All posts tagged: airliner art
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…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Technical line drawing

Technical line drawing

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

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

737-800 scimitar winglets

All white version with split scimitar winglets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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