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Submitted on
March 16, 2013


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You know that green ellipse tool that you bought in art school? Do you know how to use it for something other than oval shapes? Do you know what those "cross-hair" marks are for? And do you know how to use it for technically correct perspective drawings?

TOO many comics artists don't, and it's driving me crazy. So instead of starting a blog that starts showing examples and naming names, I figured it was better to make a quick tutorial. And this isn't just for cars but also for guns, fire hydrants, and millions of other machined objects found in comics.

If you go through this and you're still stuck, please don't write to me. I'm happy to show you at a convention to make it clearer, but within a blog this is the best I can do. Check out "Perspective for Comic Artists by David Chelsea" for more.

TIP #1

Cars are a whole lot easier to draw if you know how to properly use perspective and ellipses. The more familiar you are with the math, the more fun it is to draw cars. Once I figured out the ellipse tool and starting drawing tires that actually looked like they fit the car, I was hooked. A good car drawing is 50% about making the tires look correct. Check out the tutorial I'm posting in my gallery.

TIP #2

Comic artists are usually good at drawing Batman because they care about Batman. Batman resonates with them on a personal level of some kind whether from watching the cartoon, playing a video game, or dressing up like him for holidays. It's easier to draw things when you care about them.

It's my opinion that most artists are bad at drawing cars because they don't really care about them. Sure, they like driving them or maybe they like the engine noise, but they still see them as machines and not as works of art (maybe because most artists are poor, they can't afford a cool one that they would see as a work of art). In other words, they don't care about cars like they care about Batman.

The first car I got good at drawing was my car in high school: a yellow Honda CRX. Because it was mine (and because I had all kinds of memories and feelings wrapped up in it), I found I could draw it better than I could the Batmobile. From then one out, the more I learned about cars, the more interesting I found them, and the better I got at drawing them. Understanding terms like "down-force", "apexing", and "four-on-the-floor" makes me draw better cars because it's using more of my brain to do it. I don't want to JUST draw a Batmobile, I want it to have the correct spoiler and be leaning on the correct wheel as it power-slides through a corner. I want readers to be infected by my love of the Batmobile via my drawing.

As an exercise, find a car that you like and do some research on it. Learn about it's design team, the time in which is was created, and why it was a good or bad car (or pick a plane, a boat or any other machined object). Try to build a connection to it by understanding it's story.

If you're having trouble, here's a link to a Top Gear episode where they did a quick documentary about the history of Saab (it's 12 minutes). I never liked Saabs, but the history of Saab issuch a cool story that it makes me want to draw one. Watch it and see if it does the same for you.

It's okay if you're the type who hates drawing cars and will always hate drawing cars. To be honest, I hate drawing poker tables. And it wouldn't matter if I learned about the history of poker tables, I'd still hate it. But I bet it'd still get better at it.

TIP #3

It goes without saying that practice makes perfect. And it's the same for cars. It's hard at first, but the more you draw cars, the more familiar you are with their basic principles and curves. Soon you will be able to quickly sketch a convincing car into the background of a panel without referencing.

Most of all, be patient. Cars are one of the hardest things to draw, I find. But once you get good at them, every other machined object is easy.
  • Listening to: Beethoven piano sonatas
  • Reading: Attack of the Theocrats
  • Watching: Science Channel
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zarwhitetaker Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2014
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RyanBlack13 Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2013
This is a great read.  Awesome advice.  My cars tend to be a little more abstracted as pure motion because I suck at drawing them.  It looks cool, but I would like the option of rendering a technically accurate vehicle.  A link to the tutorial in the gallery would have been a useful addition to this.  I guess I shall get my web-shoveling gloves on and go dig...
Squiffies Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
I recently got my first job in comics drawing races with a guy over the internet. I didn't realize just how bad I was at them, but all of the things you said are absolutely true. I've had to grow to appreciate cars, and I've had to practice my ass off!
Asterisks Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Now I'm wondering where I left that ellipse tool. . .

But in the end it's like you say, all about practice. I think my cars look much better than they used to. And after driving a jeep for over two years I find that those are easier to draw, and VW of course, or any old car. which probably comes from reading so much Archie as a kid.

My problem with modern cars is they always look very plushy in my sketches. And the damn tires. . .
oagarciacruz Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2013  Hobbyist
I knew it! You are more tha just another pretty face... no really thanks for this, truly inspiring.
skmonteiro Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
Haha. I forgot about the yellow CRX! You loved that car so much you pretty much only used the CRX in Gran Tourismo or whatever racing game Tim was obsessed with back then.
seangordonmurphy Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2013
Haha. Yeah, that game was awesome.
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