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How to Create a Side View Concept Car

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In this tutorial, I will be taking you through the steps to create a rendering of a car. It will take you from initial sketch to this stylized polished off piece suitable for a presentation. The time taken to complete such a rendering depends on the complexity and the level of detail on the car. This particular one took me about an hour. So grab a cup of coffee and let's get started!

Final Image Preview

Take a look at the image we'll be creating. 

Tutorial Details

  • Program: Photoshop CS4
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Estimated Completion Time: 1-2 hours

Step 1

For this tutorial I will be rendering the side of a vehicle. This is just a random sketch of mine that I chose. Notice the wheels are vastly exaggerated perhaps a little too much, but for the purpose of this tutorial it works fine.

There are countless different ways to render a vehicle and the purpose of the rendering should determine the style of the rendering. If you are in the initial stages of a project, you can be very loose with your rendering and only spend about ten minutes on it. If you are further along in the project the rendering will be tighter to demonstrate a truer illustration of what the real vehicle might look like. This tutorial demonstrates how I would tackle the latter. The style is my style and should be used as a guide and catalyst to developing your own style.

Scan your image and open it up in Photoshop. The quality of the sketch is not important in this case because the whole thing will be redrawn in Photoshop and any mistakes will be corrected (for example, one of the wheels might be smaller than the other).

Select Alt + Command + I and change the document size width to 210mm and the DPI to 300. This means that if the resulting image is printed at full size on an A4 sheet of paper the quality will be good, even if it were to be printed at A3 it would still look good.

By default the sketch will be on a layer called "Background" and the layer will be locked. To unlock it, right-click on it and select Layer from Background ... a New Layer dialog box will appear, click OK and the layer will change to "Layer 0." Now click "Layer 0" once so that it is selected, then double-click it and change its name to "sketch." Next click the little padlock above it to lock the layer.

Go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer, then rename it "bg." You can now drag and drop layers to reorder them. Place the "bg" layer below the "sketch" layer. These two layers will remain at the bottom of the layers tab.

Step 2

This is the most laborious of the process. Using the Pen Tool (P) trace over your sketched lines. Use as few points as possible to keep the sketch flowing, light and clean. As an example, the top curve uses only two points, the first one and the end.

Step 3

Go to the Brush Tool, select a Hard Round 1px brush and make sure the color is set to black. The Opacity and Flow should be set to 100%, which is the default.

Create a new layer (Shift + Command + N) and call it "outline." Click on the Pen Tool, right-click anywhere on the image and select Stroke Path, the dialog box should come up with the brush tool selected (this should be the brush that was defined earlier). Make sure simulated pressure is not selected and click OK.

In the path panel (Windows > Paths) the "work path" will be highlighted in blue. Click outside of the blue area to deselect it. The paths will now be invisible. To make them visible again click on the work path (notice that the background is a light blue color, this is just a personal preference of mine and is not necessary).

Step 4

Select a medium color, (I have chosen a light blue, but it can be anything in the midrange), make sure that this is the foreground color.

Make sure that the "outline" layer is selected, then use the Magic Want Tool (W) to select all the areas of the car that will be made into metal. Between each piece selected there will be a gap where the line is, so you need to expand the selection by 1 pixel. To do this go to Select > Modify > Expand, and enter 1 in the box, then apply.

Make sure that the selection is still active. Now create a new layer and Edit > Fill the foreground color. Rename this layer "base" and make sure that it's below the "outline" layer.

Step 5

Reduce the opacity of the "outline" layer.

Step 6

Using the Magic Wand Tool (W) select the wheels and ground area and any area which will be black. Now fill it with black. Put this layer underneath the "base" layer.

Step 7

For this next stage I have modeled some wheels using Alias (I am in the process of writing a tutorial on how to do this, visit Designer Mart for more news on this in the future), though you can find a stock image of wheels to use.

Step 8

Create a new layer and name it "outer lines." Go to the Brush Tool (B) and select a slightly thicker brush that is Hard and Round with 3 Pixels for size. Turn the paths on. Grab the Direct Selection Tool (A) and click on an outer path to select it, then right-click and select Stroke Path. Turn the paths off to get a clearer view of the new stroke.

Step 9

Create a new layer and name it "glue." Using the same method as Step 7, create the strokes to highlight the glasshouse and lights.

Step 10

Create a new layer and name it "shutlines." Use the same method as in step 7 to create some shutlines. Select the Eraser Tool (E), right-click anywhere on the image and select a large, soft, round shape. Use this eraser to rub out bits of the ends of the shutlines to make them look lighter towards the ends.

Step 11

It's important to decide which parts of the vehicle face upwards and which face downwards. Any part that faces up will reflect light and any part facing down will be darker.

Create a new layer and name it "ground darkness." Command + Right-click the base layer to select the area. Make sure that the "ground darkness" layer is selected.

Select the Gradient Tool (G) and make sure that the black to transparent setting is active and apply it from the bottom of the selection upwards.

Step 12

Make the "outline" layer active and use the Wand Tool (W) to select the shapes above the wheel arches. Create a new layer and name it highlights. Fill this layer with white, then use the Eraser (E) tool to soften the top edges of the arches. Using the techniques described above work your way down the car.

Step 13

The area underneath the glass is facing upwards so it will reflect light.

Step 14

The area at the top of the side of the car, known as the waistline, is a large area facing upwards so it will be lighter. I've added a little darker bit to the bottom right of it. Sometimes when something large reflects the sky it's nice to add a little break in it. Some houses or trees might create such a shadow.

Step 15

The sill area will reflect light.

Step 16

Add a little light coming in from the front to give it more depth.

Step 17

Select the area just below the waistline and add a slight gradient to that area, this will give the impression that the area below it is reflecting the atmosphere.

Step 18

Add a little shade to the front grille area.

Step 19

Add a little shadow just below the shoulder-line near the front to make it look like its slightly pinched.

Step 20

Then add a solid block to that to accentuate it further.

Step 21

Select the "base" and add a large gradient from the right. Play with the Opacity of it to make it subtle. This it to make it look like there is light coming from the right.

Step 22

Select the glasshouse area and fill it with a light blue color.

Step 23

Select the bottom half of the glasshouse and fill it with black and turn down the opacity until you get a nice gray color. Then select the upper section of the glasshouse and add a light gradient and again adjust the opacity until you get a realistic look.

Step 24

Often cars reflect road markings or the environment and creates nice flowing shapes on the side.

Step 25

Then add an outline to the reflection.

Step 26

Add a large shape to the left of the car and add a gradient to it. This will make the vehicle stand out.

Step 27

This step is to make the vehicle stand out. If there was a theme to the design, then the image might be more relevant. In this case, I just painted some random shapes using stock Photoshop brushes. Put this image in the bottom of the layer tab just in front of the "bg" layer and name it "atm."

Step 28

Make a copy of the "atm" layer and name it "atm reflect." Go to Edit > Transform > Scale to scale the "atm reflect" layer down a little bit. Command + Right-click the "base" layer to select the area. Command + Shift + I to select the inverse of what is selected. Make sure the "atm reflect" layer is selected then delete it.

Step 29

Now turn all your layers on apart from the "outline" layer.

Step 30

For the back light draw a random squiggle.

Step 31

Then apply an "outer glow" layer style to that layer to give it a glow.

Step 32

The front lights were created using a scatter brush painted in a straight line and erased towards the front. Then I added a glow on the back lights.

Step 33

It's nice to flip the outcome to see how it looks from the other side. Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal

Step 34

Using this method you can easily change the color of the car without having to worry about the highlights, lowlights, etc... simply change the "base" color.

Step 35

Experiment with different wheels. (this is another of the designs) ...

Conclusion

Experiment with different background colors. The final design is below. There are lots of different styles of rendering, this is just one, have fun making your own!