How to draw a car.

Digital automotive illustration tutorial on drawing a cutaway car.

Car cutaway illustration

Drawing a see-through car cutaway.

Part 1: Line-art construction drawing of a car and its mechanical components.

Illustration Stats - Size: 26" @ 350 dpi, 290 mb CMYK File with 22 Layers / Illustration Time: 350 hrs.

Perspective Tutorial | Drawing Hex-Head Nuts & Bolts | Drawing Toothed Gears | Ellipse Perspective

All Tutorial Text & Images - Copyright © 2011 KHI, Inc.

In this lesson we are going to create a 3-Point Perspective-view drawing of a generic car, working from plan and elevation view reference only (Fig 1 below). This type of angle is referred to as a "3/4 Perspective" or "Angular Perspective" view. For more information on perspective drawing techniques, go to: two-point perspective drawing tutorial. The general rule of thumb is to divide this view of the car into thirds, showing one third of the car from the front (or back for a rear engine car), and two thirds of the car from the (drivers) side. This illustration was done using Adobe Illustrator CS4 drawing software for the line drawing and Adobe Photoshop CS4 for the color work, both run on a Power Mac G5, using a Wacom Intuos drawing tablet.

The final color work was done in Adobe Photoshop (See the ghosting technique tutorial for more information on painting in Photoshop). The techniques used in this demonstration tutorial are applicable to any 3 dimensional perspective drawing, regardless of scale or complexity.

The first step in creating this cutaway illustration was to map out the physical space that the car would occupy (below) by constructing a perspective grid. By establishing a horizon line and vanishing points, an angle was developed that showed the maximum amount of features on the car. The first hint of the car's form is from a simple "grid box" that the car will ultimately fit into. All of the initial line art was done in vector based Adobe Illustrator.

Mapping car perspective from plan and elevation views

Using the pre-defined profile-elevation and plan-views along with a scale of measurements, the first elements of the car are roughed in. In (Fig 2 below) the first objects to be drawn are the car's wheels. The wheel and tire line-art will be saved on a separate layer. For more information on perspective ellipse construction techniques, go to: Ellipse Perspective Drawing Tutorial.

Drawing wheels and tires

The next step was to lay out the car's body contours within the grid (Fig 3 below). Each intersecting point on the car's elevation and cross section views are mapped out within the perspective grid. Curved body contours will require at least three intersecting points (beginning, middle, and end points) to plot out their shape. As more intersecting points are located the body begins to take shape.

Drawing car body exterior

With the car's body complete (Fig 4 below), the next phase will be to rough in the car's chassis, suspension, and interior. The body line-art will be saved on its own separate layer. The chassis layer will be separated into several sub-layers. The layering of individual sub-systems will allow greater control over the final Painting and Ghosting effects.

Finished car body

For the suspension rough-in we will be using the overhead chassis layout, along with the front and profile elevation chassis layouts (A, B, & C Fig 5, 6 & 7 below), we will begin to rough-in the car's suspension and chassis. Remember to always extend the vanishing points to the horizontal reference points on the vertical station point line (green vertical line in Fig 7). These "horizontal reference points" are extended from the profile (C) and front elevation (B) views to the right in Fig 5.

Car chassis rough-in

The location of the green vertical line along the front face of the grid box will be determined by using the suspension's lateral axis point center-line in the overhead diagram (blue line in Fig 6). For more information on how this is accomplished, go to the 2-point perspective tutorial page.

Drawing lateral axis of car

As we project reference lines from the overhead and profile we will begin to locate vector points where these projection lines intersect (Fig 7 green dots, below). In the sample below, these vector points have located the top of the shock tower (A), the centerline of the suspension upper a-arm (B), and the bottom of the shock tower (C).

Suspension rough-in

Once the suspension rough-in is complete, the minor details (see next section - Engine Rough-In) will be constructed using the overhead, profile and front views (Fig 8 below).

Drawing car suspension

For the engine rough-in we will again we will use the overhead chassis layout, along with the front and profile elevation chassis layouts (Fig 9 below), to rough-in the car's engine. We will use the same procedure as in the above suspension layout samples. One valve and valve spring assembly (see magenta valve assembly in Fig 10) will be created in a 90 degree vertical position and rotated into the proper angle once it is completed. It can then be duplicated and re-sized along the lateral perspective lines as needed.

Car perspective lines

To construct the engine layout in perspective we will create a lateral cross-section of the engine and distort it into the perspective grid (Fig 10 below) using the Free Transform Tool. This cross-section will be our template for projecting lines toward the back of the car (right vanishing point).

Drawing engine cylinders

As we project lines rearward (dragging them from the right vanishing point) we will begin to construct a three-dimensional view of the cylinder block (Fig 11 below). This first step will act as a reference point for the overall depth of the engine. Every other engine detail will be based on this first step.

Engine perspective rough-in with belts and pulleys

Once the rough-in is complete it will be time to add detail. Much of the detail work will require repetitive tasks such as creating multiple nuts, bolts, springs, and hoses at the same angle. In most cases, we will only construct one object (bolt, spring, etc.) and use both the Command and Option keys (cursor becomes double arrow) to "Copy and Paste" a duplicate of the object.

At this stage we will jump to several sub-tutorials which will address each of these detail types separately. As shown in Fig 12 below, we will jump to the Drawing Hex-Head Nuts & Bolts in Vector tutorial to complete all of the bolts on the engine.

Engine Fan Belts, Pulleys & Alternator

As shown in Fig 13 below, we will jump to the Drawing a Toothed Gear in Vector tutorial to learn how to construct a perspective view of a gear from flat (no perspective) reference material.

Engine Detail of Timing Belt Gear

As shown in Fig 14 below, we will jump to the Drawing a Spring in Vector tutorial to learn how to construct a perspective view of a spring.

Engine Detail of Valve Springs

As shown in Fig 15 below, we will jump to the Drawing Hoses and Wires in Vector tutorial to learn how to easily created wires and hoses.

Engine Detail of Hoses and Wires

Conclusion: Although many intermediate steps have been omitted in this tutorial, nothing of any significance was left out. By following each of the steps in this tutorial, every part of the car can be constructed from flat plan-view reference material. This process is extremely labor intensive and time consuming but if you are working for this type of reference material there is no alternative. An illustration of this complexity could take several hundred hours to complete using this technique, so a great deal of patience will be required. For a complete selection of my automotive work please visit this car illustration portfolio.

Note: The following hardware and software was used in this tutorial: An Apple Mac Pro desktop computer, a Wacom Intuos 6x8 drawing tablet, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop CS-CS5 drawing software and a properly calibrated monitor.

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