APP1: Starting the Land Speed Record illustrations

The project has now reached the stage where I need to start illustrating the Land Speed Record vehicles in order for me to use on my posters. This blog post covers how far I have got so far as well as the processes involved, which means I look at some areas more in-depth than others depending on what tools I used. Unlike other projects I have done before, where I would choose an idea and make it, I am developing as I go along so there will be many changes to document.

I decided I wanted to make all the illustrations as vectors so they could be easily re-sized and edited to be placed at whatever size and position I need for the poster background. The best program for this is Adobe Illustrator. Here I will be using CS5.5 as that is what I have available to me.

Golden Arrow:

I first started with Golden Arrow, spending some time drawing elements together, with the aid of reference images. I chose to focus on a wheel initially, to see what level of detail could be achieved. I used the Ellipse Tool, as well as the Fill and Gradient tools to get the effects I needed. I was really impressed with the result, but knew improvements could be made.

Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 16.20.32

The first major change was to develop the tyre’s sidewall. Before it had just been a simple gradient representing a constant shape, but from looking at reference images, it became clear there was an inner shape that needed to be created. To successfully achieve this I drew another circle for the inner sidewall section, reversing the gradient.

I also added in some inner bands of highlights and shadows to the concentric bands on the wheel. To do this I made a circle, with the right gradient and cut out the inner section by overlaying another circle and using the Divide function in the Pathfinder tool. However, because I did wanted it to only be visible at the top and bottom, I used the Direct Selection tool to move the side handles behind the main band.

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A further development, and the final for this blog post, was that reference images showed there was always a minimal black strip around the tyre’s edge. I have added this, as well as learning how to introduce opacity into a shape using the Gradient Tool, in order to blend colours together better. I have a feeling a more accurate effect could be achieved by using the Angle setting in Photoshop’s Gradient Tool, but this would mean the shape could not be vector. This will be something I’ll investigate later on in the project as these designs will probably need to be finished in Photoshop, being set against a background.

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As I was pleased with the results so far, I decided to press on and start on other areas of the shape. I found I started by using a underlying reference image, in this case an illustration I found from a set of Top Trumps style card. Obviously I did not copy the shapes too closely as many were inaccurate in detail, but it helped to give a sense of proportion as there were no blueprint images of this vehicle.

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After spending quite some learning as to how to get the best out of the shapes I was using and deliberating over what gradients would work best to capture this vehicle’s amazing golden sheen, I ended up with the image below.

Golden Arrow progress

I’ve placed a couple of close-up images below so the detail can be better viewed. The vehicle body was relatively easy to make, involving use of the shape tools, the Pen Tool, the Fill Tool, and the Gradient Tool that has allowed for a shiny metal effect.

Golden Arrow progress - front half Golden Arrow progress - back

An obvious issue can be seen in the above image though, which has held up proceedings for quite a long time and will delay the project until it can be resolved. The issue is that Illustrator can’t bend gradients in a shape. I spent a lot of time researching into this subject area for both Illustrator and Photoshop, and came up blank.

Upon asking my tutor for advice, he suggested that the Gradient Mesh feature could be the best way to make these shapes. This appears to be a complex tool to get to grips with, so I will need to learn how to master that in a very short timeframe. This is something I will cover in a future blog post if I can get to grips with it.

I then decided that as I am making a set of posters, I needed to move on to another vehicle and see how it goes.

Thrust SSC:

This vehicle is the next up on my list, as I felt there would not be any need to use the Gradient Mesh tool, allowing me to make faster progress and get another vehicle to a reasonably developed stage.

As with Golden Arrow, I started by drawing on top of a template image. Yes, it was sourced from Wikipedia, but using the knowledge I have gained from my research it provides an accurate representation to the proportions of the Thrust SSC, although it is not totally accurate with regards to sponsors and finer details.

Thrust SSC
Thrust SSC reference image

One area I have made progress with my understanding of vector illustrations is about producing chrome, as the outer edges of the jet intakes feature a chrome finish. Here is what I have so far, and the gradient used for them.

Screen Shot 2013-11-30 at 09.00.59 Screen Shot 2013-11-30 at 09.07.03

However, I am not happy with this effect, as it appears too matte, and the colours do not have enough vibrance to them. I am concerned that making them brighter though will make it look less like metal. I feel there is some real experimentation to come with this.

One element I did finally achieve to a good standard was getting the Dunlop script correctly applied to the wheels. I started off with the Dunlop text that can be seen below. This was an EPS logo sourced from Brands of the World. I then had to turn it into the circular image you can see the result of in the same image.

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Being an EPS image meant it had a much greater scale for editing in Illustrator, so I was able to individually take each character and rotate them to suit. I had a few failed attempts to line them up, so what I eventually decided on was to draw a circle, with a 0.5pt Stroke turned on so I could accurately line them up. This worked very well.

Screen Shot 2013-11-30 at 09.02.11 And below you can see the finished result. I am really pleased with this, although as I will be showing the vehicles in motion, no doubt I will need to blur it, so this feature will not be as visible as I would like for the effort gone into it!

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The difficulty I am having with this vehicle is the amount of sponsors which all need to be accurately replicated. Some will need to be created from scratch, while some can be sourced from Brands of the World, and edited to fit my needs, as this will save time.

Below is an image of where I have got to so far with this vehicle. I am delighted with the progress I have made, and there is only a few sponsors to be added and small details to be added.

Thrust SSC progress so far

Other Vehicles:

As can be seen from the few screenshots below, it is easy to see the progress made with the other drawings, using all the various techniques I discussed for the above two vehicles. The below image shows the Bluebird CN7 and Sunbeam 1000hp vehicles that I am also working on. Both will be difficult to master with their curved gradients and the Sunbeam has a spoked front wheel… which I have so far failed to replicate.

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I also have only very recently started creating Thrust 2 as can be seen from the images below, although elements such as the wheel and parachute housing are almost finished. The great reference image for Thrust 2 was sourced from an old evo magazine article they did focusing on Thrust 2 and Thrust SSC.

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As for the other vehicles, I have not started those yet, but will need to briefly in order to keep the project moving and not to get behind in my schedule.

To conclude this blog post, I now think I have the necessary knowledge to move on with this project, creating and developing my illustrations along the way. There will most likely be another couple of blog posts dedicated to the illustration of these vehicles.