All posts in: Airliner Art
alaska Airlines Boeing 737-990/ER in the 2015 updated livery

It was about two months ago that I flew from San Diego to Orlando on Alaska Airlines to visit family, and I was very much looking forward to it because of how much I always enjoy flying with them (oh yeah, and seeing family is always nice too). I’ve never once had a bad experience on Alaska Airlines (knock on wood), so I was expecting nice things as I strolled into the airport that morning to check in for the flight.

Not only was I looking forward to the flight, I was very much looking forward to seeing what livery that plane to MCO would be wearing. Alaska Airlines unveiled an all-new livery and visual brand back in 2016, and somehow I’ve managed to avoid every single one of their airplanes that wear it so far. Considering that the majority of Alaska Airlines airplanes that I see nowadays are wearing that new livery, I figured my chances were pretty good as I walked up to the window to check her out.

Unfortunately, what I saw led me to assume that the plane that would be taking me to Orlando that morning was wearing the old livery (created way back in the mid-1990s), and you could almost hear the excitement and enthusiasm escape out of me with a high pressure “pssssshhhh!” as my face went blank. Yup, I was that disappointed.

Alaska Airlines 737-990/ER in the 2015 updated livery

Alaska Airlines 737-990/ER in the 2015 updated livery over a white background

Buy full size airliner illustration

Fast forward to last weekend, when I sat down to create the illustrations of this aircraft for the trip report for this segment over on my travel blog. I create highly detailed side-view renderings of all the aircraft that I fly on (weird, eh?), and I figured it was going to be really easy since I already created an illustration of the old Alaska Airlines livery on the 737-900 several years ago (and this 737-800 as well), and all that I would have to do is just update the registration number. Oh how wrong I was.

It turns out that this particular airplane wasn’t wearing the old livery at all (which I learned was actually nicknamed the “icicles” livery for obvious reasons). It was actually sporting the “updated” design that was unveiled in February 2015, which upon first glance, looks exactly the same as the old one. But it’s not until you look at a direct comparison of the two that you start to notice some differences:

alaska airlines livery comparison

Side by side comparison of the mid 1990’s Alaska Airlines “icicle” livery and the 2015 “updated” version

The biggest feature of this update was the modernization of the Alaska Airlines typeface – to put it in the simplest terms possible, they smoothed out the font to look more modern and a lot less like icicles. They also replaced the black accent colors with dark blue, which to be quite honest, is difficult to even notice unless you’re looking at the airplane under direct sunlight. It’s so dark as a matter of fact, that it still looks black under overcast conditions and I never would’ve even known this if I hadn’t found a slightly over exposed picture on the Internet of an airplane wearing this update. Who says over exposed pics are worthless?

Additional modifications included the removal of the green outline around the portrait of the Eskimo (Chester) on the vertical stabilizer, as well as an intricate (and swoopy) version of the dark blue and green stripe on the winglets.

I am happy to report that the airplane for the return flight home to San Diego was sporting that fancy new livery that had eluded me for so long. I’m going to be creating that illustration sometime within the next two days, and I’ll post it here to the blog next week.

American Airlines 757-200 side view

I’m not sure how many of you have been paying attention recently, but I’ve been doing a lot of organization and clean up to this blog over the past several months. Most of it involves removing old irrelevant content that has nothing to do with my core brand anymore (which happens to be aircraft illustrations and 3d rendering), so if you came here looking for generic low res background images and abstract vector illustrations, I’m sorry to tell you that they’ve been eliminated from the site and they’re never coming back!

Part of the organization and cleanup process involves redoing some of my old airliner art which isn’t quite up to my current standards of quality. Yeah, it’s hard for me to go back and look at some of my earlier work and see how sloppy and inexperienced I was when I first started. But that’s just it. I was inexperienced and therefore unable to produce quality of work that I do now. That doesn’t stop me from cringing every time I look at some of those older illustrations though, so I’ve been slowly redoing some of them one by one (such as this Emirates 777-200) if only to satisfy the annoying levels of perfectionism that I have sloshing around inside of me. It’s a ton of work, and I know my time is better spent creating new aircraft templates and livery illustrations. And that brings me to the purpose of this post…

It’s been exactly two years since I last posted an airline livery illustration, and as much fun as I had illustrating that Southwest airlines E190 concept, busy life got in the way and I haven’t posted any others since. I have been creating a lot of these highly polished airline illustrations over the past few years for my travel blog, but I just haven’t had the time to post them here to Norebbo.com. The good news is that all changes starting today. From this point forward, you were going to see a lot more of these type of illustrations posted here, just like I used to do several years ago. No more slacking!

So to kick things off, here is an illustration of one of my all-time favorite aircraft: the American Airlines 757–200, wearing the newest livery which was created by Future Brands several years ago. Those of you who have been following me for a while will know that this is not the first American Airlines livery that I have illustrated. This 737–800 in the old color scheme is one of my all-time favorites, and it just happens to be one of the illustrations that I completely revamped over the past several weeks. The first version of this one was not pretty, and trust me – you’re better off not knowing what that original version looked like.

American Airlines 757-200 side profile

American Airlines Boeing 757-2B7 over a white background

Buy full size airliner illustration

There hasn’t been much love for this new version of the American Airlines brand in the airline and aviation community, but I’m going to go on record saying that I consider it to be one of the most brilliant airline livery designs ever created. Yes, really! I still think it would’ve looked better with polished aluminum instead of silver paint, but the way most aircraft are constructed now with composite materials, it’s just not going to happen. Normally I’m a fan of the progression of technology, but in this case it’s just downright unfortunate that we’ve reached a point where polished aluminum airplanes are all but dead. Total bummer.

Hope you like this illustration. There is lots more to come, and yes, don’t worry – that includes a bunch of new aircraft templates!

Southwest Airlines E190 drawing

Have you heard the news? Well, it’s just a rumor at this point but there is speculation floating around the airline industry right now that Southwest Airlines is considering adding the Embraer 190 to it’s fleet. That’s pretty big news considering how they’ve been a Boeing 737 carrier since they launched back in the 1970’s. They did lease a few 727’s from Braniff for a few years, but other than that, Southwest has never operated another aircraft type.

I couldn’t resist creating an illustration of the E190 in the Southwest livery as soon as I heard this news. Of course this is the outgoing (old) livery, but since it’s a conceptual rendering anyway, I thought I’d do this one first since it’s my favorite of them all. I like the way this design flows nicely from the front of the aircraft to the rear, and it really grew on me over time. I didn’t care so much for the bold blue and red combination (with bright yellow and orange highlights) when it was first unveiled, but after seeing this design for so many years it almost became “normal” for me. It was definitely better than the original “mustard rocket” colors though – that livery was the worst of them all. But I will admit that now that some time has passed, it does have a sort of cool retro vibe to it that was lacking in the 1990’s. Back then, it was just downright ugly.

southwest e190 side view

Side profile illustration of a Southwest Airlines Embraer 190 regional jet over a white background with and without the landing gear deployed

Buy full size airliner illustration

Anyway, I believe the Embraer 190 will be a good fit for Southwest. It’s a smaller aircraft than the 737, and the lower seating capacity will allow them to enter (and augment) smaller markets that wouldn’t support the larger aircraft. Southwest has always been pretty good about serving the smaller and secondary markets that the larger legacy airlines choose to pass over, and having the ability to dig deeper into untapped (and profitable) routes is going to be necessary going forward. The E190 is a fine choice, and I also believe that the CS100 would be a viable option as well. But then again I’m not an airline executive, so what do I know?

Hope you like this quick conceptual rendering. It was fun to put together really quickly just for fun, but if Southwest does announce an order for E190’s you can be sure I’ll do another version in the latest livery. I may even do some special liveries too if I can ever find the time.

AeroMexico 787-8 side view rendering

There hasn’t been much time for aircraft illustrations in my busy life over the past 6 weeks or so, but I have been tinkering here and there with some AeroMexico renderings for my travel blog whenever I could find spare time. I’m also trying to get Airbus A340 templates created, but those kind of technical drawings take a lot longer to do compared to these livery illustrations. And I fully admit that the livery illustrations are a million times more fun than the templates are – playing with graphics and color will always be much more interesting than drawing part lines on fuselages!

AeroMexico used to have a pretty cool livery. It was polished aluminum (just like the old American Airlines livery), and it looked downright awesome in bright sunlight. It probably pissed off other pilots every now and then due to how reflective that color scheme was, but it was a real looker for sure. But then the aircraft manufactures started building airplanes with non-metallic composite skin materials, which meant that all those beautiful polished-aluminum liveries of old had do go. You can’t polish carbon fiber, so the best the airlines could do was to start painting airplanes white. American Airlines is using silver paint instead of white at the moment, but to be honest, it looks like dull gray unless you see it in bright sunlight.

aeromexico 787 side view white background

Side profile illustration of an AeroMexico Boeing 787-8 over a blank white background with and without the landing gear deployed

Buy full size airliner illustration

The new livery that AeroMexico came up with is represented here on both the 787-8 and 737-700. I will give them credit for being creative with the curved two-tone blue tail section that blends into the white fuselage, but it seems as if they ran out of ideas (or budget) with that random red “stripe” on the forward section of the aircraft. That splash of color is nice – I think the red goes very nicely with the white and blue, but it simply doesn’t integrate with any other design element in a meaningful way. My experience as a designer tells me that it was likely added at the last minute by a non-designer executive who thought that “a little splash of red would be nice” even though there wasn’t enough money in the budget to add more paint to the airplanes. I can’t imagine that any designer, who after designing such a good looking tail section, thought that slapping that random swoopy red stripe to the forward section was a good idea.

AeroMexico 737-700 side view white background

Side profile illustration of an AeroMexico Boeing 737-752 over a blank background with and without the landing gear deployed

On a final note, I didn’t realize it until I made these illustrations that the engine covers are not painted blue on the 787. I assumed the liveries were the same across all AeroMexico aircraft, but I actually think I like the white engines better since it puts more emphasis on the tail section (and that ever important logo).

American Airlines A321 side view rendering

These American Airlines renderings are getting to be fun. I complained a lot in my post about the American Eagle ERJ-175 last week, but I’m really liking the way that these colors can make boring aircraft such as this A321 look halfway decent. Part of me still thinks that their official logo (as seen on the forward part of the fuselage) doesn’t mix well with the tail art, but it’s not enough of an annoyance to keep me up at night. Hey – I tend to dwell on the details sometimes!

If I can ever find the time I’m going to to create a full design exploration of the American Airlines brand (just for kicks). It’s so close to being perfect IMHO, but the logo / tail art issue I mentioned above could stand a bit of tweaking. Perhaps the logo can replace the flag art on the tail? Or what if the logo and flag art are combined somehow to create one cohesive mark? Maybe the current logo needs to be eliminated altogether and replaced with one that is more symbolic of the American flag? These are just simple questions, but coming up with a solution would not be easy given the history of this brand (and company as a whole). I have huge respect for the design teams responsible for refreshing well-established brands such as this and I fully admit that it’s not something I’d like to spend the majority of my time working on. Design is a naturally subjective thing, and it only gets more complicated when there are historical and political factors at play. None of this will stop me from creating my own design concepts however – I’d only do it for fun so at least I won’t have to stress out about making the corporate office in Dallas happy.

As far as the background for this illustration is concerned, I thought that a shiny silver texture with a subtle “American Airlines” graphic would do well to accentuate the silver and bold tail colors of this aircraft. You’ll recall that I did something very similar with my American Airlines 767-200 rendering a while back, and the only reason I did it then was because I was trying to create a background texture that mimicked the polished aluminum of the fuselage. AA has since moved on from that livery (unfortunately), but silver remains a dominant color of their brand so I didn’t think it was too far out of place to do a silver background again. I actually like it a lot better than the dark blue I used in that ERJ-175 illustration.

That logo is still bothering me though…

American Eagle Embraer 175 illustration

It’s been just over a year since I last illustrated an aircraft with the new American Airlines livery, and the main reason for not attempting any more is because of how complex the tail art is. This is definitely not an easy color scheme to replicate – and to make matters worse, it’s just a little bit different on each aircraft it’s applied to. Yep, that means that I can only reuse little of versions I’ve already created so creating it from scratch every time is an unfortunate reality! I really shouldn’t fuss and complain about it though, because I know there was a designer or two tasked with figuring out how to apply these colors to aircraft of all shapes and sizes and that couldn’t have been easy at all. I’m only replicating what they labored over for so long, so I have to give huge props to the American Airlines marketing and design team for figuring out what was surely a decently hairy design problem.

The sense of satisfaction I feel when finishing applying this livery to one of my airliner templates is huge – I’ve mentioned before that this is one of my favorite airline liveries in existence today, and I love the way it comes alive when I apply the finishing highlights and gloss to the rendering. The metallic silver fuselage looks great rendered over a dark background, creating the kind of contrast I like so much. In other words, I’m a huge fan of bling (whether I like to admit it or not). This little ERJ-175 looks great in these colors!

If you’re curious, the partial logo in the background was a “happy accident”. My original thought was to place a transparent American Airlines logo into the center of the illustration somehow, using slight gradients and shadow to give it some depth. I ended up importing the logo into my PSD file, moved it around a bit, and quickly noticed how the top portion of the logo matched the angle of the vertical stabilizers of the aircraft. That looked pretty cool – so I left it alone and called it done. Simple is better sometimes, right?

Just so you know, I’ve got one more illustration of an American Airlines aircraft coming up soon. I’m putting the finishing touches on it now, and if you ask me I think it turned out better than this one. I did something a little bit different with the background color and texture for that one – something I thought was too bold at first but then it grew on me the more that I looked at it. So stay tuned for it – I expect to post it here just after the start of the new year. Happy Holidays!

Custom airline livery by Norebbo.com

Airline livery design isn’t something that I do very often, though I will admit it is something I’m really interested in and I want to do more of if I can ever find the time. There’s just so much that goes into creating a great livery, and getting it to “fit” and flow correctly on an aircraft is a lot more challenging than it sounds. Especially when it comes to applying the same design to different airplane types. What works on one airplane doesn’t always work on another, and I enjoy the challenge of creating one cohesive design that can work in a variety of different configurations.

Most of you probably don’t know this, but my primary clients have me doing mobile app design 99% of the time, and this “airplane stuff” is just considered a creative hobby for me. Any chance I get to do custom livery design is considered a treat, and if my schedule allows it, I’ll usually jump all over these kinds of projects as fast as I can. Late last week the stars aligned and I found myself with a small hole in my schedule and a new client who needed a few quick illustrations to promote a mobile app he was working on.

This particular client already had logos for me to use, so it was just a matter of applying them (in a creative way) to my Boeing 787-8 template. I wasn’t given much guidance other than keeping the logos large, clear, and easy to read, which was really important since these illustrations would be used as marketing material for promoting the app.

I immediately thought to use the shield logo as the basis of the livery, somehow leveraging the shapes and forms that made up the shield into something more abstract that would flow seamlessly horizontally from nose to tail. I needed to keep the design relatively simple though – after all, the client’s logos needed to be the primary focus and a busy livery would only get in the way.

Here are a few more variations:

boeing 787 custom livery design

Variation 2: Directly intersecting the logo on the tail

custom 787-8 livery design

Variation 3: Using simple arcs (mimicking the shield logo) to split the fuselage

custom 787-8 livery design

Variation 4: Alternating yellow and blue sweeps of color

If it weren’t so important to keep the Engio brand name as noticeable as possible, I definitely would have used color on the engines. I tried a couple variations with swoops of blue and yellow on the engine covers, and it looked pretty cool – but unfortunately, I thought it was a bit too distracting and it wasn’t the right thing to do to meet the objectives of this design. But that’s the way it goes sometimes. Compromises are just part of the design process.

allegiant air a319 over blue background

I’ve always considered Allegiant Air to be one of those airlines that I’d only fly if was really desperate and there were no other options available. After all, they have never been known to be anything but a budget air carrier here in the US and quite frankly, I’m at the point in my life where I don’t mind spending a few extra dollars for a better experience on another airline. But how bad can Allegiant really be? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot over the past few years, so about a month ago I made a conscious decision to choose Allegiant over a plethora of other choices for a quick trip I needed to make to the Pacific Northwest. And you know what? It wasn’t an entirely bad experience! For the price I paid, I was pleasantly satisfied and I wouldn’t hesitate to fly with them again.

Despite being notorious for penny-pinching and cutting corners, Allegiant is making great strides to improve it’s in-flight experience with the addition of A319 and A320 aircraft to replace it’s aging fleet of MD-80’s. The MD-80’s were the backbone of the G4 fleet since the beginning, so it is a bit weird to see this livery on any other type of aircraft – even though the transition has been going on for several years now.

Speaking of the livery, it’s not that bad IMHO. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it as classy as something like what LAN or Hawaiian is doing these days, but I think it fits their brand ideology perfectly. Remember – this is a Ultra Low Cost Carrier (ULCC), so it’s understandable that the livery leans more towards the flashy side of the spectrum as opposed to being more reserved and sophisticated. The purpose of this livery is to grab attention! Bright colors, high contrast, and a splash of marketing messaging help to convey the “budget” message loud and proud.

I need to point out, however, that blue and orange is my absolute favorite color combination. I’m of the opinion that it’s hard to make anything look bad in blue and orange, so it makes me wonder if I’d have a different opinion of this livery if it were anything else. I don’t particularly care for the generic typeface they used in the logo, and the sun illustration looks a bit like clipart, but the colors make up for those shortcomings in a big way.

side view eastern airlines l-1011 tristar

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

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!