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

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

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

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

blank white 757-200 illustration
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These side view Boeing 757-200 templates have been on my to-do list forever, and I just couldn’t put them off any longer due to a personal side project of mine that required some illustrations of this aircraft. I’m really glad to have these done and out of the way! Well, sort of. You see, just like the Airbus A319/A320/A321, there are actually quite a few versions of the 757-200. There were two engine types (Pratt and Whitney and Rolls Royce) offered during it’s production run, with two different wingtips (with and without winglets). I only illustrated the Pratt and Whitney engined version for now, but I did create both versions of the wing. So I still have some work ahead of me…

I’ll attach the versions with the Rolls Royce engines to this post as soon as I complete them, but for now, here are some all white renderings and wireframe line drawings of the 757-200 with Pratt and Whitney engines – with and without winglets.

Here is the line drawing version of the aircraft at the top of this post (with winglets):

757-200 line art with winglets

Technical line drawing of a Boeing 757-200 with winglets

And here is the fully rendered blank white version and associated line drawing for the non-winglet version.

white 757 template

All white Boeing 757-200 template (without winglets)

757-200 line drawing without winglets

Technical line drawing of a Boeing 757-200 (without winglets)

The 757-200 is a good looking aircraft, isn’t it? The equivalent airliners of today (the Boeing 737-900 and Airbus A321) just don’t look as sleek and graceful as this thing does, so it’s going to be a major bummer when they retire these things for good. But now that I have these templates, I plan on creating many variations of it with some of the best airline liveries from all over the world.

spirit airlines silver and gray pixel livery
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Spirit Airlines is one of those obscure air carriers that I’ve never really given much thought to in the past. They’ve always just sort of been there, distant and uninteresting, mostly flying to places I never travel to. But all of that has been changing over the past few years – they are quickly turing into a major low-fare airline, and I’m starting to hear more and more people talk about them wherever I go. Usually that talk isn’t so good (they are probably the stingiest airline in the US right now), but it’s been interesting to watch them grow from nothing into the near-beheamoth they are today.

All that growth has meant that they’ve had to experiment with a lot of different things over the years, playing with different business models and fine-tuning their product. That continuous fine-tuning has resulted in three different liveries over the past decade – all of them quite different from one another, reflecting a “low fare” look with a twinge of serious professionalism. Sort of. Let me explain…

The silver and black “pixel” livery at the top of this post is my favorite of their last three liveries. It’s cool, high-tech, and very unique. It doesn’t really convey the “low fare” message very well, and I’d go as far as to say it does the exact opposite. It looks very high end! That’s probably why it didn’t last so long.

The next livery (below) was unveiled just a few short years later, and to me, it was a huge step down in terms of style and design. I’m not really sure, but the bright blue and and neon accent colors just scream “cheap vacation packages to Cancun”. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I really cringed when I first saw it. I couldn’t believe they killed the pixel livery!

Spirit Airlines blue and white livery

Spirit Airlines blue and white livery

And finally, Spirit just went through another major rebranding effort last fall. The livery they came up with was…well…um…bold. Have a look for yourself:

Spirit Airlines yellow livery

Spirit Airlines yellow livery

I have to give them credit though. If they are looking for attention, they are certainly going to get it with these bright yellow banana planes flying around. How could you not notice something this flashy over all the other airlines that are mostly white with a few splashes of color here and there? Knowing how risky they’ve been with their marketing campaigns in the past, I’m pretty confident in saying that I’m sure that’s their goal. They’ve succeeded admirably in gaining my attention.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun to illustrate these three Spirit Airlines liveries on the A319. I was dreading the silver and black pixel livery the most, as I wasn’t sure I would be able to replicate it with any sort of realism. But it wasn’t that bad – and as a matter of fact it just reaffirmed itself as my favorite Spirit Airlines color scheme of the past 10 years. The yellow version was the most difficult of the three – yellow is always a difficult color to render because it’s way too easy to make the shadows look muddy (“poopy” is another way to describe it). On top of that, there isn’t always enough contrast to be able to show gloss and reflections accurately. I gave it my best shot though, and I hope you enjoy.

AA new colors 737-800
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It’s been almost two years since this new American Airlines livery was unveiled, and I’ve got to say that it’s growing on me quite a bit. These colors look absolutely fantastic in bright sunshine (even better than the old polished livery did), and the silver paint they chose for the main section of the fuselage has a perfect balance of bling and class. I know that there are many out there who don’t feel the same way about this new look, but I’m liking it more and more each time I see it out in the wild.

As much as I like it this color scheme, it’s certainly not an easy one to illustrate. I’ve been wanting to do a 737-800 illustration like this for two years now, but I’ve held off out of sheer laziness (and a huge lack of desire) to get that tail section looking right. I’d go as far as to say that the Hawaiian Airlines tail colors were easier to do, which is saying a lot because that one was quite a hair-puller as well. But I tried to be smart about it this time – knowing that I’ll likely be creating a lot more AA aircraft illustrations in the future, I decided to go ahead and make a template of those tail colors that I can apply to any other type of aircraft. I have no excuse for not doing any more illustrations of other aircraft in this livery now!

There’s just one part of this livery that I don’t care for, and that’s the official American Airlines logo slapped on the forward section of the fuselage. Similar to the way UPS applied (slapped?) their logo to the vertical stabilizers of their airplanes, this looks like such an afterthought. If you recall, I ranted about this in my post about the AA 777-200 illustration – why did they not incorporate this logo into the design of the livery? Sure, the colors are the same, but that’s where the similarities end – it’s a 3d logo applied to a relatively flat 2d livery. I don’t get it.

Hawaiian 767 with winglets
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Back in March of this year, I posted the illustration I created of my favorite airline/aircraft combo of all time: the Hawaiian Airlines A330-200. It was a horribly complex livery to recreate (and it wasn’t perfect), but I had a lot of fun with it and I enjoyed the challenge. As a matter of fact, I was so excited about completing it that I made plans to create side profile illustrations of the entire Hawaiian fleet! But you know how things go – life can get busy without warning, which means having less time for fun personal side projects such as this. Yeah, things have been busy between now and then, and I’m just now getting back to working on cranking out illustrations of the rest of that Hawaiian Airlines fleet.

You know that I’ve already done the A330 and the DC-10 (which was one of my first-ever pieces of airliner art), so the next one I decided to focus on was the 767. These Hawaiian 767-300’s are quickly being phased out of the fleet and being replaced by the A330’s (and coming A321’s), which is kind of weird to me considering I remember when the 767’s started replacing the DC-10’s. Has it really been that long? Crazy how time flies.

Just like the problems I had with the A330 version of this livery, this 767 was no different. The tail art is nearly identical, but there are some slight differences in the lower section of the fuselage – I’m not really sure why the designers chose to make this livery different between these two aircraft, as I applied the same one to both (just to see what would happen) and I didn’t encounter any issues. But being a designer myself, I know all about unforeseen problems and thus the necessary design inconsistencies between products that don’t really make much sense to everyone else. There’s a reason for everything!

And just like UPS (United Parcel Service), Hawaiian maintains several variants of the 767 in their fleet. Some of these have those beautiful winglets installed (as shown in the illustration at the top of this post), while others do not. Here is an example of this same aircraft (N582HA) without the winglets:

hawaiian 767-300 without winglets

N582HA without winglets

It won’t be long before these 767-300’s are gone for good, so fly them while you can!

UPS 767-300F drawing
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One of my favorite US airline liveries at the moment has to be the iconic brown and gold scheme of UPS (United Parcel Service). The way the brown and gold intersect the white section of the forward fuselage is quite elegant, and much more interesting than it could have been if they took the easy way out and just painted the tail brown.

I like airline liveries that utilize the entire aircraft, and this one does a fine job of using color and shape to lead the eye gracefully from the forward titles all the way back to the rear of the airplane. And heck – the use of brown as a primary color shouldn’t go without mention, because, well, how many other airlines do you know of that use dark brown as boldly as this? I like it!

If I could criticize one thing, it would have to be the UPS logo itself. While it is quite nice on it’s own, it does look rather “stuck on” as opposed to being seamlessly integrated into the rest of the livery. It’s the 3d effect that is throwing me off a bit – there aren’t any other graphic elements in this livery that are as graphically rich as that 3d logo, and I think it would have been ok to remove that dimensionality and leave it flat instead. This way, it would appear to be cut out of the vertical stabilizer as opposed to being just slapped onto the side.

This particular 767-300 is aircraft N360UP – a 34AF/ER variant which features winglets (for better fuel efficiency). Not all UPS 767’s have these installed, so I’ve also created another version of the same illustration without them:

UPS 767-300F without winglets

United Parcel Service (UPS) Boeing 767-34AF/ER without winglets

I am of the opinion that these winglets make the 767 (and pretty much every other aircraft they’ve been installed on) look much more graceful and elegant – so it’s becoming difficult for me to create illustrations without them. Amazing how a simple change can make such a big difference!

On a side note, doing this artwork has reminded me that I need to stop slacking and send a few holiday packages off to the family…via UPS of course!

the final northwest airlines livery
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Northwest Airlines was never known for being one of the world’s best, but they did have a rather respectable route network by the time they were absorbed into Delta Airlines in 2010. As a matter of fact, they were the world’s sixth largest airline prior to that merger – and the top US carrier in for international passenger traffic and domestic cargo operations. I’ve personally logged tens of thousands of miles with them to points all over the world, and it was kind of a bummer to see them disappear from the skies for good.

As a visual designer, one of the things I liked best about Northwest was their bold brand identity with the signature red tails. It was certainly the brightest color choice among the US majors, which made it easy to spot and identify Northwest aircraft at any busy airport. I also liked their final logo – which consisted of a simple ring with an arrow pointing to the Northwest. Simple. Clean. Good.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to create some illustrations of the last three Northwest Liveries on the 747-400 – the aircraft that defines NW to me. First up is the illustration at the top of this post. This was their last livery, and to me, the best looking of them all. The only thing that might have made it look better would have been to have a polished aluminum fuselage instead of painted silver. I get why they did that (many aircraft these days are made of composites, not metal), but it really could have been stunning with a bit of polish and shine.

And here is the second to last color scheme – also known as the “bowling shoe” livery. This one is especially nostalgic for me, as it was the very first livery illustration I ever created when I started out with my side-profile DC-10’s.

northwest airlines 747 bowling shoe colors

A side profile illustration of a Northwest Airlines 747-451 in the bowling shoe livery over a blank background with and without the landing gear deployed

Finally, here are the launch colors for the Northwest 747-400. There were only a few of these painted in this livery, since the “bowling shoe” was unveiled shortly after NW introduced the -400 series into the fleet.

debut nw 747-400 color scheme

A side profile illustration of a Northwest Airlines 747-451 in original bare metal livery over a blank background with and without the landing gear deployed

Which one do you like the best?

USAIr 767 side profile
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As I mentioned in my recent post about the Piedmont 767-200 illustration, I couldn’t help but to do this polished aluminum USAir version at the same time. It’s certainly not a very exciting airline and aircraft combination, but I was feeling somewhat of a nostalgic vibe at the time and I jumped at the opportunity to create another classic livery for my archives. And it just so happens to be that it was USAir that bought out Piedmont in 1989 (and American Airlines bought out USAir/USAirways last year), so now I’ve got the complete set of 767-200 illustrations from this series of related mergers.

As far as airline liveries go, there isn’t much to this classic scheme. Created by SBG Partners and unveiled in 1989 (right after the Piedmont merger), it’s got all the lines, colors, and simplicity of something dreamed up in the heart of the 1980s. I was able to apply it to my polished aluminum 767-200 template fairly quickly, and as matter of fact, this may have been the easiest livery recreation that I’ve ever done! This kind of simplicity is very much appreciated after spending so much time on some of the others in my collection. It all balances out in the end, I guess.

Unfortunately, I don’t have very fond memories of USAir. They suffered a series of unfortunate (and careless) mishaps back in the 1990s that were pretty scary to read about, and to make matters worse, this was the preferred airline for the company that I worked for starting in 1996. I didn’t mind the business travel associated with that job, but having to fly USAir really deflated my sense of adventure and excitement for each trip. Thankfully I survived!

cathay pacific 747-400 side view
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There are very few airline liveries out there that I like more than Cathay Pacific. Arguably one of the finest airlines in the sky, their corporate branding is subtle and classy in a way that makes me compare everyone else in the industry to them – and I’m cringing at the thought of it ever changing. It’s difficult to put my finger on exactly what it is that makes me like it so much, but you know that I’m a fan of muted colors, and the Cathay Pacific palette has been designed exactly the way I would have done it myself. Clean, classy, and professional without being over the top.

Although they operate a huge fleet of different aircraft types, I decided to do my first illustration of this livery on an airplane that is no longer part of their fleet: the 747-400. This is the aircraft I think of whenever I think of Cathay Pacific, which (for years) was the backbone of their global operations. If you have flown Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong at any time in the past 20 years, there’s a pretty good chance you got a ride on a 747-400.

As far as creating the livery goes, this one was pretty straightforward and easy to replicate. The “wing” logo on the vertical stabilizer gave me some heartburn for a bit as I tried to get it properly proportioned and positioned, but otherwise, there weren’t any major issues. I wish it was always that easy, because some of these livery illustrations are far more complicated than I care to admit!

United Airlines 737-900 "One Hundred"
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It’s hard to believe the that the Boeing 737 is over 40 years old and it is still one of the best-selling commercial aircraft available at the moment. Of course the 737 of today is vastly superior to the 737 from 1969, but still – the fact that Boeing has managed to get so many years out of a single airframe is downright amazing. There aren’t many other products in this world that have had that much staying power.

And that leads me to this illustration of a United Airlines version of the -900 series – the newest (and largest) 737 from Boeing. I’ve already told you my thoughts on the current United livery, but I’ll say it again: they really need to separate from these colors to help project themselves as a new and different company. Taking the old Continental livery, removing the titles, and then slapping “United” on the forward part of the fuselage was an ok “temporary” solution after the two airlines merged, but they’ve really got to get past that and create a new brand from scratch.

There have been a lot of new re-branding efforts in the airline industry recently (the new American Airlines livery looks great), so it probably wouldn’t hurt them to take a chance and do something different. But I’ll just leave it at that.

This particular illustration depicts a very special aircraft in the UA fleet. It’s the “One Hundred” airframe, meaning that it’s dedicated to 100 exceptional employees (as voted by their peers) who go above and beyond. The markings for this are subtle, with a small decal next to the main titles on the fuselage, as well as a plaque mounted inside that is visible upon boarding.