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How to Create an Aerial View Illustration of a Car in Adobe Illustrator

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In this tutorial, I will show you how to create an aerial view of a car using Adobe Illustrator. The nice part about illustrating it from this angle is that you only have to draw half of the car! As reference, I am using a photograph I took of a diecast model MINI.



1. Place the Reference Photo

Create a New document and File > Place the reference photo onto the artboard.

Title the first layer "reference". Double-click the "reference" layer to bring up the Layer Options dialogue box. To lock the layer and keep it safe from stray mouse or pen clicks, tick the box next to Lock. Then, tick Dim Images to 50%, or any other percentage that suits you.

Create another layer above the locked "reference" layer. This will be the illustration layer. Title it "Awesome Illustration" A little self-praise before you begin never hurts!

Place Reference Image

2. Create a Dividing Line

Create a vertical line down the center of the car photo. Then, go to View > Guides > Make Guides. Be sure to lock the guide View > Guides > Lock Guides.

Create Dividing Line

3. Trace Outer Edge of Car

Using the Pen Tool (P), outline the outer edge of the car's body. Don't worry about the headlight, door handles, or other parts that are attached to the body of the car. Also, it is only necessary to outline half of it since we will flip the completed outline later.

Trace Outer Edge

4. Outline Window

Using the Pen Tool (P), outline the outer edge of the window.

Outline Window

5. Add Window Details

It's difficult to see on this reference photo, but since I have the actual car right beside me, I know that there are panels that divide the windows. Using the Pen Tool (P) again, draw lines for the window divider panels. These lines need to overlap the window outline. It is not necessary to draw each panel as a shape.

Add Window Details

6. Complete Window Details

Select the two window outlines with the Direct Selection Tool (A). Then, Copy and Paste In Front to create a duplicate set of lines. Select the window and panel outlines. In the Pathfinder panel, select the symbol for Divide. The window panels are now separate objects. Before you deselect anything, give the objects a stroke that matches the others. I like to do this using the Eyedropper Tool (I). With the objects highlighted, simply click on a stroked line and the highlighted objects will take on the same characteristics as the object you sampled.

Complete Window Details

7. Delete Unnecessary Shapes

The divide tool created shapes for both the windows and the panels. Select the extra shapes with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and delete them. They are the shapes shown in blue below. The windows will be created with the original window outlines. This way, it will be one large shape rather than several small shapes. The panels will rest on top of the window shape and will give a much cleaner look to the illustration. I prefer to layer objects this way rather than trying to perfectly butt them up against each other. Also, it's much easier to adjust one large shape than several small shapes.

Delete Unnecessary Shapes

8. Add Gas Cap

This detail is easy! It is nothing more than an oval created with the Ellipse Tool (L). Using the Gradient Tool (G), give it a linear fill that starts with 10% black and ends with 50% black.

Add Gas Cap

9. Create Door Handle

Use the Pen Tool (P) to create the door handle as well as the concave area behind it. Fill the handle with the same linear fill as the gas cap. With the door handle selected, click on the gas cap with the Eyedropper Tool (I) and the handle will fill with the same gradient. If needed, adjust the direction of the gradient so the 50% black is on the left and the 10% black is on the right.

Since red is my favorite color, we're going to make the car red! That means the shadowed areas, such as the concave area behind the handle, need to be a darker shade of that red. Here, I've used C=35, M=100, Y=100, K=50.

Door Handle

10. Add the Bonnet Stripe

What's a MINI without a bonnet stripe? Boring! Draw the bonnet stripe so the it overlaps the seam where the part of the hood nearest the window opens. You will modify this in a future step.

bonnet stripe

11. Create the Hood Vent

With the Rounded Rectangle Tool, create a rectangle the width and length of the vents. Fill with black. Go to Effect > Warp > Arc and give it a horizontal bend that matches the edge of the window. I used 8%. Then, go to Object > Expand Appearance. Use the Rotate Tool (R) to align it with the arc of the window.

vent

12. Add a Highlight to the Hood

Create a shape like the one shown below and give it a gradient that starts with C=17, M=100, Y=100, K=7 (which is the base color of the car) and ends with C=35, M=100, Y=100, K=50 (the shadow color). Adjust the angle of the gradient until you are satisfied with its position.

Hood Highlight

13. Create a Headlight

The headlight is nothing more than two ovals filled with gradients. Create the first oval over the outer rim of the headlight on the reference photo. Fill it with a gradient that goes from 40% black to 10% black. Copy the oval and Paste In Front. Use the Scale Tool (S) to reduce it to the size of the actual headlight. Change the gradient values to 15% black and 0% black. Adjust the direction of the gradients as needed.

Headlight

14. Add a Bumper

This time, you're going to draw the entire bumper rather than just half of it. Doing it this way is easier and will save time down the road. With the Rounded Rectangle Tool, create a rectangle the width and length of the bumper. Go to Effect > Warp > Arc and give it a horizontal bend that matches the front bend of the hood. I used 11%. Then, go to Object > Expand Appearance. Fill with a gradient that goes from 10% black to 30% black.

Bumper

15. Add Seams

Draw the hood, door and hatchback seams. I've shown them here in blue.

Seams

16. Create a Side Mirror

Trace the mirror and mirror arm. Fill each shape with a gradient that goes from 40% black to 10% black. Adjust the gradient direction as necessary.

Mirror

17. Add the Fender Trim

Draw the two pieces of fender trim and fill each shape with black.

Wheel Trim

18. Flip It!

Select All (Control-A). Hold down the Shift key and deselect the gas cap and bumper with the Direct Selection Tool (A). Copy and Paste in Front. Select the Reflect Tool (O), place the cross hairs over the blue guideline, hold down the Alt key and click on the guideline. When the Reflect panel comes up, choose Vertical. You know have a whole automobile.

Flip It

19. Join the Two Halves

Starting from the front of the hood, work your way down the guideline and join the halves by connecting the end points of each half.

Join Halves

20. Color it Red

Add a little color! Fill the body of the car with a gradient that starts with C=17, M=100, Y=100, K=7 (which is the base color of the car) and ends with C=35, M=100, Y=100, K=50 (the shadow color).

Red

21. Color the Windows

Select the window panel trim pieces and fill them with black. Next, select the outside edge of the window and fill it with a gradient that goes from C=100, M=50, Y=10, K=40 to C=100, M=75, Y=50, K=75.

window

22. Add Grays

Select the bonnet stripe and roof. Using the Eyedropper Tool (I), click on the gray gradient on the mirror and sample it. Adjust the direction of the gradients until you are satisfied with the look.

Roof and stripe

23. Trim Out the Windows

Select the outside edge of the window shape, Copy and then Paste in Front. Give it a stroke of 3 points. Go to Object > Expand to create a compound path. Fill with the same gradient as on the roof.

Window Trim

24. Finish the Seams

Select the body seams. Give them a Stroke Weight of 0.75 points. Go to Object > Expand. Fill the expanded lines with the red shadow color, C=35, M=100, Y=100, K=50. Adjust the expanded seam lines and make them flush with the edge of the car. Now, select the seam on the roof. Give it a Stroke Weight of 0.75 and make it black. Then, go to Object > Expand.

Body Seams

25. Add a Roof Graphic!

No MINI is complete without a spiffy roof graphic. How about a target? To do this, create a circle using the Ellipse Tool (L). With the circle selected, go to Object > Path > Offset Path. Enter 0.25 inches in the Offset box. Click OK. With the new circle selected, go to Object > Path > Offset Path and enter 0.25 inches again. Repeat this process two more times until you have five circles.

Offset Path

26. Color the Roof Graphic

Place the target on the roof and size to fit. Fill the first, third and fifth circles with the same red blend as the body of the car. Fill the second and fourth circles with the same blend as the roof. To ensure that the roof blend and target blend match, run the blend to from one end of the roof to the other. You can also select the gray circles and the roof and adjust the blend at the same time.

Target Color

27. Create a Background

Draw a box and position it under the car. Add the color of your choice. In this example, I used a blend that went from C=100, M=50, Y=10, K=40 to C=100, M=40, Y=0, K=0.

background

28. Add Depth

To give the illustration a bit more depth, add a Drop Shadow to the car. Select the car and Group (Control-G) it. Go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow and enter values to get the effect you desire. I set my drop shadow at 90% Opacity and entered 0.07 inches in the Blur field.

Drop Shadow

Time to Motor!

Congratulations! You now have your very own vector MINI. If you want to step it up a notch, add a few more accessories, experiment with different colors, or create more gradients and highlights. Have fun!

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