could just by looking at a few low-res pics found on the internet. And you know what? I think American Airlines has got itself a winner here. Yes, now that I’ve had the chance to have a really deep look at it, I love the attention to detail – especially in the tail. I do still think it’s too busy and not playing well with the logo, but there are some beautiful gradients and textures in the tail that I didn’t notice until I did these illustrations.

The new American Airlines logo is the best part of this livery, and I think it’s a natural evolution of the classic “AA” eagle logo of today (er..yesterday). It’s unfortunate that they didn’t place it on the tail though, as the darn thing is in the shape of an aircraft vertical stabilizer for crying out loud. And since I’m talking about things that I would do different, don’t you think that some color on the engines and /or winglets would look sharp? I do.

Hey – I know it’s easy to be a critic, and even though I have a lot of bad things to say about this, I still think that Futurebrands did a great job. It’s not easy to take something as iconic as the 30+ year old American Airlines identity and give it a modern look. No matter what they did, they were undoubtedly going to tick some people off. But this shall pass, and this new livery will seem “normal” in no time at all.

star alliance 777 drawing
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I’ve never been a big fan of the recent white and black Star Alliance liveries, mostly because I think they are too plain and unimaginative. My perception has changed slightly after creating this illustration – primarily because it was necessary to really study this design (more than I ever have in the past) and I started to see details that I never saw before. First, I think the Star Alliance font is simply beautiful. It’s the perfect weight and thickness for a billboard-style use such as this, and it’s san serif style oozes class and professionalism. Second, the Star Alliance logo really is nice. Yes, I’ve seen it a million times before, but it wasn’t until I recreated it myself for this illustration that I realized how elegant it really is. The subtle gradient and silver tones really pop against the black tail color.

This particular United / Star Alliance livery was based on the 1998 United color scheme designed by Pentagram, so that’s the reason for the blue engines (which would otherwise look out of place if it weren’t for this relationship). I also find it interesting that United’s most recent Star Alliance livery doesn’t have any blue in it – or any color at all – and it’s kind of dull compared to this one.

On a side note, I think it would be interesting if the Star Alliance liveries had a lot more silver and black in them. The white fuselage is clean and simple, yet oh-so-boring. These are special liveries after all, so I think they should have went all-out and done something really different. Perhaps a silver fuselage with a black tail? I know, that’s probably too similar to the SkyTeam special liveries – but it is really sharp.

emirates 777 side view drawing
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I finally finished illustrating a Boeing 777-200 template! Yeah, my time has been severely limited with a crazy work schedule and the Thanksgiving holiday a couple weeks ago. All in all, it took about two weeks to create the line-drawing and about another week to do the livery. But now that I have the basic all-white version of this 777 illustrated, new liveries shouldn’t take so long (probably just a day or so each).

Even before I started gathering reference material to draw this aircraft, I knew that I wanted to paint it in the Emirates livery. I like big airplanes – so it probably makes a whole lot of sense that I have developed a strong interest in this nearly all-widebody airline. I’ve never had the chance to fly with them (yet), but my bucket list includes a trip to DXB aboard an Emirates A380 in first class. I’ll do it someday, but right now there are no immediate plans for a trip like that.

As far as the livery goes, Emirates is one of my favorites. The abstract UAE flag at the rear of the plane flows beautifully from the vertical stabilizer into the fuselage, and the gold billboard titles at the front compliments the colors of the flag nicely. But just like all modern airline color shemes, there is a bit too much white for my liking. I know, I know. Paint is costly (in both labor and weight) but I think they could have done some really interesting things with the flag extending further into the fuselage than it does now.

Anyway, I’m glad to have the basic 777-200 template completed so that I can start creating some more.

blank 777-200 illustration
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Finally! I finished my latest airliner template set! I’ll tell you what, these blank templates take a long time to create, and its hard to keep the motivation to finish as I’m sorting through piles of reference material to make sure that I’m illustrating these as accurately as possible. To be honest though, this Boeing 777-200 wasn’t as bad as the DC-10 and 737-800 that I’ve already created. Since this is a relatively new (and highly popular) aircraft, there are tons of good photos and illustrations floating around that I can use to help me make these drawings.

Boeing 777-200 line drawing

Technical line drawing of a Boeing 777-200

I did have a bit of trouble with the landing gears though – so don’t blast me too hard if they don’t look totally accurate. I drew them way too large at first – and I didn’t notice it until I finished these drawings (it always happens that way). I kept looking at them thinking that something was wrong, but I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I compared them to my reference photos, and I ultimately made the realization that I had made them too big. So I spent a little bit of time fine-tuning the scale of those components, and the result is what you see here. But now I’m starting to wonder if they are still a bit too large…

I’m also quite anxious to make a template for the 777-300. Considering that I should be able to reuse a lot of what I’ve already done here with the -200 variant, I don’t expect that to take too long to do. So be on the lookout for that.

JAL boeing 737-800 drawing
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I just came back from a trip to Japan, and I had a 6 hour layover at NRT/RJAA on my way back to the US. Most people would cringe at the thought of such a long layover, but I love that kind of stuff – especially at large airports such as Narita! I passed the time taking pictures, doing some reading, and casually wandering around the airport just people watching. For an aviation geek such as myself, I was happy as could be.

One thing I did notice during my time at NRT is the increase in the number of JAL 737-800′s, at least compared to my last visit over a year ago. Anyone familiar with Japan knows that the public transportation and railway system is excellent throughout most of the country, so there has historically been less need for frequent flights between cities. That seems to be changing now, as evident by the increase of these smaller 737-sized aircaft being used by most of the major Japanese airlines. ANA has a large fleet of 737′s too.

As far as airline liveries go, the current JAL color scheme is nice. I actually prefer the old “crane” logo, but this one is modern and clean, and reflective of the quality of service they provide. But that’s just hearsay (lol) – I’ve never actually flown Japan Airlines, but chances are we will get to try them next year when we try their new 787 service out of San Diego (SAN/KSAN) which starts in just a few weeks. I’m really looking forward to finally getting a non-stop flight from San Diego to Japan.

AA 737-800 drawing
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Ok, here it is. The livery that I wanted to create the most, but was the most scared to try! Yep, the bare-metal American Airlines livery was a really difficult one to illustrate due to the fact that it’s basically a chrome tube with lots of variance in gloss and reflection. I’m not saying that I recreated it perfectly (it has it’s flaws), but I was happy to at least capture the spirit of the color scheme. It looks like shiny metal, right? I hope so.

The amazing thing to me is that this livery has been around since the 1960′s. Is there any other major airline livery that has lasted so long? It’s pretty interesting to think about, especially since airlines like Delta and United have gone through 3 different color schemes each in the past 15 years. Talk about an identity crisis!

It’ll be sad to see this American Airlines livery disappear, which will start happening next year when the 777-300 rolls out unveiling a new corporate identity. I think it’s time though – cheat-lines are oh-s0 1970′s and AA needs desperately to shed it’s old and tired image and step into a new era of quality and service. The rumors are suggesting that the bare-metal look will not be a part of the new color scheme, mainly due to the fact that many modern airliners aren’t actually skinned with aluminum anymore. It’s not so easy to polish carbon fiber to a mirror-like finish!

Anyway, I create most of my airliner illustrations in Adobe illustrator with a few minor details added in with Photoshop. I would say the ratio is normally 90% Illustrator and 10% Photoshop, but this one was a little different. The metallic look was difficult to create entirely in Illustrator, so I did the best I could with it and moved over to Photoshop to polish it up (pun intended). The ratio of this particular illustration ended up to be more like 50/50 in order to get things looking right. But as I said, it’s not totally perfect. I’ll try again as I create new aircraft such as the Boeing 777.

DL 737-800
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As a quick follow up to the KLM 737-800 illustration I just posted, here is a Delta Airlines version of it in the latest livery. Being that Delta is the airline that I fly most these days (by convenience – not necessarily preference), I thought it was only appropriate to draw it up. Especially since Delta 738′s are pretty much becoming as common as mud here in the US, and I’m finding myself on these things more and more on my travels in and out of SAN. 10 years ago the 757 was the DL workhorse out of San Diego, but now it appears that the torch is being handed off to the 737.

I started this illustration late at night, just before bedtime thinking that it would be very quick and easy to do. Wrong. To be fair, yes, it’s not that complicated. However, the wave on the belly of the aircraft that protrudes up the sides was a little bit difficult to get right – especially since I couldn’t find a decent reference photo of a true side-on profile with this livery with the gear doors open. I wasn’t exactly sure how much of the wave is visible in the front when the gear door is open, so what you see here is just my best guess. It’s stuff like this that makes these illustrations take a long time to create. And because of that, I don’t consider any of my illustrations to ever be complete. I have a list of things that I would like to fix and modify once I find proper reference material for, so it’s quite a lot of work.

One other thing I should note about this illustration is that it made me realize how much I dislike this current Delta livery. Introduced in 2007, it’s truly a step down from the “Wavy Gravy” livery it replaced. Normally this kind of stuff grows on me after time and I begin to like it, but I’m not getting any of that with this color scheme. I like the new widget logo. A lot, as a matter of fact. But the rest of the airplane is just so dull and white, void of any defining character that would make it memorable. You know what, just writing this is making me get inspired to create a fantasy livery for Delta. Now I just need to find the time to do it…