For this tutorial I will show the different steps I take in drawing a realistic looking car. I chose to draw an american classic, the Corvette. This tutorial will apply to any car though because for the most part, they are all the same. The key to drawing a car that will pop off the page is having a good balance of lights, midtones, and darks along with clean, sharp edges. As with most of my graphite drawings, I am using Derwent Graphic Pencils and Fabriano Artistico Bright White Watercolor Paper . I am also using mechanical pencils for small details.
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Step 1 - Proportions are critical in a technical drawing so I have gridded my outline using 1 inch squares. Gridding consists of placing a grid over your reference picture and on your drawing paper and then transfering the image square by square until you've attained an outline. DO NOT use a hard graphite (ie. 5H, 2H, H) for your grid. If you do you will have a nightmare on your hands later when you are shading. Harder graphites dent the paper, creating tiny grooves. When you go to shade over these grooves, they will not accept graphite and will appear white. Use a softer graphite like a B for your grid. Don't say I didn't warn you :)
Step 2 - As with all of my drawings I am working left to right, top to bottom (just like reading). I am starting on the front of the car and the front wheel. For the wheel I am laying down my darkest tones first with a 7B pencil. These dark tones will give me a reference when deciding how dark to go with everything else on the wheel. The wheels can be very time consuming if you want them to turn out well. They are very small and have lots of details. This one rim alone will take me about an hour.
Step 3 - I add the midtones and lighter tones to the wheel with a 2H for lights and a 3B for mids. These tones are what makes the wheel appear to shine. As with any metal surface, the wheels have brilliant highlights. I always leave these highlights alone so that they are the tone of the paper. So with my midtones and light tones around these brilliant highlights, they appear to shine. This process is called negative drawing and can be explained further by clicking on the link. At this point, the wheel is basically done. When we shade the tires later, these highlights will really start to shine.
Step 4 - With the front wheel finished, I move onto the front fender area. For the darker bottom part of the fender I use a 3B pencil. The lighter top area I am using a 2H. A car finish is typically very smooth so I am blending the body with blending stumps. When working on the body, I am comparing tones to those on the wheel. I'm also erasing grid lines so they don't interfere with my shading.
Step 5 - I go back and work on the tire. Pay close attention to the way the tire looks. There will be some diffuse (duller) highlights or possibly even some brilliant ones if the tire is wet or has tireshine on it. You can see how the rim looks a lot shinier now that we have some darker tones around the negative space. You can make the wheels look as shiny or as dull as you'd like by adjusting the surrounding tones. I will probably go back and darken a lot to make the highlights pop even more. After the tire, I go back to the body with a 3B pencil and blending stumps. You can see how I am just working one square inch at a time. Working this way makes you focus more on details than the drawing as a whole.
Step 6 - I continue working on the body and move up to the window. The tones of everything showing through the window will be slightly muted compared to the rest of the car. So I make the steering wheel and dashboard a little bit lighter. If the window had been opened or tinted this would not be the case though. I used a 2H pencil for the lighter parts of the window, a B pencil for the darker areas and a blending stump to finish it off.
Step 7 - Keep working on the door paying close attention to your reference photo. There are very subtle tone changes
in the lighter areas. I'm still using a 2H for lights and a 3B for the darks.
Step 8 - Since our light source is coming from the front of the car, the rearview mirror is reflected off of the body. This reflection will be darker than the mirror itself. Just pay close attention to your reference photo when rendering details like this. After that is done I continue working on the body. The car is starting to take shape now. As mentioned earlier, just take it nice and slow working one area at a time.
Step 9 - I continue working on the body of the Corvette. The top of the car will be a lighter area, considering the light source so I use a 2H on it. I finish the area along the rear wheelwell using a 3B and blending stumps. Then I move onto the middle area of the car, shading with both 2H and B pencils. The doorhandle is one of the darkest area so I use a 7B pencil on it.
Step 10 - I start working on the back windshield. I used a 3B on this area. A shadow underneath the car comes next. The shadow grounds the car and makes it look like it's actually sitting on a surface rather than hovering in space. I use a 3B mechanical pencil on this area pressing fairly hard. Mechanical pencils work better on large dark areas than woodcased pencils. They are sharper and are able to push the graphite deep into the fibres of the paper.
Step 11 - Now I am working on the rear wheel. This will be exactly like before but I will go through it again since the wheels are very important. I am laying down my darkest areas first with a 7B. Make sure your pencil is sharp so that your edges are nice and clean.
Step 12 - Next I am adding the midtones to the wheel. Break up the wheel into different sections and focus on one small area at a time. I am working in between the spokes. You can see now that with the midtones in place, the wheel is starting to look 3 dimensional. In this case, light tones suggest an area that is closest to the viewer. So with these midtones and darks laid down, the spokes are the lightest and appear to pop out at us.
Step 13 - The lighter tones are added to the wheel using a 2H pencil. Now the rim is complete. It will begin to shine more when we get the dark tire tones around it. I am a little tired of focussing on the wheel area so I work some more on the body. I'm still using a 3B for darks and 2H for lights.
Step 14 - I begin to work on the rear of the car, using 3B for darks. Considering where the light source is coming from (the front), the lighter areas will be darker than the lights on rest of the car. This is because the rear is not exposed to the light. So I am using a B pencil on these areas.
Step 15 - I go back to the tire area. I darkened in the tire using a 3B pencil. Then I went back and added small details. With the darker tones around the wheel, you can see how it begins to shine and resemble chrome. I continue working on the rear of the car, still using 3B.
Step 16 - Paying close attention to details I move on, working more on the rear of the car until it is done. For my darkest areas I used a 3B pencil. The drawing is complete. Now you can go back and add more details if you'd like. I always have a look at the drawing from a few steps back to see if something doesn't look right.
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